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Cingular deploys world's first 2.5G EDGE network: TechDirt analyzes EDGE, a successor to GPRS that can offer up to 170 Kbps of raw speed through a software upgrade to cellular systems. EDGE was originally thought of as an also-ran, but the near-term success of GSM's competitor standard CDMA in the form of 1xRTT makes EDGE a better transition.
What's great for me, of course, is that I have Cingular service, and have been hoping that they would offer some kind of 2.5G option that was worthwhile and affordable. I currently use GSM (9600 bps) for data calls because the minutes for usage are taken out of my regular pot -- including the thousands of free weekend minutes, which is when I typically use it when traveling. GPRS under Cingular is $8/month plus $30 per Mb after the first megabyte.
EDGE could be a compromise: fast enough to allow low enough surcharges to make it a good add-on. But possibly only if they decide to bundle some form of Wi-Fi with it -- Cingular is a holdout in the cell world with no public plans to link any of their billing plans or networks with Wi-Fi.
Agreement with FCC allows Linksys to sell WSB24 again: The signal booster was supposed to work with just two approved Linksys models, but the interconnection was too easy (even if it didn't make sense to use the antennas with other access points). The FCC slapdown was pretty nice, in that there's no talk of any real problems, just an agreement by Linksys (Cisco!) to make the connectors even harder to replicate for non-approved devices.
World Radio Congress agrees to add 455 MHz to 5 GHz band for wireless networks: The ubiquitous Phil Belanger of Vivato notes that opening up 5 GHz worldwide increases the ability of developing nations to have the backhaul they need to improve telecommunications throughout a country.
AirPath partners with satellite data provider to offer hot spots beyond the central office and cable head end: I missed this story last week, but AirPath, which has turnkey hot spot hardware and billing services, partnered with Mainstream Data, which allows a hot spot operator off the beaten path to pay a reasonable price for a broadband feed. The Mainstream site says they support up to 40 Mbps, but no costs are listed.
In growing trend, broadband operator RCN offers home networking package: They'll install adapters and allow multiple computers on the network, while providing tech support for the basic networking function (but not file sharing or printing, wisely of them).
Investors and analysts are starting to get cold feet, but wireless ISPs keep on pushing: This article is full of excellent subtlety in balancing the views of the folks with money or advising those with it, and the companies who have banked on building it so the users would come. (It's also a sort of who's who at the end of 802.11 Planet attending companies and people.)
Here's one good statistic that's not widely known: Richard Snyder of Concourse Communications, the group that's managing the build-out and operation (but not billing and authentication) of Wi-Fi and cell at Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York/New Jersey airports, and others, said on a panel on airports that I moderated at 802.11 Planet that the "hockey stick" effect is finally kicking in.
Snyder noted that over the last year since they unwired Minneapolis/St. Paul's terminals, they saw very steady usage, no real spurts. Following the Centrino announcement, however, April and May each had significant double-digit growth -- over 15 percent last month.
I'll be curious to see if providers like Boingo, Wayport, and T-Mobile HotSpot decide to release similar numbers, if they're seeing that sort of usage. If the hockey stick is here, it only requires a few companies to confirm it for the tide to shift from "cold spots" back to "hot hot hot!"
Good coffee (and hotels and sandwiches), yes, but free wireless tempts them: My story in today's Seattle Times focuses on how free Wi-Fi access -- and to a lesser extent, free broadband in general -- can produce returns at least in the short-term by poaching customers and enticing people into stores or hotels they otherwise might not have considered.
Schlotzsky's Deli CEO John Wooley, quoted in passing in the story, was part of a panel I put together at 802.11 Planet last week, and he had both hard numbers and anecdotal evidence that backs up his $100,000 per store contention. Instead of focusing on the store, they're actually pushing out Wi-Fi as far as they can partly because you face a splash screen for Schlotzsky's for every free session. That constant reinforcement makes it worthwhile for them to offer it free and widespread. They've even accidentally lit up an entire dorm at a university -- the students don't yet have free access through their school, and they use Schlotzsky's connection and, not incidentally, buy a lot of food from them.
Sky Dayton recruits venues through Entrepreneur magazine: Boingo CEO Sky Dayton co-authored an article in Entrepreneur's July issue on why and how to become a Wi-Fi hot spot if you're on the real-estate side. Makes sense for them to recruit, because thousands of disparate locations, self-funded using turnkey soutions, provide them more revenue with little cost and create at least the perception that hot spot service is increasing.
The article is quite a detailed primer which gives some insight into Boingo's overall approach. If you don't buy into Boingo's world view, then you won't buy into the article, for sure.
Craig Plunkett of CEDX is noted in a sidebar. Craig has sought good venues and partnerships, and is a frequent correspondent to this blogger, providing insight into the east coast market. Rick Ehrlinspiel of Surf and Sip is noted in another sidebar. Rick was just a panelist on a the Will People Pay for Hotspot Service? session I moderated in Boston yesterday.
Broadcom says that dual band a/g will become important by 2005: Don't count 802.11a out yet: Broadcom, the dominant 802.11g chip provider as enterprise players didn't jump on the early bandwagon, says that tri-mode/dual-band (a/b/g) will increase in importance over time. Broadcom now has deals with most notebook makers, although note that their adapter is not the default for many models, but a no-cost or low-cost upgrade.
Problem with developing nations and wireless? Too much regulation of spectrum: Earlier today, I posted remarks from Phil Belanger of Vivato based on his participation at a UN conference on wireless in developing nations, and he said that spectrum is widely underused in developing lands. However, this article notes, the conference seems to show that developing countries are hoarding or overregulating the use of this abundant spectrum, making it harder for innovation to provide those services that could be useful.
McDonald's on branding panel at 802.11 Planet says three markets will launch next week: New York, SF Bay (along Highway 101), and Chicago: Their brand will be the at-sign with a "m" in it, and they will put three-foot tall round signs with this brand on store signs that offer this service. They will test with three providers, Cometa being one (and Wayport appearing in a slide shown as one of the others).
Mark Jamison of McDonald's said, the "fairly public bake-off" is to "show us that you can deploy, you can operate at certain service levels," bring in customers, that the revenue share is correct especially because "we're running our back office" off the network and it needs to work for corporate IT purpose.
Jamison noted that McDonald's has an extremely large mobile workforce that visit hundreds of stores on a regular basis, so the network will be useful for this workforce as well as their customers.
The slogan: "Bites or Bytes. We do both."
On the same panel, Lovina McMurchy of Starbucks said, "We're exceeding our own internal financial models for what we expected at this point." (However, a story a few days ago quoted a Starbucks spokesperson saying that only 10,000s of thousands of users were connecting each month, which would be an average of 5+ connections per store per month.)
In terms of Starbucks relationship with T-Mobile, "Our role is to really endorse the service provider in this environment."
In Q&A: McMurchy: 60 percent of Starbucks business is before 9 in the morning, so resources aren't taxed the rest of the day, and 80 percent of the business is to go. Customers value the environment but "they don't really use it that much."
90 percent of Wi-Fi usage in the stores is after 9 am in the morning. The model "encourages people to come to the store at a time" that they want people to come into the store. "It's a really good fit. Spend as much as time you want...buy a frappachino."
Jamison said, about Starbucks, "They don't stay, but they believe that they could." People come in and then leave, so don't have to deal with it operationally. 60 percent of McDonald's business is through drive-thru. 40 percent of remainder come in because drive-thru is crowded -- and then leave.
Most stores have capacity to handle folks most of the time, outside of, say, mid-town Manhattan.
Moderator: as people stay in stores, do they buy more food? Jamison: no metrics yet. McMurchy: same store comps better over same time, but can't tie. Retail surveys ask if people come more often: "a fairly large percentage of them" say yes they stay longer, which translates into an increase in sales and food.
McMurcy asked Jamison: in example of housewife who spends time while kids play, would that housewife have laptop? Would you put in equipment?
Jamison: "yeeeeah..." without going too much into their future plans. They're considering all of that kind of stuff because they have a high-end enterprise network in the location. We could open it up. "Given the content play" and partnerships with Disney and others, could have interesting content. "What kind of devices could we have in the store to allow customers to do that?" In the Bay Area, they will have devices in the store.
Moderator (Bob Ferrari): Part to drive brand loyalty, but part to drive goods. McDonald's making money off the Internet. Starbucks: relationship with T-Mobile, maybe some income, not just pure loyalty? Is income from Wi-Fi a major piece of the business model?
McMurcy: "That's a great question, Bob, and one we studiously avoid answering." Good to have many ways to make money. Efficiencies and synergies across back office over pipe. 1,000 remote workers are using service in the stores.
Audience Q: costs of Wi-Fi Zone? You need to be a member ($25,000) but no signage or license fees.
Audience Q: Parking lots -- Wi-Fi reaches the parking lot. Encourage/discourage this use? McMurchy: "We're perfectly satisfied if customer wants to do that." Stores aren't open 24 hours a day, so folks can pull up after they're closed. Or if they like sitting in the car, "if they find it more comfortable, we're cool with that." Q: Do you design the sites to cover the parking lot? McMurchy: We design for maximum coverage area.
Jamison: IBM Global Services does all deployment, and they specifically say they need to include parking lot coverage. "We're going to track that pretty closely as to when people connect." What happens when police drive by at 2 am and there are cars in the lot? "It can be a valuable part of the offering."
Q: Brand critical to future success, but when I tried to sell to other companies, didn't want to deploy because it might not work perfectly. Ease of use is a problem. Lack of on-site support? Different question because of different clientele between Starbucks and McDonalds, maybe?
McMurchy: On whole "pretty good service." How do you compare against free services? Let's choose service providers that have T-1s, premium quality service. Confident in endorsing T-Mobile because the service is pretty good. "We try hard to indicate to their customers that the network isn't perfectly secure."
Q: Is McDonalds or Starbucks using Wi-Fi Zone? And Mark, consumer education might be high, but with internal staff turnover, how do you educate?
Jamison: Zone branding -- short term, no. "We have to be careful of the Nascar effect." Intel relationship strong: wireless logo, McDonalds logo, service provider logo, Centrino logo. But when Centrino logo obligation ends -- [that obligation ends--glenn] -- that could change.
Training workforce: we're equivalent to the top 20 universities in the world in terms of how much training we do. Top 10 questions are part of training: do you have this service, what does it do ("allows you to connect wirelessly"). 30,000 restaurants. Have to do it multi-lingually.
But are designing programs to make available and open for use for employees. "Hopefully, they're in the target market."
McMurchy: not in Wi-Fi Alliance strategy. "I can see the benefit of that in theory if there was a public awareness of" that logo. But in working with many tech companies, "they underestimate how much a retailer does value that real estate." T-Mobile is first logo to put on the store. "It's the most valuable thing we have."
Without strong or compelling customer argument that logo already has meaning, we're not going to put it up. "I know this creates this awful chicken and egg thing for the alliance," but we're not going to do it.
Q: Does alliance have marketing program to push awareness of logo? Retailers: public access, so is there content filtering to prevent "mischievious activities"?
Hayes of WFA: "We're still really in the customer acquisition phase." Outreach to carriers, venue owners, providers, get critical mass.
McMurchy: We don't have a liability around that because we want the service provider to deal with it, like T-Mobile.
Jamison: "tough, tough question that we've struggled with a bunch." No content filtering. But a few interesting points. "We have more risk because we've branded it much more McDonalds." And, "people bring their families there." We have deep pockets and people love to sue McDonalds.
So service agreement says that you agree to not do bad things. Managers are trained and will kick out people. On liability side, which "scares the heck out of us." But content filtering isn't so sophisticated that it's perfect. So if you purport to have it, and someone comes in and beats it, you have some liability for it.
But if you state upfront that you're not filtering, then your liability is reduced. So it doesn't make sense to add it. "The cost of content filtering on any scale is really really expensive."
Q: Is alliance concerned that major brands (next to him) don't want to associate with your logo?
Hayes: the brand of Wi-Fi has association with high-speed services, that's what accrues to the brand. It is the major brand in the space. "I understand reasons why at this stage of the market not everyone is jumping behind it, so we just continue to add value through some of the activities to make the connectivity experience more predictable and easy to use." "We'll be patient about it."
Vivato to introduce "filler/relay" access point: I spoke with Phil Belanger, the marketing VP at Vivato this morning about the latest news from the company, which just closed its third round of funding for nearly $50 million last week. We spoke at 802.11 Planet, where Vivato has both its indoor and outdoor antennas on display at their trade show booth.
Phil mentioned in passing that Intel's earlier investment in Vivato has opened doors for them, as Intel tries to plug Vivato in to interesting opportunities, such as providing access for the Cannes Film Festival recently, and at a UN conference on wireless access in developing nations yesterday. Phil was at the United Nations conference, and he said he was "humbled" to be there, to hear about how people need this kind of access to improve their lives.
Phil said that someone asked, "wouldn't we be better off sending them food?" The answer was no, because wireless and other access provides opportunities and communication. "Their village will buy a PC and share it." Because spectrum is not a scarce resource in developing nations, they may have more opportunities to exploit that for remote places for backhaul. (Copper is stolen, speakers said at the conference, so wiring backhaul isn't a real option.)
But on to Vivato's equipment. Vivato's switches are starting to be produced in quantity now, and they're looking into the next generation, which the new funding makes easier -- they already had a good war chest before this larger infusion.
The new device is a Wi-Fi bridge/router which relies quite a bit on work done at Musenki, a company run by Jim Thompson, an engineer who is locked in a lab in Spokane as they push forward on new products and development. The new box will cost under $500 and ship this fall. It will feature two wireless cards: both running 802.11b or one running b and one g. One card is devoted to backhaul. They are omnidirectional.
The utility of this new device, which could be a standalone piece of equipment, is that it can communicate directly with the full switch to fill in areas that are hidden (such as the angles around a skyscraper). The router has the same software as the switch excluding VPN termination and rogue AP detection. The management console is the same, and you can manage up to 3 switches and 10 routers from one management console.
Vivato put one of their antennas in South Boston near the conference at the World Trade Center, and Phil can see service from one angle of the place. Better yet, his hotel, a couple miles away, has great Vivato service -- it's an open network, so I expect many folks are getting free Vivato right now all over the coverage area along the bay!
The routers, by the way, use 200 milliwatt radios from the company that many firms have been latching on for PC/Mac laptop "range extenders."
Dell computer buyers get T-Mobile trial: In the post-AOL age of "get a billion hours for free (in the first month)," the promotion is clear: up to 2,000 minutes free in the first 30 days, or 33 1/3 hours.
Linksys posts PC Card, wireless gateway updates: The updates bring the WPC54G (PC Card) and WRT54G (gateway/router) up to full 802.11g compliance and WPA support. [via Jim Bala]
Broadcom introduces USB 2.0 adapters for 802.11g and a dual-band 802.11a/g adapter: Broadcom supports older machiens through the first USB 2.0 adapters for 802.11g and a/g. The USB 2.0 standard runs at 480 Mbps, while USB 1.1 is only 12 Mbps.
Good session, but several questions were answered at the end that go beyond what's generally reported with Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).
I asked whether in a pre-shared secret situation with WPA, which is what most home and small business users who aren't running authentication servers will need to use, the master key used to create the encryption session could be used to unlock other users' encrypted packets. The answer is yes: that is, even though WPA provides robustness, unless you use 802.1x and an authentication server, the shared key allows the same (although perhaps involving more work) transparency of other network traffic.
WPA will be required after August 31 for Wi-Fi certification. Interestingly, even though EAP-TLS, one way of running 802.1x, isn't part of WPA, the test requires that a device passes two EAP-TLS tests -- so it's not part of the formal standard, but it is required!
With Microsoft developing 802.1x/xEAP clients, is there room for Meetinghouse (one of the presenters' companies) making other clients? Hard to compete against Microsoft, but room for clients for Mac, Unix, Linux, etc.
Intersil offers world-band chips with many, many letters: Intersil's WorldRadio handles the several band/modes -- a, b, and g -- as well d, h, i, and j, draft and approved standards. It also includes elements of 802.11e for packet bursting and other improvements.
France Telecom's puts Orange Wi-Fi into Accor hotels: Accor has 1,300 hotels in a range of prices, and the plan is to charge 5 euros per hour, with some packages available, including five users at a conference for 40 euros for a day.
The company revealed its assumptions, rare for a press release. They expect 5,000 sessions per day with this footprint and 10,000 per day by 2006. Of course, that's only a few users per day per hotel! Can they recover costs at 100 euros per day per location -- especially when the current overprice European model collapses?
Dorothy Stanley of Agere notes 802.11i due out in May 2004: At 802.11 Planet, Stanley said that 802.11i standard is due May 2004 with optional Wi-Fi certification probably by second quarter 2004 and mandatory Wi-Fi certification by fourth quarter of 2004. The current draft, version 4, was completed June 6, 2003.
The last piece to deal with is to "agree on solution for secure fast roaming to support voice applications."
Microsoft's Jawad Khaki (Corporate Vice President, Windows Networking and Communications Technologies, Microsoft Corporation) delivered a keynote here at 802.11 Planet in Boston in which he showed a number of current uses, but then had several of his team demonstrate pervasive collaborative computing performing voice over IP over wireless, streaming multiple high-definition video streams, and playing Xbox games. None of it is per-se cutting edge, but it was all simple interface, it worked, and had consumer interests at heart.
Announced: Windows CE .NET 4.2 Network Gateways Solution: secure network gateways, deploy them in an integated fashion, extensible architecture. I really know nothing about how this, but it's apparently news. Many many vendors (AMD, Braodcom, Intel, TI, etc.) buying off on this.
One of his remarks: "What I call the evil NATs" are stifling the ability for people to get connected. (Interestingly, Bob Frankston, who worked at Microsoft to develop home networking the mid-90s, told me in late 2002 that he calls himself the father of NAT and said that NAT was one of the biggest mistakes he made. He shoulda gone with IPv6, he said.)
Khaki said 25% of Microsoft users say they save 1/2 to 1 hour per day with Wi-Fi. He asks, "Did they use that time to improve their lives or did they give it to Microsoft?"
Boingo adds StayOnline hotels: This increases Boingo's network by 130 locations, but, more importantly, gets them into more business traveler venues.
Thursday and Friday in Boston at 802.11 Planet: Folks, I'll be at the 802.11 Planet conference all day Thursday and Friday attending sessions and leading two panels, one on airport service and one on whether people will pay for hot spot service.
My presentation for the airport panel is, I might just say, a knock out one, and I plan to record the audio while I'm there and try to put the presentation up as a QuickTime movie with narration.
School district leaves data open via Wi-Fi network: The school district set up the network first, partly at parents' instigation it sounds like, and then later established a security policy. The article shows how they failed to meet federal requirements for privacy and so forth, and the administration is obviously spinning madly so they don't get charged or fined.
NetNearU unwires Newark: Although I thought that Concourse Communications had the exclusive infrastructure contract to put Wi-Fi into Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia airports, here's NetNearU saying that on the behest of a major telecom (which one?), they're putting in service starting in Terminal C, and then extending to A and B.
I just exchanged some email with a fellow I know at Concourse, and the full story is extremely complicated, but not bad for any of the companies involved.
Calgary tries Wi-Fi as way to make the city seem more welcoming to high-tech jobs: It's a partnership with sponsors that is offering free Wi-Fi and a branding program. The program will make Wi-Fi more visible to visitors enhancing the city's appearance as a place to locate high-technology jobs, especially among the white-collar crowd. [via Jason Kaczor]
Or, how I rewrote a press release...: I'm sorry to be so harsh about this, but this is the biggest non-story of the week. So Dell signs a deal with AT&T Wireless to let Dell customers use AT&T's cellular network at modem speeds? Users no longer have to hunt for a hot spot...unless they want something faster than maybe 50 Kbps and don't want to spend dollars per megabyte for data use? Ugh.
We'll see more of this, I'm sure. The cell industry is preying on reporters who don't have the bigger picture of what service is available and what services cost. Hot spots aren't necessarily an alternative to cell data networks, but this story makes it sound like it was ripped from a press release.
Ads appear on Wi-Fi Networking News ... what th'?: Some of you may have wondered about the panel of Ads by Google at the far right of each Wi-Fi Networking News page. When Google announced they were launching AdSense, a program that allows sites to split revenue with them without any server nonsense or special relationships, I jumped in immediately. I don't have enough volume to work with any of the big boys in advertising, nor do I want to cope with the problems inherent in that.
Because Google uses its excellent technology to provide contextually appropriate ads by actually spidering and indexing the pages on which each ad appears, and then by tracking response rates and ranking ads on pages based on the clickthrough rate they obtain, the ads at right should not just help me generate some revenue for the site to continue my work here, but should also offer you all items and services that conform to what you need -- not just what the advertiser or site thinks you need.
We'll see how it pans out. Right now, the income from the ads is an awfully nice bonus, the equivalent (if it continues even at 50 percent of the pace) of writing a few features articles for a major publication each year. Google may single-handedly revolutionize the ability of folks like me to afford to run popular editorial sites.
What they're also making clear is that I need to build traffic at long last -- I've resisted in the past, because traffic hasn't translated into revenue. With the ad banners from Google, the more traffic I receive, the more likely it is that the clickthrough rate, remaining constant, will bear more of a return.
I'll never commercialize the site, but I will monetize it in ways that are clearly identified as ads or sponsorships, and which don't compromise the integrity of the news I report.
SmallNetBuilder reveals Apple delays WPA til end of year: Apple won't offer support for the new security standard WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) til the end of this year when Panther appears. Apple's method of mapping a password to a WEP key in their current system already offers WPA's simplicity for Mac-only networks, but the encryption system is still just as broken, making AirPort-based networks just as susceptible to cracking for a determined party.
Small island unwires: The island nation of Niue (pronounced new-eh, with a long A sound) now offers free Wi-Fi for all and sundry. Most yachts visit during what is described as "non-cyclone season." (I have a fond spot for Niue, which is the country through which I registered the domain for isbn.nu way back when I needed a short and sweet unencumbered name.) [via TechDirt]
Wi-Fi Alliance head moves to Austin: This is one of those bizarre non-stories. The fellow who heads the Wi-Fi Alliance is moving to Austin, Texas, but I don't know if the group has permanent staff and offices, or if they hire everything out for specific purposes. Very odd little news item.
A new library opted for wired because books block Wi-Fi's signal: I haven't heard of this particular problem before, but it has something to do with the scale and comprehensiveness of coverage and where the stacks are located. I can imagine that books are a more efficient attenuator than brick and concrete, especially if stack back to back in metal shelves. Still, their attitude is good: they put in plenty of wired ports and can add Wi-Fi affordably since they have the right infrastructure in place.
Vivato receives $45 million in additional funding: If there ever was a question that the company had enough cash to ramp up for enterprise-scale deployment and convince corporations that it would be around long enough for them to buy antennas, this probably quashed it. The company has taken in nearly $70M in several rounds.
Service aggregator iPass adds 160 hotels via Arescom: Arescom operates the Internet and in-room entertainment at 160 hotels, mostly in the budget category, and includes a mix of wired and Wi-Fi.
Microsoft makes Wi-Fi one of PocketPC's centerpieces: Although PocketPCs were well in advance of Palm's Wi-Fi connectivity, Microsoft never seemed to seize this advantage by offering tools to make it easy to connect to Wi-Fi networks. I owned a Toshiba e740 with integrated Wi-Fi for a few months, but sold it because it was so frustrating to roam and connect with it. Finding networks, entering keys, managing the process -- lightyears of pain away from Windows XP's relative ease.
Also, like XP, the PocketPC software lacked a profile manager or location manager: each time you switched networks, you had to re-enter information. Boingo released a client for PocketPC, but it only supported certain models. (Also, Boingo has changed its zero-cost approach: to sign up for Boingo, you have to pay $7.95, which includes two initial connection sessions, so you can no longer just use Boingo as your profile manager without that ponying up.)
Microsoft's announcement today of the Windows Mobile 2003 software for PocketPC is an attempt to make the connection process as simple as it should be. The new client supports all the doodads necessarily for corporate connections, including VPN support and 802.1x client configuration. It looks like it might support multiple network profiles, but the information on the site is scanty and the so-called demo doesn't elaborate much.
Part of the launch includes promotions with T-Mobile, Wayport, and Boingo for 30 days free service. It would almost be worth buying a PocketPC for the month and signing up on all three services to test them out -- just remember to cancel before 30 days is up! The free offer pages for each service don't list any limitations on top of "free." (One site I visited recently defines "unlimited" as 150 connections per month.)
Boingo released a beta of its Boingo Software for Windows Mobile 2003 today.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:46 AM | Permanent Link | Categories:
World Radio Congress European reps want indoor use only for one part of band; US says no: Pretty minor skirmish in which the Europeans want part of the 5 GHz band restricted to indoor use, while the US would like it to be available for indoor or outdoor use. The Europeans are concerned outdoor use could conflict with earth-sensing satellites, which are remarkably sensitive. Still, the US might get a regional exemption and continue on its merry way as it says it will.
Forrester says hot spots won't fly: The report focuses on Europe with no information about the rest of the world, and says that Bluetooth will far outstrip Wi-Fi, despite the fact that their uses barely overlap, and thus aren't worth comparing in this context.
The report doesn't look forward. Within a year, most devices that are small enough will have combined co-existent Bluetooth and Wi-Fi -- like Apple's current 12-inch and 17-inch PowerBooks and Power Macs.
Likewise, the report talks about 300-foot diameter access, when you have a combination of disruptive devices that include Vivato's antenna (which triples indoor distances) and mesh systems for provided seamless and extensive hot zones.
United Nations hosts wireless summit to discuss use in developing nations, stripping regulation: It has to say something about how the FCC and US industries have handled unlicensed spectrum that we can teach the rest of the world how deregulation or minimal regulation can provide such excellent benefits. Despite the conservative twist to our country, regulation seems to be something we've been unable to reduce -- and I'm not a libertarian, I just know there's too much of it.
The FCC's approach in this one area has caused a blossoming of technology, new industries, and direct consumer benefits. Now we're telling the world about how to copy this success.
Apple releases compatibility firmware update for AirPort Extreme: This update brings Apple's Extreme hardware into full 802.11g compatibility, plus fixes some minor annoying problems with their admin software, such as choosing your own NAT range with DHCP.
SmallNetBuilder details SMC's firmware updates: These packages will bring SMC's equipment to full 802.11g compliance, says the company. Interestingly, only one update includes WPA, and older hardware won't see upgrades til August -- which could include WPA? Not clear.
Cometa bags Barnes and Noble: Ken Berger reports from a talk by Cometa's CTO at HP yesterday that the joint AT&T/IBM/Intel venture will light up Barnes & Noble outlets. No press confirmation on this, so the exec might have been speaking well in advance of the publicity machine.
In related news, Cometa's CEO thinks the sweet spot for Wi-Fi pricing isless than $20 per month, while John Yunker of Pyramid Research thinks $10 to $15 per month is possible for unlimited access later this year.
Defcon Wireless Shootout: The annual hacker's conference is featuring a long-distance Wi-Fi competition for seeing who can shoot a signal the longest without relaying. Various categories for entry define what kind of antenna and signal you can use, much like the "natural" and "enhanced" bodybuilder contests. [via Dewayne Hendricks]
IBM installs Wi-Fi in 600 Boys and Girls Clubs: Also, 6,400 IBM PCs with wireless cards. It sounds as if they were able to offset huge wiring cost savings by providing this kind of network: they estimate 50 percent, which makes sense given the kind of costs for professional network installation. The backhaul isn't mentioned (The access points are from Linksys!) [via Anthony]
Everybody Wi-Fi wants investment, but is there enough there there: The constant theme of Wi-Fi investment is that a) the market is growing but b) which market? Wi-Fi services -- installing and maintaining wireless LANs in companies and for public venues -- is clearly large and getting larger. Sales of equipment continue to grow as margins shrink. Competition among chipmakers is huge, but the pie is too thin for that many.
Frank Catalano, a veteran tech reporter, also gets a great quote: where $6 an hour is seen as a possible hot spot rate today, a buck an hour is really where it's going, says one analysis.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:20 AM | Permanent Link | Categories:
STSN's head talks about Wi-Fi's adoption rate in hotels and the revenue model (requires subscription to read): David Garrison is asked, in Q&A format, about how STSN's business works. They charge $2.95 for 15 minutes and 10 to 20 cents for additional minutes up to $10 to $20 per day. They still have wired broadband in rooms, but are switching, at hotels' insistence, to more Wi-Fi.
But he undermines his own value proposition with this combination: Q. Are hotels making money off of this? A. Hotels are making money in a couple of ways. One is, they participate in the revenue stream with us. More importantly, the right secure technology is what helps meeting planners and guests select their property. So the hotel really makes its money from selling rooms, and food and beverages, and other conference services.
In other words, the revenue stream from the broadband is our business; running the hotel and making money from that the hotel's business. So why charge guests anything if you're only recovering some amount and paying a vendor to run it? Why not, then, have a contractor handle your broadband and not a revenue-seeking partner?
3Com introduces its 802.11g product line: An access point/bridge and a gateway (available July, about $125 street each), and a PC Card (available June, $80).
Alan Reiter gets clarification on United's new JetConnect with Email service from Verizon Airfone via Tenzing: In fact, the press release explained the service incorrectly. It's is $15.98 per flight, which include up to 2 kilobytes (2K) per email message. Each additional K per email message is another 10 cents, not overall. That is, you can download 100 2K messages and pay $15.98; add one 3K message and you pay $16.08, and so forth.
Of course, you have to use their special client software, and that's what kills the deal. I can't believe they haven't actually done the research on this, but corporations with the resources to allow their employees to spend $20 or $30 per flight on data are inversely unlikely to allow non-virtual private network (VPN) tunneled access to their networks.
Some companies do provide some limited POP or IMAP support outside a firewall, but I hear very little about that these days. In meeting with iPass recently about their new iPassConnect client software, they noted that one feature they offer to their corporate customers (who get a customized client for their employees) is to set the timeout that a connection will get dropped if the VPN isn't enabled. Employees can fire up the laptop, but they can't actually do anything on the Internet. The VPN has to go live within 30 seconds or a minute or two (depending on the company) or the iPass software kills the feed.
I'm basically predicting a failure on this service for United, because they've excluded the Fortune 50,000 from using the service by setting it up this way. Their customers will only be leisure travelers who want to spend extra for no good reason, or small business people, or salespeople who use other kinds of accounts.
Meanwhile, the hotmail users of the world with no POP access also won't be able to use this service.
Hotels like Starwood chain not seeing the IT return from deploying Wi-Fi: It makes sense that Wi-Fi deployments could help run hotels, which have many mobile workers in their confines, as well as provide access to customers. This story says no, ain't the case, at least for Starwood, an ownership company that has several brands among its properties.
John Yunker of Pyramid Research told me a few days ago, however, the exact contrary, that internal applications could end up being the killer application for hotels. The Royal Sonestra in Boston, he said, is giving Wi-Fi-enabled handhelds to the housekeeping and security staff.
Towns and villages in the UK are skipping the wires, and using fixed wireless Internet: England has some spread-out communities, and it might or might not ever be cost effective to try to deliver IP over phone lines with DSL or other methods. Fixed wireless is here now, it's not overly expensive, and communities are starting to hook themselves up. Even better, a few firms are specializing in this sort of community hook-up, making it even simpler.
Motorola partners with TI for 802.11a/b/g in their Wi-Fi/cell phone: Motorola's phone will handle a/b/g, Voice over IP, 2.5G and 3G data, and GSM or CDMA.
Qualcomm and Broadcom partner on Bluetooth: The partnership should put Bluetooth in more phones given Qualcomm's market position in developing CDMA technology. The article notes only 20 percent of GSM-based phones have Bluetooth built-in, while almost no CDMA phones have the wireless short-range standard included. (Of course, these numbers don't say market share or installed base -- must be market share.)
SmallNetBuilder gets the story on Linksys pulling the WSB24 signal booster: Pretty simple: the unit is legal to work with just a couple of Linksys devices, and people are using it in other ways too easily. The FCC wants connectors to be hard to use by anyone but the manufacturer.
Bluetooth gets revised: The new versions has some small and large improvements, including incorporating the co-existence recommendations for adaptive frequency hopping so that Bluetooth and other standards like Wi-Fi can play nicely together.
Buffalo announces $149 wireless bridge that uses the WDS "standard": We'll be seeing more of the Wireless Distribution System (WDS), which allows same-channel bridging of multiple APs or AP-like devices (like this bridge) at the same time as local traffic is served. WDS is a standard, but nobody's certifying compliance yet.
United says email only at a price: United opted out of its Connexion relationship in favor of Tenzing (via Verizon Airfone), another Seattle-area firm, but their email plan will be available on every domestic flight, run $15.98 per flight, and include a whopping 2 kilobytes. Each additional K is 10 cents. The Verizon folks don't seem to have any understanding of what they're offering. "The availability of e-mail is critical to business flyers," added Bill Fallone, president of Verizon Airfone. 10 cents per K isn't email; it's subject lines. Someone could easily run up a bill of hundreds of dollars on a flight.
Microsoft has 3,700 access points deployed worldwide for their enterprises, and finds that managing them is a bear: Of course, they're using Cisco APs, but they're not using Cisco's WLSE for controlling the configuration of hundreds of APs at once. Cisco's own network of 3,000 APs is segregated into virtual LANs per building for ease of roaming because their technology doesn't allow policy-level management control across aggregations of APs only (obviously) across switches.
Boingo now includes LaGuardia access: You know, this barely deserves a mention except that it furthers one of my pet theories, that is the catalyst for widescale uptake in hot spot network subscriptions is that 25 of the top 35 airports in the US will offer substantial Wi-Fi service throughout their terminals.
The minute a business traveler truly understands that in the majority of their travels, for a flat rate of $30 to $50 per month (depending on operator), they can have unlimited access, then the wall falls down, and the customer base surges.
Until then, it's a patchwork, no matter which network or aggregated service you're looking at.
The airport model is particularly interesting because of announcements like Boingo's. Because airports are almost exclusively pursuing vendor-neutral agreements in which one infrastructure firm handles the wiring and billing, and any network can overlay via fee settlement, you should have every network from T-Mobile on down in scale wanting to include airports in their coverage map.
University of Twente in Enschede has largest European hot zone: Coverage for the 6,000 students includes 650 access points over 140 hectares [via TechDirt]
Texas Instruments brings together Bluetooth, Wi-Fi without interference: TI has designed a set of chips that have co-existence in mind, especially focusing on maintaing voice-quality Bluetooth-based conversations while using Wi-Fi for data transport.
A TI spokesperson wrote in to advise me that these chips comply to the Personal Area Network co-existence set of best practices developed by the IEEE: 802.15.2. He noted that 802.15.2 isn't a standard, but rather recommendations
Tropos Networks gets undisclosed investment from Intel Capital's wireless sub-fund: Tropos, until recently called FHP Wireless, makes mesh-based hot spot hardware intended for hot zone creation with popped-in back haul only in spots for outdoor and enterprise deployment.
The Tropos approach allows two wireless cards in a single AP, one for inter-access point mesh communication, and the other for local Wi-Fi service. (You can combine these with a single card, but lose substantial throughput through channel overlap and backhaul communication.)
iPass releases version 3 of their aggregation/VPN software for worldwide roaming, iPassConnect: iPass briefed me last week on their new software, which improves the interface, clarifies choosing among different kinds of connections (dial-up, a cell sub-type, broadband wired, and Wi-Fi), and adds more corporate protection features.
iPass has partnerships with hundreds of ISPs in 150 countries, including 16,000 POPs (dial-in numbers) and 2,000 broadband wired and wireless locations. iPass sells their service directly to corporations, or through value-added resellers to smaller groups and even individuals. The iPassConnect client allows access to dial-up, wired, and wireless ISPs while traveling the globe at fixed hourly rates depending on the region and type of connectivity. Hourly rates are capped at a maximum day rate for certain types of services, like Wi-Fi. iPass builds no infrastructure.
For the rest of this longer story, please follow the next link
Portland, Oregon's Personal Telco loses the Pioneer Courthouse Square hot spot: It's nothing underhanded, but the company that's donated its bandwidth is moving offices. Anybody in sight of that square in Portland want to donate some bytes? [via Nigel Ballard]
Broadcom's Xpress boosts throughput for g, and mixed b/g: Broadcom joins Intersil and Atheros with technology that allows longer packets (thus reducing overhead) to improve throughput. The twist? Broadcom says they're toeing the 802.11e (Quality of Service or QoS) line to ensure that when 802.11e is ratified, their products will already be more or less compatible.
The improvements, they say, are up to 27 percent for pure 802.11g networks and a remarkable 74 percent for mixed b/g networks. Packets in g are, by default, shorter in duration than in b because g is faster at sending the same data. Increase the g packet time duration to the same as a b packet and you decrease the nonsense (overhead bits) in negotiating time slots for putting that packeton the air, thus improving throughput.
Even better, the Broadcom approach works even in half duplex: that is, if you have a client or access point that has their Xpress code built in, the packets are sped up outbound from those devices, so you get at least some of the improvement. Existing 802.11b/g adapters can interpret these new packets.
Atheros, Intersil, and Texas Instruments all have their own throughput improvements, but they're proprietary between their own equipment -- of course, they could change, too, since packets are constructed via firmware instructions, not, typically, hardwired circuits. (Agere is apparently toeing the 802.11e line, however.)
(Update: Intersil wrote in to correct the above. They said that they're 100 percent standards compliant, which is tricky given that 802.11e isn't yet a standard. But I know what they mean. The question is, of course, whether any of this stuff, Broadcom and otherwise, will deliver the packet bursting advantages in heterogeneous environments before 802.11e ratification. The answer is probably yes.)
This story was embargoed until tomorrow (that is, disclosed to press under conditions that it not be written about until a certain date and time), so I'm not sure who broke that embargo.
Verizon's hot spots cracked open: and not in the software sense. When I lived back east, we used to joke that somebody could also sell you anything on the street for five dollars. They'd walk around saying "five dollah five dollah five dollah." An umbrella. A tape deck. Car parts. Somebody's carrying around a Verizon access point that fell off a truck (or out of a payphone) with that mantra.
SmallNetBuidler summarizes chipmaker, vendor status: Quick summary of where consumer makers are at. Meanwhile, Proxim sent out a press release to remind folks that they're the only shipping enterprise WLAN vendor with 802.11g support.
To celebrate 802.11g's ratification, Broadcom sent out a hilarious press kit
Citroen demos Wi-Fi equipped car: Add 3G, the article notes, and you have a mobile hot spot.
Broadcom's chips are 802.11g compliant already: Broadcom decided to hold their news til today, but they announced what we all expected, that their draft 802.11g chipset is actually a fully compliant 802.11g chipset. Their partners will all have minor firmware tweaks available shortly. The Broadcom chipset, like most of the 802.11g chipsets, includes support for WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), as well as the AES encryption needed eventually for 802.11i later this year.
Municipalities that want to roll out Wi-Fi have to deal with costs: Some sage advice appears in this article, including a plaintive cry from Long Beach, which has been raised on a pedestal as an avatar of municipal networking -- you can get some donations and some companies might provide hardware in exchange for the PR value, but, in the end, you have to find the money to run the network. Usual suspect Nigel Ballard suggests that cities and jurisdictions may have to charge for access to make the network a budget reality.
I feel truly fortunate today to present a long and detailed follow-up from Jeffrey Belk, the vice president of marketing at Qualcomm, to his original post heard-round-the-Wi-Fi world about his experiences with Wi-Fi, and contrasting that to cell data technology in part developed by his company.
Qualcomm distributed his notes to analysts and reporters, and I wound up writing an extensive rebuttal to parts of his commentary because I felt he had set up some artificial issues. Belk responds to my concerns, and from reading his lengthy reply (in three parts, yet), I am definitely on more common ground with him than I originally believed.
I'll let him speak for himself here, and will write a very very short follow-up on a couple of minor points he makes in his rebuttal to my response.
(I suppose it goes without saying that we're living in a remarkable time when we can develop this sort of a dialog on a Web site: Belk may be a marketing VP, but this set of exchanges is something akin to a Cluetrain excursion in which we're all listening to each other and responding without the kind of intermediation which distorts technology and points of view.)
Jeffrey Belk, Senior Vice President, Marketing, QUALCOMM Incorporated
This document is a follow up to my Adventures in Wi-Fi piece which I wrote at the end of May, 2003. That piece got much more attention than I had originally expected, from Australia to Austria, and several detailed responses, one of which was by Glenn Fleishman, detailed on his website www.wifinetnews.com . I've also attached the "Part I" PDF for folks new to this dialog. For complete context of this discussion, including lots of "point/counterpoint", you may want to visit Alan Reiter's Weblog.
This document is divided into three parts. First, an "access travelogue" of my recent trip to Dallas and Atlanta. The second part contains viewpoints on how this discussion shapes up in terms of Wireless Coverage, Performance, and Cost. In the final section of this document, I'll "back up" and detail my comments on Glenn's well written rebuttal to my "strawmen" from my first document.
NetGear has first 802.11g full compatibility firmware release: They're number one. [via SmallNetBuilder]
It's Official: 802.11g is a ratified, published IEEE standard: The waiting is over, according to a flurry of press releases from manufacturers. The IEEE formally finished its approval process for 802.11g this morning with a final vote.
InfoWorld reports on the ratification, but says something about a minimum 24 Mbps requirement. As far as I know the slower OFDM and PBCC encodings are 22 Mbps, and have been essentially discarded except by Texas Instruments (PBCC's owner) in favor of 54 Mbps OFDM. New York Times report [reg. req.].
Among this morning's announcements:
Texas Instruments is now ready to ship its 802.11g chipset in quantity to manufacturers that include NetGear, Samsung, Sitecom, SMC Networks, and US Robotics. A turbo mode delivers 50 percent more throughput, they say, but works only among this chipset.
Intersil says its Prism Nitro chips are compliant with 802.11g, and that they can increase throughput, too, but its unclear if that's a backwards compatible improvement or requires all Intersil products.
Seaport Hotel appropriate for 802.11 Planet conference in two weeks: Free wireless in public areas; free wired in rooms. I guess that answers the question on one of the panels I'm moderating, "Will People Pay?" at 802.11 Planet.
After noting Wyndham's free By Request affinity program, which provides free wired and wireless broadband in rooms and public areas for free, I spoke to a Marriott PR person today, who noted that Marriott has a very successful new offering: $9.95 per night for unlimited local calls, long-distance (US) calls, and high-speed service. This is far from free, of course, but it's often the consistency and single price that drive the business market.
As the Marriott spokesperson pointed out, cell phones don't always cut it in hotel rooms, and offering this ten buck package certainly will appeal to travelers trying to have a predictable bill. At a recent stay at the Westin Santa Clara (California), they offered the same kind of package but for about $15 per night.
I continue to think that the end game will involve hotels realizing that performing 2.5G and 3G cell phones remove the modem and casual data market, requiring them to really understand how to charge for those services (if they charge at all) moving forward.
New York Times explains how 802.11g's approval should affect businesses: those making and those buying: Don't ask me to explain the odd parentheses around the task group letters (as if we were discussing 401(k) accounts), but the article explains from an investing and purchasing perspective the impact of 802.11g's final ratification.
802.11g should be approved by tomorrow: The penultimate step happened this morning; the final step should occur tomorrow. Draft 8.2 becomes the final version of the 802.11g protocol.
US House of Reps approves 1710-1755 MHz reallocation: It's obviously not final yet, but this sweet spot of spectrum in use by the Department of Defense can now be used for 3G and other services. It's so ideally placed that it's likely to be helpful. Even the DoD isn't unhappy because they're getting relocation fees -- part of the notion included in the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1999 (I kid you not).
My tip of the year: sign up for this free Wyndham program and get free broadband: I'm working on an article involving hotels and other hot spots, and spoke to the VP of catering and meeting services at Wyndham Hotels and Resorts yesterday. He confirmed that Wyndham's affinity program, Wyndham By Request, includes free broadband wireless and Wi-Fi Internet in rooms and common areas where that's available (which is a majority of their properties).
The program also eliminates (in most cases) those irritating phone charges, like local and 800 number charges for placing calls. There's some promotion now that includes free long distance if you stay at least one night before June 30 after signing up.
With all other prices being equal, and I assume that Wyndham's room rates are comparable to other properties in the same areas at the same level of quality, this removal of nickeling-and-diming plus free broadband could be a winning strategy for guests and the company alike.
Boingo now offers service in Minneapolis/St. Paul airport: Note that they only were able to offer service here in Concourse Communications's vendor-neutral host Wi-Fi situation after Wayport became Concourse's partner, as they are at LaGuardia in New York. Formerly, iPass was Concourse's gatekeeper, but recall that iPass's model is always pay per session, pay per hour; Boingo's is per session or unlimited, and the unlimited part seems to be the problem.
Surf and Sip adds free intranode chatting: Surf and Sip has added an interesting free feature for its network. You can use the gateway page to launch a chat session with anyone at any other Surf and Sip node for free. Now the utility of this is a little confusing because their nodes are widespread, not dense, and you'd have to coordinate with other people. Still it's a good experiment to try free services inside of for-fee networks.
I originally expected Microsoft's component of the Compaq-Microsoft-Starbucks deal (which was actually MobileStar's service, but with all these other brands on it) to be localized information from MSN for free. But that never happened. Instead you got HP-T-Mobile-Starbucks, in which HP takes out ads that promote the service and then encourage people to use their connection software -- which requires one of HP's special cards.
IdleAire to roll out 200 truck stop hot spots: IdleAire will charge $1.25 per hour, $3/day, $25/month for access. Truck stops are captive venues, often not close enough to other resources that a trucker has other options, much like an airport. They're often just off a highway, not in a city or suburb, and that means that high-speed access just isn't an option otherwise.
TechDirt takes apart the GSM evolution: EDGE has risen in prominence as a 2.5G/3G straddler because UMTS isn't here yet and the CDMA-based carriers already have 1x and soon 3x flavors of cell data.
My question as to all of these services, especially the 2.5G ones, is: is there enough spectrum that can be used cheaply enough when you can deliver speeds up to 384 Kbps that people can afford to use it as a modem/broadband replacement? Or will the data plans remain high-priced because of scarce spectrum?
US gives $8M in broadband grants to Indian tribes: The Coeur d'Alene tribe plans to put in wireless broadband.
SMC's Ethernet bridge for $99: Like a Linksys WET11, it can bridge Ethernet to wireless traffic. But it can also act (discretely, not simultaneously) as an access point or a repeater, the latter of which many many people have wanted a cheap solution for.
Report lists uses, sizes of industry, utility of unlicensed spectrum: This report on the report makes it clear that the industries and technologies that have been spawned from allowing unlicensed use of several bands have had a net positive effect. Among other subtexts the article's writer notes is that the white paper provides evidence that careful spectrum management might be unnecessary for certain technologies given how efficiently what were called "junk bands" are used for many purposes today.
Early Buffalo WPA upgrade strikes users: My wife keeps telling me that early adopters can get burned. Good case in point. Fortunately, Buffalo is doing absolutely the right thing and replacing routers that can't be re-flashed with older or newer firmware. Bravo! (Tim Higgins wrote to note that only 10 routers were affected.)
GSM Association's document IR 61 provides their guidelines for WLAN roaming [PDF format]: A European colleague wrote to point me to this download, which was created by the cell standard group GSMA, members of which run the world's GSM networks. The document describes the procedures for handling authentication in a uniform manner for interoperator roaming.
Kansas City to get more hot spots: Two companies are planning a fairly fast buildout in the next year of what seems to add up to over 200 hot spots, with many of them coming sooner.
Wi-Fi networks are archipelagoes of access which may prevent ease of handheld use: Stephen Wildstrom states the differences between using Wi-Fi-connected handhelds and those that employ the phone network with a kind of clarity that's often missing. Wi-Fi is fast, but spotty: an archipelago, he calls it, with islands scattered around. He points out the annoyances in roaming, and having to enter or join and pay many networks for continuous access. Cell-based service is superior for seamlessness and consistent pricing, but it's slow.
Fortune describes Wi-Fi ubiquity through additional distance: Not too much blue sky here based on current technology that's being deployed in painting a picture of ubiquitous Wi-Fi at high speeds.
In India, Intel's COO says Wi-Fi next big thing: In other news, he says water is wet, and pope Catholic. Intel's actions over the last several months are reminiscent of Microsoft's "the sleeping giant has awoken" behavior starting December 1995 when they "discovered" the Internet -- or rather realized that their MSN sandbox wouldn't hold all the kids.
Intel is wisely focusing on things they can deliver: reliable connections, standardized interfaces, good technical support and feedback, and chain-of-supply quality from manufacturing to OEM interaction.
The article contains notable errors, most obviously -- did you spot it already ... I can wait -- that there are 10,000 hot spots in Manhattan. In fact, there are over 14,000 access points in use, according to researcher Marcos R. Lara, but these are all manner of locations, not actual hot spots. There are maybe 200 to 300 actual intentional hot spots in Manhattan. (I've written AP, but they make it darned hard to report corrections.)
Wireless broadband provider shares methodology for cheap login control: It ain't perfect, but it's an interesting way to prevent hijackers by using control mechanisms already available in operating systems and servers. I expect there are some security problems here I'm not spotting. It does prevent MAC spoofing -- not sniffing.
Local wISP installs antennas enough for huge areas: No mention in the article of having to more specifically target for point-to-point uses. $40 per month for service, but no bandwidth listed.
French cell operators agree to Wi-Fi roaming: Industry body. Joint standards. Roaming. One carrier estimates 6,000 hot spots in France by 2005.
It's not a new idea, but it's starting to percolate down: Travelers might use voice over Wi-Fi instead of very expensive cell long distance when roaming. (I've toyed with buying Vonage service, and bringing the box with me when I travel so I can make unlimited calls and receive incoming calls when in a hotel room or anywhere I can bridge to a wired to Wi-Fi connection.)
Munich's spin: choose your ISP: The Munich airport, Germany's 2nd largest, has hot spot service that will let you choose which ISP you want to have service from. This is a prospective press release, unfortunately, in that it's emphasizing Cisco's hardware and the choice of provider hasn't yet been rolled into the offering. A little jumping the gun?
Many locations, especially airports, are rolling out vendor-neutral host hot spots, in which a company provides the infrastructure, but opens the network to anyone meeting the technical requirements for authentication and fee settlement (see Minneapolis/St. Paul, San Francisco International, La Guardia, etc.).
The Munich option extends that one further step by allowing people with existing ISP relationships, I would suppose, to extend those through the selection.
M1 halts its Wi-Fi deployment: Although much is being made of this decision, it's obviously a business case problem. We don't know what it costs to deploy Wi-Fi in Singapore for starters, and we don't know the financial resources of M1. Nonetheless, it's the first major dropout internationally in the Wi-Fi hot spot scene.
It's clear that there isn't a paying audience to provide a break-even run for Wi-Fi hot spots at the moment, either in the US or internationally. But audiences must be built. I just interviewed the owner of a small coffeeshop in Seattle who offers free wireless. He opened two weeks ago. On the first day, with no advertising, he had three people with laptops using Wi-Fi. People are trolling for it.
Does this mean they'll pay? Still too early to tell. The for-fee value proposition has to combine higher speeds with reasonable costs and wide footprint.
I'm increasingly convinced that bringing 512 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps to a cafe may wind up being too little, hot spots in high-traffic zones may need to differentiate themselves by coping with the real backhaul issues and bringing in superior-to-broadband service. If people can, for a reasonable fee, have access to tens of thousands of locations in the US (or at least ubiquitous across where they travel), and have it consistently business-grade quality bandwidth, and have it substantially faster than they have at home or most places of work, then you have a proposition people will pay for as it provides a triangulation of factors.
If you can get more or less the same thing for free as you have to pay for with a little hunting or a short walk, or if you can get reasonable modem like speeds everywhere for a low monthly rate (a la 2.5G), then perhaps those bleed off enough subscribers that the hot spot market doesn't work as a commercial, separate revenue operation.
Mark my works: backhaul is much more important than has previously been given credit, and T-1s aren't necesssary the answer. 8 Mbps down/1 Mbps ADSL could be a more useful alternative if offered alongside business-grade promises for service.
200 villages in India band together for Wi-Fi: Small villages have formed a cooperative to build out Wi-Fi access.
My Macworld feature on AirPort Extreme and 802.11g wireless: Macworld magazine doesn't post its features online typically, but here's a licensee of the content of my cover-story article about AirPort Extreme.
SmallNetBuilder notes two Linksys WPA updates for two PC Cards: WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) replaces WEP and related security and integrity protocols with a robust new set. Updates were expected in May, but haven't appeared yet. This brief news item notes that it doesn't help security to install PC Card updates without access point updates, too. These updates are just for Windows XP, as well. Microsoft released their XP WPA support weeks ago.
The tribe at Neah Bay looks to a link from a fiber loop to a disused microwave tower to jumpstart economy: The tribe sees the benefits in delivering cheap information and interactive access to its members as a way to increase the opportunities for enterpreneurialism, education, and connectedness.
Round-up of non-US hot spot venues in the NY Times: No news here, but a good summary of issues and locations.
Nice introduction to Wi-Fi in the LA Times (free registration req.): The article walks through the basics, dispenses with meaningless terminology handily, and addresses how to get set up. The RealVideo on setting up Wi-Fi is friendly as well, as is the PDF graphic.
US Robotics offering proprietary 100 Mbps + speeds in new "Turbo" 802.11g gear: The explanation that they're placing all the speed on a single channel doesn't make any sense, of course. They're limited by channelization, so they're increasing the symbol rate in some way, which certainly would decrease distance because of issues of reflection in OFDM (or whatever the Texas Instruments underlaying chips are doing at 100 Mbps -- PBCC?).
More interesting is a $250 product they plan to ship in July which has the Linksys WAP54G features (AP, point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, client) but also can act as a repeater for relaying signals. It's unclear whether it can be a bridge and an AP simultaneously.
HomePNA, the home phone-wiring networking standard, to offer 128 Mbps in rev 3: Lest we forget about the other standards for networking in the home after HomeRF's demise, HomePNA remains a viable and affordable alternative. At 128 Mbps, even with overhead, it far outstrips 802.11a/g, which might be important for some future home applications, including interactive video or streaming media.
Sybase to spend $25M to improve using business apps over Wi-Fi: First AT&T, now Sybase. It's a trend as we move into another part of the business cycle for the industry. First, it's basic technology. Then, building out reliable infrastructure. Next, security fears overwhelm and are hyped. Finally, real utility emerges and the issues of providing consistent, seamless experience appear.
Virgin adds hot spots to two more of the stations it serves by train: A separate firm is handling the service, which is currently free while in trial. It's long been suspected that railway stations in Europe would become significant Wi-Fi hot spot locations because of the sheer amount of time people spend in them. Also, people settled into trains before they leave could continue to use the hot spots.
Cometa's Brilliant (now a VP) says 50M users of Wi-Fi services by 2008: Brilliant also publicly reset the Cometa build-out clock: 5,000 access points by Feb. 2004, or about 125 a week between now and then; 20,000 by 2005.
Let's all put our fists in the air and pump them to the tune of this dead-on remark. Memorize it as your mantra: Brilliant said the industry is only in its initial phase, and he expects consolidation to occur in the next phase as the technology becomes more mainstream and companies gain a better understanding of how consumers and businesses want to use it.
Atheros ships chips: Various combinations of a, b, and g, with costs at about $25 to $30 for the a/b/g combo.
Legendary computer guru Bob Frankston says Bluetooth failed: I'd argue that it still could be saved. Bluetooth required many different pieces to be useful, some of which needed massive investment and retooling. For instance, Microsoft only offers limited Bluetooth features (dial-up networking, cable replacement, input device), so Windows users who try to use Bluetooth may require special drivers for individual devices, and have a horrible experience compared to Mac users. Apple has integrated and sophisticated Bluetooth support since Mac OS X 10.2 last August (it just got updated today, too). Apple doesn't yet support printing.
Wi-Fi got the kickstart in that two Wi-Fi devices (an access point and a client) make Wi-Fi worthwhile. Add a second, a third, a 10th client, and it becomes indispensible. Put it in a public place, and you've got a new industry. Microsoft gave Wi-Fi full support in Windows XP; Apple way back in 1999 in Mac OS 8.
Wi-Fi's utility grows as more distinct locations are added -- even if it's just your home, favorite coffeeshop, work. Bluetooth requires many devices, all of which can talk to each other, and OS support, to be minimally useful and doesn't benefit from widespread deployment.
Setting up Wi-Fi can sometimes be complicated, but generally a default DHCP client configuration get you most of the way there, and then you login if it's an account-based service. Bluetooth's configuration can have 30 or 40 steps just to get all the devices talking and in the right mode.
Bluetooth is showing up prebuilt into tens of millions of computing units this year: handhelds, laptops, other devices. The tipping point has arrived, and it will either finally catch fire -- probably only if GPRS service becomes affordable -- or burn out.
Bluetooth's big advantages over Wi-Fi were supposed to be cost for the chips, power consumption, and ease of ad hoc setup. None of those except power appear to be true yet! [via TechDirt]
Apple adds phone support to iSync and revises its Bluetooth package: Many more cell phones, even those with just USB-based connections to computers, are supported by the combination of the two packages. In a briefing with Apple, I asked about the improving the phone/carrier/operating system equation in configuring services like GPRS which required many, many obscure phone and computer settings. It's definitely on their radar, but no specifics.
Motorola says 2,000 to 3,000 rural wISPs offer broadband: Motorola is selling its Canopy product into that market, and claims to have a solution coming up to help non-line-of-sight issues, like trees blocking the Fresnel zone. Mesh? High-powered cutting lasers? Lumberjacks?
Confusing coverage of AT&T (not AT&T Wireless) announcement about Wi-Fi, business networking: AT&T said at Supercomm 2003 that they would spend $500 million on business networking. The story from atnewyork.com said AT&T said it would deploy hot spots, but most of the $500M was about simplifying contracts, slashing provisioning time, improving billing accuracy, rolling out powerful electronic servicing capabilities, and linking customers' computers directly into AT&T's network-support systems. Later in the story, it quotes AT&T's head Dorman as improving hot spot-based access to business resources, like VPNs and applications.
The press release itself from AT&T says: In 2003, AT&T will extend its business customers? secure corporate intranets to Wi-Fi hotspots at airports and hotels nationwide....WiFi access to AT&T?s secure network services will be expanded to global airports and hotels throughout 2004. This sounds like they're not building out, but rather using infrastructure, because it's "access."
Making it even more confusing is News.com's filing, which says, Dorman expects AT&T will have about 500 locations by 2005, mainly airport executive lounges and hotels, where AT&T customers can use Wi-Fi networks to surf the Web or link to a computer network. (AT&T has one airport hot zone at Denver, which Nokia actually did all the install work for back in 2001 and then couldn't find an operator for quite a while.)
Obviously, AT&T's PR department could use some on-message help.
Covad, national DSL provider, offers Linksys gear to its customers: This appears to be another large chink in the "one line, one customer, or pay more, or else" argument that the telcos and cable companies are giving out. Covad is offering the gear at below street prices (and, currently, free shipping) to its customers.
Insurer writes about sane WLAN policy guidelines: However, his several suggestions are so basic to enterprise WLAN security, that any IT professional who has deployed any part of a WLAN without adhering to these guidelines shouldn't have a job much longer.
Actually, the first of his points speaks to this: Obtain senior management commitment to WLAN security. If senior management wants a WLAN (or has delegated those issues) and won't back it with security or a budget, and you're in an institution that has responsibilites under the laws the author cites, you might want a new job. HIPAA, for instance, dictates fines and jail time for individuals involved in releasing health care information that's not supposed to be released -- even if it's not malicious or intentional.
Gates says future is about mesh: David Hornik, an attendee at the Wall Street Journal's D conference (at which professional journalists were not allowed to quote speakers) blogs: Microsoft is also betting on mesh networks -- Gates believes that by spreading WiFi backhall among large numbers of clients, WiFi will facilitate broadband for everyone that may serve to replace cellular networks under many circumstances. Gates predicts mesh networks will be mainstream in the next 5 years and he's presumably already looking to build software to address the problems associated with the multiplicity of base stations. [via Steve Gillmor]
We all live in a yellow subma---scratch that, strategic information will not be disclosed: Harris Corporation's Secure WLAN hardware can now be used on US Navy submarines, but you didn't hear it here. (Well, the company did send out a press release.) It's received Hazardous Electromagnetic Radiation to Personnel (HERP) and Hazardous Electromagnetic Radiation to Fuel (HERF) certification from the U.S. Navy for use onboard all classes of submarines. Oddly, you'd think an interior space comprised mostly of metal would be a hard place to deploy Wi-Fi, but it apparently reduces the amount of wiring required, which is almost certainly astoundingly expensive.
First international conference on moblogging: Moblogging ties together smart mobs (groups using technology to exchange webs of information through portable devices) and blogging (people like me writing about things other people have said) into collaborative news and commentary. The conference is one day in Tokyo from 10 am to 6 pm. More information should follow at the site.
Network World has RSS feeds for their wireless reporting: Executive Editor Adam Gaffen writes to note that three feeds are available for wireless topics: "Every article we post on wireless (breaking news, feature articles, reviews, columns and newsletters), wireless security, wireless LAN switches."
Proxim has rolled out entire enterprise suite with 802.11g support: Many Orinoco devices, including the AP-2000 (b/g Dual Slot), AP-600b/g, 11a/b/g ComboCard (PC Card), 11b/g PC Card, 11a/b/g PCI Card, and upgrade b/g kids for the AP-600b and AP-2000. \
The MRSP on the cards still have Proxim's irrtiating gold/silver split. A Gold a/b/g ComboCard is $119, while Silver is $99. The b/g Gold is $99, Silver $81. Given that WPA should be available now from all the major players, having different options in a PC Card just confuses the marketplace, especially with such a small price point difference. Overchoice = fewer purchases.
Paul Andrews visits Half Moon Bay's hot zone: Tropos Networks deployed a hot zone in Half Moon Bay in partnership with a local ISP, but nobody in town seems to yet know about it. Why? The PR buzz preceded education. (That's what got Starbucks mad at me when I wrote about Wi-Fi in their stores in May 2001 in the pre-pre-pre-test mode.)
New report says many hot spots, teensy margins: IDG News writes about a report that indicates that although hot spot deployment should grow sigificantly, achieving that scale of rollout that I suspect is necessary to attract large numbers of subscribers, competition and other factors will squeeze margins so tight that hot spots infrastructure builders may have to reconsider current business models.
Of course, that's only the current builders who focus more on deals than long-term profitability, isn't it? Remind anyone of the dotcom days? Let's sign a deal to pay Yahoo tens of millions of dollars and then later figure out whether it was cost effective.
Slightly breathless article from Columbia University's School of Journalism wire service about the intent of community hot spots and hot zones: The tone is quite strident, but many of the quotes are interesting for their refreshing candor. When someone's interviewed by a student journalist, they obviously drop some of the filters.
I object to something presented as straight news that has so many loaded words, even unintentionally. I mean "so-called" community wireless movement? So-called carries a connotation of inaccuracy. In fact, it's been widely labeled by many segments of the industry and by the participants themselves as community networking or community wireless networking. (Usually you say so-called, or more pretentiously soi-disant, to mean self-styled, such as the so-called emperor in exile of Alaska, who lives in a tiny shack in Arkansas.)
But the underlying story is quite compelling, and it's gathering steam. Mainstream publications, analysts, and industry folks are all asking: will commercial hot spots have enough to offer in contrast to the rampant free service (community, municipal, and business based) to get the subscribers to support the infrastructure?
In fact, I'm chairing a panel called "Who Will Pay?" on this topic at the 802.11 Planet conference in June. The CEO of Schlotzsky's is scheduled for that panel along with some of the usual suspects to address the future of for-fee hot spots.
Author tours several states looking at seamless wireless service areas: Author Steven Cherry tours Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado in search of wide-area, low-speed, inexpensive wireless networks, like Ricochet and Lariat. He also pays a visit to the Orlando offices of MeshNetworks.