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WPA added to Apple Extreme 802.11g equipment: It's been a long-awaited moment, but Apple has finally shipped the AirPort 3.2 upgrade which includes Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) support to the AirPort Extreme Base Station and AirPort Extreme Card. That's right folks, if you've got plain old AirPort cards and AirPort Base Stations, you're out of luck. I'll try to get more information out of Apple about their plans for older devices. The download is currently only available through the Software Update preference pane.
According to the WPA standard, older devices should be able to connect to a WPA-enabled network using a WEP key derived in some fashion from the WPA key. In this release, at least, Apple states categorically that devices without WPA support cannot connect. We'll see how this evolves over time as it's in opposition to the principles of WPA and 802.11i, the larger standard that's a sort of superset of WPA and is due to be finalized next year.
Colubris made a deal with RSA Security: Colubris makes fat APs that can terminate a VPN at the AP. Now the AP will also include RSA Security's authentication and certificate management software. That means companies already using RSA's security solution can continue to use it over their WLAN.
NTT DoCoMo customers will use a client from PCTEL that makes roaming easier and connectivity more secure: The client supports 802.1X and will let users prioritize network connections between multiple WLANs. In the future, the client will support roaming between wide area cell networks and WLANs.
Mohammed goes to the mountain: Everest, that is. Dave Hughes, the 75-year-old unlicensed wireless advocate, and guru to a generation of gurus on the topic, has made the trek to visit the Sherpas he's been working with long distance from his home in Colorado.
Dave arrived with piles of donated gear: antennas, bridges, SIP phones, and so forth, and the goal of helping the Sherpas -- who are all over this technology, especially Tsering Sherpa, grandson of one Hilary's team -- have a real link with the rest of the world and provide distance learning. Sherpas are scattered everywhere, and some of them would like to stay, but not be so informationally far away from the rest of the world. Throw in the work of some Maoist Nepalese rebels, and that's a hard job with a landline.
Dave wrote in email to some wireless lists: As of last night we can reach EVERY building in Namche (maybe 200) and now I have to drag myself up to the high plateu where we will put the first long-reach relay point, toward the Hillary School over the mountain in Khumjing, and where I can see, and photograph a clear view of Everest only about 18 airmiles away.
I met Dave in April, and he was somewhat dubious about making it to even 12,000 feet. He did a lot of hiking in the meantime, and it sounds like the trip is going well.
Trapeze let go 30 workers and has 80 left: A spokesperson said the company hasn't felt the growth it expected so it has trimmed staff.
Concerns around the effects that too many users may have on Wi-Fi networks seems to be the hot topic these days: This writer suggests a somewhat unclear idea revolving around a "congestion charge" and technology that will turn off clients that aren't being used.
I just don't think congestion is going to be that huge of a problem. It will be in certain circumstances like at trade shows and possibly on a busy street where every shop offers Wi-Fi. But otherwise I just don't expect it to be debilitating.
Motorola and XtremeSpectrum say no fees if their UWB proposal wins; TI is trying to follow: The two camps in the IEEE 802.15.3a standard process have raised the ante by lowering the ante for approval of their flavor. Motorola and XtremeSpectrum will make their technology in this standard patent-royalty free. Texas Instruments would like to do so as well as part of the OFDM alliance they've formed, but haven't gotten the signoff from all of its partners.
This probably benefits consumers of the technology in that removing royalty costs will lower the bar to entry for manufacturers and reduce overall cost.
The head of XtremeSpectrum is wrong when he said that it's clear that for a standard to be confirmed, it must not have any licensing strings attached--it must be royalty free unless he meant this specific standard. Plenty of standards are encumbered by reasonable and customary licensing fees, and the companies involved in 802.15.3a had already signed or generally agreed to that as well.
The 802.15.3a standard will allow 100 to 480 Mbps of wireless data to be exchanged at very short range, from 10 to 30 meters, with the design focused on large file and streaming media exchange.
PC World outdoes itself with comprehensive 802.11g round-up: This set of articles from the November 2003 issue, posted several days ago, compares a host of consumer 802.11g equipment, performing lab-based tests -- and finding that there's still a lot of compatibility problems even among equipment from the same vendor. They show speed charts, discuss overall issues, and address some side topics quite extensively and well.
News.com reports Intel ready to ship a/b adapters: What's the demand for mixed 802.11a/b networks? I'm not sure, but Intel is following the market here. The a/b/g adapters (really a/g with appropriate backwards compatible b support within g) are due out next year.
Om Malik notes that a third quarter revenue uptick means the storm before the bigger storm: Om points out that the additional revenue comes from cell operators trying to lock in customers into new plans before the cell number portability rule takes effect. This means more signups, but huge giveaways, and, he notes, massive overproduction of handsets.
Atheros will supply its 802.11g chip for the Xbox Wireless Adapter: The deal should offer a boost to Atheros, which also announced that it has sold its 10 millionth wireless chip.
The WSJ reports on a service in the Czech Republic that lets users sell their Wi-Fi connections to their neighbors (link good for seven days): This offering isn't as good as a similar one from WideNet and Wia in the Czech Republic which will do the billing for customers.
The WSJ article covers a company called CzFree.net which requires customers to buy over $800 worth of gear and then allows them to sell connections to their neighbors. There is no mention of CzFree.net handling the billing, which I think is pretty key. I wouldn't want to have to deal with trying to make my neighbors pay me for something. Also, it doesn't appear that CzFree.net has a deal with a landline broadband provider, like WideNet does, which makes the legality of reselling connections questionable.
Medieval Times, the restaurant chain that lets you eat without utensils, is using Wi-Fi to help the wait staff: Instead of running back to the kitchen to place an order, servers use a handheld device to transmit orders to the kitchen. Execs at the restaurant say that if the capability allows them to serve one more round of drinks a night, it will pay for itself in a year.
McDonald's hasn't yet chosen Wi-Fi service providers for the rest of its restaurants: But when it does, the choice may not spell failure for operators that don't get the contract. That's because many McDonald's are franchise shops and the owners may have some leeway as to the operator they choose for Wi-Fi.
Since WLAN switch developers started coming out of the woodwork, it was clear that the market couldn't support all of them: Trapeze and Vivato have both laid off workers recently, leaving some to wonder if they are struggling.
Trapeze made a name for itself by spending liberally on marketing and what some in the industry have described as a massive booth for trade shows. A company spokesperson in this article says that the cut backs happened on schedule. Trapeze cut 30 percent of its staff and Vivato laid off 25 percent.
I would be surprised if Trapeze was one to go under straight away as it seems to have a robust product. But as we all know, the best product doesn't always win. This will be an interesting space to watch as acquisitions and failures are bound to start happening soon.
Mobilander, a Wi-Fi operator, made a deal with Gemtek to build hotspots in five towns in the Netherlands: It seems that Mobilander wants to differentiate itself by offering a very secure network, which will support 802.1X from the start.
Some businesses may rue the day they began offering Wi-Fi: At least according to this writer, who thinks that coffee shops and McDonald's restaurants are running into problems with laptop users parking to use the Internet without buying much.
In reality, this doesn't seem to be the case. While Wi-Fi in McDonald's is an unusual fit, it's not unusual because the Wi-Fi may encourage people to camp out, as the author of this piece suggests. I spoke with a McDonald's exec a couple of months ago and in fact McDonald's would like to encourage people to hang out in the restaurants. Apparently most people take their food to go. If they decide to sit and eat, he reasoned, they may end up buying more food.
Many cafes say that Wi-Fi is drawing customers into their shops during the least busy times. I think that customers will self-police themselves during busy times. For example, I went up to my local coffee shop on a Sunday morning toting my laptop. The place was packed and I barely managed to get a seat. Because of the crowds, I left as soon as I was done with my tea to give someone else my seat, rather then hang out over my Wi-Fi connection. I think a lot of people would do the same.
Wi-Fi is taking off in Modesto: A number of cafes and restaurants are offering free hot spots, some of which are hosted by Free2Wire, a hot spot operator. Free2Wire can regulate users by assigning an access code to each user so that if they are downloading porn or otherwise abusing the system, they can be shut out.
Cell carriers are pretty far behind on 3G, but Verizon's early deployment may give it an edge -- I mean, a competitive advantage: While GSM operators struggle with GPRS (10 to 50 Kbps) and are rapidly trying to get EDGE fully deployed (100 Kbps), Sprint is staying the course with 1xRTT (50 to 70 Kbps), and T-Mobile and Nextel don't seem to be in the running for anything more interesting.
Verizon Wireless's early 3G deployment (1xEvDO, 300 to 500 Kbps) in San Diego and Washington, D.C., may pay off, Matt Maier of Business 2.0 notes, because they simply have this service now at a fixed rate. The advent of cell phone number portability about to be engaged ties in with this: Verizon is the only cell company to back it. They want people to switch over, sign up for data, and then lock them in with long-term contracts and the only real 3G that will have any scope in 2004. Great plan!
(All speeds more or less real world, not the advertised ones.)
The Block, a hotel in Tahoe that apparently caters specifically to snowboarders, is offering Wi-Fi to customers that don't have laptops. Access Data Technologies is providing what it calls the iGenie, a "compact, portable Web tablet," in the Block's cyber cafe so that customers can use the Wi-Fi connection even if they don't have their own laptop or PDA. It looks like users will see advertising on the device in exchange for free Internet access.
VisionWorks Interactive is a marketing and distribution company that is putting this service together. It also has deals with Wayport and Surf and Sip.
It's a good idea to place computers in hot spots, but I'm not sure why this application requires a fancy user device. Seems that a regular laptop or desktop would do the trick.
AirMagnet has two new products: The first, a new laptop version called Trio, can detect 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11a networks. It can even detect pre-standard 802.11g APs. The Trio also lets network managers monitor service levels to make sure they match service level agreements for services like voice and throughput rates.
AirMagnet also came out with a new release of its 802.11b solution for Pocket PCs with more alarms and signal measurement tools.
An analyst from the Aberdeen Group suggests that interference will become a major problem next year: As more hot spots pop up, they are more likely to interfere with each other, degrading the user experience. He says that the only solution will be for governments to open up more spectrum and thus more channels for Wi-Fi so networks have less chance of interfering with each other.
Telekom, the South Africa operator, has started testing Wi-Fi hot spots: Ultimately, the company plans to build hot spots in hotels, conference centers, office parks, airports, and shopping malls.
Give them your e-mail, they give you two hours: Or maybe more...the Flash presentation says you get one two-hour session, but other email indicates that it could be a lot more. They're obviously trying to test usage rates and patterns in the McDonald's restaurants in the Bay Area. Don't say I never gave you anything for free!
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Here's one more city boasting to have the world's largest Wi-Fi network: Cisco is helping this Belgium city build a Wi-Fi cloud over the whole town. The project should be complete at the beginning of next year.
I'm not the first to say this but it'll be interesting to see how the city-run Wi-Fi networks co-exist with commercial hot spots. If a city builds a Wi-Fi network, does that prevent commercial companies from building their own hot spots and hoping to profit from them? Whistler, B.C., among other municipalities, is wrestling with this problem right now.
TechDirt offers an interesting take on an analysis of the affects of Dartmouth's ubiquitous wireless cloud: The item points to Naval Ravikant at VentureBlog who believes it will be worthwhile to watch how Dartmouth students use the wireless network as an indication of how everyone may use wireless connections in the future.
Ubiquitous wireless is a new medium that will slowly come into its own. It's like any new medium--remember when corporate Web sites consisted only of duplicates of printed collateral material? In time we'll come up with great ways to use wireless.
A new study contends that Wi-Fi will expand faster in Europe because of Europe's cafe culture: I think there's a chance that Wi-Fi will grow faster in Europe but that's a silly reason why. There are plenty of places in the United States--take Seattle--that have very robust cafe cultures.
If Wi-Fi takes off faster in Europe it will be because operators there are sometimes more sensible then operators here. Already I'm seeing tons of roaming agreements in Europe which will make it easier for Wi-Fi users to get on networks. Here, those agreements are just starting to happen, and there are still some significant holdouts, like T-Mobile.
But this study makes one good point. Laptop penetration isn't as great in Europe as it is in the United States, meaning Europe is primed for an uptake in Wi-Fi enabled laptops. It could take longer for Wi-Fi laptops to replace those without here because so many people already have laptops.
BVRP has developed software that automatically locates and configures connections. The product will look for Wi-Fi, cellular, DSL, cable and dial-up connections and automatically configure the laptop for the available connection. It also manages security such as VPN and WEP.
This kind of product is a good idea and I'm seeing more of them. However, it seems that this should be something offered by a service provider or aggregator, not something that end users must go out and buy on their own. Each service provider already has some sort of client that does what this software does. I just don't see end users taking the effort to go out and buy something like this.
The news doesn't seem to be posted on BVRP's Web site but when it is you can find it here.
Hagiwara Sys-Com to release Wi-Fi on a Memory Stick: The Memory Stick is a very compact and lightweight memory interchange format found primarily in Sony devices. The company may also release Bluetooth Memory Stick adapters, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for Secure Digital. [via Gizmodo]
TechDirt reports on Japanese cell operator KDDI 3G service that runs US$38 per month flat rate: The service is real 3G with 400 to 700 Kbps expected for actual performance. TechDirt notes that Verizon's pricing for unlimited 1xEvDO in its two markets is $80 per month.
AT&T Wireless is offering Wi-Fi in the terminals and concourses at Philadelphia International Airport: The operator is also planning to build a network at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
Without extensive and open roaming deals these types of deals -- I'm assuming AT&T Wireless is the exclusive operator here as they are in Denver -- aren't going to see huge usage. Sure, some people will pay $10 to use it but an awful lot more would use it if it was part of a monthly plan they already have with another operator. AT&T's Wireless's unlimited monthly plan is a very high $69 per month.
The remote access aggregator adds 2,200 hot spots to its network: GRIC signed deals with the Cloud, Monzoon Networks and PicoPoint for access to hot spots in parts of Europe and South Africa. Expansion plans by the operators should add as many as 6,000 additional hot spots over the next year.
Until hot spot operators aggressively sign roaming agreements with each other, companies like GRIC, iPass, and Boingo are going to attract the serious business travelers. There is really no reason to sign up with just one operator because no network is extensive enough.
Where did the comments go?: Unfortunately, three types of misuse of the comments feature on this site have forced me to turn off comments on new posts, and to shortly disable the ability to comment on older posts, too.
Type 1 is comment spam, an unfortunate growing trend in which spammers, who are finding email a harder row to hoe even as they send out more, are posting comments on highly-ranked Web sites with links to their product sites or offers. This increases their rank at Google. I've installed some filters, but it still takes 30 to 90 minutes of my time each week coping with the comment spam, plus the couple of hours of installing the filters. The folks behind Movable Type, which powers this site, are working on approaches. (I'd prefer a "confirm via email" posting method that would at least allow an email return loop for accountability.)
Type 2 is misguided folks who don't understand the site or how they got here who are posting strange queries about trying to understand Wi-Fi, purchase or sell items, or reach individuals who are the subjects of the story. This is probably an outgrowth of Google.
Type 3 is meta-comments, or comments about the nature or quality of this site. I don't mind feedback, but I don't feel that it's appropriate to critique this site on this site. Email (or one's own blog) is a better method. I had a great exchange this morning with someone whose mind I don't think I changed, but who had a reasonable critique of my approach on a post. I like to hear that stuff; I don't like to have it displayed on the site. That's my preference for keeping the site on topic and on focus -- and not airing dirty laundry.
The combination of these three types mean I'll disable comments for now. Please do email us with comments and feedback, and I hope to re-enable comment posting in the future.
The Toshiba e800 series PocketPC has Wi-Fi and bundled VoIP: The specifications don't mention nor does this article which VoIP (voice over IP) software is included, but one assumes it supports standard SIP (session initiation protocol) gateways, and comes with some kind of prefabricated ability to connect out.
The road warrior's toolkit includes stumbling programs: Mark Frauenfelder, just back from four months on a tiny island, writes about how a real road warrior (in which category he places me) carries software and gadgets to help find Wi-Fi networks. It's true, I do.
I have many qualms about connecting to networks that aren't specifically advertising themselves as available. But since I engage in reasonable behavior, and no one I know is metered for small amounts of service, I confess: I connect to unprotected networks. And I like it.
US Wireless Online starts serving a big chunk of Louisville, Kentucky: The broadband wireless provider is offering 256 to 384 Kbps upload and 2 Mpbs download for $40 per month residential (including a modem rental of $10/month), and $90 per month or higher for business service. They expect to launch connections of as far as 20 miles and up to 54 Mbps (not sure if that's raw or net) for businesses.
Trepia partners with Telerama to offer Wi-Fi-based proximity social tools: Trepia's software can connect people who have registered and are using the software with one another when in proximity.
The real question I have, of course, is how many people want to just meet random folks who happen to be in the same area, even if you know their interests, etc.? I'm somewhat gregarious, but one of my biggest problems is staying in touch with many friends, often nowhere near my proximity, not making new ones.
I suppose this is an outgrowth of the mobile society in which people are on the move and on the make in new places all the time. Is this all about dating? (asks the married man). See, I'm so unhip, it's no wonder if my bum were to fall off.
A lake in India now offers Wi-Fi connectivity: Forgive my lack of knowledge, but this article is slightly obscure. I'm guessing there is a lack of habitation on and around the lake, but I'm not sure if it's a tourist area or a permanent residence area. It also mentions "shikaras" without a definition: perhaps these are wireless nodes that move around the lake?
BT offers per-minute plan to businesses: BT OpenZone has been charging £85 (US$135 or so) for unlimited monthly access. Feedback from businesses has caused BT to adopt an iPass-like model in which businesses commit to a serious amount of usage but then pay only £5 per month per user and 5 pence per minute, resulting in an average much lower charge for a larger workforce.
At the same time, the report says, BT will probably withdraw its unlimited plan, and offer plans like it does now with 300 minutes for £20.
We've seen these stories before, but now they appear with less explanation: Here's a great piece of straight feature news reporting that gets the facts right and makes a good case for Wi-Fi's utility. But the significance is how casually this article sounds. It's not a giant feature, just a small bit of news. That's how much Wi-Fi has now become a part of the general walk of life, even in smaller locales.
Detailed article on how GSM and Wi-Fi might find themselves together in future chips: It's a fairly technical article, but it does point out the difficulties and some of the opportunities in merging cell and Wi-Fi at the chip level instead of building devices with many chips. The bottom line appears to be that there's some cost and materials savings but only for the most compact and battery-sensitive devices. [via The Head Lemur]
Vivato announces new product...that they announced in June: I'm confused about Vivato's press push yesterday, which makes it sound like their new inexpensive ($495) gateway box is a new product. It hasn't shipped before now -- it will in November -- but they were discussing it publicly back in June. I suppose this is the real unveiling at CTIA or IT Wireless this week.
Nonetheless, the box is quite interesting, an outgrowth of Jim Thompson's work at Musenki. It supports Wireless Distribution System, and is meant as a dead spot filler and back-haul box which can complement the full Vivato switch product.
SanDisk announced its secure digital (SD) 802.11b cards, but they're now widely available: SD slots are found in many Palm handhelds and other small devices, despite the increasing standardization around CompactFlash format cards. SD cards are tiny, making it a pretty neat tour de force to put Wi-Fi into one.
If Case Western's plan to open its wireless network to the community weren't enough, they now have some Vivato gear: Courtesy of the founders of Vivato, both Case Western alumni, the OneCleveland program now covers an entire park in University Circle. Cleveland has an extensive fiber-optic infrastructure -- perhaps all major cities do after the wave of Gilder-inspired overbuilding in 90's? -- and a variety of groups including the university plan to extend access for digital divide spanning and other purposes.
Austria's Metronet continues to expand international roaming for its hot spot network -- by the megabyte: This is one of the most interesting of the roaming models I've seen. Metronet operates 300 hot spots in Austria, and has roaming agreements now that give its users access to 1,200 locations throughout Europe and elsewhere, including its most recent partners, SoneraHomerun (Finland), megabeam (Italy), Kubiwirless (Spain), and VEX (Argentina).
While it's a single account login for its users on all of the roaming networks -- which they expect will exceed 2,000 locations by year's end -- there's a per-megabyte fee of 70 European cents or 1 Euro, depending on your plan. Metronet also offers a PPTP-based VPN service for its customers.
eHomeUpgrade talks to Atheros about its double-speed modes: Atheros's turbo modes (Super G and Super A/G) boost raw throughput on their equipment to 108 Mbps. Net throughput? Dunno. But it will be compatible among vendors choosing Atheros's gear, depending on local regulation factors.
Frame bursting, mentioned here in passing, should work across many vendors' equipments -- at least with ongoing firmware upgrades -- and should dramatically or at least relatively improve the net bandwidth of 802.11g networks and b/g networks by reducing the clutter of very short g packets.
Pyramid Research estimates 45,000 hot spots will be deployed worldwide by the end of 2003: They also say there were only 20,000 at the end of 2002, and predict over 100,000 by early 2005. This year's number is certainly not a prediction, but rather a count of what's out there with some trending figured in. Of course, the U.S. isn't at the top of the heap.
Strix Systems raised $15 million in stock financing, for a total of $34 million invested in the company: It hopes this investment will take the company to profitability, but it doesn't say when that might happen.
Strix APs, or nodes as it likes to call them, can do backhaul using 802.11 instead of wired Ethernet. The nodes see each other and configure like a mesh network so that one node can pass data directly to another node, even hopping along a number of nodes to deliver the data to its proper destination.
ABC's news radio division is encouraging its reporters to use Wi-Fi to submit stories: The Wall Street Journal ran a story about one reporter's challenges trying to find a strong signal to file a story.
It's nice to see such a large operation recognizing the potential benefits of Wi-Fi and willing to give it a shot. The article describes some problems the reporter has trying to find and use hot spots but he and his boss are both understanding of the fact that Wi-Fi is a new technology that may have some glitches.
The exciting part for field reporters, of course, just as news photographers have already discovered is live field reporting with a laptop and a signal and a portable (computer-based) editing system. Glenn notes, "Couple this with audio/video blogging and we suddenly have a real manifestation of first-hand field reporting -- by anyone."
The News Hour with Jim Lehrer explores Wi-Fi (link should take you to streaming video link): The piece itself, several minutes long, did a good job explaining the technology to folks who may never have heard the words wireless and networking in a single sentence before, and presented a pretty accurate description of the security risks without overstating them. I think they failed to explain how businesses are well able (and will be even more able) to secure their networks, but the wardriving segment wasn't overwrought: it was what geeks do.
Tornoto's airport will get a suped-up WLAN next year when a new terminal is completed: The network will be administered by the airport and will serve airport workers. It includes 256 Cisco APs and security from gateway provider Bluesocket.
The security solution will support user profiles so that certain airport workers will only have access to certain applications. For example, baggage handlers can access a baggage tracking application but only within a certain distance of the ramp.
The article doesn't say that the network will be available for passengers to use but says that the airport authority can add public access in the future.
Airespace provided the gear for the network which will support voice: The company has partnerships with Spectralink, which makes voice over Wi-Fi phones, and Vocera, which offers handsfree communication in a badge.
It sounds like the people who work at the rink will have voice over Wi-Fi phones instead of walkie talkies. Visitors who have their own Wi-Fi phones could also use the network.
Apparently, some regulatory arguments in South Africa were holding up the build out of hot spots: The incumbent carrier was claiming that only it should be able to offer Wi-Fi because wireless is an extension of the PSTN (public switched telephone network). A recent ruling from the regulatory body clarified that anyone could deliver Wi-Fi hot spots.
An IDC study points to consumer desire for mobility and built-in wireless capabilities for higher than expected PC sales: But the study doesn't cite any specific data proving that mobility and Wi-Fi contributed to the increased sales.
My dad writes about his Wi-Fi experience today: My father, who designs Web sites among other volunteer and business endeavors, co-purchased an Apple iBook with an AirPort Wi-Fi card a few months ago with a friend. They swap off on it as needed; they both have desktop machines at home on which they spend most of their time. Obviously, my dad knows quite a lot about Wi-Fi from my harangues and monologues on the subject, but he's just starting to explore it himself in Eugene, Oregon, which is a hotbed of sophisticates, but not necessarily a place where technology is deployed on every surface, as in, say, my hometown of Seattle.
My dad sent me email today that I thought exemplified the whole experience of Wi-Fi, and I quote it with his permission:
Just came back from meeting with a new client at the Wild Duck [a restaurant in Eugene], where they have the free Wi-Fi setup. What a pleasure. Much more pleasant than my messy office. We both had soft drinks, and the barkeep wouldn't even charge us for them. I made sure to let them know I appreciate their having the service, and told them they are smart to offer it for free. It's my new office.
How many times a day is this experience reproduced? The free part is critical to my father: if he had to pay a small additional fee for unlimited use that gave him access to a whole network, that might not be as useful to him, and he'd gravitate to places that were free, because he doesn't spend much time on the road at all.
Oddly, even though I spend as much as a week every 4 to 8 weeks on the road, I still don't have a monthly unlimited subscription. None of the networks offers me enough coverage for the places I go, nor do the ones with good coverage and unlimited plans have Mac clients. I expect this will change soon.
At a conference in Seattle, big thinkers are discussing the affects of ubiquitous computing: Wi-Fi isn't mentioned much in this piece but wireless technologies of any kind will clearly play a role in many of the visions described here. This is a really interesting piece on how ubiquitous computing might change some really mundane things, like where we go to do our jobs.
Researchers are taking cues from the way that people use technology in ways that marketing folks haven't dictated. So they study instant messagers, bloggers and flash mobbers. One researcher was surprised to find that users of a college campus system that lets users know the location of other users tended to IM most with nearby classmates.
Research firm ABI expects revenue for WiMAX and 802.20 gear to reach $1.5 billion in 2008: If incumbent broadband service providers decide to use WiMAX that figure could be much higher, the study showed.
A Newsfactor story also points to WiMAX as a potentially lucrative industry in the near future. The piece generally looks at how wireless, both mobile and fixed, has given a boost to the flailing telecom market.
But WiMAX and Wi-Fi could be better used if more and different spectrum were available, says an Intel VP. If operators could use spectrum in the lower bands, say around 400 Mhz, they could do more with the technology because signals could go through thicker walls and wouldn't be subject to rain fade. But to standardize on a different frequency around the globe would take a major undertaking.
Voice over W-Fi can't make it in the mainstream unless it offers a different application than cell phones: So theorizes this ZDNet UK columnist and he has some good points. The fact that cellular networks are already ubiquitous and the majority of the population in some countries have cell phones means that voice over Wi-Fi can't be a me-too service or no one will want it. He thinks that Wi-Fi will need a killer app, presumably one that takes advantage of its high broadband capabilities. Music or video services might convince potential customers to buy into voice over Wi-Fi.
The most important unknown with voice over Wi-Fi is the role that the cellular carriers will play. If they decide they want to take advantage of Wi-Fi and start building chips into their phones, then voice over Wi-Fi will work in the mass market. But so far the operators have been very non-committal on where they stand with integrating Wi-Fi into their phones.
Hughes said it will integrate Proxim APs into its Internet satellite terminals: Hughes DirecWay customers, who receive satellite-based Internet service, can distribute that service using Wi-Fi.
The Lake Tahoe ski resort is now covered in Wi-Fi, courtesy of Exwire: Future services on the network will let PDA users see where their friends are within the resort.
Exwire is charging $2.50 an hour, $8 a day, $21 per week or $29 per month.
Two Czech companies are encouraging customers to share their broadband connections via Wi-Fi and charge their neighbors: Customers subscribe to DSL from Wia, a service provider. WideNet sets them up with the Wi-Fi gear and then publishes the location of the site. Then nearby residents who may want to use the network buy a Wi-Fi card. When the nearby residents first go online they will see a page that asks for credit card information. They pay less the longer the subscription they sign up for. The AP owner gets 65 percent of the revenue, which is collected and distributed by WideNet.
Speakeasy has a similar deal where if a customer decides to use Wi-Fi to share their connection with neighbors, Speakeasy will bill the neighbor for the customer. The key here is that Speakeasy in the United States and Wia in the Czech Republic are broadband service providers and they approve of sharing. Other service providers, like Time Warner in New York, aren't so happy about sharing.
Comverse demonstrated a product that lets Wi-Fi users send SMS messages to cell phones: This may seem like a no-brainer but SMS isn't an IP-based system—so you can't send an actual SMS from any computer. This blurb, however, makes it sound like wireless operators may be migrating toward IP SMS systems.
Here is an actual press release from Comverse on the capability. The idea is to let Wi-Fi-enabled PDA users send and receive SMS with cell phone users.
It will be interesting to see if this is the way people will want to message between devices or if instant message clients, which are already becoming available on cell phones, will handle messaging between cell phones and devices like PDAs.
Users can wirelessly download pictures from their PCs to the picture frame: I've always thought these digital frames were kind of silly. But if there's a market for them, Wi-Fi should make them more attractive because without it transferring pictures is probably pretty cumbersome.
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Zyxel offers built-in RADIUS with 802.1X in a $149 box: This is a pretty amazing bargain, considering that it can support 25 authenticated users using a local database, VLAN segregation, WDS bridging, and on and on. Too bad it's only an 802.11b device, but I expect that's a short-term issue. I've asked for a review unit from the company so I can provide some more real-world details. [via SmallNetBuilder]
Smart devices may achieve the ultimate vision for Wi-Fi: With a Wi-Fi cloud stretching everywhere, turning on the stove can be done remotely. More so than Internet access, remote control may be the killer app for Wi-Fi.
Maybe. A lot of "ifs" surround the reality of Wi-Fi-enabled everything, including the kitchen stove. But the vision is pretty cool.
Sun and Pronto are coming out with a platform aimed at carriers and other operators of large hot spot networks: The offering aims to make it easy to provision, deploy and manage large public networks.
The platform enables support for a number of payment-related functions, such as support for prepaid and post-paid pricing, SIM and SMS authentication, roaming settlement and revenue distribution among partners.
The announcement mentions that the platform includes a policy agent that authenticates users against the Java System Identity Server and enforces network policy, but it does not mention support for 802.1X. The product may be a tough sell without 1X.
Pyramid Computer will include Interlink Network's RADIUS software and 802.1X support in its Ben Hur II product: Ben Hur is an appliance that manages network communications. The combined offering will be available during the fourth quarter.
The new Dell PDA is the cheapest on the market that includes Wi-Fi: An extensive review here is generally positive.
The only way for Wi-Fi chip makers to survive is to integrate their chips with other functions: At least that's the conclusion of an editor with EE Times. He suggests that the chipmakers that have tried to set themselves apart from the rest by improving the performance of their chips haven't been successful. But those that integrate functions such as DSL into a Wi-Fi chip will add value, appeal to a certain market and avoid the "massacre" in the Wi-Fi chip market.
It's a good theory, seeing as chipmakers have been killing themselves trying to offer the best power savings and coverage boost. They may be better off tying in other functions in order to differentiate themselves.
While we're not big fans of proprietary standards, this is a good indication of the future: If you own one of several D-Link 802.11g products, you can now download the firmware upgrade that boosts the maximum speed among D-Link devices to 108 Mbps. (Really, it's Atheros under the hood that's providing this bump. We don't know if all Atheros-based G gear will interoperate at 108 Mbps, but it's likely.) Actual throughput? We don't know yet.
The 802.11n committee at the IEEE will be working on increasing the rated speed of wireless LANs and improving the net throughput. Real-world experiments like Atheros and D-Link's might provide data points, but they almost certainly won't increase market share. Most home users don't need 108 Mbps raw, and wouldn't have a good reason to use it. Business users wouldn't buy consumer gear, nor would they buy a proprietary solution that didn't have a guaranteed upgrade path.
Remember D-Link's previous chip vendor Texas Instruments's 802.11b+ (PBCC-based 22 Mbps)? Those chips can't be taken to 802.11g, and I doubt Atheros would guarantee that 802.11g + 108 Mbps could be brought up to 802.11n (nor should they make such a promise). [via eHomeUpgrade]
STSN deploys Wi-Fi throughout the Swindon Marriott in the U.K. : The service will support secure VPN access for corporate users and will be available everywhere in the hotel. This installation marks 461 Wi-Fi-enabled hotels for STSN.
Swisscom and TeliaSonera sign a roaming agreement: It seems like European hot spot operators are signing lots of roaming agreements so each operator will be responsible for building hot spots in its own territory and rely on the hot spots of others for roaming customers. This announcement doesn't specify if roamers will pay extra to use hot spots run by another operator, but we expect so.
TeliaSonera now has an enormous roaming footprint through partnerships across Europe, allowing its members a single login and single bill for their extensive travel--Swedes at least, spend a lot of time outside of the country, especially in those long winter months when charter flights whisk sun-starved natives off to Sardinia and elsewhere.
Security still a deal breaker for some companies that could benefit from WLANs: Some departments in Boeing are deciding to hold off on WLANs until 802.11i because they don't want to make two upgrades--the first to 1x--in two years. This is a very in-depth piece exploring Boeing's needs and challenges.
Despite all the work on upgrading 802.11 security, security seems to still be a major gating factor for the highly security-conscious companies.
Odd article starts out looking at conflict between government agencies and private companies: But the information about government bodies using Wi-Fi is off-base. For instance, the piece notes that many airports are run by government agencies that offer Wi-Fi in the terminals, presumably for free. All the large commercial airports I know of that have Wi-Fi charge for the service and most use third-party companies to manage the networks. Perhaps the author is referring to smaller airports for private planes?
The article also points to the fact that agencies like the FCC run their own Wi-Fi hot spots in their lobbies. So does the author think that instead Wayport ought to offer service there? It seems reasonable to me that the FCC should offer its own Wi-Fi service to its workers and visitors.
This is a pretty misguided article by someone who doesn't have a firm grasp of the free vs. fee topic.
Ephraim Schwartz wonders if Microsoft's Wireless Provisioning Services (WPS) is a way under the tent flap for proprietary configuration: Microsoft's WPS is apparently an automatic configuration tool that will allow users with Windows XP and hotspots running Windows Server 2003 somewhere in the authentication chain to have a handshake that doesn't require a user to manually configure settings.
Schwartz wonders if this is a way for Microsoft, outside of a standard process, to lock in hotspots to using something that doesn't necessarily interoperate with many other platforms and even other Windows' versions.
It's clear that Microsoft's focus on improving link-level security in Windows XP is strategic: they don't want to devote lots of resources to re-engineering old versions of their system, and they want enterprises to abandon NT and 2000 in favor of XP, which the company will now be selling in the same architectural form until 2006, Longhorn's new shipping...uh, year.
But if you examine the flip side of the equation, as Nancy Gohring did yesterday, T-Mobile has said that they'll support WPS, but that they'll also work with any 802.1X client. 802.1X, just to remind everyone, is sung by three parts: a client, a port-restricted access point or switch, and an authentication server. The client can talk just to the AP or switch, which passes authentication messages (using EAPOL or EAPOW) to a server.
Because 802.1X allows continuous messaging, not only does each user in such a system receive a unique WEP or WPA key, but those keys can be rotated at whatever frequency a network administrator decides with zero involvement by the user.
The advantages for 802.1X in the hotspot world are enormous, and WISPs should consider subsidizing distribution of 802.1X clients to their customers of all platforms. If you review the client compatibility lists at Meetinghouse and Funk, you can see that an enormous range of platforms are available: all Windows flavors (98 and later), Mac OS X 10.2, Linux (kernel 2.4), and Solaris. On the backside, most hotspots are using some kind of RADIUS or AAA solution already.
In the open-source world, 802.1X has lagged severely due to lack of non-enterprise interest in the spec. WISPs should just build 802.1X into their clients (as T-Mobile and ostensibly Boingo is doing) or give away third-party clients. (The latest version of Open 1x appears to be moving along, however.)
Users, of course, are responsible for their own security in the hotspot world, and hotspots have gone out of their way to highlight this. The 802.1X-in-the-hotspot solution makes it possible for casual users to have a relatively high degree of data encryption without the overhead.
I'm hoping that the WPS system developed by Microsoft doesn't overshadow the general benefits of 802.1X in the hotspot. In fact, if Microsoft's new way of doing things extends here, the company will release the specification, allowing others to consider adopting it or extending it.
(Note that the brief entry pointed to says WPA several times when WPS is intended. I sent them a note.)
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InfoWorld ran a story I wrote about the difference between WLAN switches and gateway solutions: It was a rough process pulling this together, but the result is accurate.
The story is designed for IT managers who want to install a wide-scale WLAN but must decide between the different management tools that are available today. While I generally categorized the solutions as gateways, layer 2 switches, and layer 3 switches, each option has its own idiosyncrasies that make it unique. Those subtle differences make it hard to come up with generalizations about which solution best meets any given enterprise need.
I hate to suggest a move that will slow down market adoption, but after writing this story I think if I were an IT manager I'd probably put off the decision as long as I could. There are too many start ups in the market and too many different ways of managing a big network to be able to make a smart choice on a product that is likely to survive for very long.
This sidebar offers some more details about the risk and uncertainty in the WLAN management space.
TechDirt reports that the Wi-Fi network built to cover the island of Niue has been shut down: Apparently the free network that covered the entire Polynesian island was built without proper authorization from the government.
This is a case of the government shooting itself in the foot. Only between 1,000 and 2,000 people live on the island (reports vary). Yachters stop by the island a lot and have enjoyed the network. If Wi-Fi draws tourists and their dollars, you'd think the government would support the idea.
The TGV, the French high-speed train, will offer Wi-Fi access in the passenger cars on certain routes. Travelers can use their own laptops or rent one from a station.
Just to clarify and add a couple points to the short Seattle Times blurb. T-Mobile sounds really open about playing with a wide variety of 802.1X clients, not just the one offered by Microsoft. Users of Meetinghouse's Aegis and Funk's Odyssey clients can also use T-Mobile's more secure network -- and those two companies offer clients for many platforms, including various flavors of Windows, Mac OS, and Unix/Linux. In addition, T-Mobile will support open-source clients.
Another interesting tidbit that didn't make it into the blurb is that T-Mobile will make its own client. T-Mobile is currently working with Boingo, which is developing a customer client for them that allows both 2.5G cellular and Wi-Fi connections, and we assume that this new 802.1X authentication is part of that deal.
The 1X upgrade will be quite an undertaking seeing as T-Mobile workers will have to go out and touch each AP to add software and firmware. Currently, T-Mobile has 3,000 hot spots and they predict 4,000 by year's end. The effort should be worth it, considering that 88 percent of T-Mobile's hot spot users are business people.
T-Mobile offered a couple of other unspecific points about network usage. The company has noticed more data travelling over its network, which Pete Thompson, director of marketing for T-Mobile hot spots, attributes to customer comfort with using the network. "People are happy and satisfied with the system and they're starting to change their behavior," he said.
Thompson also clarified a stat he gave up earlier when he said that the average session time is 45 minutes. The average time is pretty venue specific, he said. In retail venues, the average is closer to an hour but in places like airports where customers don’t have a lot of time the average is lower.
Boingo Wireless to roam with UK's The Cloud; details to come: Boingo announced that they are finalizing an arrangement to allow their customers access to the currently 2,500 hot spots operated by The Cloud in the UK, which is adding 100 more hot spots each week.
In email follow-up, a Boingo spokesperson confirmed that the date that roaming will start and the terms of roaming aren't yet set: will users pay a per-session fee or have their usage included in an unlimited Boingo package? That's still to be determined when the integration is finished.
IceFyre Semiconductor has come out with an 802.11a/b/g chip: Like its more established competitors, IceFyre says the chip will boost range and cut power consumption in half.
The existing chipmakers with name recognition are struggling to win market share. I don't envy IceFyre as a new entrant.
The trade ministry in Israel just officially set aside spectrum for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth: I wonder if people there have used Wi-Fi illegally without this designation? I'm surprised that the country is just approving Wi-Fi use seeing as Israel has a quite advanced wireless technology industry, including Alvarion, which has its headquarters there.
The Guardian takes a nice look at the hot spot market in the U.K.: Just like in the U.S., operators there are playing with different ways of offering service. One provider, Broadreach, always puts PCs in its hot spot locations so customers can use the network without bringing in their own laptop.
One difference in the way hot spots work in the U.K. compared to the U.S. is T-Mobile's deployment. At Starbucks in the U.K., customers who aren't regular subscribers must buy a voucher from the barista to use the network by the hour or day. The vouchers expire if customers don't use them within a time frame. It seems this process discourages use.
I wonder why T-Mobile doesn't just set it up like in Starbucks in the U.S. where you can buy a day's use online? Maybe in the U.K., it's an issue of people using credit cards and their comfort with making online purchases.
This press release is a nice roundup of a few interesting Wi-Fi deployments: iAnywhere is a subsidiary of Sybase and offers software and services to companies looking for Wi-Fi networks.
One of the deployments described here is by Britannia Airways, which uses Wi-Fi in its crew rooms for cabin crew and pilots to check rosters, updated destination details, and air traffic control notices. The system automates 50 paper-based workflow processes.
Another cool one is at a department store in Korea. Sales clerks carry wireless terminals that let them process purchases from anywhere, reducing lines at cash registers.
BP in New Zealand is adding Wi-Fi to its cafes at gas stations: Once 802.11g products are widely deployed in the market, I think implementations like this one will start to appeal more to the mass market. Ideally people could pull into the gas station and download music or movies to their Wi-Fi-enabled cars. Such entertainment applications will draw additional users.
(Glenn notes that Estonia was the first country in which Wi-Fi was available at gas stations -- apparently, they pioneered a number of interesting combinations of Wi-Fi and other services, but are rarely cited because of their remoteness.)
T-Mobile will use 802.1X authentication to secure local Wi-Fi links: Nancy will have more on this story later today -- she filed a brief with the Seattle Times this morning about it -- but I wanted to push out a more general note.
Security at hot spots has been one of the bugaboos of the industry. 802.1X authentication with secured EAP (in this case, Protected EAP or PEAP) allows the secure login of a user and then secure exchange of unique WEP or WPA encryption keys.
This means that a T-Mobile user with Windows XP using a software update that Microsoft promises for early next year will be able to have their own separately encrypted local channel. Unless T-Mobile has made mistakes on the gateway side that would allow employees to tap into the access point or router -- which seems a much lower threshold of worry -- customers with the right software and without VPN access suddenly have a very high degree of local link security and integrity.
Microsoft releases garble, something, yadda, to allow automatic provisioning of garble garble: This press release from Microsoft is so full of jargon, market-speke, and other obsfuscating details, that I'm not sure what they're saying.
I think they're announcing an update to Windows XP which will appear next quarter that will let hotspots more easily allow arbitrary users to login using PEAP and 802.1X. We'll see if it turns out to be what the announcement meant.
If I'd written the release, I might have said, "Microsoft is using software already built into Wiindows XP to let hotspot users enter a login name and password in a profile, click a single button, and have a secure connection that other users in the same location can't snoop on because of robust encryption."
A little clearer? Maybe still obscure.
If NIST approves 802.11i, then VPNs may be optional in governmental installations: Matthew Gast notes that the potential approval of AES as an encryption method as part of 802.11i would allow system administrators in networks that rely on these NIST guidelines to avoid VPNs and use secured 802.1X with 802.11i using AES.
I wrote in InfoWorld in January of this year about 802.1X within 802.11i plus secured EAP could eliminate the cost and complexity of VPNs. 802.1X is relatively straightforward even with PEAP or other modes compared with VPN setup and management.
VPNs for roaming users are still a requirement, of course.
Vodafone (Portugal) lets cell phone subscribers pay for hotspot access via SMS: Vodafone has launched its WirelessLAN service in several locations around Portugal, and allows users to pay for a session by sending an SMS message requesting access. The service will cost 5 euros an hour, 12 euros a day, or 30 euros for 72 hours, but will be limited to the cost of a single SMS message per session until the end of the year to promote the service.
Apparently, any roaming partner of Vodafone's cell networks, which they count as 281 operators in 134 countries, can use SMS within Portugal to pay for service, too.
This service is similar to Excilan's in its interesting crossover between cellular telephone billing and an out-of-band authorization. In Excilan's method, you enter your cell phone number in a gateway page on your Wi-Fi equipped laptop or handheld, and then you are called by an automated service to approve the session. Excilan has arrangement with just a few WISPs and cell operators.
Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports will have Wi-Fi next year, says airport authority: Like Boston, they've finally gotten off the dime and are issuing a request for proposals. Concourse is in the running as they have the broadest airport experience. However, the recent split between them and Wayport makes me wonder how much revenue they can attract in the near-term from users.
Without the Wayport partnership, which allowed Concourse to easily resell access to a number of other partners, including iPass, Boingo, Sprint PCS, and GRIC without direct relationships, Concourse now has to build a bridge to each of these firms. They did work with iPass as the gatekeeper for service in Minneapolis-St. Paul once, and that fell apart because of incompatible models in charging.
TengoInternet will provide Wi-Fi to the Rainbow’s End RV park in Livingston, Texas. The news release isn't available yet but should be here later today. RV parks offer Wi-Fi as a way to encourage visitors to stay longer, says TengoInternet.
Connexion isn't just for the masses any more: Boeing made a deal with Rockwell Collins which will market and install the Connexion service mostly to operators of corporate jets. The service will work the same as Connexion does on the commercial jets but will be called Collins eXchange. Connexion competitor Tenzing had refocused its early efforts for airline Internet service into private planes, but now has a deal with United through Verizon.
IBM developed a sniffing network much like AirDefense's: The platform is targeted at companies that will deploy the IBM sniffing devices around a building. The sensors look for rogue APs, denial-of-service attacks and compromised WEP keys.
IBM is a bit late to the game here. This article points out that AirDefense goes one step further than the IBM solution and can actually shut down APs. Also, the WLAN switch vendors that are targeting enterprises usually include rogue detection in their APs so customers don't have to deploy a separate network to detect trouble.
Convergys has come out with a Wi-Fi roaming settlement solution: I imagine this is a service bureau offering but the announcement is pretty vague.
A deal between the Canadian Hearing Society and SkyFrames will bring the Internet to deaf people in rural communities: As part of the agreement, SkyFrames will use Wi-Fi and satellite backhaul to offer Internet service to rural areas, specifically targeting hearing impaired people. The idea is to offer video conferencing to the deaf, who often prefer to communicate through a visual medium like video conferencing, according to the society.
The San Francisco Chronicle recently noted that Apple's iSight camera combined with iChat AV, an audio/video conference program that Mac OS X 10.2 users can buy and is bundled with the about-to-be-released Mac OS X 10.3, has been highly effective for hearing-impaired users: the frame refresh rate and picture size is high enough to handle signing.
This columnist points a finger at Intel for the lack of Wi-Fi Zone stickers in venues: He says that it's hard to find the Wi-Fi Alliance's Wi-Fi Zone markers in public hotspots, but Intel's Centrino stickers are everywhere. Apparently Intel said it would put up the two stickers side by side but seems to have neglected to hang the Wi-Fi Alliance mark.
Glenn attended 802.11 Planet in June in Boston (now rebranded as Wi-Fi Planet) where Starbucks' brand manager explained that their windows were extremely valuable and that they had no desire yet to put up Wi-Fi Zone stickers. It didn't add enough to the brand yet, Lovina McMurchy said. (See this archived entry.)
Progress of building hot spots has been slow: The piece looks at how involved the cellular carriers are in Wi-Fi and how their strategies differ, concluding that confusion surrounding a Wi-Fi business case is slowing down buildout.
Maybe, but from my perspective it looks like the market is moving pretty fast. T-Mobile has thousands of hot spots and Boingo has deals to support 2,600 hot spots, which doesn't include T-Mobile. There are also plenty of small or independent organizations with hot spots. Despite some shutdowns and bankruptcies, the growth seems to be spurting.
Read this if you're in need of a little laugh: Not to be totally harsh, but this is a really weird opinion article about Wi-Fi in Atlanta's Hartsfield airport clearly written by someone who has pretty much no understanding of Wi-Fi. It's just weird.
OK, this one isn't nearly as weird: The article is about the city of Cincinnati's efforts to build a Wi-Fi cloud around town. These plans that include city governments are pretty exciting, but I'm getting a bit tired of hearing that every city will have the largest Wi-Fi network in the country. It's pretty funny at this point.
One guy in this article says that Wi-Fi is "becoming a high-class way of doing business." I didn't realize that anyone was that concerned with doing business the high-class way.
This is looking like my day to vent, but sometimes this group supporting CDMA astounds me. Here's a press release about a paper the CDMA Development Group put out supposedly about interoperability of CDMA and Wi-Fi. Really it seems to be an opportunity for the group to assert that CDMA is much better and will be more successful than Wi-Fi.
The group tries to say that data throughput of some CDMA data networks, like the one just launched in Washington, D.C. by Verizon, is the same as a hotspot backed by a T-1. Verizon, the operator offering the service, is touting it as an average throughput of 300-500 Kbps. Alan Reiter ran a number of tests and found he usually got around 200 Kbps. A T-1 line is 1.544 Mbps.
The problem with these guys is when they make specious assertions like this it makes it really hard to take anything they say seriously. There are some valid points about benefits the cellular networks have over Wi-Fi like coverage and security. But it's hard to even pay attention to those points when they're wrapped up in these other bogus conclusions.
This article offers slightly more detail on Meru's support for voice over WLAN: Meru says its suped-up QoS method can support 100 voice users per AP.
I'd like to know what Meru offers for security. If it used VPN, it would have to require a VPN client on the handset, which is a bit of a deal breaker. Standard security like 802.1X doesn't happen fast enough to support quick handoffs for voice. So what is it doing to secure the network?
In other voice over WLAN news, a company in Japan is coming out with a Wi-Fi handset: IPTalk plans to start offering the service next year in Japan.
It's hard to get a read on STSN Wi-Fi usage because the company includes wired and wireless connections in its numbers: STSN is averaging 300,000 wired, wireless, and conference connections every month.
Wireless Security Corp. offers small offices authentication over the Internet: WSC allows offices that don't have a built out IT infrastructure a chance to have wireless security like the big boys using WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and 802.1X.
WSC's solution is to outsource the authentication part for Windows XP and 2000 users on a wireless network. WSC's software helps users set up their login and password. The user or an administrator also downloads a tool that configures the access point (AP) so that WSC's servers recognize it.
With 802.1X, the AP restricts access until a client is authenticated. When credentials are exchanged -- and WSC requires Protected EAP (PEAP), and can use WPA if it's available -- the AP opens access. The authentication server doesn't have to be local, because 802.1X supports EAPOL (EAP over LAN). "The AP will act strictly as a middle man," said Ulrich Wiedmann, vice president of software development for WSC.
WSC has a fallback mechanism in case the AP can’t reach their servers. "Probably the weakest link in the infrastructure is the customer's Internet connection," said Wiedmann. The fallback agent monitors the connection to the WSC RADIUS server and kicks in when it detects that the server isn't reachable.
The fallback is WEP. WSC dynamically generates and distributes a WEP key specific to each network to all users of that network once they successfully authenticate. If users have that key but can't authenticate via WSC's servers, they can still use the WLAN for local network functions like accessing a file server or sending a job to the printer via a PC on the network running fallback software.
"This is the area where we have a benefit over someone with their own RADIUS infrastructure," said Wiedmann. That's because when a RADIUS server in an enterprise goes down, the wireless network is essentially disabled because 802.1X doesn't let users in unless they're authenticated, he said.
Altera Corp. in San Jose has used the system as a pilot and is now using it as a regular customer. The service lets Altera's IT managers rest easier. "Their IT department didn't want to do anything to support home users, so they said users were not allowed to use their home wireless networks. But they were afraid they would, and that would open up vulnerability," said Stu Elefant, vice president of marketing for WSC.
Now 11 Altera workers use the WSC service so they can securely use their home WLANs and more should follow.
The service costs $8 per person per month or $59 annually. The hardware and software requirements are currently quite strict, although the list of APs includes a variety of commodity equipment.
This article in E-Commerce Times looks at the free vs. fee debate: The conclusion is interesting. The writer suggests that free Wi-Fi may become something that some small businesses like independent cafes have to offer. It's like when hotels used to offer free HBO but now every hotel offers that.
The piece also notes that selling Wi-Fi products to the consumer market is going to get increasingly tight. Margins will be in the enterprise market.
A Network World columnist thinks voice over WLAN isn’t going to get far: He really states the obvious here: "It's likely that wireless VoIP in the enterprise will follow a similar adoption pattern as that of WLANs: for enterprises where it makes sense, it will be deployed. And for enterprises where it doesn't make sense, it won't."
Gee, do ya think?
The way that vendors are squabbling these days, he may be right that voice over WLAN won't get far though. I've been told by some system integrators that once Cisco came out with its Wi-Fi phone, it stopped cooperating with the entrenched voice over WLAN guys, like Symbol and SpectraLink. That has resulted in some very unhappy customers who have Cisco radios and another vendor's phones and a system that doesn’t work well. Nobody is going to want voice over WLAN if they hear those kinds of stories.
I think that voice over WLAN will be used first by traveling business users. They'll use softphones that let them make calls from their laptops or PDAs while on the road. If that works out well and enough people do it, they may begin to pressure IT departments to deploy a more robust service on campus.
Wi-Fi must be getting secure enough if airport security folks are willing to use it: Sprint will be the supplier for Navigance, a company that provides wireless communications and video security monitoring for general aviation (non-commercial) airports. Teterboro airport in New Jersey will get the first installation.
Navigance supplies video cameras, digital video recorders and biometric devices and they're all linked by the WLAN. Sprint is also offering IP transport so the airports can share information with local law enforcement officials.
I guess this means Wi-Fi is doing its part in making it easier for security folks to gather information about us and share it with each other.
Apparently, I've got a firmware version that wasn't intended to be public yet. However, it's numbered and dated identically with the firmware found on Linksys's site (version 2.03).
A school district is sued in Illinois over planning a WLAN without addressing a group of parents' concerns over electromagnetic radiation's effects: I'll be curious for feedback on this. The suit says that there's a pile of credible evidence, and cites 30 studies (citations not included in this document, unfortunately) that connect EMR at high frequencies and signal strengths comparable to WLANs to health problems. I'm unaware of these. The lawsuit also says there are no regulations after 1993 that relate to EMR and its only about thermal emissions even up to that point. My reading of EPA and FCC regulations indicates otherwise.
Anybody up for friends of the court briefs or more elucidation on whether this suit has merit? I wonder if the FCC or EPA would get involved in this suit in order to avoid setting a precedent (with settlement or loss) that would affect the ability of Part 15 devices to be deployed?
(Read the comments below, too: One poster notes a cell phone study, but Wi-Fi transceivers put out a tiny fraction of the electromagnetic radiation of a cell phone, and typically, a Wi-Fi transceiver is quite far from a sensitive area of the human body -- meaning that orders of magnitude less radiation is received. Often, the signal strength is only a few notches about thermal background radiation.)
Canadian company Redline Communications says it has the first product that complies with 802.16a: The standard covers non-line-of-site metropolitan area networking using the 2 to 11 GHz range which includes licensed and unlicensed frequencies. Redline says its gear will deliver 70 Mbps throughput as far as 30 kilometers.
Companies have been trying to use wireless to deliver Internet access to homes and businesses for ages it seems but have always failed (remember LMDS and MMDS?). Those folks struggled because it was tough to find good non line of site gear at a reasonable price that could be installed simply. We'll see if these new standards solve some of those old problems.
A company called Meru Networks introduced an AP and controller aimed at supporting voice over WLAN: The system includes a QOS mechanism that gives priority to voice.
Meru also uses a similar method as AirFlow to essentially eliminate the time it takes to hand off a call from one AP to the next, which currently takes too long to support a voice call. Meru and AirFlow do that by associating clients to a single MAC that lives back in the network at the controller. That way clients don't have to re-associate with each new AP because there's only one MAC to associate with.
I suspect Meru is greatly exaggerating how many users can use a single AP at once. It says that one of its APs can support as many as 100 users. Most vendors say that today their APs can support 10 simultaneous voice calls but will usually concede that half that number is realistic. Meru would have to be doing something pretty radical to improve the number of simultaneous users that dramatically.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has a service that lets cell phone users find nearby hot spots: Cell phone users can search by city through a list of the 6,000 sites that are part of the alliance's Wi-Fi Zone program.
Colubris says it's certified to be used by government agencies: The maker of fat access points claims to be the only AP that has achieved the Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 certification. FIPS is a standard made by the U.S. and Canadian governments that sets how cryptographic software and data encryption must work in gear used by government bodies.
Colubris touts the added security that it builds into APs. It's unique for terminating IPsec VPNs at the AP. Colubris says that's a way to offload traffic from an existing VPN concentrator and allow an enterprise to re-use security profiles that are already set up for users getting on the LAN.
Boingo secures Series B Funding: $10M: Questions are often raised about whether Boingo will be successful. We don't know the answer to that, especially with early investor Sprint PCS choosing to derive their aggregator software from iPass's Connect product instead of Boingo's software. But there's no doubt Boingo has staying power. The company reports having raised $30 million since inception, and have money to finance themselves until 2006.
The question now is with money in the bank, can they more aggressively convince telecom partners that the Boingo platform is the right one to move forward on with cell/Wi-Fi roaming/single bill capability? T-Mobile said yes months ago; we're waiting to see the fruits of that collaboration. SBC and Cingular are the likely next target.
Now, where's that Mac OS X software?
TechDirt analyzes email from Wayport stating that its partnership with Concourse for access in La Guardia and Minneapolis-St. Paul collapsed: This is the kind of growing pains one might expect, but it's still surprising. The relationship among the various parts in an airport Wi-Fi service operation is pretty complicated. Concourse Communications contracts with the airport for a long period, several years or even decades, as the company told me a few weeks ago. Concourse has the rights to run the infrastructure, but has to meet various obligations.
Concourse, in turn, needs to derive enough income from reselling access to the network. It charges Wayport (and a few other partners). Wayport itself resells access to aggregators. Lots of pieces, lots of middlemen, but only marginal returns.
Somewhere in this value chain, the amount of money Concourse needed and Wayport offered didn't mesh. It must have been a pretty tense situation given that Wayport outed the situation.
How does this affect Wayport? It reduces their value advantage from several airports to a handful. When I was researching the New York Times piece I wrote about Wayport a few weeks ago, I found out that Wayport's own contracts with its own airports (Seattle, San Jose, Oakland) are of relatively short duration or near expiration--though they can be renewed or extended.
Likewise, Concourse already dumped iPass from Minneapolis and now Wayport. Concourse has to have a reasonable partner through which to resell service. The Techdirt folks speculate that this might be a move that separate venues into premium locations where users get gouged and other venues that offer subscriptions.
Here's the flaw in that issue. Yes, Wi-Fi promotes the notion that broadband is better. But if captive venues gouge, then perhaps the rising 2.5G flavors topping 100 Kbps will become a reasonable alternative.
I keep saying that there's a set of dials for ubiquity, speed, and cost. You can twiddle them for various offerings. Cell data right now is ubiquitous, slow, and slightly expensive, but for some people, the ubiquity makes it worthwhile. Wi-Fi is hard to find, fast, and relatively cheap or even free. If you turn Wi-Fi into expensive and fast and cell data is moderately priced (relatively) and moderately speedy, well, people don't need broadband constantly.
The captive venue has an advantage over places where people have choice, but I suspect that the actual end user price of service hasn't even started to hit bottom in the hot spot market. Direct hot spot revenue is in a race for a marginal return, and will continue in that decline to compete against rising cell data offerings. Gougers will be routed around.
The fellow who brought you the inexpensive VOIP Wi-Fi phone last week, brings you a wireless summit, Nov. 10-11: I'm the program chair of this really great event from Pulver, the folks behind the VON conference on IP communications (voice over data networks) and Supernova, Kevin Werbach's event.
Called The Wireless Internet Summit, and running Nov. 10-11 in Santa Clara, Calif., this is an event that if you're trying to understand the scope of what's happening across many segments of the Wi-Fi and wireless Internet world, you'll want to be at. The people who will be presenting are doers and makers. They've changed or are changing the world, and will do so again.
What I like about Pulver's events is that they pull from the entire spectrum: it's not all commercial, all public sector, all open source -- it's all aspects of a subject. I mean, dig the line up on this panel on the case for free Wi-Fi hot spots: Matt Peterson, Founder, BAWUG (and a Surf and Sip employee); Matt Westervelt, Founder, SeattleWireless.net; Mike Masnick, Founder, Techdirt; Scott Bruntjen, Mayor, Town of Nederland. I can't wait.
Like many niche events with a laser beam focus, it's not cheap: $1,795 if you register before Nov. 10. However, since you're a beautiful, handsome, and intelligent reader of this fine publication, you can get 25 percent off by using the simple code FLEIS when you register. See, I just made you some money today, because you were planning to come to this event already, right?
Full disclosure: I don't get a cent from referrals.
John Cox writes about why enterprises may not want increased bandwidth on their WLANs: Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't really see why increased bandwidth will add tons of complexity for network managers. Seems to me that network managers who may want to add voice in the future would be happy for the added bandwidth, which should increase the number of users in range of a given AP.
Direct2Data says its products can extend the range of Wi-Fi to a mile: This article isn't very forthcoming about how the company gets this added range, although apparently it's not through smart antenna technology. Users with a PC card from D2D can get the boosted range even if the AP isn't from the same company.
Bluesocket says it won 160 new customers in the third quarter: Looks like that means organizations are growing satisfied with the security that a Bluesocket can add to a WLAN.
Bluesocket scored some pretty big name customers—Del Monte, NASA, the Weather Channel plus some healthcare organizations.
Well, I may be a bit overambitious by saying that enterprises are satisifed with available security patches for WLANs. This Infonetics study shows that concern over security is still slowing down adoption of WLANs in the enterprise. Nonetheless, the firm expects to see nearly $3 billion in spending in end-user spending on WLAN products by 2007.
An IDC study also notes that WLAN acceptance in the enterprise is still slow. A Gartner analyst attributes the slow take-up to security concerns plus the lack of built-in Wi-Fi in the majority of laptops in use today.
There was a discussion of integrating Wi-Fi into cell phones at the Communications Design Conference: Some analysts think we'll see the devices in production by the middle of next year.
A lot will have to be worked out before a combined cellular/Wi-Fi voice service can be aptly offered. The only way that will happen is if the cell carriers can figure out a way to control the air time that their customers spend on the Wi-Fi networks to ensure that they continue to make money.
There's a company here in Seattle called Bridgeport aiming to solve that problem for cell operators. A cell carrier would put Bridgeport's box in its mobile switching center. If a customer is within range of a Wi-Fi network, the call is routed to the carrier's mobile switching center like a regular cellular call. That way the carrier can track the usage on the Wi-Fi network and charge customers.
It's not an ideal setup, but I think carriers are going to require something like this so they can control and charge their customers for using voice on Wi-Fi networks.
This story in EETimes also covers the discussion of Wi-Fi and cellular from the conference: But the reporter also talked to Craig Barratt of Atheros about smart antennas. It sounds like there's a lot of work going on with smart antennas and Wi-Fi but a TI technical guy noted that his tests so far showed that smart antennas don't do much for Wi-Fi.
Cisco's warning that LEAP susceptible to dictionary attacks unheeded?: Computerworld writes that the Aug. 7, 2003, note on Cisco's site warning that passwords must be well constructed isn't well known. Cisco, of course, is urging a migration from Lightweight EAP (LEAP), it's own form, to it and Microsoft's Protected EAP (PEAP), which can be used to encapsulate an 802.1X/EAP transaction. PEAP is becoming more widely supported, but it's nowhere near out of the standards system yet.
While it's unclear how much that Wi-Fi, especially free Wi-Fi, can boost the bottom line, one thing is sure--it is getting easier to set up a free hot spot. At least one source of help is entirely altruistic and has a vision for creating a community of Wi-Fi users.
In Austin, a group of diehard techno-geeks have come together on their own time to form a voluntary company called Less Networks. They've designed software that any cafe--in Austin or elsewhere--can use for free to let customers sign up for no-cost Wi-Fi service. It offers a low level of security against potential spammers, and the sign-on Web page can be customized for that cafe, sporting its logo and other text.
SMC device talks a, b, g, and displays pictures, streams media: This catch-all device, which SmallNetBuilder says is as little as $195 from online stores, can handle all manner of still, audio, and moving media onto a TV via audio/video cables. You install software on your Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP box. [via SmallNetBuilder]
Fatport won't charge customers extra for roaming: The hot spot provider said it has lined up deals with other operators around the world. The partners include: Airpath in the U.S.; Kubi in Spain; NetWireless, U-Mobile and SaskTel Mobility in Canada; and Surf and Sip in the U.S., U.K. and Europe. Unlike some other roaming deals -- which are really focused on a single account for a user that extra charges are billed onto -- Fatport set these agreements up such that customers don't pay any additional fees when they roam onto other hot spots.
Creative Technology has come out with a digital receiver: It uses Wi-Fi to connect to a PC and can be hooked up to your stereo speakers. It comes with an LCD screen so you can browse through your music collection. Cost? $250. This is part of an increasingly large category of devices that can handle media over Wi-Fi.
Starbucks and T-Mobile seem to be pushing entertainment offerings (The press release doesn't seem to be posted yet but should turn up here eventually.): For the month of October, hot spot users in Starbucks can watch streaming video of classic blues performers and listen to some blues music.
These kinds of entertainment offerings may draw a different crowd to the hot spots, in addition to the business users. T-Mobile has also sponsored some live streams of concerts, encouraging folks to watch at a Starbucks hot spot.
A new study predicts lots of Wi-Fi in cars in the near future: In 2008, according to research from ABI, 25 million cars will have Bluetooth or 802.11 gear. There's been a big push to get Bluetooth in cars, but that will support limited applications. Apparently, car manufacturers are looking at what type of technology will enable wider area and higher bandwidth applications. Wi-Fi seems an obvious choice.
I was at a conference recently where someone envisioned a Wi-Fi-enabled car pulling into a gas station on a road trip and downloading music from the gas station. Then when the person gets home and pulls in the garage, their home Wi-Fi network downloads the new music from the car to the user's home music collection. That would be cool.
Reporter prints list of user-supplied free hot spots: Jon Fortt asked readers for places they connect for free after Intel's failed publicity attempt with their One Unwired Day, and many responded. It's an eclectic list.
Sprint PCS to focus on Wi-Fi; Cingular's new-term speeds are slow: Alan Reiter rounds up a few recent articles and insights, and points out that because Sprint PCS isn't planning on deploying high-speed 3G for the next year or two -- they told me weeks ago that their 1xEv-Dv tests were still in the lab -- and Cingular's EDGE upgrade only brings their network to low 100 Kbps at best, that Verizon Wireless will rule the roost with 1xEvDO.
Verizon Wireless just rolled out their first commercial (i.e., they charge you) deployment of 3G in Washington, D.C., for $80 per month for unlimited use of a network that should offer hundred of Kbps, although under widescale use, those numbers will need to be confirmed.
When I spoke to Cingular a few weeks ago, they were gung-ho on EDGE and calling it next generation, but as Alan points out, 100 Kbps is the average speed one will get from EDGE. With the right pricing plan, this is full of good utility -- I'm not knocking that speed. But it's not broadband and it's not 3G. Cingular said EDGE will be widely deployed within six months.
Given that T-Mobile has no real 3G strategy and neither does Nextel, and AT&T Wireless was forced into a commitment to five cities by January 1, 2005, to avoid defaulting on a debt obligation, Verizon Wireless might wind up turning its 3G lead into a real advantage. If they're the only one offering 3G, they might have a near-term business model, extracting the maximum return for an early adopter audience.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:03 AM | Permanent Link | Categories:
Wireless Hacks hits the stands: teaches you exciting new tips: Rob Flickenger's latest book, Wireless Hacks, has been out for a few weeks and I wanted to share my delight with the title. I have the privilege of having been asked to write the foreword, and so read the book completely a few weeks ago. Here's what I wrote:
As my wife likes to remind me, I'm an early adopter. I've bought piles of equipment that litter various shelves in the basement, home office, and work server closet that never quite met the promise that caused me to shell out the bucks in the first place.
Rob Flickenger is an early adopter's early adopter: before the technology has reached the fancy stage in which it's stuck in a box, wrapped in nice plastic clothing, and displayed to the masses, Rob has torn it open, decompiled its innards, and turned every part of it into something rich and strange.
Reading Wireless Hacks gives me a warm feeling inside, like holding my hands over the vacuum tube in a pre-transistor radio. The glow of this book illuminates Rob's intense interest in spreading knowledge about cool stuff in order to spread more knowledge about the world in general.
A large part of this book is devoted to extending access, whether it's by range, through antennas, signal strength, and other combinations of electromagnetic voodoo; or by price--introducing us to inexpensive alternatives to commercial gear or providing ways to take off-the-shelf items and, Julia Child-like out of the oven, produce serious production equipment; or by design, showing us ways to configure software to achieve better results.
Back in 1979, when I owned my first computer (an Ohio Scientific, Inc., C1P running a 6502 processor), I used to be a whiz with a soldering iron, assembling my own RS232C port and joystick circuitry. This book takes me back to those days when computing wasn't about fast chips, but it was about a lot of digital parts glued together with analog technology, such as wires and ports.
I guarantee that you don't need to master the art of hot dripping lead to make use of this book. The software tips and configuration advice for commercial gear is worth the price of admittance alone. But if you have ever--or even never--touched the electronic heart of a machine before, this book will reawaken that desire.
This book is the crystal radio of the 21st century, and Rob is the scratchy voice coming out of the receiver, carried over a long distances, without wires.
A study done in the Netherlands shows that 3G base stations make people sick: It's unclear how close you'd have to stand to base stations, which are located at cellular towers, before you start getting a headache or nauseous. But the study showed that people felt sick when exposed to the 3G base stations but not when exposed to current generation gear. The Dutch government said they'll do more research on this.
Redspot is targeting young people in Denmark with its wireless Internet offering (link in Danish): The service is aimed at areas that can't get DSL or other broadband access. There are a variety of tiers of service depending on what the user wants to use the connection for. The lowest level is just for chat and voice and the highest offers 2 Mbps and allows filesharing and VPN.
The service is available in Aarhus but not everywhere in town. Apparently Redspot says it needs 20 subscribers to cover a new area.
The Web site is all in Danish. Maybe someone can tell me if Redspot is a reference to a Shakespeare play, but actually I may be forgetting details—was Macbeth set in Denmark? I tried hard to come up with some sort of play on the "out, out damn spot" line, but I've failed.
This article is really hard to decipher: But the point seems to be that SkyNetGlobal, a Wi-Fi operator in Australia, is preparing to support voice on its network by working with a clearinghouse, HotSpot Global. It seems that the clearinghouse will support roaming for users of Wi-Fi enabled phones, but it's not clear if the idea here is to let customers roam from one operator's network to the next or just to let customers roam within one service provider's network. Regardless, the interesting point about the article is that SkyNetGlobal is eager to enable voice on its Wi-Fi network as competition to 3G cellular networks.
Apple posts job for UK hot spot evangelist: The description says that the evangelist would support hot spots opening in high-profile places, but it's unclear whether someone else is opening the hot spots and the evangelist is just...evangelizing them. [via BoingBoing]
Some people have turned an old boom box into a Wi-Fi-enabled stereo: They've added music sharing and community-driven playback software into the machine. It looks great--you gotta love the old school boom box they used.
The research firm has noticed that service providers are scrambling to be the first to build Wi-Fi in choice locations: The firm also says that enterprises would do well to choose Wi-Fi service providers based on their abilities to offer bundled services that might include cellular and Internet service. At this stage there's not much of a choice seeing as T-Mobile is the only cell operator that has significantly built hot spots.
The report also suggests that usage-based plans are more cost-effective than monthly deals for most customers.
Some Wi-Fi aficionados in Poland say they've demonstrated that Wi-Fi at 2.4 Ghz can travel 110 km: The site with details of the experiment is all written in Polish, so if anyone can read it, feel free to offer some more details!
Baltimore's harbor area now has free Wi-Fi: The city is promoting the service, which was donated by a local Internet company.
Alan Reiter points to an interesting result of free city-run Wi-Fi networks: they compete with for-fee services offered by other companies. The folks at Believe Wireless, a Baltimore company offering Wi-Fi for a monthly fee, aren't very happy about the city's free service.
Huh, that's an interesting point. Realistically though, the fee services will always have competition from the free services, whether they are run by the city or some independent cafe. Maybe, down the road, cities will try to work something out with the providers. Like the city will provide a cloud over outdoor areas or public places and the service providers will offer Wi-Fi in closed spaces like restaurants and coffee shops.
Alan also has reviewed Verizon's higher speed data service and comes up with download speeds in the low 200 Kbps range. Verizon touts the service in the 300-500 Kbps range. Upload speeds are pretty poor--around 40 Kbps.