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Italy's new Wi-Fi rules made clearer: An article the other day was a poor translation, and left questions unanswered or vague. This short piece clarifies that hot spot operators do need to ask for permission, but it looks like a class license, in which once permission is given, they don't have to provide information on a site-by-site basis. Oddly, WEP protection appears to be required if that's what meant by "provide[r]s [sic in original] must supply users with an access code."
Hong Kong should see more service: The regulatory authority in Hong Kong has relaxed its rules in such a way that hot spots should be able to be set up more quickly and affordably. One existing service charges only $3.60 to subscribers to its non-hot spot network for 10 sessions of 20 minutes; non-subscribers pay double.
This article makes it sound like Wi-Fi-enabled video projectors are new: They're not, but the writer is correct that more are coming down the pipe. I wouldn't be surprised if, by 2004, all new projects had Wi-Fi built-in or as a simple add-on card. More important than Wi-Fi, of course, is software that allows remote laptop sharing so you can "log in" to a projector and have it mirror your laptop screen.
Linksys, for instance, offers the $275 WPG12 [Amazon.com], which is an access point and a projector interface. It has onboard Flash memory to store PowerPoint presentation for laptop-free playback, too, and an infrared remote control.
Linksys ships 802.11g Ethernet bridge, WET54G: This is the 54 Mpbs 802.11g (draft) version of their Ethernet bridge, which allows you to connect multiple machines (or just a single one) to a Wi-Fi network through MAC address translation. Oddly, the press release doesn't mention the capability of hooking up more than one machine, but I can't believe they removed that, as it was one of the selling points. The list price is shown as over $170; only one retailer is listing it so far and they have a street price of $140.
New York Times reports on Manchester, England's efforts to improve people's lots with broadband over Wi-Fi: While I might quibble with a few of the technical and social details, the article's main thrust appears dead on. Give people a feed, and they'll open their own eyes to the potential with a little prodding and training. In fact, the woman profiled is not only apparently an auto-didact, but also went into teaching as her method of pulling herself out of poverty.
Let me point out just one statement that needs a little clarification in two directions. Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, has generated a lot of excitement here and in the United States as a way to offer high-speed Internet access in airports, cafes, bars and restaurants ? anywhere one finds a surfeit of laptop-toting customers and a scarcity of telephone jacks. This may represent more of the reporter's own understanding of the issue and the people he interviewed. In fact, at least tens of thousands of people are using wireless broadband as their solution, mostly in smaller and rural towns. And it's not a scarcity of telephone jacks: in those places he cites, there may be thousands of jacks; it's speed and convenience coupled with cost.
An interesting point about the Manchester Wi-Fi is that it covers just one district of 4,500 homes and about 15 percent have signed up so far. The rate being charged is probably about the same for a voice phone line (if I have any idea what BT charges), and estimates are that in Manchester, 25 percent of residents have no landline because of disconnection or having switched to cellular.
I'd be curious if the folks who have hooked up are also largely using Voice over IP (VOIP) to the PSTN (publicly switched telephone network), which is a much more important use outside the US for non-middle-class Internet access. I heard Adam Clayton Powell III talk back in 2000 about visiting the tiniest villages in Ghana were people were lined up outside little Internet shacks to pay reasonably large sums to make VOIP calls. In New York City, at the easyEverything cafe (a British chain), every terminal was equipped with a telephone handset for VOIP.
But as 3G has been delayed by financial and technical hurdles, some providers now view Wi-Fi as a potential stopgap technology, until 3G is ready. 3G will never be ready enough to have the kind of bandwidth that Wi-Fi can offer. I realize there's a missing piece in all 3G and Wi-Fi articles: the backhaul. While folks in the industry point this out, you rarely see a mainstream article mention that 3G backhaul could be infinite (many 3G towers would be linked via fiber optic) but that spectrum is so scarce that they have an effective local limit that can't be affected by more backhaul. Wi-Fi backhaul, by contrast, is finite: service to specific points still costs a lot.
At some point wireless backhaul (a la 802.16a) catches up with wireless "front haul" (a la Wi-Fi) and you can affordably deliver, say, 150 Mbps to a Starbucks, and have dozens of 802.11a or 802.11b/g streaming video simultaneously. That's the real end game for Wi-Fi hot spots in which compelling applications that require broadband drive adoption of fixed-rate subscribers to networks that offer the backhaul. Let's stop talking about number of locations and start talking about data feeds.
Guy Tweney discloses one anonymous chip industry employee's suspicions about Cisco's motives in sharing its security standards: But it doesn't sound right to me. Read Guy's essay first. (To better understand the acronyms, read the Wi-Fi Net News article on wireless security.)
I'm a little dubious about his source's expertise because they get several facts wrong. Perhaps they don't understand the implications of WPA, EAP/802.1x, and secured EAP (PEAP, EAP-TTLS). (One of which: Apple's AirPort Card offers LEAP for $80 to $100. But it's proprietary to a platform, which may be one reason Cisco allows the pricing to work that way.)
The bottom line is that LEAP is broken, just not as badly as WEP, and in more theoretical ways than the practical tools to extract WEP keys. Cisco has put its weight behind PEAP (Protected EAP, Encapsulated Authentication Protocol) which is also Microsoft's baby. Microsoft has released PEAP support inside several recent platforms. PEAP is in front of the IETF.
EAP-TTLS is a competing standard with fewer major backers, also in front of the IETF. Neither PEAP nor EAP-TTLS requires preinstalled certificates on each client (as EAP-TLS does, which MSFT also supports), but can start arbitrary SSL/TLS style connections to servers. There are some attacks possible -- disruptive, not hijacking -- for both tunneled EAP methods, but they're much stronger than LEAP and anything else in the field right now.
Clients and servers that support EAP-TLS, EAP-TTLS, and PEAP are all shipping and in increasingly wide use. Add WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) into the picture and you get robust security. WPA incorprates the new TKIP encryption methodology, and TKIP or WEP still forms the fundamental session protection even in secured EAP. With secured EAP + WPA you can rotate unbreakable keys (because of the very large initialization vector) every 100 packets or 5 minutes or whatever.
The fact is that LEAP after WPA appears and secured EAP settles down doesn't confer any advantage to Cisco or any vendor. Cisco's actions, in my mind, are a defense against the death of LEAP by having Cisco get its own, non-vetted, proprietary, non-standards-based, non-open specs into silicon before its just too late. [via TechDirt]
Voice over IP coming; Wayport, WiFinder for hot spot service, location; and security: Palm is serious about the Wi-Fi-equipped Tungsten C. One partner will help them add voice over IP (VOIP). Wayport offers a 30-day free service offer. WiFinder will help people locate hot spots. And Meetinghouse will add LEAP (and xEAP/secured EAP?).
Contra Costa Times profiles youth leader, Matt Peterson, of BAWUG, BAWRN, Surf and Sip: Here's where my age (35) comes into play. I figured Matt was maybe a very youthful looking 30-something, sort of like Cliff Skolnick. Instead, I find out that he was 19 when I first met him. Explains some of his early diffidence -- that is, slight shyness coupled with extreme knowledge -- and his energy. If only I still had that much juice.
Matt's history and plans are documented in this very sweet biography of him. Matt likes to be outside the religious wars because he likes to get things done. He's not a callow youth; he's a mature fellow, and I hope this post thoroughly embarasses him, as I hope the article did as well, except that he's got enough cool to say, yeah, that's great.
Lufthansa liked the Boeing Connexion trial so much, they're equipping the fleet: 80 Boeing and Airbus jets will have Connexion service by the end of 2004 for intercontinental flights at $25 to $35 per flight. In the trial, business and first class had Ethernet jacks, and the whole plane had Wi-Fi. However, Boeing was able to allow access only through a single obscure Wi-Fi card model.
While it's a logical audience to sell high-speed service to, and the price isn't unreasonable given the captive audience and high costs, the question does remain whether there's enough revenue to pay the costs for maintenance, support, and satellites. At an average of $30 per flight and 30 people per flight and a few dozen flights per day (maybe more?), the system might take years to pay back the installation costs. And planes are notoriously hard on electronics as the folks that installed seat-back systems discovered.
Translated article suggests Italy has approved bill for public-space Wi-Fi: The implications are a bit murky in this translated article, but it sounds as if Italians can now offer public space 2.4 and 5 GHz services.
From $16 now to $6.50 by end of year: That's for 802.11b; g chips should drop from $18 down to $10; b should wind up around $4 next year.
Since the cost of chips is one of the fundamental multipliers for any Wi-Fi equipment, a drop in price by nearly half to two-thirds could shave 10 to 30 percent off the cost at street. A $100 access point could drop to $70, for instance. PC Cards are already as low as $50 and there are some basic costs. I would expect the bottom of the market is $35 for PC Cards, $30 to $35 for USB, and $50 for PCI. Access points could wind up as cheap as $50.
Pyramid offers glimpse into their analysis of problems with Cometa's model: Pyramid Research has an excerpt of a longer report that explains why Cometa is behind, falling behind fast, and not realistic as to its pricing and deployment.
802.11 Planet conference in Boston June 25-27: I'll be there with bells on moderating two panels. I expect the discussion and trade show to be even better than the excellent event last December in Santa Clara.
Jeffrey K. Belk, senior vice president of marketing at Qualcomm, makes many excellent points in his open memo (republished on Alan Reiter's blog) on using wireless data on the road. I want to separate out and rebut some of his contentions, however, as I believe that while his fundamentals are almost always correct, he has set up some strawmen, and has misstated the state of the Wi-Fi hot spot industry.
Throughout his comments, he fails to separate the financial model that might underlie Wi-Fi hot spot deployment and its actual technical limitations. This is partly due to the ubiquitous, slow-everywhere mindset that he's coming from.
The crux of Belk's contentions begin with this statement:
Because we all know that although we have 56kpbs modems, we don't get 56kbps, we get 30-45kbps. So, if I were to travel on a one week trip in the US, say going from San Diego to San Francisco. Then from San Francisco to Chicago to New York and home, I could access use my Wireless Wide Area PC card and be productive---anywhere I have wireless coverage, anywhere I can make a phone call. As much as I need to...at a fixed rate of $80 per month.
This $80 per month is a rate for 1x CDMA2000 through SprintPCS and Verizon Wireless through Qualcomm's corporate rate. This statement seems more or less correct and fundamental: anywhere, he can get something approximating a modem call with no hidden charges. That's his starting point.
I checked into the One Aldwych hotel in London... Unfortunately, he appears to have chosen one of the very few locations in the world that requires its own software and a weird setup to activate. Only locations that have chosen to only work with Boingo Wireless's system have any comparable bar to entry, and Boingo's software is superior to Windows in managing Wi-Fi configurations -- and it doesn't have to be uninstalled later, as Belk notes is critical with the software One Aldwych is using. The problems with One Aldwych have been documented extensively elsewhere, including in columns by travel writers Joe Brantcatelli (JoeSentMe.com) and Joe Sharkey (New York Times's Business section).
The service is also ridiculously expensive, running eight pounds for two hours in the trial and 16 pounds for 24 hours after the trial was over. By comparison, most US-based Wi-Fi hotel service is $7 to $10 per day with a few exceptions; even in most countries, nearly $30 for 24 hours access is egregious.
Rebuttal: strawman. This is an unintentional strawman because Berk chose this hotel specifically because of its vaunted Wi-Fi service. The service is both difficult to configure and expensive, and not part of any network. Most US hotels use a simple gateway page, work with Boingo's client, or use a room-based authentication system (for wired). Most are also not expensive, and most are part of networks. This will also happen worldwide as international hotel chains with significant US presence roll out more consistent pricing or loyalty programs worldwide.
Belk has no real complaints about Telia HomeRun, although its pricing is, again, a little high: roughly $15.26 for 24 hours access. Regular Swedish travelers can get a monthly rate, of course, and Telia is associated with other Scandinavian networks for roaming.
Again, not a bad service, the user interface was well implemented, except for the location directory... Unfortunately for Belk, most Swedes are carrying phones that allow them to get hot spot locations through a pretty simple interface, which might explain why the Web interface isn't as good as those for countries that have to rely on it to direct users.
In Helsinki, he was going to be charged $58 (50 euros at the time) for 24 hours access on Sonera's network, which I believe everyone everywhere in the world would agree is insanely high.
Rebuttal: fair. Pricing is inconsistent, and probably too high. Part of this reflects an emergent market without the competition that's starting to appear in the US.
Beck returns to Los Angeles now and checks into a hotel. On the desk, a sign for "High Speed Internet Access". Now, this was wired Ethernet. Cost $9.95 for a 24 hour period. ...I did not use this, as being back in California I was able to fire up the trusty Thinkpad with my CDMA2000 card and get my mail...
Rebuttal: great example of tradeoff, but ignores monthly subscription. This is a perfect case of using the all-inclusive (but slower) cell data system instead of an expensive Wi-Fi solution for that kind of spot traffic. I use my 9600 bps GSM connection all the time to avoid $10 per day charges when I just need a little connectivity. However, Belk isn't at a point where the Wi-Fi networks are broad enough that he would have had a flat monthly subscription (at probably $50 per month) that would have allowed him a "free" connection to the hotel at probably T-1 (1.5 Mbps) speeds.
Belk now tries to analyze apples and oranges, and here's where I really kick in. He totals his potential cost in Europe at $127 for five hot spots, even though he sent back the $58 card and used a cheaper service.
He then says that a similar trip in the US would have cost only $13.30 as a prorated part of his 3G service.
This is specious in two directions: first, a similar trip wholly in the US would have cost him probably no more than $50 and possibly as little as $25 for Wi-Fi service in the same locations. Second, he can't prorate his $80/month service: he's paying for the full month. If he only travels five days, the service costs him $80 per month. If he uses it every day, then, of course, the utility is divided by that.
Belk now sets up what he expects the "Wi-Fi" rebuttal to be, although I'm not sure who he means by Wi-Fi: Hot spot operators (wISPs)? Aggregators? Community networkers? Manufacturers? It's hard to say "Wi-Fi" and mean only one of those, but he almost certainly is referring to individual networks, like Wayport.
Backhaul. Belk notes on a Hotspot service, ALL Wi-Fi connections speeds are limited by the backhaul (i.e. the way the Access Point is connected to the Internet). Likewise, however, backhaul can be easily increased. If a location has 512 Kbps fractional T-1, they can, for a fee, generally easily upgrade to full 1.5 Mbps T-1. Cell data is highly limited by spectrum availability, cell locations, number of simultaneous users, and other factors. He can get tens of Kbps right now, and generally will be able to, but cell data will be highly susceptible to non-point-to-point backhaul/carrying capacity factors.
Because he's vaunting the 50-80 Kbps speed of his 3G subscription, anything that's wireless-to-backhaul has to offer him a significant improvement, in the hundreds of Kbps to over a Mbps to anchor him to a specific location. That's perfectly reasonable.
But he starts to fall down when he says that hundreds of Kbps is what he gets from hot spots not 11 Mbps. I agree that hot spots may advertise 11 Mbps networks, and that's overstating the case. But 512 Kbps is not 50-80 Kbps. It's 10 times faster. For many people, working on 512 Kbps is like working in an office, while 50-80 Kbps is sucking at a straw. It changes your behavior, which is why broadband users don't act like dial-up users.
Locations. Here's where Belk really starts to confuse ubiquity with utility. My axiom on this is: Ubiquity's advantage fades in direct proportion to its speed relative to nearby faster service at a comparable price. If I can get 80 Kbps for $80 per month everywhere, but find myself within short walks (or on top of) 1 Mbps for $50 per month in certain places, the right answer might be a subscription to both services. They're not exclusive. Most modern business travelers need bandwidth. Another axiom: The need for high-speed access is directly in proportion with the speed of a company's business relationships. Thus speed can equal money, and a lot more speed can be worth much more than its marginal cost.
Belk sets up and knocks down all the locations he isn't interested in using data services, which form the majority of the hot spots in the country: Starbucks (because he gets it delivered to his house), Borders, McDonalds. Let's tell their tens of millions of customers each month that nobody goes there; a sort of reverse Yogi Berra statement.
He then knocks down the 300 foot diameter claims for Wi-Fi. Of course, that's line of sight service with built-in antennas. He's really knocking down the claims of certain providers, not claims of the industry as a whole or any reasonable person in an IT department deciding on how to deploy it.
Belk takes the potential area served by all the hot spots expected to appear and comes up with a laughable number. But it's laughable only if you expect ubiquity. Ubiquity, speed, and cost are three dependent variables: turn one up or down without adjusting the other, and your model thrives or fails. Keep speed low, cost medium, and ubiquity at 11 (yes, Spinal Tap joke), and you have 3G service today. Turn ubiquity down and speed to moderate to high and you have Wi-Fi; the cost number might be at all kinds of settings today, but moderate to low tomorrow.
Here's the final strawman in this section: However, folks go to a pub to socialize and drink pints, they go to a bookstore to browse and buy books, and they go to McDonald's to eat. Belk is conflating current behavior with future behavior. I still doubt that businesspeople will use McDonald's for Wi-Fi, but then I'm told that millions of business travelers, like salespeople, use McDonald's as their temporary offices every day. Belk is saying that because he can't see the use today, it won't happen tomorrow. But then again, where does he expect 3G users are using their data service? It's in McDonald's. And everywhere.
Hotel ubiquity. Belk hasn't kept up with announcements. By June, many US hotels will have added Wi-Fi where none existed. Hotel-based services like Lodgenet will add Wi-Fi access points to their in-room entertainment centers. Conference rooms, public areas, and other locations in hotels will get Wi-Fi.
It's not necessarily inevitable, nor is it cheap. But as a hotel consultant told me, hotels spend a few million dollars on carpeting every few years. A few million on a long-term Wi-Fi investment will happen if the competition among hotels requires that Wi-Fi be installed to keep visitors staying loyal.
He also notes, the Hotspot environment, in the U.S. and Europe will be fragmented, with lots of different providers. This means lots of different log-on methods, lots of different usage experience, lot and lots of different pricing policies, and lots and lots of Big Bills! In fact, the reverse is rapidly becoming true. Roaming convergence with single cell/Wi-Fi bill (T-Mobile) or single login/aggregated service (Boingo, iPass, GRIC) is becoming a matter of course, not the exception.
Beck now actually makes a number of arguments in favor of offloading data to Wi-Fi. He points out that GPRS networks are already congested for voice, and that adding data will cause even more problems. (This is marketing as well as fact: their technology is competitive with GPRS.)
So Wi-Fi and GPRS makes sense as a package, because cell carriers want to offload their expensive data traffic onto Wi-Fi networks which are relatively cheaper and allow them to continue to carry huge amounts of voice traffic on the expensive cell spectrum. (See my InfoWorld story which quotes Sky Dayton of Boingo saying the same thing.)
Then he says that UMTS providers will experiment quite a bit and offer all kind of plans and options because they'll have the spectrum available for it. We'll see. I think he set up one strawman here -- scarce voice spectrum -- that can't be so easily knocked down.
The finances just don't make sense. If it costs a small fraction of your cost of licensed spectrum and cell towers to build or buy into a national network that offers substantially higher speeds at partner locations, why not preserve that licensed spectrum for higher-cost services?
And WHERE THE TRAFFIC IS GENERATED will not be people traveling to a Pub, McDonalds or Starbucks to connect.
I'm afraid he gets it wrong here. It's a combination of people who already use the spaces that will have Wi-Fi and people who will migrate to spaces that offer it. It's not a mass migration.
Schlotzsky's Deli put in free Wi-Fi in a small number of Texas stores. They said they now have six percent of their customers to those stores coming because of the free Wi-Fi. And then buying drinks and sandwiches which they estimate will add as much as $100,000 in revenue per store per year.
Likewise, I don't know any early adopter who doesn't check out the locations of local Wi-Fi from Starbucks to community networks to sticking their laptop out the window before traveling. High-speed connectivity at broadband speeds not fast modem speeds are now a necessity, not an option, for many travelers. Current 3G can't fulfill that; Wi-Fi is the only option that does.
Belk contends that Wi-Fi will continue to be fragmented, available in limited places, and expensive. All trends point towards unified roaming at a fee that will probably be no more than $50 to $75 per month for unlimited usage, and maybe less with some exceptions.
Given a unified T-Mobile network that offers $30/month (one-year commitment) unlimited service, and Boingo (incorporating Wayport, several airports, etc.) for $50 per month, you could make a case that we already have an $80/month plan that covers virtually all major population centers in the country. And it's only getting denser.
The real closer in this gap is airports. When we hit the top 35 airports in the country having significant Wi-Fi presence, which I still predict as 25 of them out of 35 by the end of this year, then you'll see business travelers make a massive uptake.
Would I choose a few Mbps in an airport for $8 (or $50 per month) versus 10s of Kbps in an airport as part of my prepaid flatrate fee? You can bet Mbps wins -- when it's something I expect and it's available in significant locations.
Belk isn't looking at the time people spend in one location: hotel, airport, other venues. He's thinking about the time in transit. 3G spans that transit time as a modem replacement; Wi-Fi fills in those long static times for broadband.
(Side note: And does anyone remember MobileStar? MobileStar was the Wi-Fi Hotspot service provider that went BANKRUPT and was purchased by T-Mobile as the basis for their Starbuck's Wi-Fi network. MobileStar's business model had all kinds of problems, and T-Mobile bought MobileStar's assets, not the business. They're a strawman of all strawmen because they spent what I estimate as $90 million without having an adequate tracking model for costs or revenue.)
Belk closes with a good analysis of the upcoming potential for 3G data and with a couple of practical experiments for you to think about the differences in 3G and Wi-Fi.
I don't believe a compelling model for profit has yet emerged from the hot spot world. Revenue remains low. Customer price sensitivity is still being tested. The crossover from massive home and business deployment of Wi-Fi networks hasn't resulted in a nation of roaming mavens.
The success of free networks, both commercial (like Schlotzsky's) and community (library, groups, etc.) has shown that people will use Wi-Fi when it's available without a hassle or a cost attached.
The real question in Wi-Fi's future is not whether it's a complementary technology to 3G even when deployed in as few as 10,000 hot spots. The real question remains whether the hot spot operators will find enough users fast enough in the next year, and overcome industry nonsense to develop effective flat-rate roaming agreements while rolling out additional airport service.
For-fee hot spot service should have a future, but exactly what that will look like is unknown. But point-based high-speed service represents something that people want and use. Broadband has rapidly replaced dial-up service in people's home because of the convenience of having that big pipe and always on connection. Likewise, Wi-Fi niche in a cellular world will continue to be a narrow but deep one that becomes an increasingly important hand-in-hand partner to developing cell data service.
Long memo from Qualcomm exec on his Wi-Fi and 2.5G experiences over a long trip: Alan Reiter posts a long memo sent by a Qualcomm executive to internal folk (we think) and analysts like Alan about his personal experiences with Wi-Fi on the road and contrasts that with his experiences using cell data that employs technology patented by Qualcomm.
I've emailed the exec to ask if he'd be willing to read a long rebuttal I plan to write. I agree with many of his specifics, but not all of them, and some of his propositions are strawmen, intentionally or not, that don't hold water.
I hope he engages: Qualcomm is a leading light in the 3G evolution (like with EvDO: Evolution Data-Only), and their insight and market actions will affect the development of Wi-Fi and 3G. Unfortunately, the company has been on the record lately with statements about Wi-Fi which are specious or too specific, and which are entirely too self-serving. This memo has much better depth, breadth, logic, and fact behind it.
Increasingly, RV parks have Wi-Fi: If you spent a cool million on your luxury road yacht, why not $35 per month for unlimited Wi-Fi while parked?
MCI deserves death penalty, Wi-Fi flash in the pan at telecom conference: Read the article and then consider Verizon's position. If you're a monopoly player restricting access to DSL customers and your principal rival, Comcast, hasn't quite figure out how to offer the right mix to its cable customers at the right price, then you can play games about charging per computer or talking down Wi-Fi. (The Cox spokesperson made the claim that two percent of their users use 40 percent of the bandwidth, but that doesn't mean they know whether that's legitimate use or not!)
But if there is adequate competition, then if Verizon wants to charge you a higher rate to share a connection with multiple machines via Wi-Fi (or not allow it at all) and Speakeasy (my home and business ISP) not only lets you share bandwidth with your computers but with neighbors and throws in a cheap Wi-Fi gateway...it's easy to see where the market forces lead.
The clear answer is that with limited choices for consumers, the monopolies will try to force them into their mold. More choices means that some ISP will "win" by offering the right package at the right price. If they can sustain the model, they can beat the telcos.
David Berlind of Cnet.com demonstrates to Bluetooth promoters standard lacks interop, explicability: In what has to be the second largest publicly documented embarassment to the Bluetooth SIG, Berlind had three Bluetooth promoters come to his home office and watch connection after connection fail.
He writes, the SIG representatives revealed that consortiums like Bluetooth SIG are relatively powerless when it comes to cleaning up messes like this one. Actually, only because the Bluetooth SIG allowed the name Bluetooth to be put on devices without a lab interop/certification program like Wi-Fi.
Reports show many users, especially with broadband: Wi-Fi networks were added in 2 million homes in the last two years or so, and a quarter of all broadband subscribers have wireless networks. (Broadband adoption just ratcheted up in the last year significantly, too, although analysts think that the curve will become shallow given the lack of broadband support for many users who want it outside of urban areas.)
The report apparently also indicates the Wi-Fi has driven the growth of home networks. No one wants to run wires, that's clear. No one even wants to build their own cables any more: it's too hard to get the high-speed quality with the reduced wiggle room in faster Ethernet.
Intersil says it could make 802.11g work faster in environments with 802.11b and g operating: It's a clever technical fix but requires integration into the 802.11e quality of service (QoS) work in progress. It basically holds the line open longer for 802.11g packets, allowing more of that faster data to get through before the slower b packets edge in.
Quality of service is a synonym for somebody else's service quality suffers, but in a closed network in which you're making the service choices, QoS could potentially provide an advantage.
Apple says, hey, it was always about 20 Mbps throughput: Bravo to MacCentral for asking and Apple for being so candid, in clarifying the fact that I knew and most folks who understand the spec know: 802.11g runs at 54 Mbps, but that's not a measure of the data encoded, but rather all of the nuts and bolts that make up a wireless network. The net data rate is somewhere at 20 Mbps or south; 54 Mbps is the raw rate.
InfoWorld honors inventors/visionaries in the enterprise world, including two wireless types: Jaap C. Haartsen, Ericsson's Bluetooth originator, and Skip Crilly, Vivato's antenna and regulations guru.
UK train passengers show interest, revenue probably there: But governmental contracts for train operators that require renewal and many competing interests might prevent the companies from building their own or outside firms from going through all the hoops. Sounds like the airport market as well. Also, some technical issues with having continuous signals while on trains. 3G might be good enough for in-transit use at some point; Wi-Fi in stations.
ComputerWorld notes that 802.11g will have 10 to 20 Mbps throughput, not 54 Mbps, but...: This has been known all along. The 54 Mbps rate is the raw symbol rate, or the number of symbols per second including all framing, error correction, etc. The net throughput rate of 10 to 20 Mbps (or higher) erases all the stuff you need to carry data and looks at the payload.
The IEEE has already talked about how, in future standards, they might be able to bring the throughput up closer to the raw symbol rate. This story is pretty close to on target, but should have described the differences between throughput and raw data. Manufacturers have been saying up to five times faster, and I've been saying: yeah, if you get 4 Mbps out of 802.11b (a real-world figure for a network with multiple users) and 20 Mbps out of 802.11g (an idealized figure for a non-mixed b/g network with a single user).
BusinessWeek warns bubble may burst, but not the bubble it sounds like at first: The article explains that although the market is growing in terms of revenue, margins are shrinking and competition increasing. This means that even as tens of millions of home and business users get Wi-Fi access, the companies making chips and equipment will be making ever less per unit or user.
There's some good analysis in this piece in terms of the shakeout of current generation companies, mostly in the chip sector. There isn't going to be a lot of room for the Atheros's of the world given how quicky Intersil, TI, Broadcom, and others ate into what Atheros was envisioning as their technical and market advantage. Given that 802.11a has temporarily become an also-ran -- though I believe that will change long-term -- Atheros's original focus on 802.11a became a liability.
I have some critique, however, starting with the opening anecdote: the company EWD focused on hot spots, apparently, which anyone could have told you is a finite market likely to be dominated by larger companies as the size of hot spot networks grew. Maybe they weren't making hot spot equipment, but it's hard to say. (Companies like Colubris offer hot-spot versions of their enterprise gear, so they can service multiple markets.)
I dispute this entire statement: Another growth deterrent is that Wi-Fi isn't easy for an average person to use. It requires setting up an antenna, reconfiguring a computer, and signing up for broadband service. It requires buying an access point and typically *not* reconfiguring a computer. Broadband service is optional, and not a flaw with using Wi-Fi. The fact that millions of households are now using Wi-Fi would argue against the complexity. Millions puts you beyond early adopters. It also disregards that several broadband ISPs are offering Wi-Fi install kits.
At the bottom of the first Web page, the writer cites a Qualcomm executive's story with a specific London hotel's hot spot service. Fails to mention that Qualcomm's CEO is dissing Wi-Fi hot spots in an effort to talk up Qualcomm's investment in 3G technology research, like EvDO, that faces strong competition from hot spots. Also, how many of you have used hot spot service that requires special client software? Boingo's might be one example, but most Boingo locations can be access through gateway payment pages, too.
The writer should have mentioned Qualcomm's bias and talked to the London hotel: I know of one London hotel that did a public Wi-Fi rollout several weeks ago and it was a problem because of some of the settings (now fixed, I believe).
I'm sort of tired of seeing Joltage referred to as a hot spot operator that failed. They never had enough locations to make them a contender. If T-Mobile or Surf and Sip had shut down, that would be one thing: Joltage had a specific model that didn't work and that doesn't resemble most other wISPs, and is now lumped together with all other models.
GRIC's service is cited as a flat $25 per month for dial-up and $50 per month for dial-up and Wi-Fi. I believed that they charge, like iPass, based on usage. I have been unable in the past to get rates out of GRIC.
Cisco lowered prices on its Wi-Fi gear by about 25% last year to remain competitive, says Bill Rossi, vice-president and general manager of Cisco's wireless-networking business. As accurately, Cisco cut into its amazingly large WLAN margins when competitors started offering equipment with the same features for less. I guess that is competition.
Cisco, among others, claims to have the solution. It expects to continue charging $400 to $500 per hot spot... I guess this is some of the confusion in this article: hot spot and access point aren't the same thing, but the writer uses them interchangeably.
Broadcom notes ratification expected June 12: Broadcom sent out a press release trumpeting the IEEE 802.11g's acceptance of the Draft 8.2 specification, and noting the next step comes June 12.
On the first day with its new name, Tropos gets New York Times coverage: FHP Wireless changed its name to Tropos and relaunched its product line, focusing on a small deployment in Half Moon Bay, California, that piqued the Times's interest. Also, the CEO of Tropos is the son of the Hanna in Hanna-Barbera, the folks who brought us the Jetsons, the Flintstones, and other animated translations of The Honeymooners.
Tropos's products product mesh networking combined with local 802.11b access points in a single box. They can use a separate radio for mesh communication with like units. Edge units bring in backhaul outside the mesh network. Adding units increases density without reconfiguration.
Marvell enters 802.11g fray: Marvell is the kind of company you never hear about because they make the guts, mostly anonymously, for much of the inexpensive, high-quality networking gear out there. They were the first to provide an all-in-CMOS (all standard silicon chip process) 802.11b chipset, and they're one of the primary reasons that the cost of gigabit Ethernet switches has just plummeted. 802.11g was originally predicted to cost somewhat, but not much higher than b. I expect the reverse will happen by the time Wi-Fi certification for g hits later this summer: b will plummet in cost, and g will wind up even below recent b pricing.
802.11g very close to June ratification: According to a Texas Instruments spokesperson, the IEEE's meeting last week in Dallas led to unanimous motions to push forward the Draft 8.2 of 802.11g. Some approvals are still pending, but it's very likely that this draft will be the one approved in mid-June, which will lead to Wi-Fi Alliance certification shortly thereafter, and firmware updates aplenty.
PC Mag columnist Dvorak agrees that Centrino is the first stage in Intel's communications drive: Handsome, brilliant John C. Dvorak, a man for whom statutes are raised in every town, praises this site and my insights on Intel's Centrino. Okay, so I let it go to my head.
Network World explains the whys and whos of WLAN switches: My colleague Nancy Gohring offers an in-depth explanation of the various WLAN switches on and coming to the market, their differences, and insight from analysts.
Schlotzsky's extends its free Wi-Fi to help Austin public libraries: Just got off the phone with a PR person for Schlozsky's Delis who pointed me to this Austin Chronicle article. Schlotzsky's is offering free Wi-Fi in several of its stores as a test -- which they say has increased business on average by six percent in those outlets -- but it's also trying to help the community by unwiring libraries.
News.com story might miss point on turnkey hot spots: The story makes the point that Juniper's turnkey hot spot solution developed with Colubris is cheaper than the $2,000+ offerings from Cisco et al. But Toshiba has a sub-$1,000 system (isn't it $199 plus some other costs?), and Colubris makes the Boingo Hot Spot in a Box for under $1,000 as well. (See, for instance, my article on turnkey hot spot systems.)
As goes Kansas, so goes communities nationwide: Seattle writer Brian Chin shows how a local Kansas cable operator is expanding its cable customer base into Wi-Fi by partnering with the right local businesses, and offering a small flat rate add-on to the cable bill. $9.95 per month gets you unlimited Wi-Fi; makes sense, as many costs involve billing, collection, and marketing. If you can sell to your existing customers on the same bill, costs overall remain low.
When will car dealers and repair shops get the bright idea about Wi-Fi as the one cited in this story has? I've been in many where I've had to wait long periods and thought I'd gladly pay a few bucks to have Wi-Fi.
South Africa's biggest ISP unwires Johannesburg International, Cape Town International, and Durban International: Using PicoPoint gear, Wireless G -- which has a problem with its site certificate -- will roll out unwired access to to three airports. No timetable was announced.
UK The Cloud launches 1,000 hot spots this week: The Cloud, run by Inspired Broadcast Network and Leisure Link, a company that's put interactive gaming into pubs across the UK, will launch with 1,000 hot spot locations later this week. They expect to have 3,000 locations running by the end of the year.
BT (British Telecom) will offer its DSL subscribers a single flat fee option to add Wi-Fi hot spot service and use a home Wi-Fi network; offers a turnkey hot spot solutions for venues: The turnkey system is from Toshiba. BT has at least 110 hot spots, and says it's on target for 400 by summer.
My sources say cell companies tolerate or encourage unlicensed wireless data: In this brief story in InfoWorld, I look at whether cellular telephone carriers are discouraging or trying to quash unlicensed spectrum use. My conclusion is that, counterintuitive to what I thought, the carriers are encouraging unlicensed wireless data. Why? In part because it offloads traffic from their expensive voice frequencies.
The SOCALWUG meets in Pasadena on May 21: Two presentations, one from a wISP, another from AirMagnet.
Fragmentary early details about SBC's plans to offer hot spot service: Once one telco sticks its foot in the water, the rest start to body surf.
Intel now says early 2004 for 802.11g: Earlier, the company had hoped to ship dual a/b chips by mid-year and 802.11g by sometime next year, but has delayed the a/b til late 2003, and moved up 802.11g.
FCC wants to open 255 MHz more bandwidth in the 5 GHz range [PDF]: This proposed rulemaking is in line with the Boxer/Allen (Senate) and Honda (House) bills to expand unlicensed bandwidth. It could breathe new life in 802.11a, by allowing potentially 20 channels total instead of the current 12, allowing extremely dense installations.
One bill to charge them all: T-Mobile cell phone customers can get unlimited hot spot access for $19.95 per month if they have it billed as part of their regular service. T-Mobile regularly charges $29.95 per month for a one-year service commitment for unlimited access, and $39.95 for month-to-month service with a small cancellation fee.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has its Wi-Fi Zones search up and running: You can search by many parameters for hot spots that have opted into the Wi-Fi Zones branding program. (Anyone know anything about axcess2go, which appears to suddenly have a dozen locations in Seattle?)
Comcast's head says they'll copycat Verizon if they need to; nervous about unlicensed spectrum: In a typically monolithic response to competition, cable provider Comcast says that if Verizon's move takes off as a means to bring in and retain DSL customers, they might use their coax base to distribute Wi-Fi to their users as well.
Unfortunately, the company head needs to review how people use the service and how they could offer very low-cost methods to meet his quite anxious concerns. The unlicensed nature seems to bother him because he can't control it. But then he pops out this remark: ''We tend to recommend to customers that they limit themselves to nonconfidential, nonproprietary'' Net traffic while using a hot spot, and in particular that they not do online shopping that involves transmitting a credit card number, Otterbeck said.
First off, virtually all Web sites that accept credit card numbers -- all smart ones -- use SSL security for the transaction, which is not currently breakable without some real elbow grease and time; if you're using 128-bit SSL, it's not breakable at all.
Secondly, the job of an ISP thinking about Wi-Fi is to help customers with security: Verizon and Comcast and others should offer the Boingo solution: VPN to the NOC, or a virtual private network client that allows arbitrary connections to the NOC (network operations center) of the ISP. This provides security comparable to using an office LAN or dial-up connection. It's not end-to-end, but it's what the vast majority of non-corporate users need, and it's not expensive to provide.
Verizon rolls out pay-phone hot spot test in Manhattan: Oddly, only current DSL subscribers can have access. This is really a nutty idea, as it plays the game that says one customer has only one kind of need or one kind of service. Networks want to be fully loaded to generation a return on the infrastructure and maintenance investment.
Schlotzsky's, small cafes see upturn from free Wi-Fi: Last Thursday's New York Times Circuits section brings us the news that commercial retail shops offering free Wi-Fi are seeing enough of a small uptick in business that it makes sense to continue to not charge. Schlotzsky's has seen 6 percent more business because of Wi-Fi, which could mean $100,000 per shop per year.
Picking right up where we left off, I'm back from a wonderful, Internet-free trip to Costa Rica. (There's Internet service everywhere -- practically every shop of every kind had some kind of access -- but this was a vacation, gosh darn it.) I'll be starting the news machine back up again over the next day or so.
Excuse me while I travel south: The Wi-Fi Networking News will be suspended while I head to Costa Rica for a week for a wedding. No hardship tour, but it will be pouring buckets of rain at least once a day. Look for more news in about 10 days after I've caught up from my return. In the meantime, you can use this Google News search to get a reasonable summary.
Comprehensive reporting on the state of cell operators merging services with Wi-Fi: What's coming? Combined Wi-Fi/cell handsets, combined services, combined billing. T-Mobile will offer its voice customers hot spot service on the same bill. Seamless handoff between networks is also on many people's agendas, but they're concerned about making sure customers are aware of the cost change. And, Wi-Fi is the gap-filling technology for cell operators as they gear up to faster cell speeds.
A baffling press release says Wayport and Concourse Communications will partner to offer hot spot service at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport: Why baffling? Because Concourse launched service there in April 2002. Huh.
In any case, Wayport's involvement means that more networks will have direct access. Previously, iPass was the gatekeeper, instead of a partner, and iPass charges per session; they don't have a flat rate. With Wayport in the picture in Minneapolis and at LaGuardia, Boingo and other network customers will have up to unlimited access under the terms of their monthly plans, or pay the per-session rates if they're on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Paris may become highly Wi-Fi'd: It's a private project to put Wi-Fi outside Metro stations throughout Paris to see if a thousand flowers bloom once service is available, and no government official is even quoted in the article.
Zyxel to offer up to six bridged connections: It's a small but growing story that the wireless distribution system (WDS) is starting to appear in a number of consumer/small-business access points. WDS allows you to use multiple APs on a single channel to bridge network traffic to a master unit.
Of course, the problem is that you massively reduce available bandwidth in your wireless pool by sharing the same channel, but you also reduce your wiring costs and make bridged networks possible where before you'd have to buy either very expensive equipment, a set of Linksys devices, or make lots of compromises.
Apple's AirPort Extreme Base Station support up to four slaves pointing to a master in a point-to-multipoint configuration, but I haven't tested their version of WDS with other vendors.
Tim Higgins summarizes the Network+Interop show: mostly yawn-worthy: After a flurry of lead-up press releases and the usual hype, Network+Interop shaped up to be rather dull, I gather from Tim Higgins's as-usual exhaustive reporting. Tim was looking mostly at home and small-business manufacturers and equipment, and there just wasn't much of interest.
One tidbit: he reports that the Wi-Fi Alliance will probably brand 802.11i as "WPA2" to show that it's an extension to the WPA spec. Only enterprises will need the missing pieces in 802.11i that aren't in WPA, so that seems perfectly reasonable.
Meanwhile, this report from CRN doesn't make the enterprise side of things sound any livelier.
Bill Drew's list of Wi-Fi-enabled libraries: Bill is the associate librarian, systems and references, at SUNY Morrisville College Library, and he's assembled a list divided geographically of libraries that offer Wi-Fi -- typically to their patrons as well as for staff. He's accepting submissions to increase the list!
Combine this list with Wi-Fi Free Spot and a list of community networks (I can't find a good one at the moment!) and you have a pretty good way to target legitimate places to get free access while traveling around especially if you're traveling by car with a good map, GPS, or navigation system.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:51 PM | Permanent Link | Categories:
D-Link, Linksys, NetGear to provide WPA upgrades shortly: D-Link and Linksys will focus on 802.11g updates first, then roll back into older products. NetGear will offer a firmware upgrade to a business 802.11b point first.