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Carol Ellison writes how municipal wireless isn't a threat except to incumbent operators' control of the market: Carol's point is made exceedingly well in this paragraph:
That brings us to the second discouraging item—the specious argument that putting the future of these plans into the hands of Big Broadband somehow embraces free market principles and the spirit of competition.
The main issue for me with muni wireless is that the municipalities should be focusing on what they do best: right of way and adjudication of a level-playing field. Even if "right of way" is metaphorical for wireless, it's not precisely: cities and counties control towers, hills, and building tops that are ideal for municipal wireless broadband. Instead of offering a commons in which every player has to install their own equipment, competing for physical and spectrum space, offering a "meet-me room" option for letting all players into a level ground--a neutral-host approach--the municipalities remove the infrastructure cost and the friction from competition.
Which is why telco and cable operators hate it. It means that they can't own, be subsidized for, and strangle the infrastructure. Philly's approach sounds like they want to become an ISP. I have argued in this space many times that Philly would be infinitely better served to contract the network to a firm that doesn't offer ISP services, but simply handles installation, maintenance, and fee settlement. Let 1,000 ISPs bloom, from zero-mark-up, subsidized non-profits offering low-income residents service for free or cheap, to Verizon's full-on integrated cable, voice, cell, Internet offering using Philly's network as their final mile.
The focus on municipal networks offering the metaphorical equivalent of call completion instead of pure dial tone is an extension of the "smart network" mistake of trying to load telco networks with intelligence instead of capacity.
I just read The Broadband Problem, a very good book by Charles Ferguson (the founder of Vermeer and now a Brookings Institute fellow) about bandwidth and the incumbents. His case, in brief, is that technology for increasing capacity over wire has increased at nearly the same pace as other innovation, such as processor power or storage capacity. Thus, we could have 50 Mbps to the home today if the incumbents were in the same situation that Intel, Western Digital, Apple, etc., are. (Ferguson also wrote the self-deprecating and highly entertaining title, High Stakes, No Prisoners, about his naivety and management missteps at Vermeer.)
He makes a good point developed extensively across the book that what's holding back the next generation of all sorts of services is entirely about control not technology. Unfortunately, his book was published in June 2004, and he only mentions Wi-Fi briefly, broadband wireless hardly at all, and WiMax isn't in the book even as a point of reference. Given that there is short-range gigabit wireless and long-range 10 Mbps wireless, this is a big omission.
I'd love to hear Ferguson integrate municipal wireless, broadband wireless, voice over IP proliferation, and the incumbent threat all together. For instance, he states that a comprehensive local phone service with all features should cost about $5 a month, but doesn't address that at the time his book was published you could purchase that plus unlimited long-distance service for about $30 per month.
Mike Outmesguine is organizing Post-Tsunami Reconnect: The effort will try to get wireless equipment and expertise to areas of need in the tsunami disaster. Information can be a powerful tool in organizing resources in the midst of chaos. Without a telecom or data infrastructure, the distribution of food, clean water, and medical help could be directed to places that don't need them. Best of luck on this effort.
Direct donations of aid, by the way, are being collected by various groups, including Oxfam and the Red Cross. Amazon.com has devoted its home page to the Red Cross's efforts, and has helped them raise over $1.2 million so far. (The International Committee of the Red Cross's site is down at the moment, apparently overwhelmed by traffic.)
The Mayo Clinic tested PDAs that access WLANs and deem them safe: It's one thing to assume that WLANs don't have an effect on pacemakers and other heart-assisting devices, and another to test that assumption. The Mayo Clinic did limited testing and found no problems. These devices are apparently sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, the report says. [via TechDirt]
Force Field Wireless offers paint additives to prevent waves from escaping: I love this idea, but I don't want to test it. Any takers? A 32-oz. container treats 1 gallon of paint--it's $34.00. They also sell 2.4 GHz/5GHz blocking window film: $39 for a 30-inch by 25-foot roll. [via The Wireless Weblog]
My colleague Mike Outmesguine spent his Hawaiian vacation wardriving: For a nice read about how Mike enjoyed his time in the world's most beautiful place--I haven't yet been, but I have friends who have lived and visited Maui--read his report on finding plenty of free Wi-Fi and many insecure networks. Mike notes a little known fact that Hawaii is the crossroads of a number of fiber-optic networks, giving them what he reports as 1.2 terabits to the mainland U.S.
Instant802 offers manufacturers mass-profile possibility for access points: Instant802 makes the software for service providers and manufacturers that runs their APs. For instance, the Gateway AP series that I have praised in the past uses Instant802 firmware. They've released an Enterprise Managed AP (EMAP) platform which allows many APs to be configured as if they were a single AP. This is a fascinating way to sidestep large-scale management through a cluster profile, because the platform handles load balancing, beacon assignment (up to four SSID names per AP), and channel selection. Call it a plug-and-play enterprise solution.
A new, expensive, multi-year study shows some isolated cells could be affected by cell-phone radiation: The study, the authors freely admit, doesn't necessarily apply to living organisms, as they were testing the general principle of whether electromagnetic radiation in the range found in cellular telephones--orders of magnitude above the energy given off by a Wi-Fi cards and access points in the home--would damage cells. It did. Cells had their DNA uncoiled a bit and couldn't always repair themselves. In a biological system, however, other mechanisms might compensate.
I hope that more studies of this scale are conducted to provide more definitive information. It's clear that there is no smoking gun: there are millions of people who have had the kind of exposure--especially to older, more powerful cell phones--that would show an outbreak of disease if the effect was anything but extremely small. But measuring risk and understanding how to mitigate it is always a good idea.
For myself, I don't expect that cell phones will show any real risk for adults, but I won't let my tiny boy use a cell phone (when he's old enough to talk on a phone)--if there is any substantial risk it's more likely to affect developing brains. I use a Bluetooth headset for 95 percent of my talking time. Bluetooth puts out less signal strength than Wi-Fi, even.
Microsoft's VPN protocol PPTP is now dead, too: It's been known for a while that MSCHAPv2 authentication was a bad idea, and PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) relies by default on this method of credentials. George Ou explains how Joshua Wright, developer of the Cisco LEAP breaking software Asleap has simply added PPTP breaking to the mix.
Both protocols are weak enough that a weak key choice--short and found in a dictionary with some variation--can be broken by iterating through a very large database of precomputed password hashes that a cracker has put together in advance. They don't have to crack the authentication process, just grab the transaction and run it on their own computer against their hashes at a rate of 45 million passwords per second on a normal desktop computer, Ou writes. Laptops would be slightly slower.
Ou notes that he thought LEAP and PPTP had similar weaknesses, and Wright's update--made only after contacting Microsoft and being quite decidedly rebuffed over his concern--shows he was correct. Long, complex, user-managed passwords can still protect PPTP because this is a brute-force attack. You can also switch to using EAP-TLS for the credential exchange in PPTP, but that then requires corporate public-key infrastructure.
WPA has a similar problem with weak passwords but it's tied to an SSID. So you can't precompute generally for passwords as with the LEAP and PPTP weakness, but you could precompute passwords against common SSIDs, like linksys. Assuming, as wardrivers have discovered, that the vast majority of base stations have a default SSID, this makes it a little simpler, but not trivial. Likewise, only weak WPA passwords can be broken, so you're stuck for people who throw in a couple of exclamation points. I'm just testing Buffalo's new VPN (PPTP) router, and discovered that they set the default SSID to the MAC address of the unit, which, although ugly looking in a list of available networks, would defeat a precomputed default SSID password database. (Thanks to Robert Moskowitz for a prod to clarify this.)
When I say a security protocol is dead, I don't mean that it's actually impossible to use. It's just that you can no longer use it with any degree of assurance that the purpose for which it was intended can be fulfilled. It's like driving a car with a cracked windshield. It keeps the bugs off, but it's not really safe to drive with.
The real answer is switching from PPTP to the more robust L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol) and IPsec combination. This more robust combination of protocols was designed, in part, to avoid the weak key choice problem that's plaguing other standards. Ou is right: users shouldn't be blamed for bad key choice; encryption designers, rather, should.
Esme Vos has uncovered (and has available for download) the model bill for state legislatures to ban municipal broadband: The inestimable Vos has emerged as a firebrand for fighting back the rhetoric of incumbent teleopolies that have put out the meme that there are unfair tax breaks and unfair advantages that a municipal operation has over private enterprise. This ignores the subsidies provided--estimated at over $700 per person in Pennsylvania over the last 10 years of a failed Verizon development plan, non-refundable--and "taxes" that telcos and cable companies are often able to collect for their own coffers.
Vos now posts the bill that someone--she'd like to know the individual--wrote to distribute to various legislatures under the guise of competition. Competition means not taking money from taxpayers, charging them by overpriced tariffs defended to the death, collecting and keeping funds intended for rural or impoverished citizens to have universal access, and fighting for the right to squeeze the pipes to prevent interesting competitive services from rising.
Competition does mean building neutral infrastructure paid for by access fees that allow all comers to compete on a level playing field to let the market determine the best use of resources.
It's strange how businesses that hate regulation in theory love how it supports their business models. Also strange how many folks who claim to want real markets only really want big businesses to be able to dictate to their markets what things cost.
I looked at the innards of the Word doc that Esme posted, but the only secret information it contains is about her computer, not any previous computers. On Monday morning, she posted the list of board members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the group behind the model legislation.
Update: Sascha Meinrath calls astroturf on three organizations, including ALEC, that are behind anti-municipal telco/cable/telecom service bills, pointing out that their boards' members are mostly made up of folks that more likely have their own companies' interests at heart despite the mission statements.
Free After Rebate catches the latest good deal: With two valid rebates, order the Belkin Wireless Cable/DSL 802.11b Gateway Router for negative five cents plus $9.40 in shipping--oh, and two 37-cent stamps to send in the rebate coupons. Remember to photocopy those receipts and coupons in case someone "forgets" to process your rebate.
This is actually quite a good unit--I recall it well from the 802.11b days. If you need to extend an existing network or set up a network in a place where 802.11b is the fastest speed you'll need, why not settle for free (plus shipping)?
Verizon Wireless says they've blanketed Los Angeles and environs: Its BroadbandAccess service, its name for the package of 1xEv-DO they've rolled out (or just plain EVDO if you want to be simpler about it) fills Los Angeles County, parts of Riverside County and San Bernadino County, and most of San Diego and Orange County. Overall, about 4400 square miles of coverage across populated SoCal.
This announcement is interesting because it was never entirely clear how much of a metropolitan area that Verizon intended to install EVDO throughout--100 percent? 95 percent? The city but not the suburbs? Their work here is a clear signal that they're talking metro deployment, not urban deployment.
Esme Vos dissects the latest state bill that caters to incumbent operators: Existing law prevents municipalities--with their tremendous tax-free advantages as opposed to the massive subsidization of telcos and cable operators--from running their own cable TV systems. A modified bill, introduced by a graduate of the colleges of Zig Zigler and Dale Carnegie, adds telecom services to that mix. Esme would like to know which companies are behind this particular emendation to Ohio's law. [link indirectly via GigaOm]
DoCoMo hits 1 Gbps with new acronyms: Just when WNN (that's Nancy and myself) are deciphering the HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) third-generation (3G) cellular standard that will top out a 14 Mbps, DoCoMo throws us a 1 Gbps 4G set of letters: VSF-Spread OFDM with MIMO. Oy.
The HSDPA standard is the next step from a few hundred Kbps download and much less upload speed found on DoCoMo and other 3G networks around the world. HSDPA should appear starting next year with a peak of 14 Mbps in both directions.
The 4G network--in which IP rules the entire network from end to end--will feature speeds up to 1 Gbps by 2010, apparently, using Variable Spreading Factor Spread Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing with Multiple-In/Multiple-Out antennas. OFDM is used in 802.11a, 802.11g, and the MBOA's flavor of UWB, among other purposes.
While the 1 Gbps speed involved four antennas and a short distance, DoCoMo has shown other impressive demonstrations of their coming 4G flavor:
Earlier this year, the company demonstrated a maximum downstream data rate of 300Mbps with an average rate of 135Mbps. The data rate was achieved during a field experiment in a car running at a speed of 30 kilometers per hour at distances between 800 meters and 1 kilometer from 4G wireless base stations.
Towerstream issued a press release explaining how the FCC's subsidy ruling pumps broadband wireless: I reproduce their press release after the jump because it's an interesting bit of analysis. The FCC ruled (PDF news release) that incumbent carriers, the Baby Bells et al., no longer need to subsidize competitive carriers in urban areas for their high-speed commercial digital services; this doesn't cover DSL, but rather T-1 (1.544 Mbps) and DS3 (45 Mbps) services. This means, Towerstream says, that the price of a wired T-1 and DS3 loop will increase because it can. Thus, their syllogism goes, it's now even more price competitive to go with their wireless high-speed, high-availability service.
I'm definitely feeling that my impending move to Dublin will put me in the right place at the right time: Government and corporate leaders in Dublin are hoping to establish Dublin as a center for the wireless industry where companies form a community that develops and furthers wireless technology. Some big companies that already have offices in Dublin or Ireland are backing the idea, including Intel, Lucent, O2, Esat BT and Bell Labs Ireland.
It's hard to know if this initiative is merely wishful thinking on the part of city leaders hoping to spur an increase in business, but there's no doubt that there's still a lot of high-tech work being done in Dublin as well as some cutting edge wireless development. A bit of a boost from the government and some marketing could just spur it along even further.
Treo 650 users don't need to wait to use Wi-Fi: PalmOne promised Wi-Fi drivers for their Wi-Fi SD card at some point, but a developer hacked a Tungsten driver to give that functionality now. [via Engadget]
Texas puts the Internet into five parks in pilot project: Do people need Internet access at state parks? We'll find out. The service starts January 1, and will be free until spring.
Gary Krakow loves EVDO: Verizon Wireless's 1xEv-DO cellular data service isn't available everywhere yet, but Krakow loves even the current level of ubiquity and speed. A number of my colleagues think that even a few hundred kilobits per second of download will be adequate for most users, rendering Wi-Fi connected to a T1 line or even faster ADSL service--like 6 Mbps down and 768 Kbps--a bit of overkill.
I tend to think these colleagues don't fully appreciate how many business travelers there are in the U.S.--40 million of them by one count, 30 million of which carry laptops--and how many of those travelers have high-bandwidth applications that they struggle to use. Customer-relation management (CRM) software, Java or ActiveX based internal applications, or even simple file exchange requires a fair amount of bandwidth to offer the "it's like I'm in the office" experience.
Even uploading a 10 MB PowerPoint presentation is torture at the 50 to 100 Kbps per speed that's the maximum that EVDO can offer right now. Downloads might break 2 Mbps at peak performance, more likely averaging a very respectable few hundred Kbps, but uploads aren't emphasized in the current generation of technology. Tell that to the folks trying to send high-resolution pictures and movies from fancy new camera phones, too!
Krakow doesn't overstate the advantages of EVDO, however. He's pretty realistic. And for general email and Web browsing, EVDO is more than adequate. Remember that the 1x in 1xEv-DO stands for 1.25 MHz of spectrum. A 3x flavor of CDMA2000 will use 3.75 MHz and be able to offer much more speed in both directions. One flavor in the lab would bring peak upload to 1 Mbps, for instance.
Woe be to the highly unsuccessful cracker manques: The fellow who was deemed to have the most responsibility in a quartet that all pleaded guilty was sentenced yesterday to nine years in jail for his role in using a poorly secured Wi-Fi network run by Lowe's to insert credit-card grabbing software into their systems. The judge reduced the potential longer sentence because Brian Salcedo provided information to Lowe's on security problems on their network.
Salcedo accomplice Adam Botbyl pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced today to more than two years in federal prison, somewhat less than expected. Paul Timmins pleaded to a misdemeanor. The article notes he was charged with wardriving, but that's incorrect: wardriving is generally passive. Timmins accessed the network, checking email according to his plea. The reporter writes, In wardriving, hackers search for vulnerable wireless Internet connections. But that's a subset of all wardrivers. Most wardrivers pursue Wi-Fi networks like birders pursue birds; they aren't searching per se for vulnerable networks.
Kevin Mitnick was only sentenced to five years, but prosecutors in the Mitnick case demonized him in order to make the case seem larger. He didn't do anything admirable, but he revealed the massive security flaws in many companies social and technical infrastructure. His actual damages--the cost to repair what he did as opposed to the costs to properly secure their own systems--were very small.
Another colleague of mine spent several years under probation for proving to Intel when he was a contractor that their password choices were bad. He didn't have their permission nor did he have any intent, but they decided to have him charged. He was obliged to pay the costs of their fixing a problem that he was demonstrating that they needed to fix.
In this case, prosecutors estimated that $2.5 million in damages would have been caused if Lowe's didn't uncover the inserted software on their network. The Wi-Fi access wasn't really the point in the case at all, just their means of detected entry.
Call it a low-orbit satellite or a high-flying blimp, but wireless broadband takes on a new form: There are several companies trying to put planes or blimps into high flight patterns to provide line-of-sight to enormous areas. Sanswire Networks launches their airship satellite next month. It hovers at 13 miles and can blanket an area the size of Texas with high-speed service.
Misreporting abounded today about the FCC's air-to-ground wireless spectrum decision: What really was decided in order FCC 04-287? That 4 MHz in the 800 MHz band designated for commercial air-to-ground use will be auctioned. More on how the auction will be decided in a moment.
Reports were all over the board in describing the decision, however, partly because of the way in which the press release was written. If you don't know spectrum, as many business reporters still do not, then you can easily misunderstand what was covered.
Many articles stated that the decision would allow Wi-Fi on board planes. But that decision was made years ago, and is why Connexion by Boeing is allowed to operate using Wi-Fi for its satellite-to-air service. For instance, this Reuters story incorrectly states, The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) forbids the cabin use of devices that intentionally emit radio waves during flight -- like wireless phones and computers that can communicate with each other.
The trade press tended to handle this better. For instance, Stephen Lawson from IDG News Service, a man who has filed hundreds of stories that I've read, got his facts dead right. Mike Masnick also figured out what was decided, but even he errs in reading the order to indicate only data services are at stake. The two licenses the FCC will grant at auction cover voice, data, broadband Internet, etc., although not ancillary services which isn't defined, but which means using the frequencies for purposes other than air-to-ground, like filling in empty spaces in ground cellular coverage.
I spoke briefly to Connexion by Boeing's Sherry Nebel today to help clarify what was decided. Stating Connexion's general position, she said, "The FCC did a really thorough job of listening to all of the interested parties and addressing a complex situation. We are pleased that the license will be limited to the intended air-to-ground use and ancillary use will not be allowed. And we now look forward to reviewing the commission's ruling in detail." There's that ancillary use again--we'll certainly hear more about it in the future. Nebel confirmed that Connexion will evaluate all of its options, now that air-to-ground is on the table.
Reports have indicated that Connexion pays hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees to lease the network of satellite transponders necessary to provide the extensive coverage needed for over-water routes. Adding air-to-ground communications for domestic flights could dramatically reduce the cost of offering such services.
Another point of confusion in the order is that it reduces Verizon AirFone's 4 MHz down to 1 MHz, which the commission felt was adequate for continuing to offer their service. They're not worried about overlapping that 1 MHz, either, as the service was originally licensed to handle as many as six overlapping users of the band (on different planes, though). Verizon gets grandfathered with a non-renewable five-year license.
Interestingly, Connexion competitor Tenzing--which has become part of a division of Airbus recently--piggybacks its domestic 64 and 128 Kbps data service on top of Verizon AirFone's current signal. Its international, primarily over-water service uses satellites, a new generation of which will goose the speed up to 400 Kbps increments, making 400 Kbps, 800 Kbps, and 1.6 Mbps service possible for their partners with relatively inexpensive and quick upgrades ($100,000 and a couple of hours on planes with existing satellite equipment).
Now the auctions are a little interesting. The FCC decided (with some dissent) that there are three possible configurations of the band, and that the market can decide through bids which are optimal. The band can be divided into two overlapping 3 MHz pieces, which have 2 MHz of overlap; or into 1 MHz and 3 MHz slices, in either orientation (1 then 3 or 3 then 1). The highest combination of gross bids for the two licenses wins.
No one company may purchase both licenses at auction; neither may one company acquire both afterwards. But two commissioners objected that 1 MHz isn't competitive against 3 MHz, and thus only the overlapping 3 MHz plan should have been up for bid. A de facto monopoly will be created, Copps and Adelstein separately argued, because only the 3 MHz license in the 3/1 scenarios will have enough bandwidth to be a real broadband service.
The FCC also said that they would start considering whether to allow cell phone use in planes via picocells.
Sputnik rolls out additional hotspot management features: Sputnik is the little company that could, and I don't mean it patronizingly. The company from its founding has continued to chart the course of best answering the needs of the customers that they find are most in need of their product. Sure, that's the way that all companies should work, but Sputnik has stayed small and focused and their "niche" product has increasingly broad applications as a result.
Their latest addition to their managed access point software package are two important billing options that provide hotspot operators with a great deal of flexibility in accepting payment from their customers at the least ongoing cost.
A PayPal module ($299, 100 APs, no transaction fees) integrates Sputnik's Control Center software into the massive payment system to allow one-time payments for use. Hotspot operators set the price. Interestingly, operators can also opt to work with a third-party, OurWebPortals, that can handle PayPal payments for hotspot access through the Sputnik system for a $50 setup fee and transaction fees based on monthly volume.
A more elaborate module integrates Control Center with Aria Systems' billing and customer management system for handling accounts and fees. This lets hotspot operators set up billing plans while customer can pay by bank transfer or credit card. Aria manages the account infrastructure. This module is $499 for up to 100 APs, with additional fees charged by Aria for their part of the equation.
Requiescat in pace, you broken, broken standard: Let's call the time of death for WEP. Jim Thompson forwarded me this link that shows that an Aircrack--based on an Aug. 2004 set of code--can rely on just a few hundred thousand passively collected packets and crack a key in seconds. A few hundred thousand packets could be as little as two minutes of collection time on a busy 802.11g network. (Jim Geier ran the number on packets per second for 802.11a and 802.11g in this April article at Small Business Computing.)
Thus the death of WEP. Two to five minutes of collection. A few second most of the time to crack the key. Even keys changed every 10 minutes are thus susceptible to an attack that might allow several minutes of discrete information. Unique keys distributed by 802.1X to each machine on a network reduces the number of packets sent by individual computers, thus still offering a window of possibility of crack-free WEP use. But it's a thin margin.
The article describes using one tool to collect packets, estimating a yield, and then employing aircrack with manual intervention for determining ideal fudge factor for wild guessing. Combine yield averaging with automatic fudging and a sufficiently powerful laptop could break keys quite easily without any intrervention. Leave such a laptop running and it could gather a lot of data over a few hours even if the window of decryption is just minutes long for each key.
And that's just the beginning.
Even a casual home user now has something to fear as this is far simpler than previous attacks requiring far less expertise.
Time to say good bye to WEP forever.
Sprint and Nextel announced their $40 billion merger of equals: Sprint's CDMA technology has been a block to offer push-to-talk (PTT) services that Nextel has made great profits on. Nextel has no migration plan for next-generation data services, although they've been testing approaches that aren't integrated with their iDEN voice technology. Sprint has already committed to spending billions on 3G high-speed voice and data systems.
In seemingly unrelated news a few days ago, Cingular dropped its challenge to the FCC proposal that would allow Nextel to reorganize its scattered chunks of frequency, giving them new contiguous spectrum in exchange for paying for the cost of moving the public-safety incumbents to Nextel-vacated frequencies. It's a multi-billion-dollar deal that the FCC offered, and Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless now no longer oppose it, and one would expect Sprint and Nextel to accept the deal, although Nextel wants to pay substantially less.
The new Sprint Nextel is at a rough parity with the subscriber base of Cingular-post-AT&T Wireless acquisition and Verizon Wireless (all on their lonesome). Sprint Nextel will have 35 million subscribers, Cingular 47 million, and Verizon Wireless 42 million. T-Mobile becomes a distant fourth (about 16 million subscribers) with no data upgrade plan in sight. This didn't elude the Wall Street Journal, which filed this report in which T-Mobile notes that worldwide they have about 70 million cell phone users which allows them to compete on scale for handsets and network components.
Low-speed, low-energy standard might finally cause array of remote controls to disappear: ZigBee is meant to offer short distance low-speed transmissions that employ very little power so that battery life of the devices that use it and require batteries might be six months to 2 years. The ZigBee Alliance has published the first specification for its devices, which are based on IEEE 802.15.4.
Zigbee, as Peter Judge explains in Techworld, is intended as a tool to power communications among devices that have low information exchange needs, like home electronics controls and remote sensors. But because it's simpler and designed with fewer purposes than Bluetooth, it may displace many of the early envisioned purposes for Bluetooth.
Remarkably, the standard has had few of the turmoils that rocked 802.15.3a, the standard that's designed for very short distance and high speeds, which ultimately decided on ultrawideband (UWB) as the encoding but couldn't agree on the type of UWB.
Chips will be for sale by 2005 first quarter for about $5 apiece.
The chair of the alliance said he guarantees no man-in-the-middle attacks. He may be right: the standard was developed at a time rich with security knowledge about wireless interception, injection, and denial of service.
Atheros will ship its sub-$13 chip in Q1 2005: The all-in-one chip includes everything a wireless access point manufacturer needs, making it easier to embed 802.11g into other products or produce even cheaper gateways that have a full range of features and performance. The chip includes Super G, a set that mixes proprietary and future 802.11e extensions to improve throughput; Atheros's distance-enhancing XR technology; and 802.11i with full AES encryption.
Chunnel train adds Wi-Fi to appeal to business travelers who might otherwise fly: The competition for the cross-channel business travel now includes Wi-Fi. Eurostar has put Wi-Fi into Waterloo and Ashford stations via Broadreach, a UK Wi-Fi-in-train operator that uses PointShot technology. Eurostar has 66 percent of the Paris trade and 59 percent of the Brussels travelers.
Next year, Eurostar will test on-board Wi-Fi, while also rolling out Wi-Fi service in its Paris and Brussels stations.
T-Mobile UK and UK airport operator BAA partner: T-Mobile UK will put Wi-Fi service in several airports operated by BAA, including Heathrow, Gatwick, and Glasgow, and international departure lounges in Stansted, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Southampton. The announcements says 120 million passengers, 40 million of them business users, pass through the included airports each year.
T-Mobile has its fingers on Delta, United, US Airways, and American, but Continental goes it alone and free: Continental will make free service available in its club lounge, Presidents Club, in 29 airports but not in Chicago. They may be bowing to O'Hare in terms of the upcoming Concourse Communications rollout in that airport, even though the FCC said that landlords can't control legal use of spectrum by tenants.
Continental is the first airline of any scale to offer free Wi-Fi. JetBlue and AirTrans offer free Wi-Fi but only in a few of their national terminals, not everywhere they fly.
One-third of cell calls are made from the home or in an office: This means that cell/Wi-Fi hybrid phones could offload a ton of minutes used on expensive cell networks to cheap Wi-Fi networks, possibly not even counting those minutes against a subscriber's plan. This Wall Street Journal column notes the Stupid Network problem that David Isenberg has pioneered: namely that a stupid network with no intelligence trying to control its purpose, like the Internet, has much higher utility than a closed, smart network that restricts access like a cellular network.
And there's a good quote from the always quotable smart guy Dana Blankenhorn: Whether it takes one year or five, when callers start relying less on their cellphones to make calls, it will shake up the industry. "Verizon thinks it can stop the future," Mr. Blankenhorn says. "No. They can stop it in Pennsylvania, but they can't stop the future."
It's not like you're there to relax, or anything: Carnival Cruise Lines has equipped its Carnival Valor ship (not boat, mind you) with Wi-Fi everywhere. They're claiming 100-percent coverage with their Cisco gear, including all rooms and public areas. The press release avoids mentioning costs, which is an odd oversight. Why not just be upfront? It's not like folks won't find out if they ask. On other Carnival ships, Wi-Fi access costs 75 cents per minute or as little as 55 cents per minute if you purchase a 100-minute prepaid card.
It's not quite the end of the year yet, but the page-viewing votes are clear: Here are our top 10 stories for 2004 as ranked by readership. See any trends?
And our most popular story? Best Wi-Fi Signal Finder Yet, a signal finder that has now been trumped by the Canary Wireless Digital Hotspotter, however!
Seven of the top 10 stories were about security and three of those about WPA weaknesses (two of those being from 2003). Two of the top 10 focus on Wi-Fi detectors.
Obviously, security is what brings in the traffic to Wi-Fi Networking News on a rolling basis, with older articles getting regular reads even as newer pieces appear.
Interestingly, our top two categories by far for 2004 were 802.11n and WiMax, two areas about which readers are hungry for information.
Time for my own personal blogrolling: Adding to my already obsessive behavior related to wireless data networks comes my new idee fixe: digital radio. Working with the fine people at Weblogs, Inc., today marks the soft launch of Droxy, The Digital Radio Weblog. The formal launch comes later this week, but I like to give my existing readers the inside scoop, as always.
I'll be writing mostly about Sirius and XM, the two U.S. satellite digital radio broadcasters, but in coming months I expect to file more and more about terrestrial digital radio, starting with U.S. broadcasters deploying iBiquity's HD (high-definition) format.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain of 144 stores will be SBC'd: FreedomLink service will be available in stores in California, Arizona, and Nevada by early 2005.
It looks like the telcos and cable companies haven't passed anti-municipal network legislation in Georgia yet: A big chunk of City Hall unwires this month, and chunks of the Atlanta airport by March 2005. A private firm has contracted with Atlanta to add Wi-Fi to city buildings, but will also continue its own rollout at private locations like hotels and retail stores. This is an interesting partnership, because the city's stamp on the Wi-Fi carrier, Biltmore Communications, and the branding of the service as Atlanta FastPass should make it a much easier sell for private parties to want to climb on this particular bandwagon.
The network's access costs will vary depending on airport, public building, and private facility. No mention of unlimited monthly subscriptions, but there will certainly be one given the plan to make it a city-wide service.
The article notes that the deal might sit outside the typical municipal bans, even if one were passed, because a third-party has been contracted separately and just provides revenue to the city. But it's possible that new legislation would be written to try to scotch this kind of deal, too.
Another leading hotspot operator in Atlanta, 3rd Wave, has changed its name to Ripple, and continues to pursue its now 55-hotspot-strong plan of charging for installation and operation of free-to-access hotspots.
iPass adds BT OpenZone's, 1500 locations to its portfolio: It's a significant expansion of iPass's Wi-Fi aggregated footprint in the UK. iPass will exceed 14,000 hotspots with this addition.
Om likes to call it Sextel, and owning a national footprint in the 2.5 GHz band might be sexy for investors: Om Malik writes about the MMDS band (2.5 GHz), which is largely owned by Sprint and Nextel. He and others he links to (and his first commenter) all believe that a merger would turn MMDS idle and then force WiMax into 5.8 GHz in the U.S. WiMax's first flavors will operate likely in 5.8 GHz, 3.5 GHz, and 2.5 GHz. But 3.5 GHz is available primarily in Europe right now as their preferred licensed band.
But remember that there's a proposal by the FCC on the table to carve up MMDS into different pieces while retaining its limited current function for educational broadcasting. This new carving would make it appropriate for 3G cellular services up to 5 MHz wide (3x flavors of 1xEVDV or 1xEVDO).
Because the FCC also created a plan to migrate Nextel's messy chopped-up set of frequencies into a continuous block elsewhere and allow them to pay for public-safety system upgrades to use their old spectrum, it's barely possible that the FCC will require Nextel and Sprint to accept their revised MMDS proposal as a condition of the merger. Powell has been liberal on allowing media mergers but conservative on spectrum utility, focusing on maximizing potential users and licensees (or unlicensees).
The revised MMDS plan would open up space because existing license holders wouldn't have as much spectrum in the new plan, but it would be more highly optimized for useful services, which could include WiMax.
Esme Vos reports on Madison, Wisconsin's efforts to build a municipal wireless network: Madison is skirting the law enacted July 2004 that prevents municipalities from building any kind of network--phone, data, or cable--without a number of intermediate steps, such as hearings. Madison is using a third party, so they aren't subject to the law. They're essentially establishing a new franchise, as Esme points out.
Esme also notes a hilarious situation that resulted when Jackson, Wisconsin, was sued by the telco and cable trade associations in Wisconsin. Esme reports that the city says the suit was dismissed because the judge ruled the groups lacked the standing to bring a lawsuit! Who could sue? Probably only a state agency, I'd wager, having read the Wisconsin law. [link via GigaOm]
You didn't read it here first, but it's worth noting: Nextel has unique technology that lets them serve businesses who need push-to-talk quite well, but it's a mess of spectrum and their next-generation data plans are all on the drawing board. Sprint needs to be bigger, and wants the business audience, plus they need to roll out PTT. But they have a 3G plan that's committed to. Could be a decent merger of equals or thereabouts in terms of revenue, subscribers, and what they're bringing to the table.
If the merger happens, T-Mobile becomes the distant fourth player in the market. Meanwhile, it's also possible Verizon Wireless will buy Nextel. Verizon Wireless is the only other CDMA carrier in the market now that AT&T Wireless customers as part of Cingular are either on GSM or required to move.
Om Malik has some of his usual great analysis of the matter, including the merger's impact on Flarion (the next-generation non-standard wireless data technology Nextel was trying out) and Motorola (which sells Nextel quite a few handsets).
Our colleague and WNN's senior editor heads to Ireland: Nancy Gohring heads in a couple of weeks to Dublin, Ireland, for the indefinite future. Her husband successfully beat down the competition for a Dublin-based position with his multinational employer, and the two of them leapt at the opportunity to live in a place even colder in winter than Chicago, their home before Seattle.
Nancy will be reporting from Europe for Wi-Fi Networking News and other publications, and we plan to expand our focus beyond our narrow provincial continental U.S. confines in the process.
In celebration of her near-term arrival in Dublin, Eircom has added 50 free hotspots to the city. On a recent trip there, Nancy had some difficulty finding any locations at first, but received incredible help from residents who have cemented the friendly and sharing nature of that city.
The Eircom hotspots are connected to payphones--45 of them of in that configuration--with five more to be turned on by the end of the year. The company has a goal of 250 hotspots nationwide in 2005. Eircom will be offering service for free in 14 Republic of Ireland McDonald's outlets.
Service will be absurdly expensive in three to four months: €10 for one hour and €20 for 24 hours. The adoption curve remains low in Europe, apparently, and this is obviously one of the reasons. Comparable service in the U.S. typically varies from always free to US$4 or US$5 per hour up to US$10 per day for whole network access (T-Mobile).
As the article notes, "A report by the Broad Group has said that even though prices in Europe are trending downwards they are still above those in other regions. The report has noted that hotspot use has increased as prices have decreased."
SBC unwires Palm Springs Airport: This is a goofy, giddy press release complete with a female CEO declaring herself First Lady of Wi-Fi for the Palm Springs International Airport. Does that mean she needs to wear a strapless dress with a sash to the unveiling? Go figure.
The release notes SBC's other exciting airports, which are a hilarious little list: Bob Hope International Airport in Burbank, CA, Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport in Evansville, IN, Cleveland International Airport, Little Rock National Airport and Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
I'm not trying to dis Cleveland, Burbank, or Evansville, and I had family in Arkansas at one time so I'd better be careful there, but these are fairly small airports that have significant but not massive volumes of passengers. It shows that SBC is trying to fill in gaps where other providers haven't leapt, which revealing of their overall strategy. Their partner Wayport has a number of large airports, like Seattle-Tacoma, San Jose, Oakland, and Dallas.
Microsoft was early campus-wide WLAN deployer, but needs new technology: The company has made extensive use of its WLAN infrastructure, but is facing the same growth pains as everyone else. There's no capability for VLANs, so all users get the same network privileges, making it impossible to offer guest access without them having set up a separate guest WLAN. Microsoft was an early 802.1X user, too, deploying an internal public-key infrastructure based method (EAP-TLS) which required the irritating installation of individual certificates on every computer that connected to the WLAN.
What was good for Microsoft was good for the industry, too, resulting in the good and ever-better implementation of Wi-Fi support within Windows XP. It still baffles me, however, that there's no location and profile manager as Apple has had for what I think is going on a decade. Even with Windows XP, you have to set up preferred networks that can be accessed universally as opposed to specific networks for specific location profiles.
Microsoft is taking bids, and I wouldn't be surprised if a WLAN switch vendor wins based on the requirements that they have for VLANs across WLANs and the entire campus, alongside their new interest in VoIP.
The Washington State Ferries (WSF) are about to launch their widescale test: One route had to be dropped because they couldn't secure a mid-run antenna location, and service would have been interrupted for six minutes. The first major route to have onboard Internet access via Wi-Fi is the popular Edmonds-Kingston route starting in a week; then Seattle-Bainbridge Island. These two routes comprise near half the system's traffic. The WSF operates about half the ferry trips in the United States overall.
While earlier, the ferry system had set an time limit on the free test part of this project before they bid out to a private contractor to operate, this article states the service will be free for three months.
Cell phones in the air are inevitable: Interesting piece from the New York Times running through the last few months of tests and proposals on putting cellular picocell stations in planes and allowing cell phone use on a broader basis.
The highly quoted Paul Saffo wins the prize for summarizing the problem:
"The last thing I want is a bunch of jabbering business geeks," said Paul Saffo, a technology industry consultant who travels 200,000 miles a year on United Airlines and said that flying was his only escape from e-mail and phone calls. "The only quiet time I get is when I fly. It's my meditation time."
T-Mobile exposes their 3G gap to the world: It's exhibitionist time, with T-Mobile admitting that their 3G plan is to wait two years before deploying UMTS, giving them a gap for wireless data large enough for Verizon and Cingular and Sprint to eat their lunch. I'm not sure why T-Mobile is waiting. There are practical reasons--spectrum is expensive and not plentiful--but I would be going the VoIP + Wi-Fi + 3G route.
If I had T-Mobile's large Wi-Fi hotspot network. I would be aggressively working with handset vendors to be the first to deploy a Wi-Fi/GSM hybrid phone in the U.S. and give away Wi-Fi gateways to customers as a promotion. I would have the phones set to use EAP-SIM or a similar authentication in T-Mobile locations. I would aggressively open the Wi-Fi network to roaming to encourage use of the Wi-Fi/GSM phone in other Wi-Fi locations--especially airports and hotels. I'd sell business travelers a nifty little portable Ethernet to Wi-Fi bridge.
And I'd deploy UMTS like gangbusters. Offloading voice to Wi-Fi, encouraging the growth of Wi-Fi use, and deploying 3G would be a combined plan that it would take Cingular until 2006 to meet, and Verizon and Sprint don't really have a gameplan to own enough to make it happen faster.
But that's just me. This business plan overview brought to you at no charge by Glenn's notion that he knows more than people running multi-billion-dollar companies.
Wired produced a quite remarkable product review issue, including substantial attention to wireless and Wi-Fi: Even more remarkable, it's available for a free download (PDF, 8 MB). I've seen the issue in print, and it's worth a solid look if you're planning to purchase practically any electronics gear in any major category. (Disclosure: I don't write for Wired, but I know quite a few of their writers and reviewers who are top notch--best in category!)
WAPI's back: The ISO has put the proprietary Chinese standard that only Chinese firms are allowed to implement on the agenda for consideration. It's ridiculous that a standard that cannot be examined in full nor made available under reasonable and non-discriminatory terms to licensees would become a potential international standard next to 802.11i. It won't die despite its political and technical futility. [link via TechDirt]
Vodafone will test Connexion for its customers: An interesting press announcement, in that it describes this initial stage as a test that must be completed successfully. Vodafone has 147 million customers from its direct operations and joint ventures. It's essentially a marketing and billing relationship, but as the cell phone industry discovered long ago, presenting charges on a single bill makes it much more likely people will use third-party services.
D-Link offers Wi-Fi router aimed at gamers: The router comes with four gigabit Ethernet ports and it supports D-Link's 108 Mbps wireless flavor. The unit prioritizes gaming packets. A Wi-Fi version costs $180, while the Ethernet-only version is $150.
Roku adds SoundBridge M500 for $199 with Wi-Fi: Audio streaming products that use a Wi-Fi network are dropping in price and jacking up in features. Roku makes two more expensive models, the M1000 ($250) and M2000 ($500). The three models are virtually identical except in size of their display. Radio Shack gets first dibs on selling the units through the end of 2004.
Siemens hits 1 gigabit per second in the lab with mobile technology: Siemens has developed technology that appears to incorporate MIMO (multiple antennas for transmitting and receiving) and OFDM (the encoding used in 802.11a and 802.11g) to create a 1 Gbps mobile wireless technology. In the lab, at least.
The press releases says: "By comparison: WLAN networks presently offer the fastest wireless links to mobile devices at speeds of around 50 MBit/s." But that's slightly specious. The Wi-Fi specs use about 20 MHz for a single channel to achieve symbol rates of over 100 Mbps. (A symbol rate is the raw bit flow, not the net data transferred.) Those rates are expected to increase to as much as 400 Mbps with the introduction in 2006 of 802.11n.
Now Siemens says they are using 100 MHz of 5 GHz spectrum. With today's technology, binding five channels together would get you a raw rate of 250 Mbps in compatible Wi-Fi modes and 500 Mbps in proprietary modes--and perhaps 2 Gbps in the future. And Proxim has long had 1 Gbps fixed wireless Ethernet bridges.
Their key breakthrough here is in building something that, in the lab, already shows the potential to fit into mobile devices and use relatively computational power to achieve the results necessary by relying on the MIMO approach to increase sensitivity and OFDM to deal with the real-world reflection of signals.
The company is looking for this to be exploited for cellular purposes, and it could be a giant threat to mobile WiMax unless mobile WiMax walks down a similar path. [link via MobileTracker]
Connexion by Boeing adds active airlines, talks about future: In an interview Tuesday, Connexion's vice president of commercial airline business Stan Deal said that All-Nippon Airlines (ANA), Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), and Japan Airlines will all have active service in at least one plane or route by Dec. 14. ANA is flying Tokyo to Shanghai round-trips with Connexion active now. On Dec. 9, Japan Airlines adds Internet service to their Tokyo to London round-trip. And Dec. 14, SAS starts up the first of many planes they will unwire with Connexion with an assortment of Copenhagen-based flights--first up, Copenhagen to Seattle. (SAS has committed on their site to a full rollout of their 11-plane long-haul fleet by April 2005.)
Meanwhile, Lufthansa has been quickly adding planes to the Connexion-equipped fleet. They fly with Connexion enabled both ways on several routes: Munich to Los Angeles, Tokyo, Tehran, and Charlotte, and Frankfurt to Denver. On Dec. 14, they add Munich to San Francisco and Miami. The latest routes were released in a press announcement on Wednesday.
Connexion also has signed up China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, and Asiana Airlines. Two other airlines have been signed with announcements expected.
Deal said that Boeing now had relationships with 160 corporations around the world representing over 300,000 employees that have a direct connection with the service: "When they get on a Connexion-equipped airplane, the corporation will reimburse them," Deal said.
Connexion has also pursued Wi-Fi operator agreements to allow the same account credentials on the ground to authenticate and bill through to these wireless operators. They now work with iPass Inc, InfoNet, NTT DoCoMo, T-Systems, StarHub, NTT Communications, and Singtel, and Deal said two other "big-brand wireless providers" are signed with an announcement forthcoming.
Deal said that the reduction in time to install Connexion on planes--a reduction discussed on a recent demonstration flight in November from as much as 20 down to within seven days--wasn't part of the sudden availability in active routes. Instead, it was the time required to put the deals together. Deal said there was an "early adopter issue: who's going to break into the market first in the industry. That barrier I think you can say is down now."
Connexion plans to introduce live television with Singapore Airlines and then other carriers streamed over the satellite Internet feed. It also expects to add prepaid cards for Connexion use to complement the onboard credit card, corporate, and operator credentials options. And frequent flyer milers on some airlines will be convertible at a "fairly reasonable" exchange rate into Connexion sessions, Deal said.
Deal noted that he's found having continuous Internet access during a flight changes a passenger's perception of the experience. Even as you fly, "you can partake in what's happening in the world," he said. Many early users employ Connexion for entertainment, not just work.
AirMagnet released an upgrade to its site survey tool: There are now two versions of the tool, one aimed at network managers the other designed for consultants and site surveyors who build wireless LANs for a living.
Some of the capabilities of the survey tool sound similar to Trapeze's RingMaster software, which helps IT managers construct their Trapeze networks. AirMagnet seems to be adding more and more functionality such that in some regards it is moving into the territory of the appliance vendors, like a Bluesocket or Reefedge.
Analyst Craig Mathias takes a look at the technology of the future discussed at Wi-Fi Planet: Mathias obviously made good use of his time, and has a great summary of the event.
WiMax and mobile WiMax: Fixed has lots of potential, but mobile is a more complicated issue (as we've maintained in this forum) because it may take long enough to reach market and require enough spectrum and operator support that 3G (and 4G) combined with metro-Wi-Fi are good enough, cheap enough, and early enough to beat it. Mesh: One radio or multiple? The debate continues to rage. Antennas: Don't discount the role of an antenna in overall system performance.
SMC Networks introduces Hotspot Gateway Kit: The kit comprises wireless access point/bridge that includes authentication and billing services and a ticket printer for $899. The 802.11g device includes WDS support to build a larger hotspot footprint. Login can be via 802.1X. The ticket printer can produce the information needed for time-bounded sessions. The Web site doesn't offer details as to whether the 802.1X connection is secured and whether it works with a local or only remote RADIUS server.
If you're the kind of person who uses an RSS aggregator, listen up: I've reformed the feeds we offer for Web-based syndication via RSS and similar formats. Glance to the upper right of any page on this site, and you can now use an aggregator to subscribe to our feeds in RSS 0.91, RSS 2.0, RSD, and Atom formats.
If you don't know what an aggregator is, please follow the link to a Yahoo category that will help explain it. I've added a link as well to download Podcast receivers so that you can listen to the audio interviews we're going to start producing for the site, starting with our first, yesterday.
LucidLink allows a small office to have turnkey high-grade WLAN security: Using an interesting set of techniques to allow account creation, key confirmation, and simple installation, LucidLink brings the benefits of 802.1X and WPA authentication and encryption to small businesses that don't have or want the expense of a RADIUS server and separate client-side support.
This latest version expands the maximum number of users from 50 to 250 for a single installation--the server's lightweight footprint lets it run on, say, an executive assistant's PC--and adds Windows 2000 as a supported platform. Entry-level pricing is $449 for 10 simultaneous clients (not simply accounts).
They've also added a $99 home user version that supports three simultaneous users. This is a terrific idea for the security-conscious home user with an all-Windows XP and 2000 environment. (Thanks to Robert Moskowitz for pointing out this omission in my initial report.)
For more information on the software, see this interview I conducted with the company back in mid-July 2004.
Flying J will honor truck drivers balance of services at Truckstop.net: Flying J's TON Services, which offers Wi-Fi and Internet access at the company's nationwide service stops, will credit truck drivers with the balance of their Truckstop.net account services against a Flying J account. Flying J has 285 Wi-Fi hotspots currently. If you're a driver and you've paid a year in advance and you need access, this is a great combination of marketing and generosity. Flying J will see the increased revenue from gas and other services which would more than make up for any temporary loss on the Wi-Fi side.
Flying J's press release follows the jump.
Following Cingular's announcement of its 3G network plans, Sprint awarded contracts for its nationwide wireless data network: Back in June Sprint said the upgrade would cost $1 billion but it now says it is spending a whopping $3 billion, including upgrades to radio hardware and software and increasing capacity on the network. Nortel and Lucent received three year deals while Motorola earned an extension of its existing contract through 2006. The 1xEV-DO network should be nationwide around 2006.
The playing field is leveling off a bit with all the major operators working on extensive higher speed wireless data roll-outs. Sprint, which doesn't yet have any high-speed data markets launched, is behind Cingular and Verizon. T-Mobile's plans aren't totally clear but its network of Wi-Fi hotspots exceeds any hotspot efforts launched by the others.
Sprint responds in two articles to Truckstop.net's claims: Truckstop.net says Sprint's equipment didn't perform, losing them customers. Sprint says the equipment was fine and states the firm is in arrears. In The Trucker, a Sprint spokesperson says tests Sprint had performed on the equipment couldn't "replicate" the problems reported by Truckstop.net. Sprint cut service after Truckstop.net failed to meet a deadline to pay a court-ordered bond in the lawsuit Truckstop.net had filed. Sprint then cut service. The Sprint spokesperson says Truckstop.net owes them $3 million.
Bravo for leg work--or phone work--by the reporter: Random calls to six truck stops that had been listed as Truckstop.net Wi-Fi providers yielded very few complaints about not getting service. A Truckstop.net executive rebutted: in its present state, the system was of no use to subscribers.
In the Omaha World Herald, a reporter notes that court filings show Truckstop.net has paid Sprint $6 million, and dropped from 45,000 subscribers last spring to 6,600 as of mid-November. Some truck stops are apparently paying Sprint directly to continue service during the interregnum.
The co-founder of Nomadix, Joel Short, 34, has passed away: Dr. Short died Nov. 21. I never met him, but I know that his loss at such a young age leaves a large hole in the lives of his family and his colleagues. My condolences to them all. Donations are being accepted in lieu of flowers; see the memorial page at Nomadix for details.
All 79 Chicago Public Library branches have free Wi-Fi: The network is apparently live right now and the press releases don't indicate that you need a library card to use the Wi-Fi; some information resources at the libraries are restricted to patrons. The libraries already had free computer access and free Internet access, but a library card is needed to use the free computers, but guests can use computers if they present identification.
The library system uses Airespace equipment throughout, centrally managed with their WLAN console. Airespace also unwired the Seattle Public Library's shining new central edifice in downtown Seattle.
There's a public safety and government story here, too: city workers will be able to use a "secure channel" as the press release puts it--most likely a VLAN using 802.1X or WPA--to connect to city resources while on the road. This turns libraries into city branch offices, which must be useful in a metropolitan area.
We can be just as trendy as everyone else, here at Wi-Fi Networking News: Today we launch our first "podcast," the new term for providing downloadable audio that can be picked up via RSS aggregators and loaded on a computer or into portable music players--not just MP3s. (Read Wikipedia for a history of podcasting--and correct it if it's wrong.)
Our first interview is with Martyn Levy of RoamAD, down in New Zealand: [MP3 format, 1 Mb]. RoamAD makes 802.11 mesh networking equipment that uses dense installations of 802.11b commodity gear on the client side with committed information rates that now approach 2 Mbps and 802.11b or 802.11a for mesh and backhaul. Martyn explains their current approach and technology in the interview.
Using Skype's peer-to-peer voice-over-IP software, some Macintosh recording software (Audio Hijack Pro), and the stars being aligned just right, the 7-minute inaugural episode of our audio programming is available. This is the first one of these we've tried, so my audio level may be a little lower than Martyn's and there's a little background fuzz; we'll get the sound bugs worked out soon.
Update: I have added an RSS 2.0 feed that incorporates enclosures of the type needed by podcasting aggregation programs. If you have one of those, you know who you are.
Ubisense's sensors place people and things to within six inches in three dimensions: The sensors rely on the unique property of ultrawideband (UWB) to offer extremely precise placement information. Of course this begs the question of how many people or assets need to be located or tracked within inches--or feet? Here's an answer for one of their vertical industries: real-time measurement and audit of workplace metrics, providing the evidence managers need to make practical decisions.
"Bob, you spent too much time at your desk working on the TPD form, and then I see over the last month you were in the bathroom for 2 1/2 hours a day. I'm going to need to ask to request permission in writing for future facility breaks, m'kay?"
In researching a story on 802.15.3b (the UWB flavor of personal area networking) last year, several companies mentioned that combining UWB transmitters into Wi-Fi devices could help in planning, monitoring, and adjusting networks. You might be able to track someone across a Wi-Fi network using UWB to precisely locate the access points and Wi-Fi to triangulate within that space. [link via Wireless Weblog]
Libera, the owner of 28 GHz licenses in the UK, has decided to build a WiMax network in unlicensed bands instead: The cost difference between buying radios for the 28 GHz band compared to buying WiMax-like gear in the 5.8 GHz band swayed Libera. Libera plans to initially target business customers with intentions to migrate to consumer services once the price of gear drops even lower.
Libera did a trial in the 28 GHz band using equipment from Alvarion but chose Aperto for the unlicensed network. It's not known what Libera will do with its 28 GHz licenses.
This move comes just after PCCW decided against WiMax. PCCW has been trialing networks from Navini and IPWireless for a network in the Thames Valley, west of London. But PCCW said yesterday that it had chosen IPWireless for the network. Navini backs WiMax. PCCW said that it chose IPWireless because it offers some of the same characteristics as WiMax promises, such as portability and non-line-of-sight, only IPWireless equipment is available now. Certified WiMax gear isn't yet on the market and initial equipment will support fixed offerings.
Operators continue to be faced with the dilemma between waiting on WiMax for the standard solution or trying to jump the gun on the market and go with proprietary or so-called pre-standard solutions. As we can see in the examples of Libera and PCCW, operators are making different choices. But it's worth noting that the more operators choose vendors like IPWireless, the more those independent vendors become viable.
Posted by Nancy Gohring at 2:20 PM | Permanent Link | Categories:
Now that Cingular's acquisition of AT&T Wireless is complete, Cingular says it has plans for nationwide 3G: Cingular said it will build a UMTS network across most major markets by the end of 2006. Some markets will also get HSDPA networks. HSDPA, which stands for High-Speed Downlink Packet Access, is a software upgrade that ultimately promises to deliver as fast as 14 Mbps data rates.
In reality, HSDPA probably will actually offer end users several hundred Kbps, said Andy Fuertes, a senior analyst with Visant Strategies. He doesn't expect services like HDSPA from Cingular to have much affect on the future of WiMax. "I don't think this affects WiMax in the sense that WiMax is not mobile and it probably won't be," he said. Fuertes believes that there are enough barriers to a mobile version of WiMax that a mobile version may never actually surface.
But even a portable WiMax solution might have advantages for some users over HSDPA or other cellular data networks partly because of uplink speeds. At peak performance, HSDPA promises 384 Kbps on the uplink. That means in reality the uplink would likely be far less. A slow uplink may be a limiting factor for cellular operators hoping to attract business customers. "The enterprise user is not really an asymmetric user," Fuertes notes. A higher uplink speed could offer an advantage to a competitive WiMax network that enables portability.
The acceptance of the higher speed HSDPA is also unlikely to seriously affect the potential success of the independent vendors such as Flarion, Navini, and IPWireless, said Fuertes. Technologies from those companies tend to work better throughout the entire coverage area of a cell, whereas the data rates of standard cellular data technologies tend to drop off as users move away from the cell site. The vendors also are proving that they can actually deliver the high data rates that they promise. "And it's here. The WiMax fixed version isn't even here," Fuertes noted. Some operators are choosing solutions from the independent vendors because the equipment is available rather than wait for WiMax.
On a bit of a side note, the competition for the fastest and largest data network is definitely on. Shortly after Cingular sent out its announcement about its data network plans, spokesman Ritch Blasi sent around an email to journalists hoping to set the record straight on the current status of the competition. He referred to reports that Cingular trails Verizon and Sprint in deploying 3G (he may be referring to this Reuters story). While he concedes that Verizon has about twice as many EV-DO markets as Cingular has UMTS markets, he notes that Sprint hasn't yet deployed any EV-DO markets. By Blasi's count, Cingular has the fastest national wireless data network, and he's right.
Electronic Arts CFO says that next-generation game consoles will have Wi-Fi access points built in: It's a natural and reasonable progression, allowing Wi-Fi to be a standard feature that can then be tied into controllers and portable games and have applications that run on laptops and handhelds. [link via Engadget]
You wouldn't want to be unreachable while on a cruise, now would you? Wireless Maritime Services (Cingular plus another firm) have signed Royal Caribbean for their on-ship GSM service. The service will allow some data services and GSM voice calls at a roaming rate that isn't mentioned, but is likely to be huge but not enormous. Because the ships already offer unbelievably expensive satellite-based phone service, they would see a dip by offering passengers the ease of a cell phone. However, usage would likely be dozens or hundreds of times higher. I would expect a sub-dollar-a-minute rate, but possibly not far below that, given that Cingular was (at least a year ago) charging a dollar a minute for roaming into Canada with my service plan.
The service is already available on Majesty of the Seas. The cruise line will add service to Navigator of the Seas and the Celebrity ship Summit in a few weeks. The entire 29-ship fleet will have service in 2005.
While I'm sure that businesspeople appreciate being reachable at all times, the extension of cell service into new areas, such as trains, planes, and cruise lines mean more incursion on the public aural space and more retraction of the concept of personal time away from work and obligations. The cruise line's COO mentions family and voicemail, but it's really about dollars and cents. The cruise lines need additional ways to bring in revenue from their passengers, and this is certainly one of them.
Expect angry spouses (male and female) to seize cell phone batteries on board for the duration of cruises after "just this one more call" or the phone ringing during a quiet, romantic dinner.
A panel at Wi-Fi Planet agrees that products with the final (but not necessarily ratified) version of 802.11n will hit the market by 2006 second quarter: The panelists from Atheros and Airgo, cited in this story, expect that the 802.11n task group will narrow from four to two proposals shortly and that the final proposal will be selected by 2006. Pre-ratification products will hit the markets. At issue is whether patents for the two remaining standards will be available royalty-free or on a reasonable and non-discriminatory basis (RAND).
One of the panelists noted a problem we discussed on this site some weeks ago: pre-N products aren't being guaranteed as eventually 802.11n compatible. This is precisely what happened to Texas Instruments 802.11b+ (802.11b with PBCC) which offered raw throughput of 22 Mbps and no upgrade path to 802.11g. Renasis managers called these pre-N products "disposable."
GigaBeam puts multi-gigabit-per-second wireless into lower Manhattan: Using a carrier-neutral interchange, GigaBeam is using point-to-point wireless gigabit connections in the 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz range. Prices weren't noted. The company plans to hit 10 Gbps in 2005.
The Pennsylvania law requiring municipalities to get approval from telcos to build their own for-fee networks just keeps spawning more reporting and writing: Coverage of the bill's progress to law has certainly reawakened a broader interest in the impact and extent of these laws, along with the telcos and cable companies involvement in suppressing local exchange competition.
A letter to The Inquirer from an attorney involved on the municipal side of the equation for utilities disputes whether Philadelphia should build its own network. He makes interesting points about Philly's own abilities and its own anti-competitive behavior. If Philly bid out to have a private contractor--a CLEC, even--build and operate a vendor-neutral network, this would probably answer three of his four concerns.
Jim Hu reports at News.com about the marketing and lobbying carried out by telcoms to crush efforts to build local data, cable, and telecom networks. The article cites incumbents talking about how investments in infrastructure and operations are gambles for local municipalities, while they're proven business initiatives for the operators--even as the operators claim unfair advantages in costs to municipalities. That's a contradiction I'd like to see resolved. They seem to point to inexperience as the issue, but municipalities are typically contracting services to established players, some of whom build out on contract for operators.
Operators may be pulling the teeth out of municipal services to avoid the pressure of having a faster timetable to provide cost-competitive service as the story's concluding graf tells a lesson: "We only got cable modems last spring after the cities began making noise about building our own utility," said Peter Collins, Annie Collins' husband and the director of information technology for the city of Geneva. "The big part of what that proved to us is we scared the hell out of them and all of a sudden proved we don't have to rely on them for our telecom future."
Finally, the Washington Post rounds up municipal networks nationwide, focusing on the consumer rights that various legislation appears to have forestalled, according to consumer advocates. They note that these bills put control in the hands of corporations rather than, say, a public utility district or citizens or elected officials. The Supreme Court has upheld that municipalities can't control their telecom destinies if higher entities, like the state, tell them not to.
The existence of successful projects nationwide for cable, voice, and data seem to belie the contention that the incumbent operators are making. The more successful projects that roll out and offer services that incumbents weren't planning on introducing or that go far beyond those services, the harder it will be to make a compelling argument that cities can't run their own services for the benefits of their own citizens.
Specious arguments from Datacomm: I noticed this piece via a link at Tech Dirt and it's worth commenting on. Ira Brodsky makes the argument that the Wi-Fi Alliance's statement that they are resistant to products labeling themselves having to do with 802.11n coming to market in a way that might interfere with existing Wi-Fi networks will stifle innovation.
His arguments seem to focus on the benefits of MIMO technology coming to market earlier, and he cites the early release of 802.11g, before the IEEE had ratified a final standard, as an example. But 802.11g's early rollout was almost a disaster. Firmware was changing constantly. Equipment using the same chipsets often didn't work correctly among devices from different vendors, and performance glitches could make networks slower with 802.11g than with just 802.11b. Eventually, when the standard was ratified and the alliance could certify against a testbed, 802.11g settled down.
We've seen a host of extensions to 802.11g that have had some success in increasing speed, but they mostly--not entirely--work in homogeneous environments. Homogeneity benefits the manufacturers, not the consumers, because it requires lock-in. If you want 40 Mbps, then you have to buy all from one maker. For 20 Mbps, you can use any 802.11g. It's in the better interests of those who need the speed to suffer lock-in and lose the commodity pricing benefits that have come from standardization and interoperability. But it's not in the benefit of all consumers.
I should clarify that I don't mean that these devices shouldn't reach the market: they should. But don't come crying to the Wi-Fi Alliance when your non-Wi-Fi branded (or Wi-Fi certification pulled) pre-N, pre-X, pre-Y, and pre-Z equipment interferes with the operation of your Wi-Fi networks. As individual consumers or businesses, you can make the choice for speed or features over compatibility. But that doesn't mean the group trusted by its members to ensure interoperability needs to adjust its view of its own brand.
Brodsky writes: The market is brimming with products that offer proprietary but well-behaved enhancements to the 802.11a/b/g standards. Far from disrupting current Wi-Fi products, MIMO-OFDM products offered by vendors such as Belkin Corp. and SOHOware Inc. are Wi-Fi-certified and boost performance when used with 802.11a/b/g products.
His analysis is a red herring. These very enhancement are only well-behaved by accident. There's still the conflict between Atheros and Broadcom, which I've never seen a resolution of, in which Atheros's products use a dual-channel bonding that Broadcom claims can cause disruption and lower speeds on nearby networks. Atheros said their testing didn't show this, but all of their OEMs seem to now support a dynamic mode for this element of their higher-speed proprietary add-ons that drops out of the dual bonding if non-Turbo mode clients are detected.
It's pure luck and some intent that none of these enhancements is truly disruptive. If devices are FCC approved, even a disruptive add-on might still conform to FCC rules. The Wi-Fi Alliance threatening decertification is the only tool that might convince a manufacturer with FCC licensed equipment to modify its firmware to avoid stepping on Wi-Fi networks that would be affected.
Finally, the Belkin products are certified as Wi-Fi only in their Wi-Fi modes: the fact that they use MIMO is perfectly reasonable, but they're not certified in their pre-802.11n speeds, of course, and that's the point of contention. MIMO can certainly work for 802.11a/b/g, and it apparently provides much better range for existing Wi-Fi network adapters connecting to a pre-N access point, according to early reviews of Belkin's gear, even without using its proprietary high-speed mode.
Here's the part that I find most specious: Some leading vendors are worried the pre-n products spilling onto the market could reshuffle the market share deck. Their fears are well founded. But it would be unfair to make users wait three years just so slower-footed vendors can catch up. But the Wi-Fi Alliance isn't the government: they're not keeping MIMO pre-N products from the marketplace. They're just saying if they cause interference with Wi-Fi, disrupting the alliance's brand promise, then they can't have the Wi-Fi label. That's a market and marketing threat based on a certification and testing standard. Companies can release all the pre-N they want, but they can't necessarily call it Wi-Fi even if it can handle a/b/g.
Brodsky concludes: ...the alliance must be careful not to confuse special interests with common interests. It's just as important to protect vendors' right to innovate. Standards help grow the market to the next level, but innovations like MIMO-OFDM get the ball rolling.
The alliance doesn't exist to protect vendors' right to innovate. It exists to protect its members' ability to use a brand that has a strong promise to consumers and business IT: that anything labeled Wi-Fi interoperates with anything else labeled Wi-Fi. Innovations aren't preventing by adhering to a brand promise: they're preventing by disrupting a clear message in the marketplace that has led to Wi-Fi's total dominance and ease of interoperability.
Singapore Airlines has committed to installing Connexion by Boeing service in 2005: The press release doesn't note how many planes are part of this installation, but it does include information about flights of less than three hours in duration, implying a broader rollout than that planned by all other Connexion customers, which have stated commitments to long-haul flights only. SIA will use Connexion to bring in live television, starting with four international channels. The first route hooked up will be Singapore to London by first quarter 2005.
In the spirit of trying something new, I've created a discussion group using Google's new Groups 2 Beta which anyone can join and any member can post. I've heard in the past people would like a forum for more direct discussion. Please visit and join to start talking about wireless networking.
|Browse Archives at groups-beta.google.com|
My overview of the Digital Hotspotter Wi-Fi signal detector is in Thursday's New York TImes: I've been cadgey for a few weeks about reviewing this item because I had this piece scheduled to run in the Times's Circuits section, where it appears online now and in print tomorrow. The Digital Hotspotter is the device that I've been waiting for because it has an LCD display to let you see which networks are actually in the vicinity. It needs to add continuous scanning as an option, and I imagine they'll include more details over time. But this is the first detector that steps beyond mildly useful into thoroughly useful when trying to see what networks are around you for connecting or troubleshooting.
Remember 802.11h? It's an extension to 802.11a that helps avoid trampling radar signals, among other issues: For 802.11a to work in Europe, the IEEE 802.11h task group had to be formed and ratified a standard that used two techniques to meet the continental guidelines: TPC (transmission power control) and DFS (dynamic frequency selection). TPC keeps signal strength efficient, using only enough power to reach active users rather than using a uniform power output. DFS ensures a reduction in interference with other systems.
NewLogic is emphasizing that it's DFS component will perform much more intelligent checks against radar signals, a point of contention in the U.S. in the 5 GHz range. A compromise between the U.S. military and industry--a compromise that was a little behind doors--resulted in more spectrum allotted to unlicensed use but with the caveat that radar could be operating in that spectrum and must not be trod upon. By reducing false positives for radar, NewLogic will offer better network performance and robustness.
The Philadelphia meets (beats?) Verizon story has legs: This story blew up worldwide, and I believe Esme Vos gets some or most of the credit for it turning into an international rather than local story. Others are free to post comments disagreeing with that statement. Esme analyzes the political side of this story this morning.
Cynthia Webb of the WashingtonPost.com posted an extensive set of links following the story across the developments of the last few days, which I won't attempt to replicate, but rather guide you to read through and follow her links.
Jesse Drucker at the Wall Street Journal files an update about the law being signed.
Matt Richtel at The New York Times reports, too, declaring it a victory for Verizon Communications. Richtel quotes the governor's deputy chief of staff stating something that I had pointed out--that it's unclear what the incumbent has to build out when asked by a political subdivision. But, Mr. Myers said, the language of the law is so vague that it is not clear whether the telecommunications provider would have to use the technology favored by the city, like wireless Internet access, or whether it could provide Internet access using a different technology. [NYTimes link via the wireless weblog]
Sascha Meinrath reads HB30 very closely, and worries that as signed into law, the statute requires that anyone who wants any broadband service that the local exchange carrier doesn't offer has to petition the LEC and sign a commitment to buy into service for one year. The law lists any person, business, local development district, industrial development agency, or other entity. So the petitioning process isn't limited to municipalities: it is new providers, consumers, and business that either want a particular service from someone else or want to offer a particular service to someone else. If anyone can dispute this interpretation, please post in the comments.
Sarah Myland Kaufman laments New York's lack of commuter Internet access: This graduate student in urban planning at NYC argues cogently that particularly the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) that among other duties operates the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North lines into Connecticut and upstate New York needs to talk about offering commuter Wi-Fi.
Her argument has a few parts: first, it's a bonus for commuters who can suddenly see an increase in productivity during idle hours. Some people may like to read, sleep, or sit quietly; for others, it's time they're not at home and not at work, and that's probably a large pool. Secondly, the MTA could use the Wi-Fi infrastructure for improving their own information gathering and logistics. The fees from commuters could pay for the expense of the logistics management.
It does struck me as somewhat amusing that remote communities on islands in Washington State will have Wi-Fi on their ferry docks and ferries by next year, while the densest commuting environment in the U.S. will have no access at all.
Tropos and Boingo sign roaming deal that will allow metro-networks to choose to offer roaming to Boingo customers: There's no mention in the press release about existing metropolitan network operators choosing to add Boingo roaming, but it does mention a half-square-mile prefab package that Tropos offers that will include Boingo roaming.
Update: Boingo's PR firm emailed that The Verge in New Orleans and the Cerritos, Calif., networks that use Tropos equipment offer this Boingo roaming option.
Four delegates to a join ISO/IEC meeting were refused visas: The four delegates (out of six on the team) represented the technical side of the Chinese WAPI (Wireless Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure) security standard which was widely criticized last year with complaints from U.S. businesses manifesting themselves in a cabinet-level statement from the U.S. WAPI is a native Chinese standard that the country planned to keep proprietary and would require all WLAN products to incorporate for sale within China. Non-Chinese firms would have to partner with domestic counterparts that were approved to add the standard. China eventually backed off on their WAPI requirement, for now. The reason for the visa being denied was not given.
Pennsylvania's Governor, Edward G. Rendall, did sign House Bill 30, giving incumbents veto power over municipal networks: However, if you read the release, you'll find some remarkably candid discussion of the issues surrounding municipal networks and the various actions taken to ensure Philadelphia's network will go forward given an agreement signed with Verizon. Other municipalities may go into high gear as they have until Jan. 1, 2006, to avoid the first-refusal requirement. The governor's release notes that the bill was adjusted to provide more grandfathering over the course of its development.