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AT&T sends email to customers that Cometa relationship has ended, unclear what else is afoot: Email ostensibly from AT&T to its customers actually reads like it's from Cometa noting the end of their relationship with AT&T. The email says that AT&T Wi-Fi Service will no longer be offered as of yesterday. Its service is entirely driven by Cometa presently; a different part of AT&T operates service through NetNearU and Concourse Communications at the Newark airport. AT&T's Wi-Fi page is still showing Cometa locations, all McDonald's in the New York tri-state area and a variety of Washington state outlets.
Don't confuse AT&T's offering with AT&T Wireless's offering as I initially did on reading the email; AT&T Wireless is also listed as a Cometa partner, but they're a separately owned firm that is in the process of being merged into Cingular. AT&T Wireless will even drop their AT&T name. In AT&T Wireless's hotspot service directory Cometa locations aren't listed, however, only Wayport locations that they resell and their own Denver airport service. In an email exchange, an AT&T wireless spokesperson ignored requests to clarify why Cometa locations were not listed, although he reaffirmed that AT&T Wireless and Cometa's relationship has remains intact.
The announcement says that new options for wireless Internet access will be available starting in March, including daily options, but it doesn't define those as Wi-Fi. Will AT&T have no Wi-Fi in their future? The core AT&T doesn't seem to have interests in data networking outside of the enterprise, that I'm aware of.
Apparently you can receive two free weeks of Wi-Fi on Cometa's network by sending email to 2FreeWeeks@cometanetworks.com with "2 FREE WEEKS" in the subject line and your return email address in the body of the message. Send this email by March 5, 2004. You are then sent a username and password for free service through March 19 on Cometa's limited network. The email doesn't note that you have to be a current AT&T subscriber to get the free two weeks of use.
AT&T itself is one of three major investors in Cometa, with IBM and Intel.
This announcement may not signify anything of importance for Cometa, which has failed to produce an announcement of any scale since last fall. AT&T was the company that they pointed to as Cometa's major national partner for reselling access (in New York at McDonald's and in Seattle at 250 locations -- although those Seattle locations aren't listed at AT&T's site), but AT&T was hardly a Wi-Fi reseller.
The Washington Post (free registration required) writes about a mall in Plano, Texas, that is building essentially an office away from the office, designed to recreate the way road warriors work: A 2,400 square feet area at the Shops at Willow Bend will offer free Wi-Fi, printers, live news, conference tables, loaner laptops, and actual cubicles. The companies backing the experiment, including Best Buy, IBM, Microsoft, Panasonic, and Cisco want to see if this type of environment, which offers more than just a wireless connection in a cafe, is attractive to mobile workers. Kinko's says that traveling business people already have shown they like that type of environment. Kinko's is attracting so many laptop users with its Wi-Fi network that it is considering offering coffee, newscasts, and conference tables.
If the price is right, these are interesting ideas for offering an office away from the office for business travelers. Sometimes meeting in a casual cafe atmosphere works but at other times a more professional atmosphere may work better.
SBC said it will turn on 90 percent of its planned hotspots in Evansville, Ind. in the next 60 days: The story doesn't note how many hotspots SBC has planned but said they will cover a big section of downtown as well as the regional airport.
This story comes after we wrote earlier this week about SBC's stalled hotspot plans. It could be that SBC is just behind schedule and we're about to see a lot of SBC hotspots turned on over the next few months.
Also, this story makes no mention of Wayport, who originally was supposed to build the hotspots for SBC, but this type of article might not mention that fact anyway. Wayport told me recently that it was in the process of building hotspots for SBC.
The city council in Hermosa Beach, Calif., just voted to build a Wi-Fi network that will deliver access to residents in their homes: Access will be free to those in range. The initial network will reach a half-mile radius; the entire city is 1.3 square miles. Anyone in that range can use the network.
This installation is interesting on a couple of levels. Many cities are building Wi-Fi networks in downtown cores, usually near a shopping district or the court house, with the hopes that somehow it will draw business to the city. But Hermosa Beach is interesting because it uses city funds to offer free broadband Internet access to homes in range. That makes the network more useful to residents while also useful to visitors to the main street in town.
This application is also interesting because it uses city funds to offer a free service to residents who would otherwise have to pay a cable or DSL company for access. I wonder what the reaction of those players might be to such a service. In fact, one of the city council members in Hermosa Beach works for Cox; he excused himself from discussion and the vote because of the conflict.
New Jersey's Star-Ledger has a solid piece exploring the potential of WiMax: It's nice to see a paper like the Star-Ledger get the story right. The piece offers a nice balance between describing why there is excitement around WiMax but also why the vision for it may not come to fruition. I wrote a story about WiMax which is scheduled to run Monday for the Seattle Times that also takes a close look at the pressures against WiMax as well as the hype around it.
The best chance for major WiMax success in the United States will be if Nextel decides to use it. While it could be used by a cable or DSL player, the chances of that are slim, but not for good reason. I spoke with the president and CEO of Wi-LAN, a company working on WiMax gear, who says cable and DSL providers would be ideal users for WiMax but he doesn't see it happening. "I think it's more a psychological barrier than anything else," he said. "They're very used to wires. They need to get used to wireless." Also, if one of the big landline players was interested in WiMax, they would most likely want to deliver it over licensed frequencies, which also becomes a barrier.
Otherwise, if no major player deploys WiMax in a big way, it may be used in pockets in rural areas. If they become very successful using it, WiMax could follow Wi-Fi's footsteps and bubble up in popularity from small or community users. Municipalities could also build WiMax networks. But the Star-Ledger article quotes Paul Kolodzy, head of the Wireless Network Security Center at the Stevens Institute of Technology and a former FCC advisor, who says that WiMax may not be secure enough for use by emergency groups.
In other WiMax news, I hope that this ZDNet story doesn't become a trend. The piece says that BT is already using WiMax in four rural locations. Unfortunately, that's impossible. WiMax is the term an industry trade group, the WiMax Forum, gave to its interpretation of the 802.16 standard. WiMax gear will be equipment that is certified by the WiMax Forum, just like Wi-Fi gear is certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance. The WiMax Forum doesn't expect to begin certifying products until later this year. It will be unfortunate and confusing to the market if companies start saying that they're using WiMax gear. It will defeat the purpose of actually certifying gear.
This article makes some good, critical points about hotspots in McDonald's: In Australia, the fee to use the Wi-Fi connection is more expensive than many items on the menu. A lot of people eat at McDonald's because it's cheap so it's reasonable to wonder why those same people would pay for an expensive Internet connection.
McDonald's has been aggressively building out hotspots around the globe. We wrote recently about an article describing McDonald's forward thinking use of technology, including the wireless networks, to make workers more productive and cut costs on telecom services used by workers. Perhaps McDonald's main goal in rolling out Wi-Fi is for workers, not necessarily to earn from customers using the network. If that's the case, they might as well offer it free with a purchase because it would probably draw more business people into the restaurants than the fee-based services.
T-Mobile's CEO said that the company would offer an integrated Wi-Fi/cell data service during the first quarter: The company will sell data cards for laptop users who will be connected to the highest speed network available. T-Mobile is in the best position among cellular players in the U.S. to make such an offering since it owns and operates thousand of hotspots. It will be interesting to see how such a combined offering takes off and how the other operators react. Such a service makes less sense to cell operators that don't own the hotspots because they will earn less from handing customers off of their wide area networks.
In October, the Pittsburgh airport launched a Wi-Fi network covering its food court: For now at least, accessing the network is free, which is unusual for an airport. The airport plans to extend the coverage throughout the concourses and hopes to keep access free until it can't afford to support the network without charging for it. Airport managers say that the goodwill that comes from offering free Wi-Fi boosts the airport's reputation for service and may also help passengers linger, when they may spend more time in shops.
I think it's great to offer free Wi-Fi and I agree that there's only a small population willing to pay the current fees for access in other airports but the reasons given here for offering it free in Pittsburgh are funny. Personally, no amount of free Wi-Fi would make me hang out any longer than absolutely necessary in an airport, and I doubt I'm alone thinking that. Also, improving the reputation of the airport isn't really critical--it's not like people have a choice of airports. Silly reasoning aside, however, I'd love to see free Wi-Fi in more airports.
A study shows that awareness of Wi-Fi is growing but misconceptions about it are rampant: Most of the findings from the study seem to be expected, given the stage of maturity of the industry. The study done by Ipsos-Insight found that 59 percent of Americans 18 and older knew about Wi-Fi, an improvement over last year when 41 percent said they were aware of it. The study also found that 5 percent of the population has Wi-Fi either at home or work, up from 3 percent last year.
But just 20 percent of those who don't have Wi-Fi say they plan to get it in the next six months. The study concluded that number might be higher except that people tend to think Wi-Fi is costly and, oddly, that Wi-Fi is slower than a broadband connection. It's understandable that people might still think that buying Wi-Fi gear is expensive but the speed part is surprising.
Calypso Wireless said it has received a patent on technology that allows roaming between cellular networks and Wi-Fi or Bluetooth without dropping the connection: The company's CEO flat out says in this story that he's trying to pursue the Qualcomm model. Qualcomm developed CDMA to compete with GSM but requires users to pay royalties for the technology.
It will be interesting to see exactly what Calypso got a patent for and if ultimately anyone doing any kind of cell/Wi-Fi handoff will have to pay Calypso. There are already a handful of other companies working on such roaming.
Companies filing for patents to capitalize on the growth of the Wi-Fi standard may become a trend. This Calypso news comes after Nomadix recently received a patent on redirect, which allows hotspot operators to display a sign in page when customers first open their browsers using the network. While Nomadix said it planned to enforce the patent, no vendor or operator we talked to said it had been approached by Nomadix.
In other Nomadix news, The Cloud said it will use Nomadix' gateways to offer venues the opportunity to build hotspots and become part of The Cloud network. As part of the offering, The Cloud will manage the hotspot and share revenues with the venue. A press release about the deal doesn't seem to be available online yet but should appear here eventually.
WNN's partner JiWire releases downloadable hotspot directory with automatic updater: This site's partner in Wi-Fi news and education, JiWire, has just released its hotspot directory for Windows XP/2000/Me, Mac OS X 10.3, and Linux (Red Hat 9). The program contains a searchable list of their entire online directory, and can automatically refresh itself with new listings as they become available.
This directory can be used entirely offline. If you're connected to the Internet, you can follow links to a map for each hotspot location on JiWire's site.
To use the directory, you have to sign up for a free JiWire account; the program is also free. In this first version of the software, you can search by city, state, country, or Zip code.
This software is the next step in always being able to answer the question of where to find the nearest hotspot especially when you don't currently have Internet access. Until now, all directory programs have been limited to a specific wireless network or subscriber service. JiWire's directory features all 28,000 locations they currently list worldwide.
As part of the company's efforts to serve a broader audience, the software has a checkbox to limit searches to just free Wi-Fi locations.
During a meeting of the telecommunications commission of San Francisco, an SBC engineer revealed SBC's hotspot plans for the year: He said that SBC plans to offer its Freedomlink hotspots in 900 locations in California by the end of this year and already has 27 venues under contract (which usually means signed but not built in hotspot industry speak). Freedomlink is the product name for its hotspot network that SBC announced in the middle of 2003.
At the time, SBC said that Wayport would help it build hotspots in a whopping 6,000 locations within SBC's 13 state region by the end of 2006. The company also said it would begin by building more than 1,000 hotspots in several hundred locations by the end of 2003. SBC seems to have missed the mark by a wide margin as its Web site currently lists 30 hotspots, including a handful at Cingular stores and SBC offices.
It's becoming comical, really, watching companies like SBC make grandiose promises that don't even come close to fruition. As we reported earlier in the month, Sprint PCS has a similar track record. Sprint PCS said last year that it would build 1,300 hotspots and so far has two. Cometa pledged that it would start rolling out hotspots in 50 urban markets in 2003. So far it has hotspots in four states--a long way from its promised 20,000 hotspots by the end of 2007. [link via Matt. The SBC engineer's comments come just after 40 minutes into the program.]
German student arrested for stealing a cent of electricity: A student from Trier was arrested for plugging his laptop into a train station in or near Kassel electrical outlet and "stealing" electricity. He estimates he used less than one penny's worth. The police thought he was acting suspicious, but the charge for his charge seems shocking.
TeliaSonera demonstrates using SIM cards for a safer method of Wi-Fi roaming across wISP networks at the 3GSM World Congress this week: TeliaSonera now has nearly 4,000 hotspots--mostly in Europe--that its users can roam to. It's now testing using the SIM card found in GSM phones that uniquely identifies a user's billing account to handle authentication across wireless ISP networks.
In a press release, the company said it successfully tested SIM-based roaming between Finnish and Swedish networks that it operates. In that test, the two networks have different wireless LAN equipment and back-end systems.
The hope is that by relying on a SIM for authentication, cell operators and others can tie together more services with less friction across all data and telephone services. TeliaSonera's authentication uses 802.1X and EAP-SIM. The GSM Association should adopt this method as a standard that it recommends to its members.
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Well, not exactly, but Motorola is building a trial Wi-Fi network for the Vatican police: The police will use laptops and PDAs to access the police security network. They will also be able to stream video from their surveillance network.
Roving Planet is introducing a WLAN security and management solution that is software based: It can run on two of IBM's Linux servers. Moving to a software-only model makes sense as it will likely cut costs for customers who can buy standard servers instead of custom-built hardware. Other developers of appliances with similar functionality may move in the same direction.
The software also adds some new capabilities such as support for SpectraLink's voice over WLAN system. It also adds more stringent virus protection including a feature that can block users from accessing the network until they are verified as virus-free.
T-Mobile said today that hotspot subscribers can roam across the ocean. European subscribers can use hotspots in the U.S. and U.S. subscribers can use hotspots in Europe. Initially subscribers can use the overseas networks without an additional charge but according to a company spokesperson that will change. After a "limited time," international roaming fees will apply.
In other T-Mobile news, the company said it will build networks in US Airways Club locations. Washington National and San Francisco airports will get the networks first followed by Philadelphia, Boston, and New York's LaGuardia. T-Mobile took over offering Wi-Fi in American Airlines lounges when it acquired MobileStar's assets in early 2001, and later added Delta and United club lounges as well.
Neither press release seems to be posted yet but they should eventually be available here.
Some analysts say that the new Wi-Fi/GSM phones from Motorola and Nokia may not be used in near future because they lack support from the cell operators: I've been arguing for some time that I don't see why cell operators would want combined devices because in most cases it means that they'll be handing off calls from their own cell network to a Wi-Fi network owned by someone else. They won't make as much money when their customers move to the Wi-Fi network so it seems that they don't have incentive to support combined Wi-Fi/cell handsets.
Analysts in this story say that the reason it will take a while before customers can use the phones is that cell operators will have a host of backend work to do, including support for quality of service and billing. But one analyst in this story also says that even though the cell operators will be handing calls off of their networks, the inevitability of cannibalism in the market means that the merging of the networks will happen.
I spoke with William Clark at the Gartner Group yesterday on another subject but we talked a bit about the convergence of Wi-Fi and cellular. He thinks that the big cell carriers will hold off on it as long as they can but at some point it will make sense for the two networks to be united. He thinks that point will come when the cell carriers control and own the hotspot business, which he's convinced will happen. Still, he says we're years away from seeing seamless handoff between the networks.
His theory, however, doesn't account for the fact that potentially many users of combined Wi-Fi/cell phones will be business customers who currently use their cell phones often in their offices. Those users in the future may instead be able to use their same cell phone but over the corporate WLAN, which the cellular operator won't own and can't make money from. A friend of mine argues that cell operators will want to sell the converged handsets anyway because they hope that the devices will result in so many increased sales that it will pay off for the operators even if they loose revenue when callers use the WLAN.
In other Wi-Fi/cellular news, Boingo said yesterday that it's demonstrating software at the GSM show that will offer an easy way for customers to detect GPRS and Wi-Fi signals and choose which network they want to use. As part of the demonstration, TSI will show it's SIM-based EAP authentication service.
In addition to Nokia, Motorola says it will make a Wi-Fi/GSM phone: It's a pretty cool looking phone with two hinges--it can open like a regular clam shell phone or open sideways so users can tap on a full (but tiny) keyboard. It runs on Windows Mobile software, has a camera and Java, and can record video. The phone should be out in the second half of 2004, though Motorola is notorious for shipping product after expected. This link has a few photos of what the phone will look like. There ought to be a number of interesting announcements in the GSM world this week as the big annual show is happening in Cannes, France.
There doesn't seem to be much mention in these announcements about battery life, which has been the main concern with including Wi-Fi in small cell phones. Also, there have been plenty of attempts at combining PDAs and cell phones but none seems to have taken off very well so it will be interesting to see if the addition of Wi-Fi is just what it takes to make these combined devices useful.
A variety of groups consider asking the Bush administration to file a WTO complaint about the proprietary Chinese security standard: As we've written about over the last few months, the Chinese government has imposed a surprise new Wi-Fi security spec called WAPI which only a handful of Chinese companies will have the right to manufacture. Non-Chinese partners can co-manufacture with these firms. The spec is undisclosed and, I suspect, contains government backdoors.
A variety of organizations representing silicon manufacturers and U.S. businesses will discuss whether to ask the Bush administration to file an unfair trade complaint with the WTO. The WTO's complaints process in the past has been used to force more developed nations to drop barriers and reduce protections; it's nice to see it potentially used in the other directions as well.
The Wi-Fi Alliance is reportedly considering separately suspending wireless chip sales to China. This could be interesting to enforce given that there are indigenous chipmakers in China and Taiwan, although it seems that the most advanced technology is entirely developed and owned by U.S. and European firms at the moment.
Listen to Glenn Fleishman on The Works, a local program on NPR affiliate KUOW in Seattle, streamed live at 8 p.m. Pacific tonight (Tuesday): I'm talking to host John Moe about Wi-Fi and wireless in general. We talk about the basics, security risks, and the future in a 25-minute interview. I'm not sure if I'm the top of the hour or on the half hour. (This time for real: I originally thought it was slated for broadcast last Tuesday.)
The program is archived after broadcast at the URL above and is available for listening via the Real player starting mid-day on Wednesday.
The St. Petersburg Times reports that you can't give Wi-Fi away in Russia: The article notes that a firm that planned to charge for Wi-Fi now offers it for free, and even then isn't seeing a reasonable amount of usage. The article also tracks the expansion of Wi-Fi into offices.
One large factor: although licenses aren't sold off exclusively, as with cellular operators worldwide, users must obtain licenses to deploy base stations of any kind. They hope to move to a fully unlicensed model at some point, but it doesn't sound soon.
The nearby country of Estonia has nearly 250 access points, half of which are free, in large contrast to Russia's barren Wi-Fi landscape. It's all about how much regulation prevents innovation.
Pringles might be delicious, but whisky is smooooth: Yes, we all like the salty chips, but these UK folk have taken the art of producing the container for the antenna to new depths. I mean, heights. [link via SmallWorks]
We've read about developers building Wi-Fi throughout apartment or office buildings as the buildings are being built but this is a new twist on the concept: In San Francisco, a construction company has built a wireless network so that engineers and other workers can view blueprints and coordinate projects on the job. The company hopes the network will help reduce costs on the project.
Even the IEEE can't get it right, but that's a capital X, people: It's just one of those things that makes the proofreader in me go nuts. Is the 802.1X authentication standard an uppercase X or lowercase x? I thought for the longest time it was a small letter. The IEEE often refers to it that way, and that's in keeping with the 802.11a, b, e, etc., Task Groups that we know so well.
Matthew Gast maintains that the answer is clear: 802.1X is a standalone standard. These types of standards receive capital letters from the IEEE. Supplements use lowercase letters.
Why does this cause my teeth to grind? Because you find journalists referring generically to 802.11 devices as 802.1x or 802.11x, both of which are clever but confusing ways to talk about them. I always say "the 802.11 family of standards," or "standards from the 802.11 working group at the IEEE." This clearly defines what I mean. "x" is so often used as a generic that as we hear more about using 802.1X in public places, we're better off making it an accurate capital to distinguish its use.
Microsoft shipping its 802.11g USB 2.0 adapter: For many machines, this adapter is the best approach, even though its $69 price tag far exceeds similar PC Cards. The USB 2.0 adapter has an external antenna and can be swapped among machines, and for computers without easily accessible innards or occupied slots, it's a simple solution. The 2.0 speed allows full 802.11g performance. The adapter handles WPA and 802.1X authentication.
MeshNetworks is building a 24-square-mile municipal network in Medford, Ore. : The network will be used by city employees such as the police, fire department, and building inspection workers. The network can be more useful for such users compared to cellular technologies because the bandwidth is high in both directions. Users can send video, color photographs, or big reports back to their office. The technology used isn't Wi-Fi, but MeshNetworks's own flavor requiring their own adapters and access points.
It will be interesting to see how the introduction of WiMax certified gear may affect the market for these types of networks. Using 802.11 is a great idea today as the gear is relatively cheap and proven. But it's not ideal for building larger or mesh networks--it is, after all, a local area networking technology--which is why deployments like this turn to proprietary technologies in the unlicensed band. If WiMax becomes widely adopted and prices get low enough it could be ideal for these type of city deployments.
Digital Photography Review exhaustively explains the Nikon D2H's Wi-Fi support: The site's reviewers walk through the hardware and software configuration and then discuss real-world performance from a mid-February photo trade show. The Wi-Fi module has remarkably good characteristics, they report: they were able to take 240 images each day and send 200 of them with two charged batteries (they swapped the battery once per day). It managed a 2.2 Mbps sustained transfer on an open (non-WEP) network.
The configuration could be tedious through a camera back, but the Nikon ships with a Windows-only configuration tool that lets you created a settings file and load it on a Compact Flash card.
The photos of the interface seem to show no WPA support and no secure FTP support, both of which could be useful. If you're transmitting images over a public network, you want to be able to have secure FTP (FTP instead of SSH or other variants) available as an option. Since open networks outside of trade shows typically offer only 512 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps of upstream bandwidth, adding encryption shouldn't cramp one's ability to transmit photos. [via Conrad Chavez]
The fruit of Nokia and IBM's collaboration produces phone which handles worldwide GSM frequencies up to EDGE speeds plus Wi-Fi voice calls: The phone allows calls to be made over Wi-Fi networks. It's $1,000 (€800) and features a built-in keyboard. The phone uses the Symbian platform and supports Notes, but the companies claim enough processing power in the phone to act as a real client for enterprise applications.
Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet, points out the coffeeshop range dilemma: Peter Zale's Helen is the smartest techie in the world, but her low-tech ersatz boyfriend gets the last laugh in this Sunday comic.
Intel manager spells out wireless USB's utility: Intel didn't let the ink dry on its Wireless USB Promoter Group announcement before a technology marketing manager released this white paper on wireless USB (WUSB). WUSB is Intel's alternative to the IEEE 802.15.3a group after six months of battling with Motorola over the future of ultrawideband.
The WUSB group has a much more specific focus than 802.15.3a, but it's a good tight goal that seeks to be a high-speed cable replacement where Bluetooth could only be a peripheral/sync cable replacement. [link via Slashdot]
Drivers were locked out of cars when keyless entry failed in Las Vegas: This is an odd one, and it appears to be an interference problem. Something, somehow, flooded the keyless entry radio frequencies for many vehicles on one day with junk interference. Portents of things to come as we rely on extremely low-power short-range wireless technology? Or a fluke? It might be the military (accidentally).
You can also read a semi-related story about how this writer's car was stolen even though it uses a resistance-based encryption locking system. He's asking for suggestions about how his car was ripped off, but it's obvious to me that he offers the solution in his article: an inside job at the dealer or social engineering to get a duplicate.
Leading 802.11g chipmaker Broadcom demoes GPRS/Wi-Fi, GRPS/EDGE/W-CDMA, and Voice over WLAN (VoWLAN) technologies at the 3GSM World Congress next week: Broadcom is trying to extend its edge in data by offering chipsets that combine several standards and features into a single package. Sony Ericsson will release a PC Card with GPRS and Wi-Fi using Broadcom's technology. And the GPRS/EDGE/W-CDMA chips will be used as the basis of new cards from several companies that will support the 1800 MHz 3G spectrum used in the U.S. for W-CDMA, such as the service AT&T Wireless may or may not offer this year.
Detroit Wireless Project and DetroitCONNECTED working to extend Internet access: The former group has recently formed and is starting to gather volunteers; the latter group is six months old and focused on bringing access to low-income neighborhoods.
A Texas Instruments spokeswoman said that a TI executive was misquoted in a mid-February article that said TI would launch products using China's proprietary Wi-Fi encryption scheme by June: We wrote earlier today about the possibility of the U.S. filing a WTO complaint about China's decision to only allow Wi-Fi gear that uses a proprietary encryption method, known as WAPI. In Mid-February, an article quoted TI and Atheros execs who said they'd build products to the Chinese standard. But a TI spokeswoman said that's not the case.
"We are working with the U.S. government to resolve the WAPI issue with China and we hope to come to some resolution soon. We believe the best solution is for 802.11 products to continue to be sold and used in China using recognized standards that are worldwide, rather than country specific standards," the spokeswoman said.
Broadcom also clarified its stance: The company said in email to Tom's Networking (which we have not received) that Broadcom is in discussions with the Chinese government to understand WAPI and how the security needs of the Chinese people can be met. Tom's Networking notes that Broadcom said they aren't "boycotting" or "opposing" but instead "abiding by" and "seeking clarification."
Atheros is in a quiet period following its IPO on Feb. 12 and a spokesman said he could not comment.
Bluetooth is dead, analyst says, because of Intel's leap to independent ultrawideband standard that replicates USB simplicity: TechDirt picks apart the arguments so adeptly that I largely point you to read them. My own analysis is that UWB will absolutely displace a few current technologies and become the core of new ones that require proximity-based high-speed low-power connections. This includes desktop hard drives, camcorder and digital camera file transfer, and all sorts of input peripherals.
The TechDirt folks point out that Microsoft overpriced their Bluetooth offerings, but they don't mention that Microsoft failed to provide the same kind of baseline, baked-into-Windows XP support for Bluetooth that they did for Wi-Fi, which has made Wi-Fi so easy to use in XP. Bluetooth, in contrast, is available as a toolbox set to Microsoft developers, but it doesn't have a uniform XP interface that loads Bluetooth drivers underneath it. (This might be an NDIS problem, too; if Bluetooth drivers aren't standardized with NDIS, a hardware abstraction layer, it can be much more difficult for XP to talk to the drivers.)
TechDirt is totally right that it's premature to write Bluetooth's obituary because UWB-based devices are years away. Further, it's definitely still a possibility that a final 802.15.3a spec will be wrung out that will use the Bluetooth subset 802.15.1 as the basis, and thus keep Bluetooth alive in name, but not in its current fixed hardware implementation. (Tom's Networking analyzes Intel's move and thinks Intel's participation and the whole Multi-Band OFDM Alliance in the IEEE process is at an end.)
Even more interesting is that we have the technology and the standard today in the form of 802.15.3 to offer 11 to 55 Mbps Bluetooth (the data spec, not the hardware), but that .3a is so much more compelling that we'll probably never see the interim .3 turned into equipment.
According to a Reuters story, the U.S. isn't currently planning to file an official complaint against China over its proprietary encryption technology: Late last year, the Chinese government banned Wi-Fi gear that didn’t include its homegrown encryption standard, known as WAP (Wired Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure). The government also said that non-Chinese companies that wanted to build to the standard could only do so by partnering with Chinese companies because only Chinese companies can license the technology.
Chipmakers outside of China have rebelled against the idea, as it requires them to build different chips for China than the rest of the world. Broadcom has been one of the most vocal opponents of the plan, citing concerns about outside companies having to share intellectual property with Chinese partners if they want to build to the standard.
The unnamed official in the Reuters story said the U.S. hasn’t ruled out an official WTO complaint. In the mean time, the official said the U.S. government is using other means to pressure China to change its plans.
The story also notes that the Wi-Fi Alliance says that no U.S. chipmaker has agreed to comply with China's requirements, though some are exploring the requirements. A story that ran in the middle of February, however, quotes TI and Atheros executives saying that they are working on products based on the Chinese standard. More on this to come.
InStat says DoCoMo will retreat from enforcing its requirement that AT&T Wireless install 3G service in four U.S. cities by 2005: Analyst Alan Nogee wrote in a recent newsletter (apparently not archived online) that NTT DoCoMo will write off what he describes as a $3 billion loss, and that the equipment that AT&T Wireless had contracted for has probably not even been shipped yet. The W-CDMA flavor that AT&T Wireless would have to deploy in the U.S. is unique.
Other reports indicated that DoCoMo faced a $10 billion cash loss from its investment and much higher paper losses, and that the amount in questions was over $6 billion that AT&T Wireless would have to repay if it failed to meet the 3G target buildout.
Nogee's comments in a newsletter dated today directly contradict a report earlier this week at internetnews.com in which they interviewed the principals.
Lincolnshire's Vernon Area library will start offering free Wi-Fi access in March, joining a handful of other libraries in Chicago's suburbs: This story lists a number of other locations in the area including Kinko's and Starbucks that charge for Wi-Fi access but also says that the Westfield Shoppingtown Hawthorn mall is covered by a free hotspot.
Researchers at BWCS found that the Asia-Pacific region saw the most dramatic increase in hotspots last year: In 2002, Asia had 1,953 hotspots and in 2003 that number grew to 21,308. Korea Telecom is the most ambitious, with over 10,000 hotspots and 300,000 Wi-Fi subscribers. The study also cites hotspot growth over the year in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore.
TeliaSonera HomeRun continues to expand roaming with partnership with France's Orange network: HomeRun now has roaming access to 3,000 locations in 16 countries through a single login with unified billing for their customers, plus the 450 Swedish and 250 Finnish hotspots in their home network. These are all bilateral roaming agreements, which opens HomeRun to those networks' users. They're also all pay for usage based, as I understand it: it's just a negotiated, single-billed rate for roaming.
The Georgia Institute of Technologies is working on developing an array of devices, many of them using wireless technologies, to help disabled people: One system uses GPS, a mobile PC, and headphones to help blind people get around. The user programs a destination into the computer then the computer generates sounds that the user perceives to come from a certain direction. The sounds lead the user to the destination.
Another project will make switching on lights or changing channels on the TV easier for people with limited motor control. Users can make certain gestures in front of a panel that beams infrared light at a video camera. When the user breaks the light with a gesture, the movement is translated by a computer which comands a household appliance over a wireless network.
The researchers are able to work on these projects due to a $5 million, five year federal grant form the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, which was awarded two years ago.
CareDecision will install its ResidenceWare platform in as many as 65 hotels in the New York area: The deal will start with eight hotels in New York City, including a Days Inn, Quality Inn, Comfort Inn, and Super 8. The platform includes a PDA in each guest room that interacts with the hotel manager over a Wi-Fi network. The PDA can be embedded in the wall behind a screen to avoid damage. Guests can use it to order food from local restaurants, arrange for laundry to be cleaned, and buy tickets for tourist events. The first implementation will include 600 PDAs and ultimately CareDecision thinks the deal will include installation of 5,800 units.
BT Openzone will build hotspots in 80 British Airways executive lounges at airports worldwide: The deal will include airports in the U.K. as well as the U.S., Africa, India, and Europe. Some of the airports already have hotspots from BT Openzone, though in public areas.
Radioframe is touting its indoor GSM system as better than voice over WLAN: Radioframe sells a platform that extends cellular coverage inside an office building and connects to the office PBX so companies can use their cell phones inside the building. When users are in the building, minutes are cheaper than outside on the wide area cell network.
The company's CEO argues that even though usage of the WLAN in the building doesn't cost, the handsets are so much more expensive than cell phones that it makes more sense to use a system like Radioframe's. I did a story a while back on voice over WLAN and found that the handsets cost around the same as standard wired office phones. So the difference could come down to a decision about whether a cell phone offers the same features and functionalities that workers typically want on their phones in the office. Plus, the Radioframe CEO didn't discuss how the costs of deploying and maintaining its network compares to deploying and maintaining a standard WLAN.
Telstra said last year that it would build hotspots in McDonald's restaurants and now Wi-Fi is available in 44 restaurants in Australia: Telstra plans to build hotspots in as many as 500 McDonald's over the next 12 to 18 months. McDonald's has been really aggressive in building out Wi-Fi globally, but has yet to make a decision on a single provider in the United States as the company indicated it would.
Syndeo has built a 13-square-mile network in Lafayette, La., just in time for the Mardi Gras party there. The network is built with Tropos gear. Users must subscribe to access the network. But in addition to businesses and visitors, an ambulance service will use the network to connect to dispatch and central control. The announcement doesn't seem to be online but should appear here eventually.
Partners in Free Wi-Fi, Austin Wireless, and Less Networks are offering free music to hotspots users in Austin: The groups have been working together to help local venues build free hotspots. The offering starts today and will extend through the end of SXSW 2004, the music festival. Hotspot users, who don't pay for access, will be able to listen to more than 500 songs for free. Users must have the iTunes player and the songs are available through Apple iTunes music share. Less Networks sees this as a one-up on an earlier Starbucks offering where visitors could listen to a CD for free.
The groups have built 25 locations in Austin since September and have 3,600 registered users. Around 100 people log on to the networks every day. Workers don't charge venues for the help in setting up the networks or the software, which lets venues manage the hotspot.
In this well-written, by-the-numbers article explaining Wi-Fi to mainstream readers, John Furrier, one of the founders of Etherlinx, is presented as an average user: I've met and talked with John several times, before and after he left Etherlinx well over a year ago, and he's an experienced Wi-Fi guy. No lack of props to him (and his decision to leave a firm he helped start that became a non-starter), but the reporter should have identified him as a current or former industry member, not an average Joe (or John). John reads this site, so we may get more information on this yet.
A few weeks ago, The New York Times covered home Wi-Fi and used as its lead subject Oren Michels, who is the president of WiFinder, identifying him in his full-time day job as the head of a human resources benefits outsourcing firm.
Surely there are actual consumers out there.
Internetnews.com confirms the $6.1 billion trigger that AT&T Wireless would have to pay DoCoMo: Internetnews.com confirms something the major media seems to have missed in the Cingular/AT&T Wireless deal: that DoCoMo would have to be paid $6.1 billion if AT&T Wireless didn't deploy 3G in four cities by 2005.
This requirement will certainly push 3G rollout faster during 2004 with more alternatives--Verizon Wireless won't be the only speed demon in town. [link via TechDirt]
BusinessWeek columnist notes that Apple's aggressive Wi-Fi promotion has brought them 20 percent global 802.11g marketshare and huge margins: Alex Salkever points out that Apple earned nearly $150 million from 802.11g in 2003 and talks about how Apple's managed to keep its premium margins. With increasing ease and cheaper alternatives ($75 for an equivalent Linksys WRT54G versus $200 to $250 for the Apple unit), Salkever predicts eroding markets that will force Apple to offer more features for fewer dollars. (Apple's 802.11b revenue was likely just a few million due to the sale of leftover original base station and the continuing sale of AirPort Cards.)
Salkever is using In-Stat/MDR numbers which shows Apple at 20 percent of worldwide unit volumes for 802.11g, which is $150 million in sales, above Linksys. Numbers reported by News.com from Synergy Research don't show Apple in the top five for the overall 802.11 sales (which includes 802.11a, b, and g), and show Linksys revenue at $450 million. Given the growth rate of 802.11g, I'm sure Apple will still stay up in the pack as the market shifts.
Automated Teller Machine customers now robbed wirelessly without knowledge: The University of Texas at Austin police have a compelling page that shows how a skimmer (which scans ATM cards before they're inserted into the ATM) and a wireless camera in an innocuous position nearby can steal a card and the PIN. The skimmer reads the magnetic stripe; the camera can see the PIN being entered.
The thieves park nearby and retrieve the information wirelessly. This is reminiscent of last month's story of a wireless Israeli post office money heist.
It may be just me, but after years of being warned about shoulder surfers in the 1980s and 1990s, I often cover my hand when entering a PIN on a phone or ATM. I guess my paranoia pays off.
Also, I only go to one bank's ATM machines, which are uniform. I think I'd notice a weird add-on.
Intel and other Multi-Band OFDM Alliance members have formed a SIG (special interest group): This SIG appears to be in reaction to the stall in the IEEE 802.15.3a group on Personal Area Networking in which Motorola represents the classical ultrawideband approach and the MBOA represents a newer formation that Motorola thinks is too un-UWB-like.
Bluetooth is also the product of a SIG, but the Bluetooth SIG worked with IEEE 802.15.1 to create an IEEE ratified large subset of the Bluetooth 1.2 spec that can be used by manufacturers who want BT features without using the BT name. (They have to pay reasonable and customary patent fees, of course.)
Intel will also participant in an industry group to codify wireless USB, which is a broader alternative than Bluetooth as a cable replacement technology. Wireless USB (and FireWire/IEEE 1394) are gaining interest as a generic way to use existing protocols for connectivity without being tied to a specific cable or radio medium.
Newly liberated ex-Wayport, ex-Musenki, ex-Vivato engineer Jim Thompson outs Wayport's hardware secret: Jim notes in his new blog that Wayport's success is definitely partly dependent on its choice long-ago of 802.11b (radical at the time) and Linux. Jim imagines having to fly out and remotely fix thousands of Windows-based authentication and billing modules when Windows viruses and worms hit -- not a problem for Wayport because of their non-MS infrastructure.
Jim was CTO at Wayport for several years, and his work at Musenki led to the bridging box that Vivato sells now.
I'm looking for people not in the Wi-Fi industry who have had certain problems and solved them: For a feature article I've written, I'm trying to track down a few people in the U.S. who would be willing to have their photograph taken and be quoted talking about how they solved any of the following problems: dead zones of Wi-Fi access in and around their house; Windows XP wireless zero configuration problems; bridging a network using Wireless Distribution System in their house; and interference from nearby networks that made their own Wi-Fi network unusable or lower speed.
Please email me directly with what your problem was and how you solved, and I'll get in touch. The goal is to take common problems and attach a real person to them. The article focuses on solving each of those (and some other) difficulties that often frustrate people in trying to get a working home Wi-Fi network.
A group of locals and volunteers are using wireless to link together a handful of villages in Nepal and link them to the Internet: It seems that many initiatives to bring the Internet to rural Nepal are focused on trying to use the Internet to improve the lives of people and also to preserve culture. That was the goal in a project I've written about where some Sherpas used wireless to bring the Internet to base camp. Their plan was really to be able to re-use the gear in the village below to bring better educational opportunities and jobs to the people. This group, Nepal Wireless, has already connected five villages where people use the connections for email and to access educational information that has been posted on their intranet.
Business Week ran a series of articles about Wi-Fi: Some are pretty basic and don't really cover anything new. But the first article focuses on the need for roaming deals and a simplification of logging onto any network. That seems to be the theme for the year.
Telecom Ottawa is trialing gear from BelAir Networks: BelAir's antennas beam out in a 65-degree wedge which allows them to travel further with the same signal gain--as far as one kilometer, the company says. BelAir also supports mesh networking.
Telecom Ottawa has set up a hotspot covering city hall and another at a sports arena. Ultimately the company wants to cover the whole city. Spotnik is also using BelAir's gear to provide access in a Radisson hotel in Ottawa.
In other BelAir news, Phil Belanger, formerly of Vivato, is now serving as vice president of marketing for BelAir. Seems fitting as Vivato also markets an access point that can be placed outside of a building to provide coverage over the entire building.
Belanger is among a set of early (but not founding) Vivato employees that joined the company during the ascent to the top of its ride who have now left the firm. Most of the founders had already left or reportedly been forced out.
(Photo of the Belair installation in Ottawa is courtesy of Terrance Sullivan.)
Orange France said it has built 1,031 hotspots in France and expects to have 2,500 by the end of this year: Traffic on the hotspot network is increasing by 60 percent per week, but that number isn't a great indicator of growth because the service only started to be marketed at the end of last year. Orange France expects to earn 10 million Euros in revenue on Wi-Fi this year.
Cedar Hills Crossing, a mall in Beaverton, Ore., is now covered by Wi-Fi: Access is free to visitors and the network is co-sponsored by Personal Telco.
Without interesting applications for visitors, I'm not sure how useful this network will be. I don't often carry my laptop with me when I'm shopping. There is a restaurant here that's covered, however. Plus, this would be a good place for customers to use services that let them scan bar codes and compare products and prices. Best Buy, Borders, and Office Depot are in this mall so those stores might be able to think up some useful applications for the network.
The University Village and Bellevue Square malls in the Seattle area, both somewhat upscale places, have full coverage with Cometa. But they also have individual coverage (free and fee) in individual properties throughout. It's unclear whether those two malls have seen any change in visitors or usage -- they haven't discussed it, and they may not even be able to track it.
Google Lab's new Search by Location service lets you aggregate results for hotspots: This is nifty idea which aggregates the address information that Google is parsing from its results (any time it sees anything that looks like an address) and tying it to keywords.
It's particularly useful for Wi-Fi aggregation, because you're finding locations that not only my business partner JiWire lists or libraries that Bill Drew has assembled, but you're seeing even individual locations like coffeeshops that mention they have Wi-Fi, community wireless pages, and other randomly related content.
I've pumped in my office Zip code in the link above, but try other combinations.
Note that JiWire's listings are prominent because of how they structured their site. As a group of former Cnet.com'ers, they know that if you expose URLs that are permanent and look like "good" URLs (not full of argument junk after a question mark) then search engines will well index their hierarchy. This is hardly a secret, but many sites still haven't discovered it. [link via Jim Thompson, Doc Searls]
Intel has a number of ideas for wirelessly sharing data among devices like TVs and computers in the home: It demonstrated a concept PC that runs on Microsoft's Media Center version of XP. The PC connects to a TV, can share content wirelessly, and can be controlled by a remote control instead of a keyboard.
Intel is also working on a couple of new chips including Grantsdale, which includes integrated graphics, support for dual monitors and DDR2 memory. Intel is also working on a chip it's calling Alderwood which will let PCs act as access points.
Gartner says that the number of hotspot users worldwide will grow to 30 million in 2004, up from 9.3 million in 2003: The firm warns that companies should take control of how their workers pay for the service, recommending contracts rather than one day usage fees. Managed service providers like iPass, FiberLink, and GRIC will be good solutions for companies. It goes on to say that alliances, mergers, and acquisitions will be prevalent in the second half of the year.
Most of the recommendations in the report seem to point to the lack of unity in the market. Today, companies must sign up for service with multiple operators to get access to the most hotspots. More roaming and interconnection deals will likely encourage more use by heavy travelers.
Schlotzsky's reports 40 percent of customers consider Wi-Fi and Web browsing as factor in visiting: As the chain has expanded to 38 company-owned and franchise stores mostly in the South that offer in-store free computer access and Wi-Fi, their latest market research shows a significant uptick in awareness.
The company reported that 40 percent of customers surveyed considered Wi-Fi and computer access a factor in their decision to come to Schlotzsky's, while 6 percent said Wi-Fi access alone was why they were there.
Schlotzsky's a franchise chain, so in order for the firm to expand this offering beyond company-owned stores, it needed to convince franchise holders of the financial efficacy of offering free access to computers and Wi-Fi in the stores. These latest numbers seem to prove it.
I've met the CEO and the marketing director when I invited the CEO to speak at a panel I moderated at Wi-Fi Planet last year, and the most interesting aspect of the Wi-Fi is that they're not excited about the technology but its uses. There's a financial aspect to this, of course: the average purchase price of a Schlotzsky's customer is about $7.
But the CEO wasn't a geek; he liked seeing entire families or sports teams or groups of parents and kids come in and spent time using the high-speed connection. It's important to recall that a small but significant minority of Internet users have broadband; for the rest, Schlotzsky's offering is a profound (and free) pleasure.
STSN and Sprint PCS will offer bilateral roaming on each other's Wi-Fi networks. The hitch? Sprint PCS has two locations, neatly avoided in this press release: I spoke to STSN last week about today's announcement, and while they want to position it as bilateral roaming, it's really a resale agreement from them to the carrier unless Sprint PCS follows through on the plan they spoke to me and other press about last July in which they had originally intended to build 1,300 of their own locations and reiterated in this BusinessWeek article. So far, Sprint PCS has built two Wi-Fi hotspots that they own and operate.
STSN has over 500 mostly hotel properties in North American, and nearly 200 in Europe that aren't covered in this agreement, with a worldwide total of 900 including a couple of hundred properties yet to be built out.
I asked Michael Jones, the senior VP of sales at STSN, whether we would start seeing more of a clearinghouse approach in which networks linked through an intermediary fee settlement system instead of these one-at-a-time peering arrangements. He said, "We are very selective at choosing who we are peering with." Apparently, in testing, they're finding that some hotspots don't offer the consistency they want and haven't secured their systems in a way that STSN requires.
Even though STSN has developed a peering relationship with Sprint PCS, the back-end accounting and authentication is being handled by Sprint PCS's partner iPass, which manages peering relationships among its customers producing accounting but not handling the cash for fee settlement. iPass also resells access to STSN's network to the customers of its aggregated network service.
Jones agrees that industry standards for hotspot operation would make it easier to move to a clearinghouse model. "There has to be some form of governance over those service-level requirements," he said.
Meanwhile, Sprint PCS's failure to build out even a fraction of the locations that they predicted eight months ago seems to be an industry trend. Even though 2004 was finally supposed to be the year of the hotspots, we haven't heard boo from Cometa since they deployed 250 locations in Seattle (their first of many cities, they said, to get that kind of coverage), SBC (which predicted thousands of locations over a couple of years and confirmed that in this BusinessWeek article), T-Mobile (Kinko's, Borders, and Starbucks seems to still be their primary focus), or AT&T Wireless (a few airports and other deals, but mostly reselling Cometa and Wayport). Sprint PCS customers can roam to networks owned by Wayport, Airpath, Cometa, and Concourse.
I spoke to a Verizon Wireless manager by accident a few weeks ago, and he said that the company doesn't plan to do more than resell service. Nextel has its own cards up its sleeves related to the licensed MMDS band.
Other networks like FatPort and Surf and Sip continue to grow at a reasonable rate, but no one is deploying the several hundred hotspots a month that were promised last summer and fall.
The Bluetooth SIG, which controls the Bluetooth standard, issued a rather left-handed press release about "bluesnarfing": In its attempt to keep the Bluetooth standard's credibility from eroding, the SIG put out a press release that notes that the standard isn't at fault, just its members.
....we would like the industry to understand that this issue is a result of implementation decisions by specific product manufacturers in a limited number of products and is not inherent to Bluetooth wireless technology itself.
In other words, it's some dolts (who happen to include some of the world's largest cellular telephone manufacturer) not the group's problem.
This release highlights a major problem in the Bluetooth world and how it differs from Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is the certified and laboratory tested version of IEEE 802.11a, b, and/or g; Bluetooth is just a specification. Bluetooth SIG members have plugfests (and so do Wi-Fi Alliance members) but the group doesn't actually test and certify compliance to Bluetooth and interoperability.
With 802.15.3 finished up (up to 55 Mbps using the Bluetooth subset approved by 802.15.1), it's possible that another group could form to codify the interoperability of that standard under an entirely different name and short-circuit the whole 1 Mbps Bluetooth spec entirely.
European operators are using different mechanisms to build robust, secure Wi-Fi networks than their U.S. counterparts: Because all cell phones in Europe use SIM cards, operators there are also starting to employ SIM cards to secure, authenticate, and bill customers on Wi-Fi networks. Vimpelcom in Russia is testing a SIM card offering from Gemplus that would use its existing roaming, billing, and authentication infrastructure for its Wi-Fi network. Mobilkom Austria yesterday said it was converging the backend of its cellular and Wi-Fi networks and will also use SIM cards as one of many ways that customers can access the Wi-Fi networks and get billed for use.
At the CTIA Wireless I.T. conference a few months ago I met with a handful of vendors pushing SIM card authentication solutions for Wi-Fi networks. While it's a good idea, I think they'll have a much harder time pushing the idea here because people aren't used to using SIM cards. I also spoke with a couple companies offering platforms that would let mobile operators leverage existing billing, authentication, and customer care systems for the Wi-Fi networks, but I haven't heard of any operators deploying anything like it yet. Converged systems make sense for cellular operators who are in the Wi-Fi game so they don't have to reinvent the wheel.
Boingo signed a roaming deal with Visacom, a Wi-Fi operator in France: The deal adds 30 locations to Boingo's network, including hotels and airports.
The National University of Singapore is working on a plan to enable interoperability among networks of partner universities: The arrangement would mean that students on exchange programs could use the networks. But wouldn't they be able to anyway? I would think that a student from a university in Singapore who may be on exchange at Stanford would automatically be allowed to use the Stanford network. It seems that this plan has a broader reach, however, with plans to allow students from any of the partner universities to use any of the networks. That could be useful for traveling students who may not actually be exchange students. A similar initiative among European universities is underway, spearheaded by Portugal's universities.
Security Focus ran an article about how to build a wireless honeypot: The writer encourages companies to consider setting up wireless honeypots as a way to learn about how hackers may be trying to break into their networks. [via Ars Technica]
Cingular has successful bid for AT&T Wireless -- and where's the data discussion in all this?: The coverage of the AT&T Wireless deal focused almost exclusively on customer acquisition, marketing budgets, infrastructure, and voice revenue, despite the growing certainty that next-generation (3G) cell data and voice services will be the biggest competitive factors for U.S.-based carriers in the remainder of this decade.
AT&T Wireless has nationwide EDGE (about 100 Kbps top realistic speed, but more like high-modem speeds reliably). Cingular has GPRS, but last year was saying they would be building out EDGE quickly, and then hasn't discussed it since. The combined company will obviously focus its efforts on a quicker rollout of W-CDMA, the GSM evolution standard for 3G data/voice, especially with the commitment of Verizon Wireless of $1 billion to fully deploy 1xEvDO (up to 400 Kbps) nationwide this year. (Verizon Wireless has overnight become the No. 2 U.S. carrier, pending approval of the Cingular acquisition of AT&T Wireless.)
A not-so-obscure factoid missed in all of the reporting I've seen about AT&T Wireless is its requirement to repay a $6.1 billion -- yes, BILLION -- loan to DoCoMo if they don't have four U.S. cities set up by Dec. 31, 2004, with commercially offered 3G data services. (Here's an article from last July about it.) EDGE is 2.5G and doesn't qualify, as I understand it, but I haven't seen an update on the story.
It's strange that in a $41 billion deal a loan of $6.1 billion that would need to be repaid if conditions weren't met that are currently unmet wasn't highlighted as one of the liabilities of acquiring the company. I can only hope that Cingular did more due diligence than some of the business press.
Report says Motorola may over bridge proposal to bring unity to UWB development: Motorola, which acquired XtremeSpectrum, represents one camp in the IEEE 802.15.3a task group designed for high-speed, short-distance connectivity for 110 to 480 Mbps networking. UWB was decided on as the physical flavor months ago, but the Multi-band OFDM Alliance (Intel, TI, et. al) and Motorola have two competing and incompatible proposals. An olive branch could coalesce the differences, avoiding a standards war.
This release says that Mobilkom Austria will build the "industry's first fully integrated Wi-Fi/cellular platform": If you read closely though, this isn't about seamless roaming from a Wi-Fi network to a cellular network but it's about backend integration. So a single backend billing, subscriber management and customer care platform will support both the Wi-Fi and cellular services offered by Mobilekom Austria.
Also, this announcement sneaks in the tidbit that Mobilkom Austria will be offering Wi-Fi in McDonald's restaurants throughout Austria.
Verge Wireless built a network covering downtown Baton Rouge: Twelve access points will cover the area and the project should cost around $140,000. The network is free for Internet access but users that want secure connections will pay for the access. It seems that so far city leaders feel that more usage will come if they can raise awareness that the network exists.
This is a thorough Wall Street Journal article that aptly describes how Wi-Fi is affecting the cellular market: The crowded cellular market already has plenty of pressure but Wi-Fi poses a threat from a voice and data competition perspective. The article cites Dartmouth College, which has offered students Wi-Fi phones, eliminating the need for students to use cell phones on campus. Hotspots are also threatening cellular operators' plans for delivering wireless data services.
Apparently Nextel has confirmed that it is interested in dual-mode phones that would operate on cellular and Wi-Fi networks. I'll be very interested to watch how cellular operators approach the idea as I still think it will be difficult for them to rationalize handing off calls onto Wi-Fi networks that they don't own.
McDonald's has already built Wi-Fi in 350 U.K. stores and has a total of 561 planned: It also is introducing fixed Internet terminals ad PlayStations.
But the more interesting technology implementations are aimed at boosting productivity. Many of them involve wireless, though this article doesn't include many specifics about which applications will use which type of network. 225 managers and other mobile workers will use smartphones instead of laptops and mobile phones and they'll use both Wi-Fi and GPRS connections. That change is expected to save £600 per employee.
This eWeek article makes some interesting observations about scanning technologies, but I disagree with many of them: The article looks at a new technology coming from Microsoft that will let PocketPC users scan items in stores and read reviews about them. The writer compares the idea to Cue:Cat, a failed technology that let magazine readers scan bar codes in the magazine with a scanner hooked up to a computer for more information about the article or advertisement. This was just a bad idea--nobody reads a magazine while sitting in front of their computer.
On a side note, ironically, some Ziff Davis magazines (eWeek is published by Ziff Davis) were very keen on this idea a few years back. When I first got hired on at Interactive Week there was lots of talk about this and some higher ups were really gung ho on deploying it. I think Interactive Week did actually start embedding bar codes in the magazine but I'm not positive that it did.
At any rate, this article argues that the new Microsoft scanning idea will fail just like Cue:Cat. But I think there are appropriate applications for it. The writer considers using such a PocketPC to scan and read about nails at Home Depot or toilet paper at the grocery store. He's right that no one would care to do that and that there's a good chance that reviews that other people might post about products might likely be written by marketers at the companies.
But there are plenty of situations where this type of application could work and already is. Tech Superpowers in Boston has a trial that uses its free Newbury Open.net network to let customers at a bookstore borrow PocketPCs. The handhelds run software from SmartWorld that lets them scan the barcode on a book and get connected to reader reviews and other book recommendations on Amazon.com. I think this is a good application of scanning technology. I can also imagine using a scanner on a PDA when shopping for other competitive products like computers.
However, I agree that buying a PDA and a scanner just to do this kind of comparison shopping may be a stretch for some people. But who knows, there are a million different marketing deals that might make the scanner portion super cheap or free. Or, some shops might let shoppers borrow such devices, like the bookstore in Boston does.
Also, I just have to say that I personally love the self-scan check out at Home Depot. I use it all the time. It's much faster than waiting in the regular line and if I do have a problem with scanning something there's a clerk waiting to help out. But I have read many other complaints about it so I think some people love it and some people hate it.
This writer seems to enjoy writing as though he's an authority when it's clear he's not: He's read all the hype about Wi-Fi but gets enough wrong that he obviously hasn't done his own research. His general point is that Canada is behind the United States in deploying hotspots. But he hasn't got very good research to back that up. His strongest piece of evidence seems to be a conversation he had recently with one computer programmer who had never heard of Wi-Fi.
He goes on to say that the market is primed to change dramatically because Canada's largest carriers said they'd create a unified standard to let customers roam between their networks. This so-called standard was developed without any of the major existing Canadian Wi-Fi operators, such as FatPort, and none of the four carriers involved had deployed hotspots when they set the roaming standard. It's also just a "standard" (how they'll handle billing, etc.), not a roaming deal. So the carriers could deploy networks and still not roam. (Meanwhile, FatPort has built hundreds of locations and secured roaming with several international networks.)
He also pointed to a recent study that said no hotspots' business model could succeed if the only revenue source was connection fees. That study is bad news for cafes in the U.S., he says, because many of them offer access for free. But the two aren't related. Free hotspot operators have a totally different business model than those that charge.
He closes by pointing out "guerilla Wi-Fi warriors" in Canada who warchalk. Warchalking is a great idea and testament to the community behind Wi-Fi, but who has actually seen a symbol? If this writer's point is that Wi-Fi hasn't taken off in Canada, then it's doubtful that people there are actually warchalking.
Solid advice on securing your home Wi-Fi network: This straightforward About.com article notes six steps to securing your network, all of which are sensible and well explained. (The link is for page 2; page 1 explains what Wi-Fi is.)
Along these lines, Windows XP users should note that Microsoft recently released a set of patches that fix 802.1X and WPA problems. Read the summary. Point No. 6 in the About.com article is to keep current on patches!
Cisco develops new EAP-FAST method to avoid certificates for username/password authentication without passive dictionary attack threat: Cisco EAP-FAST (Flexible Authentication via Secure Tunneling) uses a pre-shared secret or a Diffie-Hellman key agreement exchange to mutually authenticate both the client and server in a tunnel and avoid man in the middle attacks. Once the tunnel is established, the secrets can be changed as well, according to the draft of the standard submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
The standard will be available as a free download from existing Cisco software at the end of March, and the company hopes to have it accepted alongside PEAP as a method of securing EAP without the same overhead issues involved in that standard. Cisco isn't abandoning PEAP, they said, and will make the protocol available to its secure extensions partners, which includes most chipmakers.
Interestingly, a systems engineer who has built a tool to automate dictionary attacks on Cisco's weak LEAP (Lightweight EAP) is quoted as agreeing to delay release of his tool longer because Cisco has continued to work on solving the problem through this new standard.
Austrian carrier Mobilkom will add Wi-Fi to all 161 McDonald's restaurants in the country (in German): Forty McDonald's in Vienna were already unwired in a test. Service will be free until the end of April. Mobilkom hopes to at least double the number of hotspots it operates on top of these new additions, although no time frame was mentioned in the article.
Subscribers can charge their hotspot usage via a gateway page login or by using SIM card authentication. Mobilkom might also charge by the half hour, 2 hours, or 24 hour period. The article notes that exclusive of those time period plans, service (as with the company's GPRS and UMTS) will cost a euro a megabyte, which seems extraordinarily high.
Boston’s Tech Superpowers is working on a top secret initiative for which it needs base stations: They're looking for unused or broken AirPort base stations for an undisclosed project. Tech Superpowers swears it's for a good cause though, similar to its "unwiring" of the Boston Marathon but this time somehow related to the community wireless movement. Tech Superpowers is also responsible for NewburyOpen.net, the free hotspot covering parts of Newbury Street in Boston. [scroll to the bottom of today's items on the main page.]
Swisscom and some other European hotspot operators are charging pretty insane prices for access: Swisscom charges over 5 EUR for 30 minutes, almost 28 EUR for a day pass, 145 EUR for one month and a whopping 1079 EUR for a year subscription. Seems like an odd way to try to make a business as I can't imagine many people are paying those rates.
Belkin's Bluetooth GPS Navigation System for $150: You can get 50 percent off the price of this wirelessly connected GPS system using the coupon information found via this link at MobileWhack.
Vodafone's first product offering provides "384" Kbps: The service offers ten times the speed of GPRS, says the press release, or 384 Kbps. But is that a peak rate, an average rate, or a reasonable rate to expect? We'll have to wait for reports back. Pricing wasn't mentioned in this press release.
Atheros raises its initial public offering (IPO) price in filing: The maker of Wi-Fi chips for companies like NetGear and D-Link hopes to have its IPO soon; it could raise over $100 million from the offering. Atheros certainly received a boost in the last few days as market research showed its two major customers with several hundred million in sales each last year.
WSC releases free client for Windows 2000 that supports Wi-Fi Protected Access's pre-shared key mode: Given that Microsoft hasn't offered what Wireless Security Corporation estimates is 20 percent of all Windows users worldwide access to the robust WPA encryption protocol, they've released their own client for free. Their client offers just WPA-PSK (pre-shared key), which is the mode used in homes and small offices without back-end authentication servers -- but it's still much, much better than plain old WEP, the original broken encryption method for Wi-Fi.
WSC offers hosted 802.1X for Windows XP and 2000. This move of releasing a free WPA-PSK client is quite generous, as it provides them only some publicity, and doesn't lock anyone into their service offering, as WPA-PSK can be used with any WPA-supporting access point.
(WSC's press release is a model of a good technical release: it explains the problem reasonably, without hype, and with accurate details that educate the reader. It presents its solution fairly, as well.)
Update: In April 2005, WSC updated this offering to support Windows 98, Me, 2000, and XP. Since this page is so popular in the archives, it seemed worthwhile to point to their new software, which can be downloaded and used at no cost for WPA Personal (WPA-PSK).
Microsoft KnowledgeBase article says waiting three minutes for locked-up computer during boot due to wireless networking issues is "expected": This troubleshooting page, updated on Feb. 10 of this year, states that Windows XP could lock you out of your computer for up to three minutes if a Wi-Fi card fails to respond properly when you boot your machine. It's "expected," so there's nothing you can do about it. [link via LockerGnome]
MCI introduces new service, MCI Internet Broadband Satellite Corporate, for 128 Kbps to 1 Mbps of satellite bandwidth: A railroad, CSX, already plans to use the service at 200 locations which are too remote for terrestrial networks to be affordable. The service will be priced at from around $200 to $500 per month, comparable to wired line pricing. The article notes that MCI could only previously deliver 128 Kbps via its satellite network. The service apparently offers symmetrical bandwidth and can support VPNs.
Security firm can connect to some Bluetooth phones and extract data quietly: Flaws in some phones allowed this group of researchers to write a tool that lets them simply connect, extract, and depart without a Bluetooth pairing procedure or alerting the phone's owner.
Another entry in an endless series of "Wi-Fi security risk" articles, this time from Edinburgh, Scotland: This article is only slightly sensational, which might result from the reporter having heard these claims for the first time about the risks of a wireless network. But they're not too far off the mark.
The biggest problem in articles that cite the number of "open" access points, as a reader recently pointed out to me, is that unless you connect to the point and probe, you can't tell whether the gateway is inside or outside a firewall or has other restrictions.
Another story in the ongoing saga of Wi-Fi expansion in public spaces: When Wi-Fi starts to hit a town -- in this case, Marietta, Ohio -- it's like electricity or phone service first getting turned on. But more so: people now know the context for what public space Wi-Fi could mean, and many individuals and businesses in every community are already using Wi-Fi for their local networks.
The anticipation and expectation is quite high. Eventually, it will be just another technology, but it's still fresh and sparkling in many parts of the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Hotspot firm issues press release with good keywords: When you see a press release of this form, a company has paid Business Wire or PRNewswire to distribute a press release that contains as many business names as possible to meet keyword matches at stock and news sites for investors and analysts who scan for information.
In this short release, the company mentions Subway (which is only tangentially related, as the consultant they're trumpeting having hired is a franchise holder) in the headline, and a host of firms in this sentence: Currently, the company is targeting the ownership and operation of successful franchises such as Dairy Queen (NYSE:BRK.a), Subway, McDonalds (NYSE:MCD), Burger King, Baskin-Robbins, Ben & Jerry's, Carls. Jr. (NYSE:CKR), TCBY Yogurt, and Mrs. Fields.
Back when Amazon.com's affiliate program for allowing sales to be referred to them for commissions was new, the tiniest dotcoms would issue press releases that they had "partnered" with Amazon.com when, in fact, they'd just signed up as an affiliate. Amazon.com started enforcing a contract provision that said affiliates weren't allowed to issue such releases.
This release goes a step further, as the company has no direct relationship with any of the firms mentioned; this is just unabashed PR keyword spamming. The company's own site only lists a handful of locations in press releases; there's no location finder.
Did you notice I didn't mention the firm's name? I'm not out to give them more indirect publicity.
News.com reports on Synergy Research Group's Wi-Fi sales report: Revenue for Wi-Fi was $2.5 billion last year, or 40 percent higher than the preceding year; it increased 55 percent in the fourth quarter of 2003 to $752 million (presumably over the previous quarter). Cisco, in the form of its Linksys acquisition and enterprise divisions, somewhat under a $1 billion of that revenue stream.
Linksys, D-Link, NetGear, and Buffalo are the top four consumer sellers, with NetGear bumping Buffalo from the No. 3 position. Cisco, Symbol, Proxim, and 3Com are the top four enterprise companies.
Reminder to all Wi-Fi companies: you're all competing against Cisco.
We'd like to know a little bit about you: With our colleagues and partners at JiWire.com, we've got a short survey we'd like to get your response on. We're trying to get a better handle on who reads this site to better focus on news coverage.
The reward for one lucky soul who fills out the survey is a Treo 600. Your personal details are used just to notify you if you've won the Treo.
Earls Restaurants is installing Wi-Fi with FatPort's help for both customers' and managers' use: It's definitely passed a trend and into routine that retail businesses find just as much utility and potentially more cost savings (versus actual net income) from having Wi-Fi hotspots in their locations.
Most of the 50 restaurants already had DSL installed, and so that wasn't a separately tracked cost. Amusingly, it took quite a while for FatPort to install some locations because of the infrequent airline service.
KIRO-TV report in Seattle makes it all sound so scary: Typical mainstream report focuses on the exciting and frightening parts of Wi-Fi, but the high points it hits aren't inaccurate, just over-emphasized.
For instance, the notion that companies are transmitting personal details in the clear over their wireless LANs? 100 percent true. All consultants and network builders I talk to constantly see this in venues they visit, whether to help them build out or as plain customers.
This statement is over the top, though: "Imagine the case of pornography or child pornography and all of a sudden the authorities are knocking on your door and taking you away and you don't know what they're talking about -- because someone downloaded child pornography via your connection," Hiley said. This should have been countered by an expert in ISP issues. Yes, the police could do this, but pornography isn't illegal in this country, and child pornography task forces are usually pretty careful about building an air-tight case.
TechDirt says this is overhype; I actually think it's only slightly more chilling than the reality of what's going on.
Vivato announces new management team: This move was widely expected given the shuffling of founders, the dismissal or departure of early employees, and the financial reporting on the company.
Boingo buys access from SkyNetGlobal: This will open Boingo to 130 locations in Singapore and Australia. The Singapore locations are mostly McDonald's. The press release implies that SkyNetGlobal has 130 hotspots overall, but a brief look at its locations list shows about that many in Australia alone.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:34 PM | Permanent Link | Categories:
Eurostar to trial Internet links over Wi-Fi on Chunnel trains: As part of an ongoing strategy of getting travelers who would normally fly from Paris to London or vice-versa to take the channel tunnel train, Eurostar is trialling the use of Wi-Fi in first class at no additional cost to passengers. The service uses satellite downlinks and cellular uplinks, as with most train trials. Service would be interrupted in the tunnel, but the majority of the trip will have active service.
This story has a few additional details and notes that trial service would begin by the end of 2004.
Boaters in the middle of Lake Conroe in Texas can now access the Internet: Jarvis Entertainment Group, West Hills Park Joint Venture, and Del Lago Resort are building a Wi-Fi network that will completely cover the lake. The network also covers the 18-hole golf course at the Del Lago Resort.
The new Wi-Fi network that AT&T Wireless is building at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will replace the existing network which is owned and operated by Wayport: Wayport appeared unaware of the new network or the impending cancellation of its relationship with the airport.
The airport will own the network that AT&T Wireless is building and AT&T Wireless isn't charging the airport for the equipment or installation. The Wi-Fi network comes for free as part of AT&T Wireless's contract to install cellular equipment that will improve cell coverage inside the airport.
Airport officials have not decided who will operate the new Wi-Fi network but they are clear about the future of Wayport's network. "Wayport will depart," said Bob Parker, a SeaTac spokesman.
Wayport has operated the network at SeaTac for over four years. Its contract ended last year and since then it has been on a month-to-month contract with the airport.
"Wayport owns those hotspots. We imagine they will come in and remove them," said John Faulkner, aviation business manager for SeaTac. He hopes that the Wayport network can be shut down at a time that will correspond with the completion of the new network to avoid a breech of service. The new network should be finished by early 2005, though an AT&T Wireless spokesman said he expects it to be completed before then.
Wayport seemed unaware of the changes taking place at SeaTac. "We know they're talking to AT&T. We haven't heard anything official," said Dan Lowden, vice president of marketing for Wayport. "We look to continue to work with SeaTac in the way we are."
Wayport could be in the running to operate the new network, though it's more likely that if Wayport is involved in the future network it would be through roaming deals with the company that ultimately will operate the network, Faulkner said. As part of the request for proposals to build the cellular and Wi-Fi networks, the airport gave participants the option of bidding on the Wi-Fi operations business as well. AT&T Wireless was one of the bidders that expressed interest in operating the network but the airport has not yet decided who will operate the network. "We want to do the business planning to figure out how to parcel out the network and structure the revenue model," Faulkner said.
SeaTac wasn't unhappy with the service from Wayport but the decision to build a cellular network in the airport offered an opportunity to build a more extensive Wi-Fi network, Faulkner said. "The infrastructure and installation costs are shared when they are installed at the same time," he explained, adding that installing both networks at the same time resulted in a 60-percent cost savings. "It was a great opportunity to increase revenue and increase customer service," he said.
The new network will cover more of the airport, including parts of the parking garage where shuttle bus businesses, for example, may be able to take advantage of the network.
Faulkner hopes that the extended coverage plus opening the network to other businesses in the airport will result in better usage on the new network. He says that the Wayport network didn't meet Wayport's hopes. The original deal was constructed such that Wayport paid the airport for every passenger that got on a plane at the airport, regardless of if those passengers actually used the network. "A year ago they asked for a reduction because the usership numbers didn't achieve what they expected. It seemed to us that they were a little disappointed," Faulkner said.
Wayport also recently lost their access to the LaGuardia (New York) and Minneapolis/St. Paul airports when its partnership with Concourse Communications fell apart. Concourse was using Wayport as its middleman to resell access to other wireless ISPs; now Concourse sells this access directly to iPass and others, but not currently to Wayport.
Wayport is focused on building networks in both hotels and airports and expects to continue adding about 50 hotels per month in the future, Lowden said. While some hotels don't charge for in-room wired and hotel-wide Wi-Fi access, the medium- to upper-end hotels continue to levy fees and that's the market Wayport targets, Lowden said. Last month 300,000 people logged onto the Wayport network.
Wayport's remaining airports include Dallas and Austin, both of which overlap with T-Mobile coverage dating back to competition among the founders of Wayport and now-defunct MobileStar; Buffalo-Niagara; and Bay Area airports San Jose (full airport coverage) and Oakland (limited areas). Wayport also operates Laptop Lanes office centers in nine airports.
Vernier Networks came out with an updated version of its WLAN security and management platform: Network managers that use the product can link bandwidth requirements with user profiles. The platform also helps limit the damage to a wireless network after a worm or virus attack. Infected users will be quarantined and barred from connecting to the network. The new platform also offers a central management console.
Proxim plans to introduce today a wireless LAN switch and access point (AP) designed to support voice over WLANs as well as seamless handoffs between cellular and Wi-Fi networks:The switch and AP incorporate a number of functions that aim to make it easier for companies to deploy voice on their wireless networks.
For example, Proxim tackles the fast roaming issue through pre-authentication. Today, handoff between standard 802.11 APs happens too slowly, resulting in jitter or dropped calls. Proxim cuts down on that handoff time by pre-authenticating users to nearby APs, said Lynn Lucas, director of product marketing for Proxim. Because the switch knows which APs are near the one a user is connected to, it pre-authenticates the user on the surrounding APs in anticipation of the user moving into the nearby coverage area.
The switch supports pre-802.11e, the standard designed for quality of service (QoS). Proxim's implementation of the QoS mechanism improves power management on handsets because the APs work to minimize the time the radio in the handset must wake up. Rather than communicating with the handset haphazardly, the AP waits to send certain information during the same time frame that that handset delivers voice packets to the AP.
The switch also does load balancing by shifting calls from one AP to another within range that may be less heavily loaded.
The new APs support 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g. Like previous versions of Proxim APs, customers can dedicate one of the radios to repeating traffic as a bridge. The APs support WPA and are software upgradeable to AES and 802.11i. They include rogue detection at both 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz for both 802.11b/g and 802.11a.
Proxim is also marketing this platform for its ability to support seamless handoff from cellular to Wi-Fi networks, yet the switch and APs are just one piece of the puzzle that will enable such integration. "Seamless mobility is not something that one company can realize," said Lucas. "Our portion of the solution which we'll be introducing is the switch." Proxim partners Motorola and Avaya are working on other components.
Before cell phone users can roam from the wide area networks to a WLAN, they'll need combined handsets and support from the cell operators, neither of which is in place yet. "Our message to the enterprise is that this is coming," Lucas said. IT managers typically look five years out when making technology investments so buying a switch that supports voice and integration with cell networks now makes sense, she said.
The switch facilitates handoff between a cellular and Wi-Fi network with functions such as handoff prediction and call setup based on the location of APs.
WLAN switch makers continue to duke it out in the marketplace: Even though analysts have been predicting consolidation for a while, not much has happened and in fact new competitors, sometimes in the form of established equipment vendors, continue to enter the market. Recently I've noticed press releases coming out to announce practically every new customer win as the switch makers look for recognition. This piece mentions a few such announcements that came out today, including that Aruba is building a network for Ariba and expanding the network at Dartmouth University. Airespace also announced it is building a network at Galluadet University in Washington, D.C.
The Ethicist endorses borrowing a neighbor's Wi-Fi signal: In a fairly one-sided debate of the issues, the mention of Time-Warner's Roadrunner threat letters to purposeful Wi-Fi sharers aside, The New York Times's columnist Randy Cohen says that unless you inconvenience the unintentional service provider you're borrowing from, you're not going to ethical heck.
His summary of Time-Warner's issue is specious, though. The company argues, in effect, that while you may have a glass of water at a neighbor's, you may not run a pipe from his place to yours. Actually, because the service is unmetered, it's more like saying, we're providing you unlimited water for personal use, and guests are okay, but you can't run a pipe to a neighbor's house.
(Cohen quotes Mike Godwin, the formulator of Godwin's Law, which is infallibly accurate.)
(I like the sound of "unintentional provider." I've been trying to find a term to cover the difference between community wireless nodes run by individuals who aren't necessarily bound to keep them running and community wireless nodes and other free nodes that are designed and "advertised" as available all the time. I was thinking purposely persistent provider, but perhaps the distinction is "unintentional provider" and "intentional provider.") [Nods to Cory D. for prompting this digression.]
The airport sees just 700 passengers a day, but they'll have access for free: For $340 per month, the airport will run the Wi-Fi system, replacing five phone lines in their business center which cost almost as much, and must have been available for local modem calls.
iPass posts strong growth in customers, income, earnings for 2003: iPass is an international aggregator of dial-up, wired, and Wi-Fi networks primarily for corporations which use iPass's connection software and tie in their existing user authentication systems. iPass charges typically on a metered (per minute or per day) basis.
iPass increased its customer base by over 50 percent year over year, while improving revenue by 37 percent quarter over quarter ($37.5M versus $27.4M) and 47 percent year over year ($136.1M versus $92.8M). Net income was $13.9M for 2003 against $5.5M in 2002 (excluding a $24.3M one-time tax benefit in 2002). The company expects revenue for 2004 to top $180M.
From the Wi-Fi side, iPass exceeded 5,000 aggregated locations in 2003, and will be adding 3,900 T-Mobile hotspots in 2004, among other locations for a near-term total of 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, the CEO said in a recent interview.
Eugene, Oregon, restauranteur invests $15,000 in wireless ordering system to cut jobs: It's a sad reality, but as this fellow notes, his biggest cost is labor, and a touchscreen wireless ordering system reduces errors, increases table turns, and improves an individual waitron's efficiency, thus allowing the owner to ultimately have fewer staff.
It's always worrisome to qualify networks as the "biggest" but in this case I'd bet that eastern Oregon really does have the biggest hotspot in the country: Yesterday, Boardman and Hermiston, Ore. turned on a 600-square-mile hotspot. The network came about through a public/private initiative and was built by EZ Wireless. The network will be used by the Morrow County Emergency Management and Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, the police force, and citizens.
Initially, it will cover 600 square miles which includes four counties and seven cities, some in Washington. The second phase, which should be complete this summer, will add another seven cities.
The press release isn't online and any news organizations in the area either don't post the stories online or require subscriptions from visitors wanting to read the stories online.
Eurostar, the train operator, will start testing Wi-Fi access on its cross-channel services this year: But service won't be available while in the tunnel under the English Channel.
Another train operator, GNER, has been experimenting with Wi-Fi on its trains. It achieves coverage in tunnels by stringing together cell phone antennas to maintain the connection, which otherwise is backhauled via satellite. Apparently train operators are hoping that Wi-Fi services will draw customers back away from short-haul airlines.
A restaurant in Bradford, Pa. believes it's the first in the area to offer a hotspot: Customers, who include executives from Zippo and KOA, can use the network for free. The restaurant owners decided to offer the network when it ordered a high speed access line to speed up credit card payments. They hope the network will encourage more business people to visit. Earlier this week we wrote about a KFC in another small Pennsylvania town that was the first in its area to offer Wi-Fi. It appears that Wi-Fi continues to spread even to the small towns.
3rd Wave, a provider of outsourced IT services for small- to medium-sized businesses in Atlanta, is building Wi-Fi networks without charge for venues around town as a way to drum up awareness of the company: So far, it has built hotspots in 12 venues and expects to have a total of 20 unwired by the end of next week. 3rd Wave doesn't charge for setup or ongoing maintenance and its only requirement is that the venues in turn offer the connection to customers free of charge.
3rd Wave listened to its workers who suggested that a coffee shop across the street from its offices set up a Wi-Fi network so they could work from the shop. When the store, part of a national chain, began offering Wi-Fi, it came with a fee that was too high for 3rd Wave workers' tastes.
"So we sat down and thought, 'what if we wired up places like that?'" said Mike Landman, president of 3rd Wave. The company initially approached a few venues in town and started setting up networks, but since the word has gotten out, owners of coffee shops, bookstores, and restaurants are now coming to 3rd Wave asking for the free setup. Shops that offer the connection also set out table tents (self-standing flyers) that mention 3rd Wave. The gateway signup page that users see when they fire up their computers' browser for the first time on the network displays a 3rd Wave logo and a description of the company.
3rd Wave has a few requirements for which venues it will build the networks for. "They have to be retail with business traffic, so if you're in the sticks or only cater to 15 year olds we wouldn't offer it," Landman said. Some shops that have been denied have offered to pay 3rd Wave for the setup and ongoing maintenance. "So we're entertaining that idea," he said.
Landman particularly targets venues nearby his offices. "We want to keep where we set them up close to where we are to build a sense of community," he said.
3rd Wave uses access points (APs) and software from Sputnik. That software lets 3rd Wave remotely reboot the AP and remotely determine what may be causing a problem. Landman credits the quality of the APs for the fact that his workers spend just 30 minutes setting up each network.
3rd Wave has committed to buying 50 APs from Sputnik by June, at which time 3rd Wave will evaluate the program. It doesn't have any hard metrics that it hopes to reach by then but will assess whether the initiative is bringing in business. So far it is--the fourth person to log onto the first hotspot became a customer.
Nextel is looking for folks to trial a network in Raleigh-Durham/Chapel Hill: The company has built a trial network there using gear from Flarion, which employs its own Flash-OFDM technology. Flarion is part of the 802.20 standards effort, not to be confused with the 802.16 and WiMax initiatives. Flarion's gear was designed from the start to be an efficient, mobile, broadband network that isn't hampered by legacy cellular gear.
Nextel presumably is using MMDS frequencies that it bought from Worldcom. This network would be competitive with Verizon’s EV-DO network, delivering 1.5 Mbps and as much as 3 Mbps on the downlink. One issue, however, is that once again Nextel would be choosing a technology that hasn’t been widely accepted across the industry, meaning that equipment costs would likely be higher then gear that other operators may deploy. [via Gigaom]
The owner of a KFC is the first in a small Pennsylvania town to offer Wi-Fi: He is encouraging customers to "come in and grease up the keyboard."
Techdirt makes some interesting observations about this story, including that it indicates confusion in the market. The owner installed the access point after he bought a Wi-Fi enabled laptop and was disappointed to find that he couldn't use it anywhere but his home.
Access at the KFC is free. The owner expects to see more Wi-Fi in the area and hopes that his KFC will be remembered as the first one with access. [via Techdirt]
Instead of joining one side of the fat vs. thin debate, Foundry is playing both sides: Foundry already offers a so-called "fat" AP, which handles some authentication and encryption functions. In March, Foundry will offer a software upgrade that turns the fat APs into thin APs, turning off some of those functions. Instead, the thin AP will take direction from a switch. Foundry, like Extreme, also offers an upgrade to its switches so that they can intelligently handle wireless networks in addition to wired LANs.
Cisco Press has put out a book for network engineers and IT professionals looking to learn about building and maintaining WLANs: The book, "802.11 Wireless LAN Fundamentals," is also aimed at helping IT managers justify the value of the wireless networks in an organization.
Denver-based Accucode, a systems integrator, has created a wireless security practice: Accucode will audit a customer's WLAN to identify risk and then perform penetration tests. Accucode will either update the security architecture or design a new system.
SeattleWireless TV's January episode is available: This month features a story about a Nova Scotia resident's efforts to use Wi-Fi to get high speed access in his house as well as an introduction to Cork Wireless. The program also features an interview with FBI agent Tom Grasson about wireless and wardriving.
The local energy supplier in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, is using Wi-Fi and the power grid to deliver broadband to residents: Using a system from Amperion, the energy supplier hangs access points along electric lines. The APs convert data to be sent through the grid to the electric company's fiber backbone. Anyone within range of the APs can use the service. [link via Harry]
J. William Gurley, a general partner at Benchmark Capital, proclaims that 802.11 is not overhyped, as some would say, but in fact is underhyped: He makes a number of comparisons to technologies such as Ethernet and the x86 computing architecture that have benefited from standardization and become pervasive. He does a nice job of spelling out why standards can make for successful markets--mainly because they lower prices and spur innovation. But everybody already knows that. We also know that 802.11 has clearly benefited from those byproducts of standardization.
His point seems to be that 802.11 has become so strong because customer gear is cheap and big companies continue to improve it, that no other wireless technology will be able to make much headway against it. If 802.11 had a direct non-standard competitor, I'd say that's true. But he points to 802.16, ultrawideband, and cellular. I agree with Techdirt that those technologies aim at different applications and so there isn't an "either/or" situation. [via Techdirt]
T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless formed an airport hotspot roaming deal: AT&T Wireless customers can now use the network at San Francisco International airport and T-Mobile hotspot customers can now use the networks at Denver International and Philadelphia International.
In other AT&T Wireless news, the company said it will build hotspots covering six Amtrak stations in the northeast. AT&T Wireless will install, manage, and operate the networks.
The news that Amtrak would build these networks leaked out a couple weeks ago but some of the facts were a bit off. Amtrak doesn't hope for one million users per day, as was reported, but carries one million passengers through those six facilities. Also, access will be part of a subscription to AT&T Wireless' hotspot program or cost $9.99 per day for non-subscribers.
With WPA mandatory and in most modern Wi-Fi devices, the Wi-Fi Alliance turns to its successor, WPA2: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) implemented all of the necessary and possible fixes to wireless encryption that rendered WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) a lame duck--or even a dead duck.
WPA2 extends that further, bringing it in alignment with the ultimate IEEE 802.11i standard expected to be ratified this year. WPA2 adds AES (Advanced Encryption System) key support in the form of CCMP (Counter Mode CBC-MAC Protocol), which allows more cryptographically secure data in addition to the WPA-supported TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) keys which work with silicon designed before WPA or 802.11i was a near-term possibility.
eCost is offering the Syntax USB-400 802.11b wireless adapter for $0 after rebate: This appeared before and must have had a huge uptake. The rebate is for $29.95; the item sells for $29.95. Shipping is $3.95 to $9.99. [link via dealnews and Adam Engst]
Comcast broadband customers are being offered a deal on T-Mobile hotspot service: Comcast customers can get one month free if they sign up for a year subscription or a free day pass a month for buying a single day pass. For now, T-Mobile will market the offering on Comcast's home page and through bill stuffers but the company hopes to come up with other ideas with Comcast to draw in new T-Mobile users.
T-Mobile has found that 90 percent of its hotspot customers have broadband at home.
Airgo Networks, a chipmaker, gathered $25 million to help with the start of volume shipments of its Wi-Fi chips, which should be available early this year: Airgo uses multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) technology, which it says can delver 108 Mbps while maintaining interoperability with Wi-Fi standards. Airgo also claims that the technology boosts coverage three to ten times further than other chips.
It's a crowded chip market so it'll be challenging for a new entrant but the increased performance may help Airgo.
The International Herald Tribune ran a story (which seems to have missed the copy editor's desk) about the state of Wi-Fi in Italy: While the Communications Ministry there is enthusiastic about Wi-Fi, the general public doesn't seem very aware of the technology. It sounds like operators in Italy must get a license to operate Wi-Fi networks. In addition, a law requires users to register with a provider to use the networks, which don't seem to be offered without charge in Italy.
The Wi-Fi Alliance said that over 175 products have been certified with WPA: Since September, the alliance has begun requiring WPA for all certified products and no longer considers WEP a secure mechanism.
NYCWireless folks point out another way that cafe owners can limit the time Wi-Fi users hang out: Alt.coffee, a cafe in New York City, apparently recently started forbidding laptop or even cell phone users to use their power outlets. Signs in the cafe blame liability and a few bad apples but a clerk told one NYCWireless member that it's folks like him, who hang out for hours, that led to the new rule. As another poster notes, it seems like a policy aimed at alienating customers, who have choices of other cafes to bring their business to.
A reader wrote to ask if we'd ever heard of his dream product: a lightweight, travel size Wi-Fi AP router: Willie travels a lot and often meets with employees in a hotel room. He'll connect his Mac to the wired network and share the connection wirelessly with his workers. But that tethers his Mac. The AirPort Extreme Base Station would work perfectly for his needs, but it's too big and requires a large power adapter--inconvenient when on the road.
His ideal product would be travel size and act as a router and preferably as a bridge (wired to wireless). It should have at least one LAN port and a WAN Ethernet port.
The wired-to-wireless bridging function is important for Willie because it makes it possible to use certain file sharing functions, like the Mac's Rendezvous services, with other users who are on the wireless and wired networks. Some wireless gateways support wired users through a built-in Ethernet switch, but they don't necessarily create a single logical network. Some offer this as a checkbox option in configuration.
He tried the Netgear WRG614 recently and while it is compact it doesn't work as a bridge and apparently self-destructed after 12 hours of use. The Netgear router had a tiny power adapter, which Willie found to be an ideal yet rarely found item.
Willie supposes and we agree that he can't be the only one who would find his ideal product useful. Does anyone know of anything like this that’s available or in development?
Update: We have some candidates.
Ken Burner suggested the APC Wireless Mobile Router 802.11b, which can be powered via an APC USB adapter, which is part of their very cool TravelPower Case. The product was announced in Nov. 2003, but I can't find a place to buy it in the US, only Australia.
There's the ASUS WL-330 Pocket Access Point, which has most of the necessary features and costs just $70 via ESC Technologies.
Boingo added hotspots from inter-touch to its roaming network: Inter-touch has 50 hotspots in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe and plans to grow its network to 150 hotspots by the end of the year.
Paul Andrews at the Seattle Times wrote a nice column looking at how cafes in Seattle and San Francisco handle the potential for Wi-Fi users to over stay their welcome: In Seattle, the cafes offering free Wi-Fi have pretty laid back rules. One restaurant asks visitors to buy something but has no time or spending limits. Another that often gets crowded asks other patrons who may be looking for a seat to politely ask laptop users how long they'll be around. None of the Seattle venues he spoke with say it's an issue.
In San Francisco, where Andrews believes more cafes charge a fee for access, some venues have methods for cutting down on use. One turns off the network at 6 p.m. Others have signs on tables asking users to stay for just an hour.
Techdirt notes that there's no evidence such measures are necessary. Most Wi-Fi users give up their seats if the place gets crowded plus they tend to visit during off hours when a venue is looking for customers.
Cox Communications built a Wi-Fi network in the MGM Grand, covering all 5,034 rooms: The cable company also won a bid to unwire the Hard Rock. A Cox exec says that it installed enough access points that only one or two people will share an access point. I wonder if that's based on estimates of how many people may be online at a given time or if Cox actually installed an access point for every two rooms or so. Customers pay $9.95 for a 24-hour period.
While Sprint was competitive for the MGM deal, an exec from Sprint made some odd critical comments of the Cox deployment. He says that customers will ultimately want a network that allows them to roam and offers higher speeds. I hope he's not talking about 3G because while that lets users roam it doesn’t offer higher speeds.