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Recent Entries

Securities Association Misunderstands SSL
Who's Hot Today? Princeton, Kentucky; the whole state of Iowa
Can't-Tenna? CANtenna!
Connexion, Yahoo Announce Small Box on Web Page
Qualcomm Founder on Muni-Fi, Metered Wi-Fi
Linksys, NetGear Add Simpler Encryption Setup
Cantennas Illegal?
Linksys Travel Router
Who's Hot Today? Racine County, Wisc.

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July 2005 Archives

July 28, 2005

Securities Association Misunderstands SSL

By Glenn Fleishman

The National Association of Securities Dealers put out the wrong message in warning against Wi-Fi hotspots: They do say, keep software patched, use a firewall, only connect to secure sites for transactions, and a VPN is a good idea. But they suggest that sniffing and evil twins could intercept financial data. That's not correct.

Unless you aren't checking the URL to which you're connecting, there's no known way for an SSL certificate to be forged that would allow an evil twin to show you "" and have your browser do anything but balk. Likewise, sniffing can't intercept SSL or VPN encrypted data using any techniques currently available. Weak SSL, sure, but no reputable firm has run 40-bit SSL in years. Likewise, a VPN using PPTP with a weak passphrase is a problem, so choose long PPTP passphrases.

Update: Read the comment below. Apparently, there are ways for SSL root authority to be subverted! But it's not dependent on being in a hotspot.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:07 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security | 2 Comments

July 27, 2005


By Glenn Fleishman

A North Carolina research firm is flying drones over a volcano that are using Wi-Fi for telemetry: RTI International, based in the famous Research Triangle Park in Chapel Hill, N.C., will fly drones with cameras and Wi-Fi equipment over Mt. St. Helens. The drones will form an in-air network and will be able to relay to ground stations. This means that a few planes in air could span hundreds of miles back to a ground station. The challenges in maintaining long-distance, low-power mobile in-flight networks seems daunting, but the firm will test out the system in August--on lab carts.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:01 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique

Who's Hot Today? Princeton, Kentucky; the whole state of Iowa

By Glenn Fleishman

Princeton, Kent., electric utility gets permission to keep working on plan: For a fairly small amount of money, two companies are in the bidding process to install a Wi-Fi system that would work for current subscribers in phase one, and a larger radius of users in phase two.

Iowa! State-run Rest stops and travel centers across the heartland of America's great breadbasket, uh, marketbasket, well, you know that funny shaped flattish state that's not Kansas? They have Wi-Fi. Free. To visitors. At places that might of interest to visitors. And buy some corn, too. And don't call Des Moines "dezz moy-nezz." (Except in Washington State where our Des Moines is "Deh Moynez.")

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:57 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

Can't-Tenna? CANtenna!

By Glenn Fleishman

The Pringles Cantenna gets a bad rap: A few days ago, a hapless police lieutenant gets quoted saying that cantennas are illegal. He told BoingBoing that he wasn't exactly misquoted but he understands that antennas in and of themselves are not illegal. (Although, technically, many but not all are against FCC Part 15 rules.)

The (Cleveland, Ohio) Plain Dealer has a funny and accurate article about stealing Internet access from others which quotes a local IT security firm's head as saying, "A Pringles can and antenna can extend a Wi-Fi signal...It's ridiculous."

But the fellow isn't saying that Cantennas are bad, but rather that it's absurd how easy it is to tap into networks. The article suggests that security is just 15 steps away.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:50 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Mainstream Media, Security

Connexion, Yahoo Announce Small Box on Web Page

By Glenn Fleishman

Connexion by Boeing and Yahoo apparently were compelled to issue a press release over the addition of a small rectangle to Connexion's portal page: When you pay up to $35 for a flight to use Connexion by Boeing's airplane-to-satellite-to-ground broadband Internet service, a Yahoo search box will apparently appear on the portal page. Not that you have to use it. Not, according to the best search engine watching news, are you likely to use it.

In the annals of press releases, this one goes down quite well as two multi-billion dollar firms with real businesses make hay over a white rectangle that most people will ignore, and, at best, a few thousand people a year might use once or twice.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:25 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Cluelessness | 1 Comment

July 26, 2005

Qualcomm Founder on Muni-Fi, Metered Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Qualcomm's founder's opinions can't be discounted, since he created and controlled an entire industry: He says municipal Wi-Fi is poorly thought out and competes using tax funds with private enterprise. That just shows he isn't reading the stories, but is reading briefs for those with vested interests. Newer and larger proposals from cities now protect taxpayer dollars, and some of those ventures will pay tax rather than be tax free. Some existing municipal networks already pay their full tax burden using money that didn't come from tax-free bonds, too. He also adopts the patronizing tones of private enterprise for government, assuming that poor stupid government can never actually execute.

It is interesting, though, that he believes metered rates for Wi-Fi will disappear entirely in favor of unlimited plans. I have believed that for years, but T-Mobile's apparent success with a portion of their network being available on an unlimited use basis with roaming always charged per use seems to contradict my belief.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:10 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal | 2 Comments

July 25, 2005

Linksys, NetGear Add Simpler Encryption Setup

By Glenn Fleishman

Tom's Networking reports that NetGear adds Touchless Wi-Fi Security, Linksys upgrades firmware with SecureEasySetup: NetGear's technology is new to me; it's almost certainly JumpStart from Atheros branded under their own name. With JumpStart, a phrase is used on the gateway and an adapter to create a secured transaction in which a shared encryption key (WEP or WPA-PSK, the story says) are exchanged. This allows a robust key to be exchanged without risk of interception or denial of service harassment. NetGear has included this in its WGT624 router, but will extend it to more devices.

Linksys has pushed out firmware upgrades for a host of their routers, including the popular WRT54G that uses Broadcom's SecureEasySetup. With SES, there's no strong out-of-band element: a software or hardware button is pressed on the gateway and then on the adapter. They negotiate to exchange a key securely. If another device leaps in after the gateway button is pressed--a DoS that could be automated, I argue--then the devices all need to be reset. This is an edge case unless someone chooses to write and release irritating software, basically.

I wrote extensively about JumpStart and SecureEasySetup along with interviews with Atheros and Broadcom about security back at the announcement of both technologies in January. Here's the overview article, followed by a deeper look at its security implications.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:04 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

Cantennas Illegal?

By Glenn Fleishman

A police officer says he was misquoted in an article in which he said cantennas were illegal: I was hoping so. In the original article, he sounds like he's usurping FCC jurisdiction, and I figured it wasn't exactly right. Cantennas can be illegal if you use a mass-produced version. The FCC rules don't allow generic antennas with any gateway tested before July 2004, and only gateways tested with generic high-gain antennas after July 2004 are legal to be used in this fashion. Not that anyone cares, but it is how the law is written and enforced--except I don't know of a single antenna enforcement action.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:54 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Mainstream Media, Security

Linksys Travel Router

By Glenn Fleishman

Everyone's getting into the Wi-Fi travel router game: Linksys's $100 unit, the WTR54GS, is as sophisticated as its less-mobile big sibling, the WRT54GS. (Note the transposed T and R in the name.) It has a retractable plug and case, a stateful firewall, and SecureEasySetup.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:44 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware

July 24, 2005

Who's Hot Today? Racine County, Wisc.

By Glenn Fleishman

Racine County, Wisc., contemplates Wi-Fi: The county has cell data coverage, to judge by one user quoted in the story, but it's considering blanket Wi-Fi service to attract businesses and residents. They're paying $60,000 for a study.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:30 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

July 23, 2005

Who's Hot Today? D.C.

By Glenn Fleishman

DuPont Circle gets Wi-Fi in Washington, D.C.: TechAssist is behind this park Wi-Fi using an antenna on Jurys Washington Hotel. A non-profit organization, Open Park, is trying to blanket the Mall in D.C. with Wi-Fi. They have support from a number of legislators for the effort, along with donated bandwidth and equipment.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:48 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

July 22, 2005

The Real Muni Issue: Security

By Glenn Fleishman

Municipal networks aren't securing the link between customer and node: This is a critical failing and one I've written about briefly before. Frank Bulk writes in Network Computing about how this giant breach in basic security is just a fact of the municipal networks that are deployed and deploying. Adding a layer of security increases complexity, and Bulk notes it also reduces the choices available for a municipality to build out the network.

If consumers can figure out PPPoE or receive preconfigured PPPoE boxes, there's no good reason that CPEs for municipal networks couldn't be preconfigured to handle a WPA Enterprise login to secure that local link. Otherwise, the first Wireless Philadelphia story on launch won't be about its finances, but rather feature a TV reporter driving around the city reading people's email.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:41 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal, Security | 2 Comments

July 21, 2005

Who's Hot Today? Miami Beach, Cooler in Batavia (Ill.)

By Glenn Fleishman

Miami Beach is Hot Hot Hot with a 100-percent chance of Wi-Fi: Wireless Miami Beach will spread Wi-Fi like thick cocoa butter across this incredible refuge of the rich, famous, beautiful, and B-List. The primary focus is public safety in the RFP, but free Wi-Fi hotzone access--see, hot hot hot--is part of the plans, too.

Batavia, Ill., pushes hotzone to back burner: Batavia didn't get a grant to put in a hotzone and is pushing back its hotzone and citywide plans at the moment.

Enough with the hot metaphors already, I hear you cry: but it's 80-plus degrees in my office in Seattle, and hotspots are swimming in front of my hot eyes. (I'll be off to a T-Mobile HotSpot in an AC'd Starbucks soon.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:53 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

Philadelphia Picks Finalists for Wireless Project

By Glenn Fleishman

Philadelphia announced today that consortiums led by AT&T, HP, and EarthLink are finalists for Wireless Philadelphia: The AP reports that the three include AT&T with Lucent and BelAir; HP with Aptilo, Alvarion, Tropos, and the generically named Business Information Group; and EarthLink with Motorola Canopy and Tropos. The winning proposal will be picked July 29 with a backup option. The contract will last seven years with annual performance reviews.

Comcast continues to think that the investment is risky and unwise. The city's CIO Dianah Neff's response? She said to the AP (which paraphrased), "phone and cable companies were subsidized for building telecommunications infrastructures — not only in terms of tax breaks, but cable companies were given a monopoly over the areas they service.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:51 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

July 20, 2005

Mesh Standard Proposals Presented

By Glenn Fleishman

The 802.11s group on mesh networking will see its first proposals this week: The IEEE group meeting is the first time the group will have formal proposal presentations, of which there are 15. This isn't unusual in the very early stages. The presentation provides companies and individuals more information about approaches. Often, proposals consolidate quickly into voting bloc alliances, which can then play out into quick standards agreement, drafting, and ratification, or, more likely, delay tactics and gamesmanship that stalls a standard from proceeding for years at a time while the market realities play out.

Two groups have already formed: the Wi-Mesh Alliance, led by Nortel, and SEEMesh with Intel, TI, Nokia, Motorola, and NTT DoCoMo as some of the members. Intel has already shown in 802.15.3a (the UWB-based personal area networking standard) that mere industry dominance with major players doesn't result in an easy standards win because of the 75 percent individual member voting threshold used in the IEEE to go from accepted proposal to accepted draft.

There's a great deal of additional background in Wi-Fi Planet's story by Eric Griffith on the standards meeting.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:01 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Mesh, Standards

Who's Hot Today? Philly, Bangkok, Corvallis (Ore.), Ohio State Parks

By Glenn Fleishman

Philadelphia, Penn., has hotzone in park: Pronto Networks and Pervasive Services have lit up Love Park in Philadelphia. It was installed a few weeks ago as part of the Live 8 worldwide music festival that promoted awareness of poverty in and debt relief for developing nations. The equipment is made by Tropos. There is apparently no cost. Tropos equipment is widely considered to be one of the leading contenders for the technical underpinnings of a winning bidder for Philadelphia's citywide wireless plan.

Cinemas in Bangkok, Thailand, will have Wi-Fi: True Corporation plans to add 200 hotspots this year for a total of 500. The cinema chain they've partnered with will add Wi-Fi to 18 theaters, 14 of which are in Bangkok. Service seems relatively expensive when you convert to US dollars: 180 baht per hour, 350 baht for three hours, and 600 baht for five hours, which is roughly US$4.25, $8.30, and $14.25, respectively.

Corvallis, Ore., visitor center: Corvallis's tourist information center is adding Wi-Fi for easier access. The historic town provides this for free to help tourists find another reason to stop. I grew up nearby and have, remarkably, never been there, but I hear it's quite lovely.

Ohio State Park Resorts are unwired: The resorts are operated in seven state parks by a private party. Charges aren't listed, and the Web sites for the private operator's resorts are the most hideously awful way of presenting information that I've ever had my misfortune to see. They're using some kind of document converter that lets you have all the inconvenience of paper with none of the utility of the Web.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:56 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

Wait a Minute: Terabeam Grabs Proxim

By Glenn Fleishman

Hold the Internet VoIP phone, Terabeam gets Proxim assets: We had reported that Moseley Associates would buy Proxim's assets and brands for $21 million, but a bankruptcy court approved a $28 million purchase by Terabeam as the winning bidder, according to EE Times. Moseley has a portfolio of products, but Terabeam is much more highly focused in the field already, and is probably a closer match. The bidding indicates that Proxim's patents and technology may have more worth than was previously considered.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:50 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial

July 19, 2005

Belkin Travel Wi-Fi Router for $60

By Glenn Fleishman

Prn1 F5D7233-1Belkin introduces a $60 WI-Fi adapter/router designed for travels: The compact 802.11g device will ship at the end of August, and is designed to share connections. It can be used as either a Wi-Fi adapter or as a gateway. This joins an increasingly large family of compact routers, but it's one of the least expensive. One step better would be USB as an option for power or even batteries to avoid an AC adapter altogether.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:13 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware, Road Warrior | 3 Comments

July 18, 2005

EU Adds 5 GHz Ranges for Unlicensed Use

By Glenn Fleishman

Esme Vos writes about the European Union's decision to add 5 GHz spectrum for unlicensed use: The U.S. has had hundreds of megahertz in 5 GHz reserved for some time, but international interest in 5 GHz has been all over the place because of existing uses and other concerns. The EU will make about 450 MHz available now; member countries must implement these rules by October.

The press release on the announcement notes the use of the same kinds of rules that the US has imposed on the middle 5 GHz chunk. Any unlicensed 5 GHz gear for indoor or outdoor use on any of the spectrum in the EU decision and that middle band in the US must use techniques to sidestep radar use by the military and government agencies. Since radar use is intermittent and in fixed locations around the country (typically), this doesn't impinge much on the use of these bands.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:50 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: International, Regulation

Enterprises Unwire, Unbolt Workers

By Glenn Fleishman

You have nothing to lose but your cubicles and your sense of day-to-day security: Companies are starting to look big-time into allowing flexible work environment that don't lock people into a single cubicle or office. This allows them to use office space more densely but flexibly and lets people work more to their liking. Of course, some people like a cubicle, don't they?

One of the drivers for increased mobility is that thin APs require less management--a claim long made by thin AP makers and confirmed when Cisco bought Airespace--and greater flexibility. It's clear Microsoft chose Aruba not just because they were thin, but because their approach is commodity-driven with enterprise-class management: that is, magic in the APs is less important than magic in the central console. (Microsoft may also have chosen Aruba because of its remote AP option in which APs can be added using IPsec security over any remote Internet network.)

The other drive is, of course, 802.11i and its integration into branded standards as WPA2. With WPA2 Enterprise, companies finally feel like they have the strongest possible security at their disposal.

The companies discussed in this excellent article have found big cost savings across the board, but those also come with more worker satisfaction and increase productivity.

I'll be curious on a long-term if workers without a place to hang their hat reliably every day who do spend most of their time in an office feel less tied to a company. In a classic Dilbert, after offices are deassigned, Wally moves his stuff around in a grocery cart and engages in office graffiti.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:44 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Enterprise, Security, WLAN Switches

Who's Hot Today? Atlanta, Oakland (Calif.)

By Glenn Fleishman

Atlanta, Georgia, signs airport contact: This press release from SITA says they've signed a contract for Hartsfield-Jackson airport, which was supposed to have had Wi-Fi long ago under a larger plan that appears to be in suspension. It's a neutral host approach, which is one that appears to work well in airports--even T-Mobile and Cingular allow (for-fee) partner roaming onto their airport locations. The contract includes better cell-network performance, which means almost assuredly better 3G services. The Wi-Fi network will be running by fourth quarter of 2005.

Oakland, Calif., airport lit up by Sprint PCS: Sprint noted a few weeks ago that it would be unwiring Oakland International, which has had limited but useful Wi-Fi service through a special arrangement made by the Laptop Lanes part of Wayport. Service will be operational by Labor Day, they hope. This puts the SF Bay well ahead of the NY/NJ area: all three SF airports (SFO, San Jose, and Oakland) will have airport-wide Wi-Fi. NY/NJ has this only in LaGuardia and Newark with JFK lagging far, far behind (two terminals and a little scattered free airline-run service and lounge service).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:16 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Who's Hot Today?

July 16, 2005

Lafayette Approves Muni Broadband Plan

By Glenn Fleishman

The word from Louisiana is that the voters approved the fiber to the home project by a 62 to 38 percent vote: Lafayette wants to bring fiber to every home and offer advanced broadband, cable, and other services. They beat a few attempts to drive them back. Now they'll sell the bonds, raise the money, and build. Execution is everything.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:55 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal | 1 Comment

Spike in Municipal Broadband Stories

By Glenn Fleishman

As Lafayette, Louisiana, puts muni broadband to a vote, a spate of stories appears: Lafayette has had a very public, very malicious debate going over whether the city should build its own fiber infrastructure. One incumbent threatened to pull call-center jobs. BellSouth has been fighting tooth and nail against the proposal. There's a good overview at A broader piece appears in PC World, covering the range of projects and positions on the issue. And USA Today weighs in, as well.

Another voice in the Lafayette debate is our old friend The Heartland Institute which released another one-sided report that cherrypicks numbers from what they say is a comparable network built by the same consultants working with Lafayette. I'm waiting for the refutation of this latest analysis. In the past, Heartland and others have taken a 100-percent contrary position, which can never be described as reasonable, and used outdated and mischaracterized details of most municipal broadband networks to show how they, without exception, fail financially. Heartland doesn't disclose its funding.

Meanwhile, in Marin County, Calif., you can see some of the back story as to why some cities are concerned about a loss of control over who offers what. The county and the 10 cities and towns that a collective board represent collect $2 million a year from Comcast for franchise fees, which ostensibly cover using public rights of way. SBC wants to compete by laying fiber and offering television services over broadband, but the telecom authority wants it to come under franchise rules to preserve that revenue. SBC argues it's not a TV service in the same way as Comcast.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:47 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

July 15, 2005

Intel Backs Pro-Muni Broadband Senate Bill

By Glenn Fleishman

Intel releases statement backing Lautenberg-McCain Community Broadband Act of 2005: Intel has been quietly and not so quietly supporting the idea of municipal broadband clearly in part because of their interest in WiMax, which the carriers in the U.S. may entirely ignore in favor of investments in scarce-spectrum 3G cellular data networks.

The statement from Peter Pitsch, Communications Policy Director, reads:

"Intel believes the Lautenberg-McCain bill strikes an appropriate balance between preempting state prohibitions on the municipalities that provide broadband service and requiring municipalities to operate in a competitively neutral manner under open, transparent processes. This framework should encourage public-private partnerships that benefit the marketplace as well as consumers. Intel looks forward to working with the bill’s sponsors and with other interested members of Congress to reach consensus on this important broadband issue." [link via]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:30 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

July 14, 2005

ICOA Acquires LinkSpot RV Hotspots

By Glenn Fleishman

ICOA adds to growing portfolio with RV campsites: ICOA has grown in bits and pieces from a tiny operator to one with a footprint that's starting to resemble a big player. They started with more difficult and less competitive locations, like smaller airports and marinas giving them a foothold that provides a huge potential audience--high traffic versus high profile, let's say.

This is their sixth acquisition since late 2003, adding the 80 LinkSpot RV centers, and noting that there are 14,000 RV centers nationwide.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:19 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Hot Spot

Philly Plan Rises

By Glenn Fleishman

Bids for Philly's Plan are coming in at and above the high end of the expected range: The Philadelphia municipal Wi-Fi plan calls for a non-profit to fundraise and take loans in order to fund residential wireless access for all at dial-up rates. The plan originally called for about $11 million in funding and $5 million in infrastructure paid from operating revenue; this is often reported as $16 million in funding, but it assumes excellent early revenue. And in this article, Philly CIO, Dianah Neff, says she was always talking about $15 to $18 million in "financing," so I'm not sure how that breaks down between funding and operating revenue.

The bids that have come in so far are in the $18 to $20 million range, and unnamed sources expect the cost to be at least $20 million. Since no one has built a Wi-Fi (mesh or otherwise) network of this scale before and no one operated it, it's all educated guesswork until the real obstacles appear.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:24 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

July 13, 2005

Who's Hot Today? Edmond, Oklahoma; Richmond, Virginia

By Glenn Fleishman

Edmond, Okla., puts Wi-Fi in its libraries: Twelve libraries in the Metropolitan Library System will gain filtered but free Wi-Fi. The Edmond Library offers access across 27,000 square feet to support up to 200 simultaneous users. The system will cost just $60,000 to implement.

Richmond, Virg., has Wi-Fi in the park: Monroe Park has access. And that's about all the story says.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:29 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

Intel Researches Wi-Fi for GPS

By Glenn Fleishman

Intel researchers tread the same group as Skyhook: An Intel Labs researcher discussed the limits of GPS in urban areas--downtown crystal canyons, he called them--and how Wi-Fi might substitute. Skyhook already offers a commercial Wi-Fi database (both a local, updatable one and remote one for handhelds) that offers this match-up. Intel's work seems more like basic research on user behavior and appears focused on handhelds.

Why carry around something that produces a constant set of coordinates? Think about a future in which everything you carry has the option to include coordinates in metadata: a camera stamps the location, a laptop records where you were when you viewed a page, a browser sends (with your approval) coordinates to a Web site which offers customized information without you having to enter a Zip code or other details.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:26 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Location, Research | 1 Comment

July 12, 2005

Skype, Boingo Partner in Hotspots for VoIP, Telephony

By Nancy Gohring

Skype users will pay $7.95 per month for unlimited use of Boingo hotspots for Internet telephony: Boingo has 18,000 hotspots worldwide in its network. Boingo users pay $21.95 per month for unlimited use of the network, and Boingo surely sees this as a stepping stone to acquiring more full-fledged users. Skype users can also pay $2.95 for a two-hour connection.

Users will be able to download the software from Skype's Web site and all of Skype's premium services will be available to users. Initially, the software will just be available for Windows users. It's not clear what that means for voice over Wi-Fi handset users.

The heads of these companies think this is going to be a disruptive offering, though it's more likely to be marginally interesting. Dave Hagen, Boingo's CEO and president, said he expects this service to interest mainstream users. But realistically, this would be most interesting to a budget-conscious frequent traveler. Hagen has a point when he says that most travelers spend a lot of time in airports, hotels, and cafes—all locations that do or are likely to have hotspots. That traveler could save a lot of money by spending just $8 a month to make calls in those locations instead of paying for airtime on their cell phones.

One journalist on today's conference call announcing the service asked a question about companies like Vodafone, that are threatening to block voice over IP over their 3G data networks. If data access prices drop enough, at some point it can become more economical for users to do voice over the 3G data networks. Unfortunately, not only does that cut into regular voice profits for the mobile operators, it's a really inefficient way for operators to carry voice. Skype's CEO, Niklas Zennstrom, said such moves to block voice over 3G are evidence that the 3G operators might be worried about the types of applications customers might decide to use over their data channels.

For now, voice over 3G data networks shouldn't be much of a problem, given the rates the operators are charging for data access. Zennstrom noted that he does voice over Vodafone's 3G network using a data card and that in a matter of minutes he pays the same as a month's subscription to the new Skype/Boingo offering. He's exaggerating but his point that $8 a month is a good deal is well taken.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 1:09 PM | Permanent Link | Categories:

Who's Hot Today? Indianapolis International Airport

By Glenn Fleishman

Indianapolis, Indiana, airport may add SBC FreedomLink Wi-Fi: The airport authority may vote on July 22 to add Wi-Fi, probably with SBC, who would likely charge.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:39 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

Everything You Wanted to Know about DSL, Cable

By Glenn Fleishman

Dave Burstein does a virtuoso interview on the near-term developments in cable, DSL broadband performance over at Karl Bode interviews the veteran broadband analyst Burstein about the major telcos and cable companies' deployments. Burstein explains how VDSL2 isn't really much faster in its first version than ADSL2+, how fiber will reach millions of homes, and how many of us will still be stuck with speeds not much faster than today for some time.

It's pretty clear from his coverage of the field, that a subset of U.S. homes will be able to get much faster speeds -- 10 to 20 times faster than the average speeds available today -- through cable or DSL. But it's only a subset and it will probably be uneven.

Many of the fastest DSL speeds require fiber to the neighborhood and then higher-speed DSL variants that work over just 500 to 1,000 feet. On the cable side, as we've written here months ago, DOCSIS 3.0's deployment probably starting next year will bring much larger pools of bandwidth making 20 to 30 Mbps service downstream to the home more widely available on those systems.

Burstein isn't a wireless expert, and, unlike so many others, says so. But he thinks that the current speeds for WiMax and other variants aren't enough to impress once the wireline speeds start ramping up. And he's right. WiMax has to hit sub-T3 speeds (5 to 20 Mbps) to be truly useful, and it's becoming clear that those speeds will only be available across a mile or two.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:41 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Basics, Future, Home

July 11, 2005

High Schools Goes All Wireless, All Electronic

By Glenn Fleishman

Vail, Arizona, high school ditches books, wires: The high school of 350 students will use laptops and electronic texts. The methodology of whether this works is based on the superintendent looking around at other schools, but apparently not viewing results like attendance, test results, and softer measures. Further, the article doesn't touch on the problem with electronic texts, that they're highly controlled for distribution and licensing and often have limited periods of use, such as a year or a school year. Conventional textbooks can last several years, be handed around, and even used by (gasp) more than one person at a time.

Until such a point that electronic textbooks have the same flexibility and usefulness--not just up-to-date-ness, when that's even happening--as print textbooks, the value of this switch is not documented, not supported by research, and not wise.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:21 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Academia | 2 Comments

Ten-Minute Taps for In-Flight Browsing

By Glenn Fleishman

The Feds want EZSubpoena, technical changes to airplane broadband: When terrorists are using Connexion, Tenzing, or other in-flight Internet services, federal authorities don't want to wait for operators to tap into data streams when presented with a subpoena. They asked last Tuesday, according to Wired News, for the FCC to make sure that in-flight Internet is as easy to tap as telephone lines. Of course, any smart person of any stripe is using encryption to protect their data, but sometimes the destination of packets--not just their content--is enough to provide useful clues.

The Justice Department wants several difficult technical details to be handled. Cutting off access to specific users or the whole plane without affecting the control cabin isn't a problem, but asking for Wi-Fi-connected users to be identified by seat number is awfully tricky. It might require a change to the login procedure or the addition of new software, if it would work at all in an area with such high reflection. Finally, Justice wants cargo areas to be shielded from Wi-Fi.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:18 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Public Safety

Who's Hot Today? Rural Michigan

By Glenn Fleishman

Muskegon County, Mich., gets $2 million federal grant: Some clever congressperson allocated a large sum to get five rural communities wireless broadband service. The article mentions that two existing broadband options exist in the county, but doesn't describe how many rural residents have access to either. Very unlikely that DSL is an option for those in rural areas.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:13 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

July 10, 2005

Newsweek's Levy Says Citizens Should Take Heed on Anti-Muni Efforts

By Glenn Fleishman

Columnist Steven Levy alerts the mass audience reading Newsweek at the efforts by incumbents to restrict municipal broadband: Levy argues in favor of underserved communities and self-determination, although he's not pushing the idea that municipal networks are ideal and will all work, either. His key sentence: "They [incumbents] argue that taxpayer-funded competition makes the marketplace unfair (ironic, since those firms owe their dominance to government-granted monopolies)." I would also add that many municipal utilities that operate broadband entities are taxpayers, too: not all government operates tax-free, which is a meme spread by the anti-municipal forces.

I'd also argue here that Levy's comment in the intro about free and low-cost Internet service is particularly interesting: most of the municipal wireless efforts will offer a minimal but good level of bandwidth at a price commensurate with the speed. If you can only get slow DSL-like speeds for $20/month, then aren't you a natural when you crave more for $40 to $60/month multi-Mbps speeds from incumbent DSL and cable providers?

The fiber-plus plans directly challenge incumbents in a way that the next two to four years of wireless networks cannot. (Although many fiber efforts I've read about offer wholesale networks, not retail ones, giving an in for incumbents and others.) The incumbents are ratcheting up speed rapidly to compete in their duopolies and against coming 3G, broadband wireless, and WiMax flavors. In two years, cable speeds of 20 Mbps down and 2 Mbps or up won't be unusual or terribly expensive, and you can buy ADSL running at 6 Mbps down/768 Kbps up as a business service for $100 per month in Seattle (unlimited bandwidth).

There's a case to be made that municipal wireless makes a market by hooking people on speed that they have to switch to wireline providers to fulfill.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:13 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

July 6, 2005

JupiterResearch Estimate $150,000/Sq. Mi. for Muni-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Report estimates total cost of municipal wireless networks five-year costs: The analysts at JupiterResearch say $150,000 over that period of time, but Tropos Networks says it's more like $100,000. Philadelphia's plan shows $15,000,000 in operating costs ($10.5 million raised, $4.5 million from cash flow) for initial operation, which is between the two numbers.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:04 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

Backpack-Fi on the Go

By Glenn Fleishman

How0805Hotspot 485XbodyPopular Science shows you how to equip a solar-powered backpack as a roving cellular-to-Wi-Fi hotspot: Mike Outmesguine of The Wireless Weblog filed this How2.0 article for Popular Science on using Seattle-based Junxion's portable cellular-to-Wi-Fi/Ethernet gateway with a backpack and a solar charging system. The total cost is about $1,100, but you could be the best friend of every other commuter or game player near you.

A lower-tech but similar solution has been pursued by Seattlite Casey Halverson the Seattle-to-Tacoma Sounder commuter train. You have to be in range of Casey for it to work.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:51 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Gadgets, Unique | 1 Comment

Who's Hot Today? Oakland, Calif.; Mesquite, Texas

By Glenn Fleishman

Oakland, Calif.'s AC Transit will put Wi-Fi on 40 buses: The service will be free as part of three-year grant. Interestingly, the money is coming from an air quality governmental group: the more Wi-Fi on buses, the less driving? Interesting concept.

Mesquite, Texas: A sleepy Wi-Fi story about a small town.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:46 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

July 4, 2005

Yikes, That Guy Might Be Using Your Wi-Fi!

By Glenn Fleishman

Sort of hilarious over the top article about a fellow caught using someone else's Wi-Fi network furtively: The SUV driver apparently can afford a big old car but not a DSL or cable connection, which suggests nefarious activity. He was arrested under a law for unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony. Because the fellow was a) parked outside someone's home not just using a neighbor's leaky service, b) did it at 11 pm and c) was furtive, it's possible that he was engaged in untoward activity, but neither he nor prosecutors are talking.

The problem with an arrest like this, of course, is that what is the value of the theft? 15 cents? Who is the victim--the ISP or the subscriber? It's a lot of money spent to prosecute a problem that can be dealt with by turning on security.

If someone bothers to break through WEP for a home network, well, that crosses the line for sure. But this is just a strange case. It reminds me of the wrong-way driving, pantless Canadian, early morning Wi-Fi signal thief. Except the Canadian was alleged to be viewing child pornography, clearly an evil and illegal activity contravened by strong laws in almost every country in the world, where we don't yet know what the SUV fellow was up to.

And one point of view was missing: for ISPs that don't care if you share, this isn't a crime or a problem. The monolithic ISP view is always represented by companies that think sharing is stealing. Speakeasy Networks is apparently by my research the only ISP of any scale that encourages sharing. I asked the CEO about this the other day at their pre-WiMax launch, and he confirmed it: they don't monitor, they don't care. They're selling you a pipe and you can make lemonade for the neighbors with the signal that comes out.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:41 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique | 15 Comments

July 3, 2005

T-Mobile USA May Be Sold: Whither Its Hotspots?

By Glenn Fleishman

The Wall Street Journal reports Deutsche Telekom considers sale of T-Mobile USA division: Observers have long noted that with the consolidation of six major cellular telephone operators in the U.S. down to just four, T-Mobile would be far behind. Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless, and the combined Sprint PCS-Nextel control 90 percent of the market.

T-Mobile USA hasn't yet made the investment into a 3G network, preferring to bide its time and limited spectrum licenses by pushing for GRPS instead of EDGE and future GPS-based technologies on the data side. The Journal uses sources not noted to estimate $10 billion for T-Mobile USA to upgrade its network. This may or may not include the cost of obtaining scarce spectrum, too.

The sale could raise $30 billion, and any buyer would obtain the second-largest footprint of hotspots in the U.S. with valuable brand partners like Starbucks. It's unclear whether potential purchasers would have the same commitment to hotspots, however, given the lackluster understanding in the U.S. market by any cellular operator but Sprint PCS (which is using mostly resold locations) and Cingular's majority shareholder SBC (which has Wayport handling buildout).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:22 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Financial, Hot Spot | 2 Comments

July 2, 2005

Who's Lukewarm Today? Wilkes-Barre, Richmond (Virg.)

By Glenn Fleishman

It's not all hotzones, city-wide coverage, and blue skies for municipal networks: Two stories today discuss concerns that cities have with metropolitan-scale Wi-Fi networks.

Richmond, Virg., weighs pros and cons: There are specific concerns, like its hilly topography and the advent of WiMax, and more general issues about whether it's appropriate for the city to build a network at all or contract it out.

Wilkes-Barre, Penn., considers Wi-Fi network in context of Pa. law: Wilkes-Barre is subject to the law signed last year that requires networks to be built out to a certain level by Jan. 1, 2006, for the grandfathering clause to take effect. Otherwise, a city or town must petition the incumbent provider. The article says there are lawsuits "flying in about a dozen states," but I'm not aware of those--there are bills, but I don't know about suits. Also, the article errs somewhat in saying that Philly and Verizon struck a private deal. The law that was passed to prevent non-incumbent-approved municipal networks allows the incumbent to waive their right of refusal. That was done before the bill was signed, but it's consistent with the bill itself.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:17 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

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