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Recent Entries

Roku Adds Free Wi-Fi
Amsterdam to Get City Wide Wi-Fi
Aruba Introduces Ethernet Jack APs
Speakeasy to Build WiMax Network
Rumor Mill: EvDO in NYC?
Sprint, SBC Make Roaming Deal… Again?
Intel Joins 802.11a/g World
Verizon Builds Broadband Wireless Network
Chicago Museum to Get Wi-Fi
Security Hurdles Remain

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August 2004 Archives

August 31, 2004

Roku Adds Free Wi-Fi

By Nancy Gohring

Roku today said that it would add Wi-Fi for free to its streaming music players: Wi-Fi used to be offered as a $50 add-on. The move may be an indication that Wi-Fi may become standard on household digital music players.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 9:10 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Home Entertainment

Amsterdam to Get City Wide Wi-Fi

By Nancy Gohring

A company in Amsterdam is planning to deploy 125 base stations to cover all of Amsterdam with Wi-Fi: It's not clear which vendor is supplying the network but the operator is clearly not using off-the-shelf access points.

The company is mainly targeting expats, students, and people who share accommodation. Those types of residents may be reluctant to have DSL or cable installed in their location if they don't intend to stay long term.

Subscribers will pay just under 15 Euros per month for a 256 Kbps connection. The operator may be smart to target a transient population and offer a low price because it will likely struggle at least initially to ensure that coverage and capacity are adequate.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 8:50 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: International

August 30, 2004

Aruba Introduces Ethernet Jack APs

By Nancy Gohring

Aruba Networks introduced a new line of products including an access point that can be mounted on the wall and plugged into any Ethernet port: The idea is to cut deployment costs but also encourage a denser deployment of APs.

"We went into large accounts and they said they wanted to put up large deployments but they couldn't even if we gave them the APs for free," said David Callisch, an Aruba Networks spokesman. Those enterprises complained that the cost and process of hiring workers that have to climb ladders to install access points in the ceiling was too cumbersome. They also said that they wanted good coverage but were so reluctant to hang enough APs because of how difficult the process is that it defeated the point of building a WLAN.

Based on such customer feedback, Aruba built APs that can be plugged directly into an Ethernet port. "It takes two minutes to install," Callisch said. The APs draw power over Ethernet and communicate with a centralized Aruba switch.

Networks built with the new APs will require two to three times as many APs as conventional WLANs. The additional APs will focus on a smaller coverage area, thus serving a smaller number of clients. The APs constantly communicate with the switch which in turn tunes the network for the best performance. "It's a model that looks like the Ethernet network," Callisch said. He said the architecture can also be ideal for location tracking applications.

Because the networks will require more APs, Aruba has also introduced a new pricing scheme. Customers pay $200 per AP per year. The cost includes service and support and Aruba will replace APs that fail as part of the yearly fee. "When you're putting them in the ceiling, you're trying to deploy sparsely because of the cost. Now you can put them wherever there's an open Ethernet port," he said.

Aruba also announced today a deal with Ortronics. Ortronics will build Aruba APs into Ethernet jacks. Companies that may be re-wiring buildings or builders of new construction can use the Ethernet jacks to hardwire the APs into the facility.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 2:38 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Enterprise

August 27, 2004

Speakeasy to Build WiMax Network

By Nancy Gohring

Speakeasy received an investment from Intel to help it build a WiMax network: The ISP, based in Seattle, hopes to have a network in place during the second half of next year but it's not clear where.

Speakeasy's CEO says here that the company turns away 30 percent of potential customers because they can't be served by its DSL partners. Owning and operating a WiMax network would be a big change for Speakeasy, which today resells DSL from Covad.

But WiMax was made for a company like Speakeasy that has always been on the cutting edge of offering new services. The company currently encourages customers to share their connections via Wi-Fi and will even handle billing so that multiple customers can share a single connection. Speakeasy is technically savvy enough to build and use a WiMax network and the company understands how much it can grow its customer base by extending its service area.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 2:35 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: WiMAX

Rumor Mill: EvDO in NYC?

By Nancy Gohring

Rumors are flying that Verizon is in the midst of building out EvDO in New York City: NYC will serve as a crucial example of how the higher-speed mobile data networks compete next to Wi-Fi.

Both networks have upsides in the city. Wi-Fi is higher speed, lower cost, and available in many places. EvDO will be lower speed, higher cost, but available in more places (although cellular coverage is notoriously bad in the city). At the end of the day, there's a niche for both networks and if the price is right, enough customers for both.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 10:38 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular

Sprint, SBC Make Roaming Deal… Again?

By Nancy Gohring

Sprint and SBC said their Wi-Fi customers can roam between the networks: Just a month ago, USA Today published an unconfirmed report that the two had struck a roaming deal.

The most important aspect of a roaming deal between Sprint and SBC may be that it opens up more access to airport hotspots for customers. Airports have been hotly contested space and operators have fought to "own" airports. That may change anyway, however, with a recent clarification of FCC rules that would allow airlines or shops in airports to deliver their own Wi-Fi services. That means that eventually, multiple operators may build networks in each airport.

Other than airports, the rest of the agreement between SBC and Sprint may include a lot of overlap. They both already have deals with Wayport and Concourse. Sprint has a roaming agreement with AT&T Wireless, which could also become redundant assuming the AT&T Wireless/Cingular merger goes through. Cingular is part-owned by SBC. At the end of July, USA Today reported that Sprint had just 12 of its own hotspots, which likely does not include its hotspots that are technically built by Sprint's managed services division.

Even if this deal doesn't significantly expand SBC's network, it's one more roaming deal which is a good thing. Such deals help increase the number of networks users can access, which in turn makes subscribing more attractive.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 9:50 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Roaming

August 26, 2004

Intel Joins 802.11a/g World

By Nancy Gohring

As expected, Intel announced today that its Centrino 802.11a/b/g chip will become available in September: The chip will come with updated software that includes a configuration wizard, updated troubleshooting, and automated security set up. The software also includes the most current version of Cisco's extensions so the chips are compatible with Cisco access points.

The new chips will also support 802.11i.

Intel is far behind some others in the industry in introducing a combined 802.11g and 802.11a chip. Atheros built its first combined chip nearly two years ago. Still, Atheros regards Intel's entrance into the market space as good news. "By moving Centrino to a/g, it will pump up the mass market in the U.S., which helps us," said Sheung Li, a product line manager for Atheros. He figures that Intel will grow the market, spurring opportunity for others at the same time.

IDC expects that combined 802.11a/g will become the dominant Wi-Fi standard by 2006, with 802.11g hitting its peak in 2005. Intel's entrance into the combined 802.11a/g market, especially in the notebook space, should help ease the transition away from 802.11g to 802.11a/g, said Ken Furer, research analyst with IDC.

For now, 802.11a has been largely viewed as technology for business users in the United States, Li said. But he expects Intel's new chip to follow a similar story as when Intel began building support for faster Ethernet into its chips. "People perceived 100 (megabit) as the high end. Then Intel ships it and now you can't buy 10 (megabit)," Li said.

He expects the added reliability of 802.11a to increase the types of applications that may be used on Wi-Fi networks. For example, at a recent Microsoft conference, a Microsoft executive touted its Windows media center, but recommended that users employ 802.11a networks instead of 802.11g networks because of the lowered chance of interference.

The upgraded software from Intel will also compete with software that other chip makers including Atheros also offer. Such add-ons can offer a needed boost for chipmakers. "The software provides a way to differentiate and it's a higher margin business in a market where the price of chips is crashing down," Furer said. As chips become commoditized, the software allows chipmakers to differentiate themselves, especially against the very low cost Taiwanese competitors, he said.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 1:42 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Chips

Verizon Builds Broadband Wireless Network

By Nancy Gohring

Verizon Avenue launched a broadband wireless trial in Grundy, Va.: The network uses products from Alvarion that may be migrated to WiMax.

Even though this is a small network in a rural community, it's a major coup for Alvarion and WiMax. Broadband wireless has largely been used by small startups or ISPs. A major operator like Verizon offers a significant stamp of approval, even if this is only a small trial aimed at learning more about the technology.

This news also shows how much legitimacy a big name like Intel can add to a new technology. Realistically, broadband wireless technology that has been available for years could have worked just fine to serve this small community. But it took the buzz and marketing muscle around WiMax to attract the attention of a big player like Verizon.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 11:27 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: WiMAX

Chicago Museum to Get Wi-Fi

By Nancy Gohring

The very cool Field Museum in Chicago will get a Wi-Fi network, built by Concourse: Most users will pay a "nominal" fee to access the network, but Chicago Public School kids and their teachers will get free access. The museum also envisions using the network to offer interactive exhibits in the future.

The Experience Music Project, Paul Allen's music museum in Seattle, also built a Wi-Fi network in its space recently. The networks sound useful internally for museum workers as much as for an extra service for visitors. I'm not sure how willing or interested I would be in paying to access a Wi-Fi network in a museum after I've already paid an entrance fee. But the networks would offer a great conduit for delivering content about exhibits to handheld devices as part of the regular museum experience. The EMP has a bar and restaurant that people can visit without paying an entrance fee to the museum so those users might be interested in paying to use the network.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 9:11 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot

Security Hurdles Remain

By Nancy Gohring

Security is getting better, but it's not there yet: That's the conclusion of this comprehensive Computerworld piece looking at the current state of WLAN security. While the approval of 802.11i is a major milestone, it's going to take time for users to implement it. Even then, network managers will still need to continually monitor their networks for weak links, something that many don't do today.

Security will likely always dog Wi-Fi. The key will be continuously looking to potential future problems and the faster development of solutions that will solve those problems. But one expert in this article notes that companies aren't deciding against Wi-Fi because of security concerns, at least not as often as they used to. That statement is backed up by research that emerged recently that found that mainstream companies, not just niche industries, are increasingly choosing to use WLAN switches, which often tout their strong security capabilities.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 8:51 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

August 25, 2004

LMDS Alum Emerges in WiMax Vendor

By Nancy Gohring

Vern Fotheringham, co-founder of the failed LMDS provider Advanced Radio Telecom, has started up a broadband wireless vendor called Adaptix: The company, which is part of the WiMax Forum, already has a deployment in Canada and is working with operators in Australia, China and other international locations.

Fotheringham has some interesting comments about lessons learned from working with ART. He said the company was "ambushed" by the investment community, implying that investors may have encouraged the company to expand quicker than was wise. It remains to be seen if the rest of the community that is interested in WiMax has learned similar lessons. There is a deafening buzz around WiMax even though we'll likely wait another couple of years to see deployments here.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 9:24 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: WiMAX

August 24, 2004

Sweden to Get Broadband Wireless Network

By Nancy Gohring

Using EU funds, TeliaSonera will help build a broadband wireless network in a region of Sweden that is without broadband access: The network will be built with so-called "pre-WiMax" equipment, or gear that hasn't been certified WiMax but may receive certification once that process begins.

This is precisely the type of network that many experts say WiMax is ideal for--covering remote areas that aren't served by wired broadband. Ultimately, such networks could be built in developing nations but initially the networks and products may not be inexpensive enough to serve such markets.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 4:05 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: WiMAX

Mainstream Enterprises Choose Switches

By Nancy Gohring

The wireless LAN switch market was initially attractive to certain niche markets, such as healthcare: But according to a recent repot from Dell'Oro Group, mainstream enterprises are increasingly buying WLAN switches. Surprisingly, Symbol is the leader in WLAN switch sales. Cisco is still the overall leader in WLANs but it offers customers its wireless LAN solution engine instead of a WLAN switch.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 3:44 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Enterprise

Ferry Wi-Fi to Expand

By Nancy Gohring

The trial deployment of Wi-Fi networks covering Puget Sound ferry routes will be expanded: The initial deployment covered one route, which Glenn trialed and covered for the New York Times. This fall, a couple of popular routes out of Seattle will get the service. The networks include a switch and APs from Chantry Networks.

The ferry system expects to charge for the service and they can likely expect a good number of customers. Glenn reported that the boats that will initially have the service carry 12 million passenger trips per year. One of the routes, Seattle to Bremerton, is a 60 minute passage. Commuters who make the trip each day will likely be willing to pay to be productive during their two hours on the boat every day.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 3:17 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Transportation and Lodging

T-Mobile Wi-Fi-Enables Red Roof Inns

By Nancy Gohring

T-Mobile said today that it would build hotspots in Red Roof Inns. The hotspots will cover common areas as well as guest rooms in 359 Red Roof Inns. It appears that Red Roof is hoping to try to attract business users as this announcement is part of a larger renovation program that will include adding ergonomic chairs and L-shaped desks to guest rooms. T-Mobile also offers access in Hyatt Hotels. The press release doesn't seem to be online yet, but should appear here.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 10:59 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot

August 23, 2004

Voice Over Wi-Fi: Coming to a Home Near You

By Nancy Gohring

Vonage and Netgear are reportedly working together on voice over Wi-Fi products: They should be making an announcement on Monday, hopefully with some more details.

Voice over Wi-Fi could lead to a major shift in the way voice services are delivered to homes. Voice over IP is already growing in popularity, but a package that comes from two big names like Vonage and Netgear, both with an existing presence in the home, could encourage a significant uptake of voice over broadband users.

I'm curious about what kind of client device to expect. The most ideal solution would be a simple handset that looks and operates like a regular cordless phone. Ultimately a converged cellular/Wi-Fi handset would be ideal but for now that service is too complicated--it would have to be bundled with a cell phone service and it might not work in all public hotspots which could make the service appear weak to initial users.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 3:15 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Voice

Embedded Beats Removable

By Nancy Gohring

In-Stat/MDR reports that more embedded Wi-Fi cards were sold than removable PC cards last year: More than 49 percent of Wi-Fi adapters last year were embedded in computers, compared to PC cards which amounted to nearly 40 percent of adapters. Last year, 55 percent of all notebook PCs contained Wi-Fi adapters.

More embedded cards logically leads to more Wi-Fi use, as non-geeks become more likely to use Wi-Fi because they don't have to make an extra purchase or take an extra step.

The report also showed that for the first time the Wi-Fi hardware market surpassed $1 billion in quarterly revenue during the fourth quarter last year.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 1:36 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Research

Columbia Energy to Bring Broadband to Rural Areas

By Nancy Gohring

Columbia Energy plans to use Vivato access points to serve rural customers in eastern Washington: The counties currently have no broadband access options.

Rural utility companies in Washington State have been very forward thinking in bringing broadband to residents. They can use some infrastructure that they already have such electrical towers and backhaul to build the network. In some cases, the law prevents them from selling the services directly to end users so other service providers lease the access. Broadband access could dramatically affect the way that farmers in the region do business.

Update: An InfoWorld article offers additional details on the installment. Columbia Energy hopes that farmers can use the network for remote control and monitoring of irrigation pumps and other farm technology. The price is right for access. For a symmetrical 256 kbps service, customers will pay $39.95.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 1:23 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Rural

Intel's Tri-Mode Chip May Arrive This Week

By Nancy Gohring

Analysts think that Intel plans to introduce its tri-mode chip on Thursday: The chip will support 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11a and will be Intel's first foray into 802.11a territory. The chips will be built into notebooks computers.

As usual, Intel isn't the market leader but once the company steps into the market with a product, the uptake surges. Perhaps home and enterprise networkers will opt for 802.11a networks now that access will be available from the most popular notebook chipmaker.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 1:14 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 802.11a

Connexion, iPass Partner

By Nancy Gohring

Connexion by Boeing said today that iPass customers will be able to use Connexion's onboard Internet access service: This marks Connexion's first deal with a provider targeting the enterprise sector.

The deal is good news for Connexion because it means that iPass' customers can all start using Connexion. However, Connexion is only available so far on a couple Lufthansa flights. As Glenn has reported, it takes time and money to build the Connexion service on aircraft. Once more planes have it, the deal with iPass becomes more interesting.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 1:00 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Enterprise

Cellular/Wi-Fi Love Hate Relationship

By Nancy Gohring

Another limited combined Wi-Fi/cellular offering hits the market, this time from DoCoMo: Like the other services introduced to date, this one has its limitations. Users will be able to make voice over Wi-Fi calls but only in their offices and only if their office has a special server from NEC. Voice over Wi-Fi won't be available outside of the office, even on DoCoMo hotspots. It sounds like even data over Wi-Fi will only be available on hotspots built specially for the device.

It's a combination of technical shortcomings and uncertainty about how to make the best of Wi-Fi that is preventing cellular operators from offering seamless combined services. Ultimately, the cellular operators will have to make combined offerings because Wi-Fi is popping up in more places and customers want the high-speed access. Cellular operators may lose some potential data use to Wi-Fi, but realistically, the cellular networks cover so much ground that they'll still get their share of the market. The same goes for voice over Wi-Fi services, which are more of a threat to the local phone companies than the cell phone operators. Voice over Wi-Fi phones won't be terribly useful as mobile phones but they'll be great for the office or the home.

The cellular operators are notoriously slow at picking up new technologies so it would be no surprise if it takes a very long time to see a usefully integrated, full-function combined offering.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 10:08 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Voice

Welcome Our Extremely Junior Editor

By Glenn Fleishman

cub reporter Ben FleishmanJoin with me in welcoming Wi-Fi Networking News's latest addition, Ben Fleishman: Our extremely junior editor joined the staff at 12.26 a.m. on Wed., Aug. 18, and immediately set to work reporting on wireless anti-theft baby tags, and hospital allegations that cellular telephones interfere with certain medical telemetry. Ben will focus generally on the home front, studying wireless baby monitors, home networking, and D2D (diaper-to-diaper) information interchange.

While I'm at work training our new cub reporter round the clock, senior editor Nancy Gohring will be handling our site's regular reporting.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:15 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Self-Promotion

August 20, 2004

VoIP May Reach Underserved in NYC

By Nancy Gohring

Some of the big cellular operators want access to New York City light poles to improve cellular service: The result may be cheap home phones for people without any telephone service. Apparently the city may offer discounted leasing rates on pole access in wealthy areas in exchange for asking the operators to offer cheap voice over Wi-Fi service, using the pole tops, in underserved areas. IDT, which said in April that it would offer a Wi-Fi phone service in New Jersey, said it's interested in the plan.

The New Jersey plan leverages IDT's fixed wireless business via its Winstar acquisition for backhaul. The Wi-Fi Planet story reports that IDT originally thought the service would cost users $2 a month plus 5 cents per minute. It's hard to say if that's a good deal because most local phone companies offer a flat rate and 5 cents is average for long distance minutes.

It's an interesting plan to extend service to the underserved but would appear to have some technical limitations. The most notable is that the city is only offering access to poles at intersections. That limits the number of access points a company can hang and in turn limits the number of users within range that can use the service. It would also limit coverage area, which would make it hard to market the service in a neighborhood.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 1:15 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Voice

Wi-Fi Offers Boon to Florida Businesses

By Nancy Gohring

Panera Bread said it is seeing 50 percent more traffic on its free Wi-Fi networks in Florida since the hurricane: Much of that usage is from people trying to conduct regular business in the wake of the storm. T-Mobile offered a few days of free Wi-Fi in its outlets.

It appears that the author of this story may have hoped to determine whether the free outlets had more traffic than locations that are charging for access but it seems that there wasn't enough conclusive evidence to draw any definitive conclusions. Anecdotally, it sounds like the venues offering free access were packed, but T-Mobile couldn't offer any data on usage increases at its locations. It would of course be interesting to know how much food people bought in the restaurants offering free Wi-Fi to determine if the service actually paid off.

Regardless of the business aspect of the free Wi-Fi, the technology has been extremely useful in allowing the many people who are without access to get online and communicate.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 10:23 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Free

August 19, 2004

Combined Wi-Fi/Cellular an Interim Step

By Nancy Gohring

The market for combining Wi-Fi and cellular on a single device is one that hasn't quite been worked out yet: For cellular operators without their own Wi-Fi plays, a combined device might not pay off and could cannibalize their own cellular data networks. Technology Review Magazine suggests that cellular operators may view the combined devices as sort of a tease, to get users hooked on the idea of higher-speed wireless data just in time for them to start unrolling more ubiquitous and higher-speed cellular data offerings.

The catch will always be cost so there's a chance the tease may backfire. If users get hooked on Wi-Fi networks that are free to access, they may decide to go out of their way to find a free hotspot rather than pay for the cellular access which at least these days is far more expensive. However, it's likely that a certain market segment will pay for the convenience of having the higher speed wireless data from the cellular operators in more locations.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 1:03 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 2.5G and 3G

Ricochet Update

By Nancy Gohring

Ricochet folks are on their toes and were quick to offer me an update on the service, based on my post yesterday lamenting the lack of a Ricochet-like service: YDI Wireless recently purchased the old Ricochet Networks and two cities, San Diego and Denver, currently offer service. The company is also negotiating with the original 21 Ricochet cities in hopes of possibly reactivating them. I selfishly hope that Seattle is high on their list.

According to a recent Denver Business Journal article (which unfortunately doesn't seem to be available online), YDI will be the fourth Ricochet owner in the last three years. At some point during the bankruptcy process, the original antennas reverted back to the cities, which allowed Ricochet to hang its gear on light poles.

It will remain to be seen if the new owners can make a business where the original Ricochet couldn't. The equipment to build the network and the client devices have to be low cost and enough people have to sign up to make the business work.

YDI also recently bought Terabeam, the company that was lead by AT&T Wireless alum Dan Hesse. Terabeam makes wireless communications gear using free space optics.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 10:41 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

August 18, 2004

Still an Access Gap

By Nancy Gohring

Mike Wendland of the Detroit Free Press writes about wireless connectivity options when Wi-Fi isn't available: He looks at a Blackberry, the Treo 600 smartphone and a data card from Verizon. The bottom line is that none of the options is ideal. The subscription for the Verizon card is too expensive and the handhelds are too limited in what users can do with them.

With all the different available wireless technologies, it's amazing that none of them is quite right for mass appeal. I wrote a story a couple of weeks ago looking at a handful of those technologies and I didn't have the space to even mention all of the options. I got an email from a reader bemoaning the loss of Ricochet's service and asking if I knew of anything similar that's available now. Ricochet seems like ancient history these days so it's amazing that a similar solution with a solid business plan hasn't emerged yet.

The combination of cellular data and Wi-Fi may ultimately offer the ideal solution--true high speed when it's available, slower but usable data rates elsewhere. It seems that service, with a decent price and solid client devices, can't come soon enough.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 4:28 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 2.5G and 3G

Sacramento Office Adds Wi-Fi

By Nancy Gohring

Plaza Five Fifty Five in Sacramento is offering free Wi-Fi in public spaces, including the lobby, the area outside the building, the attached five-story parking garage, and public spaces on all 15 floors: There are upsides and downsides to such a deployment. Building administrators will use handheld devices to control heating, air conditioning, and security. A free-to-access network like this one makes more sense when it also supports applications like that.

But the network could end up being a pain for tenants which may have their own WLANs covering their offices. IT workers will want to make sure that their employees attach to their presumably more secure network rather than the free and open public network.

The network uses Cisco APs and a Netgear switch. The news release about the network doesn't seem to be online yet but may appear here soon.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 7:34 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Enterprise

Wi-Fi in Afghanistan

By Nancy Gohring

The Feature reports that at least one group of soldiers in Afghanistan has set up a Wi-Fi network for sending email home: They use satellite, based on a system they bought in India, for backhaul and Wi-Fi to distribute the signal to their tents. It must be a pain to move the satellite dish if these guys move camp often but then again this is the most ideal setup for a mobile group of people.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 7:12 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: International

August 16, 2004

3Com, Trapeze Team Up

By Nancy Gohring

3Com's decision to partner with Trapeze on WLAN switches may be further evidence that the WLAN switch is here to stay: 3Com said today that it formed a partnership with Trapeze which will initially be an OEM agreement but in the future will migrate into a co-development relationship. 3Com also expects to include Trapeze software into some of its platforms.

"The growth of this market is very attractive," said Brent Nixon, director of product management for 3Com. He expects the WLAN switch market to continue to grow and believes that having a switch will allow 3Com to better target the educational, healthcare, enterprise, and public access markets.

The WLAN switch market started out as an industry crowded with startups and many experts said the market was likely to consolidate. So far, however, the switch makers aren't being bought up by more established players nor are they going out of business. They are getting creative though.

AirFlow, for example, stopped making its switch and said it would instead try to license its software to former competitors or other vendors. Airespace made a deal with NEC where NEC is selling a converged wireless voice and data platform that incorporates Airespace's WLAN switch. Airespace also has OEM agreements with Alcatel and Nortel and a co-development deal with D-Link.

3Com said it has a number of reasons for wanting to partner with Trapeze rather than develop its own WLAN switch, buy a startup, or form a basic OEM deal. "We feel that by a partnership relationship, Trapeze will be focused on maintaining their advantage in the market," Nixon said. He also thinks that a partnership will allow 3Com to reach the market faster than if it developed its own product or bought a startup. A basic OEM relationship would also fall short of what 3Com was looking for. "If you just go with a straight OEM relationship, you don't quite get the synergies you get from a true partnership," he said.

The relationship is not exclusive and Trapeze doesn't expect the co-development aspect of the deal to interfere with the possibility of OEM deals with other vendors, said Dan Simone, co-founder and vice president of product management for Trapeze.

Once the companies start working closely to develop products, they will aim to integrate the wireless switch technology into 3Com's networking technologies. "We'll get the technologies to work closely together over wireless so that it's more than just data. Our customers will be able to get more out of their wireless investment," said Nixon. 3Com hopes to integrate its voice over IP technologies into its wireless offering.

Nixon said that the first line of products will allow existing 3Com customers to use 3Com APs that they already have. "We don't want to require a big forklift upgrade," he said.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 4:29 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Enterprise

AirWave Releases New Software

By Nancy Gohring

AirWave introduced version 3.0 of its wireless network management platform: The updated version increases scalability and includes a Web-based console for users to manage their networks. Users can manage networks that are built with equipment from many different vendors.

Glenn spoke with Greg Murphy, AirWave's founder and chief operations officer, in the middle of July. Murphy offered an overview of how the platform works plus details about version 3.0.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 1:29 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Enterprise

August 14, 2004

Humanitarian Wi-Fi from T-Mobile

By Glenn Fleishman

T-Mobile hasn't put out a press release, but is quietly spreading the word about free Wi-Fi in Florida: With people losing homes or stuck far away from home, T-Mobile has opened its hotspot service for free in Florida through the end of the day on Monday. T-Mobile operates service in Starbucks, Kinko's, Borders, and various airline lounges. Wherever these locations are operating, the service will be free to help folks communicate or just find out more about where they can go next.

Of course, these services require a computer or handheld, but I'm guessing that people with that equipment in those locations will be happy to help their fellow Floridians or fellow human beings.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:15 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Unique

August 13, 2004

200mW Wi-Fi Gateway

By Glenn Fleishman isn't just for Macs: new 200mW base station could be a neat tool for better coverage: More power doesn't always equate to more coverage area or range, but it's not a bad way to start. I'll be curious to put a high-powered Wi-Fi gateway like's new $200 unit against Belkin's upcoming MIMO-based device that will cost about $180. is limited to 11 Mbps (802.11b speed) for 200mW performance, while Belkin's unit will operate at a raw throughput rate of 108 Mbps for its proprietary mode and 54 Mbps for its compatible 802.11g mode.'s device doesn't support PPPoE for DSL/cable login, and it's got just a single Ethernet port, which makes it difficult to use on mixed wired/wireless networks that don't use a static subnetted range of IP addresses.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:27 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware

Cross the Columbia and Two Access Points Cost over $30,000

By Glenn Fleishman

Vancouver, Washington, gets its first free public Wi-Fi for a total of over $30,000 and after a year of planning: Vancouver is a popular town to live in for folks who like to shop just across the Columbia River in sales-tax-free Oregon and live in income-tax-free Washington. It's also a less-bustling town than its neighbor, Portland, edging right into undeveloped countyside, even as it's become a sprawl-y bedroom community.

While Personal Telco in Portland has what they report as over 100 active nodes in their free network, including prominent ones in Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown, Vancouver's first free public space Wi-Fi appears to be a 3 Mbps Internet feed over two antennas relayed from a nearby building into Esther Short Park.

The project involved $30,000 from HP in goods and services as a grant, which seems improbable just to start with, since the coverage area and relaying involves very little engineering and could use off-the-shelf equipment. It would be hard to spend more than a few thousand dollars at commercial rates and using enterprise hardware to achieve the project's scope. But HP didn't install the equipment: that was done at a reduced rate by Vancouver Power Systems. Bandwidth and authentication services are being donated by local companies. The equipment is 802.11b, not 802.11g, even.

The nature of outdoor Wi-Fi seems to be profoundly misunderstood by either the reporter, the officials and others talking about the project, or both:

Patrick Gilbride, the city’s information technology manager and main liaison to the project...[said] “If this is successful, I think it will be attractive to look at providing a service that helps local businesses on a wider scale.” To do so would require a much larger investment in equipment – or a much stronger signal than Wi-Fi, whose range is generally limited to a few hundred feet. Gilbride pointed with enthusiasm to the coming next-generation of wireless, known as WiMax, which promises an exponentially larger coverage area than Wi-Fi. “WiMax could be huge, but we’ll have to wait a year or two before it’s really available,” Gilbride said.

In outdoor, public spaces, Wi-Fi can easily span several hundred feet unimpeded, and more with a little antenna design or a small cluster of dumb access points (as little as $50 each) with sectorized antennas. WiMax might help on the backhaul, but moving 3 Mbps in any direct line of site can be accomplished for as little as a few hundred dollars without any special involvement. The WiMax flavor that would offer the coverage in question is probably 2007 to 2009 timeframe; the near-term WiMax is only point-to-point service, and similar technology is already available today, just without the brand and standardization. Mobile WiMax is currently a pipe dream that cellular data and Wi-Fi might render entirely moot, but we'll see.

I asked NIgel Ballard, one of the movers at Personal Telco (and a former employee of ElevenWireless, which donated its services for the Esther Short project), about the cost and timeframe of the Vancouver project. He wrote back:

It was a year in planning and consists of two, count 'em, two access points in total! I told the journalist [who reported this story] that I had a coffee shop on 21st avenue that had three access points, respectively running A, B, G and it took three hours to unwire!

While it's unfair to compare coffeeshops and public parks, Personal Telco has unwired larger spaces, as have groups around the country. In Salem, Mass., Michael Oh worked with a community group to raise $10,000 to build out three full streets of downtown access with an aggregate bandwidth of 18 Mbps (three 6 Mbps DSL lines, one for each street). The $10,000 covers the cost of survey, equipment, installation, and most of the cost of the first year of unsubsidized bandwidth.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:16 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Community Networking

August 12, 2004

Hey, You, Get Offa My Net!

By Glenn Fleishman

My colleague Lisa Napoli gets the old bootski from her kyped (not Skyped) Wi-Fi feed (reg. req.): I met Lisa on my last trip to L.A., and wouldn't be surprised if there are hundreds of competing Wi-Fi networks in her downtown aerie. She's encountered what's certainly going to be an increasing problem for apartment and dense urban dwellers--that's dense like urban density, not...well, you know what I mean.

What happens when 500 networks in a building are called "linksys," "default," or "netgear"? Robert Moskowitz, a security expert, has argued for unique network names out of the box for new Wi-Fi gear, and Apple is one of the only consumer companies I'm aware of that chose that course. Apple gear has an SSID of Apple Network 012345 where "012345" is replaced with the last six digits of the base station Wi-Fi adapter's unique network hardware identifier. Buffalo uses a similar way of distinguishing their WI-Fi gateways before configuration.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:13 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Home, Mainstream Media

A Word from the WWiSE on 802.11n

By Glenn Fleishman

Industry group including Broadcom, Texas Instruments, propose 540 Mbps 802.11n approach: The Worldwide Spectrum Efficiency (WWiSE) proposal has backing from Broadcom, Conexant (Intersil's Wi-Fi portfolio), Airgo (MIMO developer), Bermai (early 802.11a developer), and STMicro. The proposal combines some ideas first discussed in early July so that it has the highest possible throughput and the maximum possible compatibility through fallback.

An array of four receive and four transmit antennas in a MIMO configuration (4 x 4) would use 40 MHz of bandwidth, or about twice that used in current 802.11b and g, to achieve speeds up to 540 Mbps (raw throughput). But in countries in which those configurations weren't allowed, the devices would fall back to 2 x 2 antennas and 20 MHz of spectrum. This would also allow backwards compatibility with 802.11b and g. The article says that in the 2 x 2 by 20 MHz configuration, speed would top out at 135 Mbps.

The firms in this proposal are offering RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing terms, and will charge no fees for patents in their portfolio. Tony Smith offers more insight into the patent issue and the overall story over at The Register.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:47 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 802.11n, Future, Standards

August 11, 2004

Future Brings Push-to-Talk-over-Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

I thought we'd have flying cars and live on the moon, but apparently the future brings Wi-Fi walkie-talkies: Some speculation on the future availability of the revenue-enhancing push-to-talk service available over cell networks and pioneered by Nextel moving to Wi-Fi. With PTT, you have a group that you communicate with immediately, walkie-talkie style, by pushing a button on the phone. There's obviously no good reason that the underlying carrier method has to be cell based: an Internet gateway and a Wi-Fi chip could allow this kind of instant routing over any authenticated Wi-Fi hotspot or home/office network. The piece doesn't make it clear whether the FCC is approving Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi PTT or hybrids--Wi-Fi or cell on either end.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:44 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Future

August 10, 2004

Meru Avoids Mixed Traffic Penalties

By Nancy Gohring

Meru Networks introduced a new access point yesterday that it says supports both 802.11g and 802.11b clients at their maximum speeds: Typically, in a mixed environment, an 802.11b client will cause an 802.11g client to slow down considerably.

The Meru AP virtually separates 802.11g and 802.11b traffic on a per packet basis. Because the packets don't see each other, the 802.11g traffic doesn't switch to a backward compatibility mode, which would require it to communicate with the AP in a way that creates overhead that typically slows down traffic in a mixed environment, said Sarah Kim, senior marketing manager for Meru. Because it is waiting for a patent, Meru is reluctant to disclose more about how the AP works, she said.

Unstrung reports some more details on how the APs work. The APs don't give priority to 802.11g or 802.11b clients but they use what Meru calls "fairness algorithms" that deal with channel allocation in a mixed environment, preventing 802.11g and 802.11b clients from transmitting at the same time.

Chipmaker Engim avoids the problems that typically occur in mixed environments by separating the traffic onto different channels. But Meru is using a single channel, Kim said.

Update: Jim Thompson speculates on possible underlying technologies for Meru's approach and the potential difficulties with those alternatives.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 11:35 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: 802.11g

August 9, 2004

Telstra Considers Enabling Pay Phones with Wi-Fi

By Nancy Gohring

Telstra said it plans to build as many as 2,000 new hotspots over the next two years: It will initially build 15 of those using public pay phones as a trial.

Telstra is trialing a wide range of technologies so it's not clear that the pay phone idea will ultimately be rolled out on a wider basis. TechDirt suggests that Telstra might want to follow Verizon's lead and offer free access to hotspots for DSL customers. But it sounds like Telstra is more interested in using Wi-Fi as part of a larger wireless strategy for blanket coverage. The Wi-Fi access might be bundled into Telstra's mobile networks to offer higher-speed access where available.

On a side note, Australia and New Zealand seem to be the hot areas for trialing or using proprietary or new wireless technologies. IPWireless gear is in use in New Zealand by Woosh, Telstra is trialing Flarion gear, and Arraycomm built a network in Sydney. [link via Techdirt]

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 2:18 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: International

Freescale Can Ship UWB Chips

By Glenn Fleishman

Motorola's Freescale spinoff, which includes the acquired XtremeSpectrum UWB developer, has FCC approval on its UWB chips: The company is saying that chips will ship almost immediately to OEMs, and that there may be early consumer products this Christmas that use ultrawideband (very short distance, high speed) wireless to connect video, audio, and other data among devices.

Freescale uses the leading proposal in the IEEE 802.15.3a task group: the "classical" direct sequence version of UWB. The proposal has foundered in the IEEE process because the Multiband OFDM Alliance (MBOA)--led by Intel with dozens of other members--has decided to push forward with their incompatible version of UWB that they believe has more promise, especially for peripherals. The IEEE still hasn't approved Freescale's approach because MBOA and other members of the task group are denying the super-majority required to accept the proposal.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:42 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: UWB

August 8, 2004

Belkin Goes MIMO

By Glenn Fleishman

Belkin will use Airgo's MIMO technology for consumer products, reports: The multiple-in, multiple-out technology that Airgo is bringing to market has other manufacturers signed on, but Belkin is the first well-known, mass-market brand name planning--reportedly--to sell Airgo-based equipment. The gateway will be $179 and the client card $129; they will be available in mid-October.

Airgo's equipment supports 802.11g, and its own faster, further proprietary technology. Airgo claims a fourfold increase in throughput and range: they told me months ago that their 108 Mbps proprietary flavor has a throughput that's much, much higher than competing proprietary extensions. The proof is in the performance. Airgo justifies the higher price their added value brings at this stage in Wi-Fi's development by the greater coverage area. However, you need new client cards to take full advantage, which offsets some of the cost savings of more coverage area.

Update: Belkin and Airgo provide details in a press release.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:11 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Future, Home

August 7, 2004

Fair Summary of Airplane, Airport Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Veteran Times tech/ecommerce columnist writes about Internet access in the air and in the terminal: Regular readers of this site will find this New York Times piece covers territory we write about and link to regularly, albeit the article has less detail as it's intended for a broader traveling audience with less interest in the particular technologies and speed, but rather more about the applications.

Tenzing is fairly covered, but it should be noted that they'll be able to compete on speed with Connexion by Boeing when they are able to use Inmarsat's new satellites. Connexion by Boeing is now in five Lufthansa planes, this article discloses, and Tenzing low-speed and email service is in hundreds of planes.

The article notes that Tenzing has dropped its prices a bit, from $16 for domestic flights down to $10. Surcharges applies for email attachments, but I believe as before there are ways to prevent viewing the surcharged part of the email until you decide you need to see it. Shorter flights might cost as little as $5 earlier this year; international flights run $20.

I'm not sure what this sentence was supposed to mean, but it appears to have become garbled in editing: Tenzing, for now, operates at roughly the same speed as most dial-up modem connections, because it relies on radio frequency signals to send and retrieve data. But speeds could improve considerably, depending on whether the airline chooses a satellite connection. I believe the writer would have written that Tenzing is relying on a lower-speed network in the U.S., but the satellite system they employ internationally and will use for higher-speed services starting in 2005 uses radio frequencies, too--just different ones.

The big news, reported a number of times earlier, is that Tenzing will able to cut the cord out of its domestic operations, FCC approval pending, to allow Wi-Fi access to its service. In domestic flights, you have to use the seat-back or arm-rest telephone to connect. Quite an ordeal, which the company openly acknowledges.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:47 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Future

August 6, 2004

Microsoft's Service Pack 2 Says Existing Hotspot Logins Insecure

By Glenn Fleishman

Microsoft's Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be available soon, but they've got a little tweaking to do on their technical documentation: This page explains to developers how Wireless Provisioning Service (WPS) works. Never mind the fact that Service Set Identifier (SSID) is described as the Secure Set Identifier. More importantly, they overstate the current risk level for gateway-page logins at hotspots, a problem that WPS bypasses (with all Microsoft server and client components):

The current connection model for WISP signup and use is not secured. Most Wi-Fi hotspots are configured for open authentication and without data encryption. Users are generally required to launch a Web browser to initially sign up to the WISP service and for subsequent logins. WSP mitigates this threat by adding encryption and authentication to the communications between the client and the wireless network.

No, Mr. Gates, no, no, no. All authentication gateway pages I've visited are SSL-based, meaning that encryption (but not authentication) is already in the transaction. I don't know where they got the most from.

The SSL certificate has to be signed by an approved certificate authority, or a client's Web server would balk, and I haven't seen that kind of self-signed certificate problem that would allow man-in-the-middle attacks. (That is, if you were expecting to be warned about a self-signed certificate, then you might accept even a fake AP's certificate. But if you weren't expecting it, you probably wouldn't accept it.)

Browser based deployment is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, for example, by a malicious front-end server using a rogue access point. Users queried by this access point might unknowingly be giving away personal identification and credit card information. By eliminating the need for a Web login WSP reduces the vulnerability of WISP users to this type of attack.

This is definitely one of the coolest authentication elements of WPS. The transaction between XP SP2's WPS client and a WPS-equipped hotspot involves quite a lot of quasi-out-of-band confirmation. For instance, an SSL tunnel that's opened in one stage of the authentication is signed by a certificate authority already authorized in the WPS client. (So what's good for the goose should be good for the gander, above, in terms of Microsoft's characterization of hotspot authentication weakness currently.)

Without additional hotspot client software users can not easily detect hotspots and do not have a unified mechanism to sign up to them. It is not easy for users to find out information about the WISP or search for the hotspot locations for that WISP. If users sign up at one hotspot, they are not necessarily configured to automatically use the other hotspots. In addition, there is no standard mechanism to keep their provisioning and configuration information up-to-date.

Of course, this means that Microsoft expects its proprietary, single operating system with service pack, back-end requiring system to solve that problem--the unified mechanism is unified Microsoft software. I'm curious if they'll publish WPS as an open standard that could be overlaid onto FreeRADIUS and Open1x, for instance.

Add-on hotspot client software can help the user access that specific WISP’s network. However, add-on software can also conflict with the wireless services native to the operating system, or client software from other providers potentially causing interoperability problems, even instability of the system as they all attempt to control the wireless settings of entire system. Updates to the WISP configuration usually require updates to the client software. For these reasons, many corporate IT departments are reluctant to deploy 3rd party hotspot client software to their users.

Can I get a hallelujah? Praise Bill! This is part of the secret sauce that iPass and GoRemote bring to the table of the corporate enterprises they primarily serve. They customize their client software, and provide IT support for a unified platform that has security advantages, including policy enforcement (firewall must be on, VPN must be on, and other choices and combinations). Client software provided by other firms, like Sprint PCS's client (based on iPass's), isn't supported at the corporate level in the same way that iPass is: individual users can download and install it, and the authentication is through Sprint PCS's servers (in that case), not through an enterprise's existing authentication infrastructure, as iPass's is.

Now, don't get me wrong. WPS is a very interesting product, and we have to wait and see whether it gains real acceptance beyond those hotspot operators who have interest in the co-marketing dollars or other funds that Microsoft will surely offer. WPS as an idea--allowing a third-party authentication of a certificate coupled with XML-based transfer of standardized data--is a good one, and one that only the largest operating system seller in the world is in a position to distribute on the client side.

In addition to WPS, XP SP2 will include a wizard that will allow simple passing of Wi-Fi configuration information on multiple computers. This seems like a natural outgrowth of Microsoft's now-discontinued home Wi-Fi equipment's configuration tool, unique in encouraging a WEP key and unique in making it easy to configure other machines with the same key (albeit using a floppy disk).

The Wireless Network Setup Wizard provides a means for a Windows user to easily create and propagate network settings using an Extensible Markup Language (XML) schema and removable media.  In the future this XML schema may also be used to transfer settings for wide area networks (WANs), local area networks LANs, as well as wireless LANs (WLANs). However, the XML files created by the Wireless Network Setup Wizard for Windows XP SP2 will only be used to transfer configuration settings for WLANs.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:53 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Software

27,000 Hotels with Broadband by 2008, Report Says

By Glenn Fleishman

In-Stat MDR reports says 5,200 hotels today, 28,000 by 2008: A story on the report shares the additional detail that revenue from hotel broadband was $153 million in 2003, In-Stat MDR estimates, and will be triple that in 2004. Of course, we're seeing a parallel trend of hotels installing broadband and then not charging for it, building the cost into their overall capital and operations budget to encourage more room nights and compete with hotels that do charge for access.

My brother-in-law was just traveling in Oregon with an old friend who needed to work each evening, but had her days free. She needed reliable high-speed Internet service. Even though they were staying outside of major cities, they managed to find it everywhere. I expect that especially in places where Internet access is otherwise scarce and phone lines don't produce good modem connections that the competition for Internet access in hotels will be higher.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:56 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Hotels

August 4, 2004

No, Free Wi-Fi Doesn't Cause Bankruptcy

By Glenn Fleishman

Schlotzsky's files for Chapter 11 protection, but it's not the Wi-Fi that did it: Before the wags weigh in, there's no connection between Schlotzsky's aggressive and cool free Wi-Fi rollout and their Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization filing yesterday. The Motley Fool notes that the CEO (a smart guy that I met when he served on a panel I moderated last year) and an SVP were removed from their positions but remain on the board. The chain has lost a more than 200 stores out of 760 in 1999.

But don't blame it on the Wi-Fi.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:02 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Free

Boingo in 75 Airports

By Glenn Fleishman

Boingo partners with ICOA, expands to 75 airports: The battle for road warriors hearts and minds starts and ends in the airport. Boingo now has a roaming deal for all six of Icoa's airports, and 69 others worldwide. The other day, I noted that SBC had signed up to resell access at or operate service in many of the U.S. airports that offer service. If they broker a few more deals, they could have the only comprehensive airport service plan.

A colleague of mine, a technology writer who travels frequently, says he rarely sees people working on laptops in airports. I don't know how that's possible, with the gate areas full of laptop users before flights furtively plugged into power. He's fallen in love with a Treo, which allowed him to skip opening his laptop on a recent trip.

I still wonder how many applications people actually need. Does Blackberry's success show that low-speed email is the primary application and that everything else is a distant second? I doubt it every time I see a plane full of cramped business people desperately typing away, reviewing Acrobat documents, building PowerPoint presentations, running Excel spreadsheets, and using proprietary software.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:18 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Road Warrior

Defcon Wi-Fi Shootout: Sniper Sights and 55 Miles

By Glenn Fleishman

Defcon, the hacker conference in Las Vegas held each year, established what might be a world record in Wi-Fi links: 55.1 miles: I wouldn't want to be standing between (or near) the two points, but it's a great achievement in the best hacker tradition. The winners of the second annual Defcon contest were teenagers--even better! I didn't realize the Guinness Book folks were monitoring these kinds of records; they say the world distance record is 192 miles, but it required a Swedish weather balloon. (Or a weather balloon in Sweden, to sound less kinky.)

Let's not forget the Snipe Yagi, a Yagi antenna mounted inside what looks like a rifle with sniper sights.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:12 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique


By Glenn Fleishman

whalePlease don't try to escape your busy lives by visiting an island miles off-shore: Call me Tropos. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no Internet access, and nothing particular to interest me on my Blackberry, I thought I would surf about a little and see the watery part of the world wide web.

It is a way I have of driving off the spam and regulating my network traffic. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to surf the Web as soon as I can.

This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the Internet. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards Tim Berners-Lee with me.

Apologies to my dear Mr. Melville.

A Nantucket startup plans to install Tropos equipment and use Airpath's back-end to offer service across 800 acres on the island and out to marinas and surrounding waters. The plan requires public approval because of certain aspects of occupying space. Since the FCC recently ruled that only it can oversee unlicensed spectrum, I have to assume that Wi-Fi Blast, the WISP, needs access to poles or public property. (If not, they should read that FCC decision.)

The article includes a great baseline number: a resort on the island installed Wi-Fi last year at its properties and grossed $16,000 so far this year at $10 a day and $60 per month. About 50,000 people visit Nantucket in its busy summer season. Pricing hasn't yet been set. Roaming with other Airpath locations is part of the deal, too.

The arrival of widespread WiFi access on the playground of beautiful people and billionaires would mark a watershed in commercial WiFi technology. Hardly.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:38 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Municipal

August 3, 2004

Largest Free Network?

By Glenn Fleishman

Panera claims a great title: largest free Wi-Fi hotspot network: In a press release today, Panera says its network of 325 free Wi-Fi hotspots is the largest such free network. They plan to have 500 stores out of 637 current outlets unwired within 12 months. An additional 140 to 150 stores will open this year, and Wi-Fi is planned as part of their design. The press release has metrics on performance: ...the average total online time per bakery/cafe has increased three-fold over the last twelve months. Internal research indicates that of the hundreds of thousands of customer accesses over the last year, the average connect time is one hour.

Interestingly, there's no dollars-to-time ratio: are folks spending 10 percent more who use Wi-Fi? 100 percent more? Less? We don't know, but we must expect that they do. (Update: Here's a story from Mobile Pipeline that quotes the chairman and CEO saying, "Offering free Wi-Fi Internet access is keeping our customers in our stores longer -- primarily during off-peak hours -- and bringing them back more often," he said. Still no dollars, but at least an affirmative statement.)

Off-peak hours is the mantra of the retail hotspot establishments: they're eager to fill seats when they're empty.

Nominations welcome for other free hotspot networks that rival Panera's, but I think they may have the claim. Best Western and other hotel chains are rolling out free high-speed Internet access, but they are generally available only to guests, and often incorporate a lot of in-room wired service except in newer installations.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:04 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Free, Hot Spot

SMC Offers Multifunction Traveling Gateway

By Glenn Fleishman

SMC has thrown the kitchen sink into its traveler's access point, a street price $99 device that has the full complement of Wi-Fi options: The AirPort Express ($129) from Apple may be cute and small, but the SMC has four modes versus AirPort Express's 2 1/2. Express can act as a client (for streaming music and USB only), a WDS relay or remote (to Apple or compatible gateways only), or a standalone 802.11g/WPA gateway. I count Apple's client mode as 1/2 since it can't handle traffic over its Ethernet port as a bridge in that mode, apparently.

The SMC--trippingly off the tongue call it EZ Connect™ g 2.4GHz 802.11g Wireless Traveler’s Kit (SMCWTK-G)--can act as an access point, an Ethernet bridge (so full MAC masquerading onto any network), Ethernet bridge, repeater, and point-to-point or point-to-multipoint bridge. (Those last two are similar WDS modes, so I won't count them separately.)

SMC doesn't mention weight or the size of the power cord. The Express has an integral power plug, but you can get an extension cord as part of an audio/power kit for $39. The SMC unit can draw power over USB, too. [link via Tom's Networking]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:57 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware, Road Warrior

Wayport Raises $20M

By Glenn Fleishman

Wayport reports raising an additional $20 million in private placement: We try to avoid reporting on routine financial events such as funding rounds unless the company has critical importance to the industry or its financial well-being is in question. Wayport told me about a year ago that they were seeking additional funds in a round that would allow them to expand their sales force, among other purposes. That round just closed at $20 million.

I'm not surprised that Wayport was able to raise these funds given their Wi-Fi World retail model of charging announced several weeks ago, which provides them a sustainable model from Day One for unwiring McDonald's locations, for which they have the exclusive franchise contract. Wayport was also selected as the managed services provider for SBC's FreedomLink to build out the several thousand UPS Store locations.

In the wake of May's announced Cometa Networks shutdown due to lack of funds, it's useful to know that Wayport has these additional funds in hand. Wayport disclosed its revenue predictions in May when they announced their Wi-Fi World pricing model for partners.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:44 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Hot Spot

August 2, 2004

Policy Won't Re-write History

By Nancy Gohring

A new Wi-Fi Alliance policy won't deliver judgment on a long-running he-said/she-said argument between Broadcom and Atheros: The new alliance policy, introduced in mid-July, forbids the certification of products that contain proprietary extensions that negatively affect other certified products. It would seem that the policy might finally lead to action from the alliance either confirming or denying Broadcom's accusations against Atheros, but, in fact, such definitive action appears unlikely.

Late last year, Broadcom alleged that products with Atheros Super G chips, which can employ channel bonding techniques to boost speed, cause service degradation on nearby networks that use Broadcom chips. Tim Higgins of Tom's Networking conducted his own tests and confirmed that Super G chips in certified Netgear products do degrade the service of Broadcom networks when the Turbo mode for channel bonding is enabled. Broadcom also sponsored a report by the Tolly Group to back up its claims.

Atheros has consistently denied that Super G chips cause degradation in any real-world deployment.

The Wi-Fi Alliance said that its new policy would allow the revocation of previous certifications, though such action appears unlikely. "This is designed principally as a go-forward policy," said Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance. "But we do have the ability that if someone does bring something to our attention we can always look at it." In fact, he added that the alliance didn't actually need the formal policy because it could always have re-considered certified products.

If the alliance does decertify products, it won't officially announce the action, Hanzlik said.

D-Link products using the Super G chips have not been decertified nor does it appear that Netgear products using the chips have been decertified.

However, because the Super G products haven't been decertified doesn't mean that the alliance necessarily believes the products don't cause interference. "By nature these groups are political," noted Michael Wolf, a principal analyst with In-Stat/MDR. "Time and time again we see companies coming in with their own agendas and they can sway things." Wolf doesn't know that's the case with the alliance and the Super G products, but he says that the alliance's actions may not necessarily reflect its findings. Groups like the Wi-Fi Alliance are run by the member companies which may be able to influence the group's actions, although neither Atheros nor Broadcom are currently represented on the board.

Most vendors believe it is unlikely that the alliance will decertify products. One vendor spokesman who asked not to be named said that he understood that the policy was created mainly to protect against new products coming to market aimed at pre-802.11n releases. An Atheros spokesman had the same impression. "They may be marking a line in the sand, saying be forewarned to make sure your products interoperate," said Dave Borison, product line manager at Atheros.

While Broadcom believes that the new policy was largely driven by its accusations of problems with Super G, David Cohen, senior product marketing manager at Broadcom, isn't convinced that Super G products will be decertified. "We've made the alliance aware that there are some products on the market that may be utilizing channel bonding but it's up to the alliance to take action," he said. Cohen is one of the founders of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

He also expects the policy to mostly be relevant for the future. "It strikes me as more of a go-forward policy," he said. He said Broadcom has gotten mixed signals from the alliance on the issue of revocation and suggests that the policy might need some clarification.

Cohen is convinced that products with Super G chips wouldn't pass the new policy. "We can say that several products out there on the market today running Super G would fail the new policy. We can say that for sure," he said.

The new policy wasn't created solely in response to the Atheros/Broadcom issue, said Hanzlik. "We saw that there would be more and more need for manufacturers to differentiate their products that we just saw this as becoming more and more the norm, not the exception," he said.

The alliance won't begin testing new products against all existing products to make sure that there is no interference. Instead, it will rely on a number of sources including its own technical staff, reports from analysts and the media, and members to identify potential interference. In the future, if an issue is raised by any of those sources, the alliance has a formal process to do additional testing or discuss the issue with vendors. "We can engage it on a case by case basis. This is not something that needs to apply to every implementation," Hanzlik said.

While this policy puts extra pressure on vendors to ensure that their proprietary extensions don't negatively affect other products, most agree that vendors will still actively pursue certification. Enterprise customers are particularly interested in buying certified products so vendors servicing that market will continue to regard certification as very important, said Borison.

Vendors will continue to aggressively develop proprietary extensions, they'll just need to be careful about it, Cohen said. "They're not trying to homogenize the market and say there can be no extensions or differentiation," he said. "They're just saying that you can't cause interference."

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 11:10 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Standards

Pronto, Tropos Team Up

By Glenn Fleishman

"Dating" in two cities turns into serious relationship between Tropos and Pronto: It's a natural partnership, and one we expect to see more of as metropolitan area networks or larger hot zones develop. Pronto handles the back-end and the front-end: user experience, account management, authentication, and other details of sessions. Tropos builds the infrastructure, maintaining the hardware. Neither company should specialize in each other's fields.

This kind of strategic relationship could, of course, lead to firms that have separate managed services divisions through mergers and acquisitions so that they can offer equally good infastructure and AAA support. Many of the hotspot operators provide the back-end and the build-out, like Wayport, but the scale they're supporting is building-wide, not city-wide (yet).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:49 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Municipal

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