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EarthLink plans to cover the local-link Wi-Fi security problem on municipal wireless networks by requiring authentication: Earthlink's director for municipal broadband deployment said in an interview this morning that all retail partners for EarthLink's wireless projects would be required to authenticate their end users using a method that assigns each customer a unique, temporary, and strong encryption key.
This requirement will prevent ready access to household information passing in the clear across Wi-Fi nodes that will be part of the network that EarthLink will build in Philadelphia and Anaheim. The company also has proposals in front of Portland, Ore.; is one of two finalists for Minneapolis (disclosed Friday); and is bidding in Denver, Long Beach, and San Francisco, to name a few others.
I and others have written before about our concern that this local link would doom the security of the entire network making it simple for someone with a high-gain antenna and the right cracking experience (read: not very much) to drive around and suck down private details left and right. EarthLink defuses this.
EarthLink will require what's known as IEEE 802.1X with EAP-TTLS. The 802.1X standard allows for an unknown network device (a laptop with a PC Card, a Wi-Fi bridge, or another adapter) to connect to a Wi-Fi network and then negotiate for access by providing credentials--most likely a user name and password. EAP-TTLS is one method of ensuring that the negotiation is encrypted, and then of providing a legitimate user with a unique encryption key. EAP-TTLS and the similar PEAP standard are widely used for corporate security and both standards are required for WPA and WPA2 certification.
By mandating strong security, EarthLink ups the technical support issues for their retail partners because an 802.1X client (known as a supplicant) will be required to access their network. However, such clients are widely available at low or no cost. There's an open-source project and Mac OS X 10.3 and later includes EAP-TTLS support out of the box. Windows XP users will have to install a simple client package available from at least two or three companies.
EarthLink has set a gold standard that other municipal network bidders will have to match or find an equivalent for in order to achieve the same level of effective security. Google's VPN offering, in testing, could provide non-mandatory protection beyond the local link, but it's not a baseline measure. EarthLink's approach should be mimicked.
Comcast is a major Philadelphia employer with its headquarters--subsidized with $30 million in taxpayer money--in that city: The $30 million figure comes from Dianah Neff, the CIO of Philly, and the driving force behind Wireless Philadelphia, an effort to replace dial-up access and expand those who use the Internet that's being fought as if it's a replacement for wired service. This article in The New York Times is quite good at looking at both the conflicts between Comcast and Philadelphia as entities. (There's a second article in Monday's paper, but online now, which even more strongly makes the case that this is dial-up replacement.)
Comcast, as usual, trots out details that don't make sense. They're a franchise and instead of defending their turf as a franchise, they talk about competition. They are in a monopoly situation licensed by the local government. EarthLink will be receiving a de facto franchise with much less public scrutiny. Part of the problem is that Internet service over cable isn't per se regulated: numerous laws and court decisions allow both DSL and cable providers to avoid oversight of those businesses to a large extent. Thus Comcast would have a great argument to make if EarthLink's bid allowed them to bring 100 channels into every home; a smaller argument on franchising when it's service that's at a fraction of the speed that Comcast offers.
The author summarizes this quite beautifully: "But the attraction of Wireless Philadelphia to its proponents is that it is a stand-alone, affordable network - not part a broader effort to sell video, voice and data services, the way companies like Comcast and Verizon have approached broadband."
The EVP of Comcast quoted in this article essentially ridicules the idea that Wi-Fi will reach into homes through this network. But the acidic and hilarious CIO Neff is quoted wondering why Comcast's venture capital arm just invested in BelAir, which makes Wi-Fi equipment for municipal deployment? (See posts from earlier this week on how cable companies have great advantages over from-scratch networks, however.) Neff also notes that Comcast will probably be reselling 3G cell services from Sprint or others.
Qwest is among the companies that expect to turn in a bid by Monday's deadline: The largest city in Oregon spreads out in many directions--they added an urban growth boundary a bit too late--and has successfully been turning the city proper and the city center back into a desirable place to live. A municipal Wi-Fi network is another key, the cities thinks, to making the town more appealing to residents and business. The city also wants to reduce its own telecom bill and interact with parking meters wirelessly.
EarthLink, buoyed by two big wins in Anaheim and Philadelphia, is a bidder. MetroFi (Santa Clara, Cupertino networks) and VeriLAN (Portland) are also trying for the bid.
The Oregonian newspaper notes that Qwest is an odd bidder because it's been suing the city over various telecom matters for years, including government-sponsored competition in telco.
Update: Qwest didn't bid.
Tuesday update: Six bids were received: EarthLink, MetroFi, VeriLAN, MobilePro, US Internet Corp., and Winfield Wireless.
I wrote a few days ago about BelAir's introduction of mesh Wi-Fi designed to plug into existing cable television wiring systems: Jim Thompson has more. Jim has worked in the Wi-Fi space nearly since its introduction, building out networks for Wayport in the 90s, heading up engineering efforts at Vivato's Spokane office, and building open-source network projects. He currently runs NetGate from his hardship-duty in Hawaii.
He sent in these remarks on how cable + Wi-Fi benefits MSOs (Multiple Systems Operators), or cable companies that own a number of networks. I'll urge readers to remember that these are Thompson's opinions, but that I generally share
1. No spectrum costs. WiMax in unlicensed spectrum is a joke. (City-wide 'mesh' using 802.11 is a joke for similar reasons.)
2. No backhaul interference issues. Want to guess at the native data rates available in DOCSIS 2.0 [the current dominant cable Internet standard]? Around 30Mbps upstream, and just under 40 Mbps downstream. A nice match for 802.11g.
3. Cable MSOs could offer city-wide "hot spot" service, cleaning the clock of any incumbent ISP. They could start where this makes the most sense, and build out from there.
4. Cable companies already own rights to the poles and building entrances. MSOs don't have to re-negotiate with the municipality, they don't have to lay new cable.
As Thompson notes, cable companies already possess rights--they already have franchise agreements. They already pay cities and towns tax based on their revenue and for rights of way. The Broadband over Powerline (BPL) market hasn't taken off as predicted partly because electrical utilities aren't ISPs and the have to build out a variety of infrastructure that's not in place. By contrast, cable companies are virtually all ISPs: they can pop radios in and start offering service. No real estate issues, no back-haul spectrum issues, no startup costs in building out ISP infrastructure for account handling and bandwidth.
HP-sponsored wireless tools are revved to version 19 in latest Linux kernel: The Linux Wireless Extension and Wireless Tools are driven by HP project leader Jean Tourrilhes, who has a long and generous history in wireless driver work for Linux. The 2.6.14 kernel merges these projects into the kernel itself, making them more widely available with less effort.
Tourrilhes downplays this specific release, but notes that the 802.11 stack now includes HostAP and a set of Centrino drivers that required separate installation. HostAP allows a system to have the majority of features specific to infrastructure access point instead of the more typical ad hoc features available to computers with adapters.
Abstraction has always aided the ease of writing applications on top of drivers by reducing system-specific issues to code that addresses input/output and other housekeeping as a class. An application writer that can access an abstraction layer for any given feature in a driver, such as the improvement in statistics in this release, has less monkeying around to make their programs work with a wider array of hardware. The NDIS5.1 abstraction model in Windows XP is what led to much wider and simpler driver support than under any previous release.
Free tools from NetworkChemistry, AirMagnet detect Bluetooth services: If you're an IT manager or a private individual carrying a phone worried about what's being exposed, these two monitoring firms have released free surveying tools that allow active monitoring of Bluetooth behavior. Both tools require Windows XP; Service Pack 2 is recommended for NetworkChemistry's BlueScanner, and required for AirMagnet's BlueSweep.
The New Mexico network is effectively complete: The network covers 40 square miles. The folks involved claim its the largest contiguous Wi-Fi network in the nation--they hedge it with likely--and that's a tricky distinction. There are probably several larger networks, but do they have 100-percent coverage across the area? They're generally not designed for that parameter.
The network has used 400 pre-WiMax and Wi-Fi radios to provide Wi-Fi coverage, and their early goals are education and homeland security (read: immigration control), and they will phase in municipal access, public safety, and libraries.
Wilkes-Barre is scorching with nine metro-Fi proposals: The city solicited bids for a municipal-scale wireless data network and received nine from companies that include Motorola and Clearwire. Due to the Pennsylvania anti-municipal broadband law that restricts new development, the city must have its plan together by the end of 2005. However, they can still grovel to the incumbents if they miss the deadline, begging them for a waiver to allow them to have a private company operate a network within the town's borders.
Oklahoma City could leverage existing public safety network for public Wi-Fi: The city has a 620-square-mile network in place. They'd have to make sure they could segregate and prioritize traffic, and would probably partner with a private firm to handle the ISP side. They'd also need to add more access points. The local chamber of commerce has also put out a request for information (RFI) for hotspots in certain key business districts.
A rundown of every operator and home wired and wireless broadband standard in or about to reach the marketplace: This is a tour de force crossing cable, fiber, DSL, electrical wiring, and radio frequency. If you wanted to know the technical talking points for fiber to the home or DOCSIS 3.0 (cable), this is the place to start.
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Unstrung cites anonymous industry sources over Cisco's plans to enter the mesh market: If it's a big market in networking, we know Cisco will buy its way in. Their Airespace acquisition gave them a dominant position in switched and standalone enterprise WLANs; a mesh product from the Airespace team could be quite interesting. Unstrung notes that Metricom's Ricochet network architect works for Cisco by way of the acquisition.
EarthLink snags second city: Anaheim, Calif.: EarthLink will build a 50-square-mile Wi-Fi network by late 2006; it will first develop a two-square-mile test. Another report indicated that this was to be a 20-year exclusive franchise agreement.
San Jose will expand slightly: The city favors incremental expansion of successful downtown and park Wi-Fi instead of a comprehensive plan. The city's IT manager noted that there's a movement to build Wi-Fi across all of Silicon Valley. Interestingly, "stakeholders" in San Jose thought a citywide plan should be left to private enterprise. Those stakeholders included public employees, writers, and companies like SBC. I don't quite understand how citizens were left out of that list, hmm?
BelAir has scored a coup with two new products and a partnership that tie it in with the cable television industry: Comcast Interactive Capital is investing an undisclosed sum in BelAir as it rolls out two new devices designed for cable operators to add wireless to their mix of offerings, and more effectively compete with DSL providers who are crossing into WiMax and broadband wireless and with the growing threat of cellular operators and 3G networks. (Red Herring reports a total of $20 million in investment from several sources.)
The idea behind the BelAir50s and BelAir100s is that they are mesh wireless nodes that can be plugged directly into the cable network. They support DOCSIS2.0, the widely deployed current generation of information encoding technology, and they handle the cable plant voltage avoiding electrical supply issues that were an early problem with Wi-Fi deployment.
The 50s has a single 802.11g radio, works with other mesh nodes, and supports multiple SSIDs and VLANs to allow several virtual networks to operate at the wireless and wired level at the same time.
The 100s has two radios, using 5 GHz for backhaul via mesh or point-to-point. It can have one module for front-side access and one for backhaul, or both radios can be set for 5 GHz backhaul. Directional and omni-directional antennas are available.
This is a remarkable entry for BelAir which has been shadowed by Tropos Networks gains in metropolitan-scale all-wireless or wireless/fiber hybrid networks that have been built, bid or awarded. EarthLink network, for instance, will use Tropos in its first two deployments in Philadelphia and Anaheim (announced today). Tropos is working with Scientific-Atlanta to develop products for this market which they said as early as Oct. 1 they expected to announced this fall. (There are also non-mesh, non-Wi-Fi products available, such as a suite from Arcwave.)
Cable networks have lagged in their adoption of wireless, but they have a distinct advantage over phone companies and WiMax-like installations. Cable networks run sometimes several dozen miles or longer. The DOCSIS 2.0 standard allows performance at great distances from the central plant.
This means that cable-based mesh networks could be built with little or no backhaul cost--no T-3s, no long-haul WiMax--at the periphery of their networks. These are typically the most underserved and most expensive places to deploy.
Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport finally has its Wi-Fi network turned on: It's been a long haul, with discarded ideas and programs, and then a delay of several months from a summer launch date. But it's live. The country's busiest airport has an 5.8 million-square-foot-coverage, Cisco-powered Wi-Fi network using 150 access points. Atlanta will have 88 million travelers in 2005, half of which are on a business trip.
The network is neutral host, meaning that the contractor (SITA Information Network Computing) offers non-discriminatory resale access to all comers, and Boingo already has a press release out that they're live in Georgia. (They're offering a deal, too: buy a one-day pass in Atlanta for $9.95 and get a second at no cost.) Concourse and Sprint are also offering day passes.
I confirmed with Boingo that customers with unlimited monthly service plans would receive access to Atlanta at no additional charge. Concourse confirmed that their downstream reseller partners like iPass would receive access to Atlanta through Concourse's fee settlement relationship.
There's a nice logo, a home page link, and pages explaining the service on the Web site. The cell network was upgraded, too, which should be a nice boon for both voice and 3G users.
There's a Wi-Fi Technology Expo today and tomorrow to kick off the network's launch. This is a big day for business travelers through Atlanta, including Coca-Cola, Fed Ex, and the federal government.
And note that Atlanta is not whining, like Boston, about several existing Wi-Fi networks operated by airlines and others interfering with critical systems and emergency response.
The unsigned editorial essentially says that Massport is reaching far beyond its grasp: The editorial states in no uncertain terms that if Massport is allowed to shut down legally operating Wi-Fi networks in its facility by its tenants, that this could cause other authorities and municipalities to attempt the same, ruining the unlicensed bands.
It's a very, very well-informed editorial, accurate in its facts and I agree with its statements and conclusion. They write, "This move is an audacious assertion of power by local government. The authority, known as Massport, does not own, control, or have any right to regulate frequencies assigned to Wi-Fi." Further, "This case is not about the right of local government to impose taxes to fund essential public services. It is about the seizing of assets (Wi-Fi frequencies) for the purpose of destroying competition and imposing monopoly prices."
They note that Massport is citing interference as a danger without substantiating it. And that's right. If Wi-Fi interferes with airport purposes than the airport is not operating itself correctly, and the TSA, FAA, and FCC should assert control over their use of spectrum until it's sorted out. If it's a ploy, some people should lose their jobs. You can read about the history of Massport mismanagement over the last decade at IssueSource.
Massport was allowed its own response on the same page, and it's full of nonsense. I cannot wait for the FCC smackdown. The Massport CEO Craig Coy writes, it's "a case of airlines putting travel perks for an elite few ahead of the broad interests of the traveling public" and states "Those without an ISP may pay a nominal fee for 24 hours of service"--a nominal fee being $7.95.
He then writes, "In contrast, airlines at Logan offer limited service to their elite frequent fliers who pay extra to join private, members-only clubs....Unlike the airlines, the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan, treats all passengers and ISPs equally." This guy is for real. Holy cow. He draws a salary and everything.
This disregards the obvious the fact that Massport's Wi-Fi is, in fact, available in private airport lounges, and allows the precise choice that Coy states is unavailable. His statement completely ignores Continental's free, free, that's right, free Wi-Fi network! Free.
"In these days of terrorism and safety alerts, security is a critical consideration for Logan's decision to offer central Wi-Fi," Coy writes. Oh, dear lord, see above where I suggest some firings. "The central Wi-Fi network provides first responders at Logan with enhanced services and secure communications." Merciful heaven.
He writes, "The airlines' Wi-Fi networks are not only exclusive but also could degrade the quality of service for all users. Imagine the Wi-Fi chaos if every airline, every vendor, every security agency and every ISP deployed its own system." They're exclusive in that they are designed for the people who use them: airline club members. Wi-Fi is designed for contention. The market ensures that the networks remain useful. And Coy ignores the convenient fact that he does have the right to restrict non-tenants from building networks in the airport. You're not going to have 1,000 networks in the airport.
Here's the capper: "All airlines enforce governmental restrictions on the use of electronic devices on aircraft. Why do airlines now want to ignore similar common-sense restrictions on the use of Wi-Fi devices in airports?"
Because there's no problem. Because the FCC regulates this. Because the FAA knows there's no problem. Because, in short, you're trying to control something you clearly don't understand.
Mr. Coy, why do you hate the free market?
A Canon PowerShot with built-in Wi-Fi will be launched in December in Japan: Canon showed off Wi-Fi controls without a specific product plan or timetable earlier this year. Since then, Kodak and Nikon have released Wi-Fi-equipped cameras that have distinct drawbacks and quirks in how they transfer files and use Wi-Fi networks.
Canon's first entry will be the Canon PowerShot SD430 Digital Elph Wireless. Elsewhere, it's called the Digital IXUS, according to Engadget. The notes for the camera state that you can only use wireless features with Windows XP SP2.
The camera includes a feature I've suggested to Kodak: auto-transfer as photos are taken. It can even multi-task and allow you to continue to shoot while photos are being transmitted. Windows software can control the camera remotely over Wi-Fi as well. No FTP or other support is mentioned or documented, which is a crying shame.
The camera uses 802.11b and supports WEP and WPA-PSK (TKIP or AES), but only supports WEP for computer-to-computer connections, but it will use AES with its wireless print adapter. It also has USB 2.0.
It's a five megapixel sensor with about a 3x optical zoom. It supports SD cards up to 2 GB in size. It can create 640 by 480 pixel movies at 30 frames per second or smaller movies at 60 fps.
The camera will cost ¥50,000 or about US$435 in Japan. The UK launch will be in January at a cost of £399 or US$712, which seems like too big a spread. In the U.S., it will appear in January for US$499. [link via Engadget]
Anaheim, Calif., will consider franchising EarthLink to operate a municipal network: This is the clearest proposal I've heard to date regarding the franchising and exclusivity aspect of municipal broadband networks. Many requests for proposals (RFPs) hint at or ignore the fact that a winning bidder may ask for or be granted exclusive use of facilities like poles, towers, building tops, and other city resources.
This article from Government Technology notes that Anaheim's City Council will consider a 20-year agreement with EarthLink that will award the company an exclusive franchise. Anaheim has some fiber, and EarthLink would gain access to that. EarthLink would install a wireless system and pay a franchise rate to Anaheim, much like cable operators do now.
The article states, incorrectly: Unlike other municipal models that have been proposed recently, the Anaheim-EarthLink agreement, if approved, would be the first public-private wireless broadband franchise that grants a private entity the ability to create, implement and maintain a citywide Wi-Fi network.
This is incorrect: it's unclear whether other proposals allow, require, or forbear this.
Worried about your wireless network's default security? You should be.
Wireless networks send their data through walls and ceilings, and can be picked up with sensitive antennas -- much more sensitive than the ones your equipment uses -- miles away. With this kind of transparency, you need to protect the data on your network, even if you're a casual home user.
The only tool for consumers and small businesses until mid-2003 was the built-in WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption that's required as part of the Wi-Fi certification program. But security experts have shown numerous flaws in WEP that prevent it from providing even a minimal reliable level of security for serious applications. Recent tools show that WEP can be cracked in just a few minutes on a busy network.
Businesses had a strapped-together system they could use called 802.1X/EAP, but standardization for securing it (a separate problem), missing clients in older machines, back-end server requirements, and its reliance on WEP all prevented initial widespread adoption. That's changed, and is part of this article.
Fortunately, in November 2002, the Wi-Fi Alliance, a group trade that certifies 802.11a, b, and g devices as interoperable, released an interim replacement for WEP and other aspects of Wi-Fi security that changed the landscape. This newer standard is called WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access). In mid-2004, the engineering group responsible for wireless standards ratified IEEE 802.11i, the full replacement for WEP and a superset of the features found in WPA. This newest standard is called WPA2 and is widely available, too.
It's not the fault of the inventors, but this article has the details wrong: The Wi-Fire is a USB Wi-Fi adapter with directional and omnidirectional antennas built in. The 8-inch long bendable antenna can be switched between modes. The directional mode allows quite long-distance connections; the company behind it estimates 1,000 feet versus the conventionally reported range of 300 feet for Wi-Fi--although 300 feet is the diameter, not radius around an access point.
The report in the Lehigh University student newspaper recounts that the Wi-Fire was a student project that won a $2,500 prize at an entrepreneurial challenge. It's a neat idea, and the students behind it have founded hField Technologies. It's patent pending, and one hopes FCC license pending, too. Don't forget that detail, kids!
The folks at Slim Devices have released their third Squeezebox music player: The device is a bridge between music stored on computers on the local network and a stereo system. The latest version sports 802.11g and can act as a wireless bridge for devices connected via its 100 Mbps Ethernet port. It's added lossless FLAC audio format support, as well as playing WMA files and streaming radio stations. The latest version also has both WPA and WPA2 support.
Unlike Roku's recently announced, but not yet shipping, SoundBridge Radio, the Squeezebox requires at least one computer on the network in order to play music, and it does not feature built-in speakers.
The story is a little sketchy, but it's saying that all Indian airports will have free Wi-Fi to keep India technologically on top: The two articles referencing this are both a little vague about what's precisely happening. Several airports in Tamil Nadu now have free Wi-Fi according to this article; another article from India suggest airports throughout the country will add it. But it might be an error in word choice, and they meant through the Tamil Nadu state.
Starting today, we're moving advertising (but not editorial) partners, and we'd like to know more about you: Since fall 2003, Wi-Fi Networking News has partnered with JiWire on advertising, marketing, and editorial. They're a great group of people with a terrifically focused and exhaustive directory and set of associated how-tos and articles. The partnership has worked out terrifically on both sides.
However, as a niche content site, it's been tricky to sell the right kind of targeted ads that fit into both JiWire's niche and my own. To that end, my editorial partnership with JiWire will continue: we talk about big picture issues, I write for them, they feed me information, and the usual sort of interchange.
On the advertising side, my new representative is Federated Media Publishing (FM Publishing), a venture founded by John Battelle, the founder of Industry Standard and the author of a result book on Google, The Search. FM Publishing has started with a small array of niche sites like mine that are exhaustive in the areas we cover and have enough traffic to warrant selling advertising. (You can contact FM Publishing about advertising on this site.)
FM Publishing and I would like to know more about the current readership. To that end, we hope you'd take a moment to fill out this survey.
Three articles out of Boston this week on their wireless situation: Remember that excitement back in April about Boston trying to turn the city in a Wi-Fi wonderland? Boston's Weekly Dig and The Patriot Ledger both served cold dishes of the failure of progress in those efforts. The Ledger does an excellent round up of projects and districts offering Wi-Fi for free or fee. It's a bit more positive about the future, with the superb Michael Oh--head of NewburyOpen.Net--noting that no network of a Philly or SF scale using Wi-Fi has yet been built. The Weekly Dig slashes somewhat more, noting that a report on municipal Internet access hasn't moved forward. Michael Oh is quoted again--to similar effect.
Meanwhile, The Boston Globe has turned on two Wi-Fi hotspots with only local information available--no Internet access. The Pulse Points serve up newspaper archives and local advertising. But it's unclear whether folks will connect to a walled garden unless they're desperate for some local factoid or address.
Let's admit upfront that Jeffrey Belk has a vested interest in cellular data networks: But let's look beyond that. Belk is well known as a Qualcomm marketing executive who, two years ago, circulated an interesting account of business travel using cell data and Wi-Fi service along U.S. and international routes. With Wi-Fi, he found spotty service, high cost and no single plan across most networks, and odd requirements. Cell data, while much slower at that point in time, worked consistently and reliably at a predictable cost.
I disputed a number of his particulars because Belk set up a number of strawmen about price, speed, and behavior. But he also made valid factual points, and was a great sport in offering a long rebuttal and additional commentary that I was able to publish on my site.
Qualcomm makes technology that they license to cellular operators to deploy voice and data services worldwide. They also have a large patent portfolio that allows them to derive revenue from some voice and data standards and implementations that they aren't involved with. They're a technology pioneer, and they happen to have Wi-Fi across their corporate campus. While GSM evolution for broadband stalled in the U.S., Verizon and Sprint were able to deploy CDMA (Qualcomm's flagship standard) cell data at much higher speeds using EVDO (Evolution Data Only/Optimized). Cingular is catching up or leapfrogging--time will tell--with the HSDPA standard they just turned on this week to match or exceed EVDO speeds.
Jeffrey and I talked a year ago about revisiting our thesis/response/rebuttal to see what had held up and what hadn't. A lot of commitments (my new son, his broken wrist) held that up.
We still haven't done so, but there's a new target that we have much closer agreement on despite having a substantially different background: I, as a Wi-Fi-obsessed writer and disinterested party; he as a marketing VP focused on the cell industry and its needs.
In his latest informal white paper, Belk takes aim at mobile WiMax, a not-yet-finished standard that's not expected to appear in base stations for deployment until 2007, although all tea leaves I read look like 2008 for any carrier deployment. (My only quibbles have to do with how he compares Wi-Fi usage to cell data usage, and how he boosts ubiquity over speed--but they're not worth going into in length as the quibbles are small compared to agreement.)
While fixed WiMax has been enshrined in an IEEE standard--now known as 802.16-2004, rolling up all the 802.16 standard to Task Group D--mobile WiMax comes out of extensions being finalized in 802.16e. Fixed WiMax offers point-to-multipoint advantages of speed, standardization, and robustness that should allow affordable fixed service for backhaul and some residential areas. The 75 Mbps at 30 miles rate is overstate: 75 Mbps or 30 miles (with many provisos) is more realistic. But it's still got a lot of legs over high-speed, short-range wire-based services for a large class of businesses and residences.
In Seattle, Speakeasy Networks has deployed fixed pre-WiMax technology from Alvarion that allows them to offer 3 or 6 Mbps of bandwidth within a few mile radius from several downtown buildings. TowerStream has had a longer history in point-to-multipoint broadband wireless for business across several cities, and the competition is heating up for this market. (The final WiMax tech will offer better processing and other features to increase range, customers per base station, and other metrics.)
Even with fixed WiMax so far along, the certification expected this month won't be enough, some vendors say, to make carriers interested. Thus, full-scale fixed WiMax deployments may lag until a spring certification update. Wide deployment of fixed WiMax is also a spectrum problem: the first three frequencies profiles are for 2.5 GHz, 3.5 GHz, and 5.8 GHz. The first two sets of frequencies are licensed in Europe and elsewhere and not yet available in the U.S. for general use. (Sprint owns most of 2.5 GHz; 3.5 GHz rules are still being finalized for licensed, quasi-regulated use.)
Mobile WiMax will face even higher hurdles than fixed because the goal is provide Wi-Fi-like coverage over WiMax-like ranges or at least at a lower cost with less complexity than cellular data installations and with greater robustness and more reliability than Wi-Fi clouds.
Belk's paper looks at the hype, process, and future of mobile WiMax with a cellular bias. But I find little I disagree with. For mobile WiMax to succeed over cellular, it has to have more or cheaper spectrum, fewer sites, and fewer real-estate and zoning issues. And--it has to exist, which it doesn't yet. WiMax is consistently cited in mainstream reports as being both fixed and mobile right now. It's not.
One might contend that with Intel backing WiMax in its various forms and committed to shipping a WiMax notebook adapter next year according to several reports, that this might overcome some of the difficulties that the standard will face in reaching critical mass. Absolutely: Intel's backing will help.
But they can ship however many millions of adapters in 2006 and 2007 as they want--carriers have to install thousands and thousands of mobile WiMax base stations to make the standard a working reality. And the basic problem for mobile WiMax is that by the time it can be deployed, will it have speed, ubiquity, and cost advantages over the fast cellular networks that will be available in 2008?
The one key element to WiMax worth mentioning is that it can work in unlicensed spectrum where cellular operators use licensed frequencies. That could decrease the cost of deployment, but it also means that increased use of 5 GHz networks would decrease the effectiveness of mobile WiMax if that band were used.
The FCC's odd plan to allow unlimited licensing with localized planning for 3.5 GHz could provide a nice balance, but it's unclear where that plan stands and whether carriers or large ISPs are interested.
Fixed WiMax has a clear short-term role as a T-1 replacement or supplement and definitely as a fractional T-3 replacement at much lower cost. But mobile WiMax's role is still undefined. Belk's paper is required reading, and comments are, as always, welcome below.
Madison, Wisc., will have citywide Wi-Fi: The network will be built without taxpayer money, but the local utility will allow the placements of antennas on their streetlights. Downtown will be live by March 2006; the entire city by early 2007. The agreement with the utility isn't exclusive, nor is there a price guarantee for how much the service will cost--it's a wholesale network.
Read about it in articles at The Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal, and in a press release from WFI, one of two companies involved in the build out and Google's bid partner for the San Francisco municipal network.
Inmarsat is about to launch the second of its high-bandwidth, beamforming satellites: The fourth-generation of satellites doesn't cover huge areas by default. Instead, they can beam 492 Kbps signals to areas that range from the size of a city to the size of a small region.
Portable phones and data devices should work more simply and be much smaller than previous planned or deployed fast satellite networks. Tenzing's descendent firm OnAir will make use of the "I-4" network to bring speeds at multiples of 492 Kbps to in-flight aircraft. Thousands of aircraft already have Inmarsat equipment on board; the upgrade is fairly inexpensive and quick to put in a fourth-generation receiver.
The new system could also fuel rural broadband by providing superior bidirectional speeds at a lower cost per user.
Tyler Pounds Regional Airport offers free Wi-Fi: FEMA and Red Cross workers used the network recently.
Hartford, Conn., ought to have it, says columnist: John Moran writes in the Hartford Courant about free Wi-Fi in the city. He notes, incorrectly, "Despite a lot of promotion, the pay-to-surf model for wireless Internet access doesn't seem to be catching on." He hasn't spoken to SBC, Wayport, or T-Mobile, but Hartford is a bit underrepresented in equipped locations: it has just 41 locations, according to JiWire, and a little at Bradley, the nearby international airport.
The Morton Grove Library should have Wi-Fi next year: The setup should require just four access points to serve the whole building.
Columnist Andy Serwer asks why the sudden interest in municipal wireless: He points out in brief that there's a lot of debate over the role of cities in providing certain kinds of services, and whether Internet access should fall inside that role or not.
But this is the money quote for me, because it shows how out of touch the incumbents are: Walter McCormick, head of the United States Telecom Association, a trade group, says government-owned networks could be considered "un-American" if the public sector gives itself advantages over private-sector competitors, and he argues that they are "questionable at a time when essential services, police, and firefighters are subject to budget restraints."
Oddly, virtually every proposal I've seen since Philadelphia's for large cities offset all risk to the private entity that gets the winning "bid." Winning the bid means getting certain access to city or town facilities at what might be superior terms to walk-up customers: poles, towers, building tops, and conduits are expensive, and the city simply streamlining the process of gaining access is a franchise and highly valuable.
McCormick's statement doesn't work for Philadelphia where EarthLink is paying the entire cost of the network, and the city will give EarthLink a few million a year (via Wireless Philadelphia) for telecom and data services now paid to incumbents and others, consolidating and conserving cost. SF, likewise, if it accepts Google or a few other plans will put no money down, no money later to get a network. Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis, to name two, seem to require the private bidders to assume full financing and risk in exchange for city telecom business.
Further, not all cities have horrible budgets, and incumbents aren't the best folks as multistate corporations with shareholders whose interests they serve to decide on the actions of individual towns and cities which have elected officials serving at the pleasure of their actual constituents.
My city, Seattle, has a $55 million budget surplus, just by the way.
I've been reading about the imminent bandwidth-in-the-sky offerings for years: Here's the latest in a series of mostly unrelated test showing that you can float a balloon (or fly a plane or put a drone up) that can offer unparalleled line of sight. Yes, the pun is intended. The balloon noted in this BBC report was put in air to 24 kilometers for nine hours and maintained an 11 Mbps link. The goal is 120 Mbps. The area of coverage could be up to 60 square kilometers.
Of course, the last line reminds me of a story from an Irish paper the other day that stated that 50 mobile WiMax base stations could serve all of Ireland. The line in this story: With each airship being able to support an area of 60 kilometres, there would only need to be "a handful" to offer complete coverage in the UK, he added. Right--and only 120 Mbps per balloon--so a handful would provide service for dozens to hundreds of people nationwide. Hardly.
Broadband over powerline (BPL) has been cited by supports of the incumbent telco/cable duopoly as a third line enabling competition in closed markets: BPL is a real technology, but it's also been a strawman in the municipal network debate. Along with arguments such as "DSL is available in 97 percent of ZIP codes in the U.S."--which ignores how big rural ZIP code regions are and only requires availability of a single DSL line--those opposed to municipal involvement in broadband state that BPL will provide another line of competition.
Ignore the fact that many electrical utilities are owned by municipal or public entities, thus not being an option to the folks that eschew governmentally run broadband. And ignore the fact that years after early technology was available, only a handful of locations have more than trials running. The dotcom collapse made many utilities leery of expanding beyond their core business.
Now we find that there may in fact be enough competition to forestall BPL. The PPL Corp. of Allentown, Pa., was a leader in BPL. But they said, according to an article in The Morning Call, that even with 1.3 million customers across Pennsylvania, the scale of operations was too small for the marginal return possible given current broadband pricing.
Manassas, Virg., by contrast, has a publicly-owned utility with a compact market and a private partner--COMTek--that specializes in telecom. PPL turned to wireless for the last-few-feet connection from the transformer on a pole to a customer's house; COMTek and Manassas opted for broadband-to-the-outlet. This latter approach is more complicated because it means installed a bypass around every transformer. The step-down voltage degrades the information carrier, otherwise.
This article is fascinating because it's so free of the sniping and extra-technical (that is, outside of technical) issues that often dog these kinds of deployments.
Stewart airport near Poughkeepsie has Wi-Fi: The regional airport is offering free access until Oct. 28, then charging. ICOA is the operator.
You deserve a Nintendo DS break today: Wayport's deal to bring Wi-Fi into McDonald's so far has had just a single taker on the aggregator side: SBC. SBC FreedomLink's home network (their cheaper one, not their roaming network) includes unlimited access at McDonald's locations operated by Wayport, which now number over 6,000, and will exceed 7,000 by June. Wayport's plan, announced nearly a year and a half ago, is to resell access at McDonald's not on a per-session basis, but on a monthly fixed rate per location. Wayport receives fixed sums and the operator has a fixed expense.
Nintendo is the second company I know of--following SBC--that's signed up for this plan. Nintendo DS owners can bring in an equipped unit to Wi-Fi'd McDonald's starting Nov. 14 and pay no fee for access. A Web site devoted to the service just says that it's coming in November. Incremental sales to McDonald's should be quite marvelous.
Gamesindustry.biz reports that the U.S. launch is Nov. 14; in Europe, Nov. 25. They also note that other Nintendo systems will follow the DS connection. This model has sold 2.2 million units in the U.S., according to NPD Group, quoted in The New York Times.
The first games to support online gameplaying are Mario Kart DS and Tony Hawk's American SK8Land, with two other games to follow by the end of the year.
Update: Nintendo of Canada has separately partnered with Wi-Fi operator FatPort to provide free Wi-Fi to Nintendo DS users across hundreds of their locations.
Microsoft Research introduces an experimental virtualization package for Wi-Fi adapters: This software for Windows XP allows you to have multiple logical copies of a single Wi-Fi hardware adapter but use these logical copies to connect to different physical Wi-Fi networks. One example the research team poses is connecting with one instance of a Wi-Fi card to an ad hoc game-playing box (oh, I don't know--an Xbox?) while also connected via infrastructure mode to a Wi-Fi gateway that hooks into the Internet.
The team also mentions two interesting applications: using a "thin pipe" for diagnosis by allowing a connected machine to hook into diagnostics without losing its connectivity, which would then make it harder to diagnose certain problems; and multiple simultaneous network connections for improving throughput without additional radios.
This is exciting stuff. I have no idea how performance suffers and whether all cards will support. The research teams lists several cards of varying vintages going way back to 1999, and their software worked with all of them. Neither WEP nor 802.1X (nor ostensibly WPA, which isn't mentioned by name) are supported in this early version. [link via Endgaget]
Beacon Wi-Fi spreads out service in marinas: The company has marina-based Wi-Fi across 130 marinas on the east coast. There are thousands upon thousands in the U.S. alone, so it's a nice market to tap. People are already throwing their money into a hole in the water, as boat ownership is typically known; add a few dollars a month to that for Internet access, and you don't even notice. Service is as little as $30 per month for a one-year commitment, $40 per month for six months, or $60 a month for each month. Live-on-boards particularly like this kind of service.
Competition is growing. ICOA bought iDock last year and now has 55 marinas unwired. BroadbandXPress (Northwest and B.C.) and Air2Access (Great Lakes) are also building out marina service.
Wired Equivalent Privacy is the walking dead: Dead encryption walking! We all know that WEP has been beaten, broken, left bloody. So why did Kodak release the EasyShare-One with WEP (and a promised Wi-Fi Protected Access or WPA upgrade with six months), Roku plans to ship the SoundBridge Radio with WEP (WPA within a few months), and Nintendo DS with WEP.
What's the deal? According to Roku's founder, the chips that meet their specification are lagging in firmware. Kodak is using an SDIO (Secure Digital I/O) card that must be in the same boat.
Can we blame the manufacturers? Not precisely. They're beholden to the chipmakers which have focused mostly on PCs and handsets. The manufacturers of these newer consumer products that use Wi-Fi are often not members of the Wi-Fi Alliance; the chipmakers are. What's the solution? Sales. The more Wi-Fi appliances that ship, the more pressure that will build.
This article on rural Oregon's giant privately run Wi-Fi cloud appeared in an abbreviated form last month: An earlier version ran off the wire in The Seattle Times back on Sept. 26; this version is much expanded.
The basic facts are the same: rural area, cooperation from locals, private developer. The service is free for individual use, and the owner is recouping expense through fees paid by local government. The owner, Fred Ziari, a transplanted Iranian, said the lack of politics in signing deals and erecting towers is one reason the network is so large. Another is clearly that the incumbent providers aren't fleet enough to make enough profit off these kinds of ventures. Why erect wireless and charge very little for it when you have incredibly expensive rural copper and fiber you need to pay down?
The neat part about this network is that it wasn't another one of those built from the philosophy of throw Wi-Fi at the wall and see if it sticks. Rather, there are very particular purposes, such as emergency evacuation, police reporting, and information flow among far-flung municipal and county workers that have driven these efforts. The incremental cost for these rural locations seems small or even productive: less police overtime, for instance, can pay the cost of a network awfully fast.
The SJ Mercury reports that 17 of the 26 proposals were released to the public: Proprietary information was elided. There's no explanation about the other nine proposals' absence. The proposals can be downloaded at this link. I've taken a look through some of the proposals, and these are mostly cover letters and answers to the RFI (request for information) that address the company's history and knowledge. The actual engineering proposals aren't part of this disclosure. So we learn that Google is a big firm, but not the nitty-gritty.
Linksys's WUSBF54G appears to be the same reference design as Zyxel's AG-225H: I reviewed Zyxel's version, a combination USB 2.0 802.11a/b/g adapter with Wi-Fi detector, a few weeks ago. Zyxel's was extremely well made, and the description and captures from Linksys's product look essentially identical--except Linksys supports just b/g, not a/b/g.
A fair amount of commodity electronics--inexpensive, useful, mass-market devices--are created by firms that don't have a retail sales presence. They develop reference designs which are shopped around to retail brands like Linksys and Zyxel. The companies license the design, create their own wrapper, and sometimes their own software, and sell the product.
The Seattle Times reports that a pilot program for neighborhood Wi-Fi access is erratic: A service launched five months ago to bring Internet access via Wi-Fi to two communities isn't working as expected. Demand is remarkably high for this kind of service, although quite low by other standards.
Fifty people a day on average use the network at four parks, and 231 per day in the busy University District. Columbia City saw just 27 users a day on average, but their network has performed the worst, the article says. The Columbia City network has been shut down, and the city has brought in a consultant.
I haven't heard stories of erratic performance of networks, but perhaps other cities aren't being as upfront about these problems. There's some expectation that these small area systems should work better than citywide wireless networks, and thus any reports of "interference" causing erratic problems are being looked at sharply.
However, Columbia City is considered historically disadvantaged and certainly has less Wi-Fi in the air than the bustling U District, not far from my home. The equipment comes from D-Link which has a relatively new outdoor business. Most of the citywide networks are using equipment from Tropos, which has offered ruggedized outdoor devices from the start.
Updated update: Columbia City's management software has been reverted to an earlier version which the city's engineers expect will fix the problem.
Pronto Networks invests in a slick idea for municipal networks: roaming: The horribly named UniFi Digital Communities Grid would allow roaming across municipal networks by government employees and residents with special options for public safety and emergency workers.
One idea behind this platform is that applications can be developed against the platform and then sold to many towns and cities almost as a shrinkwrapped item. The press release notes services like automated meter reading and even Amber alerts.
Several entities are participating in the initial rollout--Corpus Christi, Texas, and Nantucket, Mass., to note two--and have all agreed to provide reciprocal access for governmental workers, with options for free for for-fee roaming for other municipalities' citizens and visitors from anywhere. The platform would also allow resale to aggregators.
I tested the Kodak EasyShare-One for several days and reviewed it for Personal Tech Pipeline: The camera is quite lovely and its large LCD display is a wonder. The Wi-Fi features worked reasonably well for me, but there are significant problems in the camera's ability to reconnect without a hassle. It's definitely a good first draft at the product, and the failings that I identify in my review can be fixed through firmware and software.
There are two gaping holes that would take this from a too-expensive niche consumer camera for a closed system into an early adopter must-have:
First, the inclusion of Secure FTP for file transfer to any FTP site. WebDAV with SSL would be a plus, too, but SFTP is all that's really needed. SFTP would allow encrypted transfer of data from the camera to a Web site.
Second, an option to transfer pictures automatically after they're taken to whatever method you select. Right now, you can transfer to a computer on the same local Wi-Fi network, or upload to Kodak's EasyShare Gallery--but neither operation is automatic.
The two big papers duke it out over paying for Wi-Fi in hotels: On Sept. 27, New York Times business travel columnist Joe Sharkey wrote about the tendency for big hotels to charge big bucks for in-room and public space Wi-Fi and wired broadband. Two weeks later, he followed up with responses from readers who have found all kinds of ways to avoid those charges, from using nearby free Wi-Fi at places like Panera to parking at nearby hotels to get work done. One hotelier in London at the Dorchester said that subsidizing Internet access would lead to a rise in all room rates.
Now we all know that's not true. The cost of providing Internet access is roughly a fixed expense, although some Internet providers who help hotels offer no-fee access charge based on usage plus fixed rates. The Dorchester charges £18.50 per day for high-speed access ($33), according to Sharkey's second column. Their likely depreciation and hard costs per month are almost certainly no more than $3,000 to $4,000--or 100-odd room nights' worth of Wi-Fi.
What Wyndham Hotels and Resorts along with other hotel chains found is that if you make Internet access free you go from "the needs of the minority" as the Dorchester technology director described it to the needs of the majority: Wyndham saw usage quadruple when they made Internet access free to members of their no-cost affinity club.
In that scenario, Internet access fees spread across all rooms aren't a penalty to be borne by those who don't use it. Rather, it's an expected amenity that a traveler may or may not use. I honestly don't always take a Jacuzzi bath when there's one in my hotel room.
Over at the Wall Street Journal tomorrow, reporter Avery Johnson files the obverse piece noting that the majority of hotels offering Internet access now charge nothing for it. He looks at the bottom and middle on up. The irony has been for the last couple of years that the cheaper the hotel you stay in the more likely that Internet service is an amenity like crummy soap than an extra charge. There's an excellent chart at the bottom of the article examining major chains.
A few years ago now, John Yunker (when he was at Pyramid Research) got grief for suggesting that the trend was for more and more hotels to offer service at no charge as the ramp-up from a few Internet-equipped hotels moved to most Internet-equipped hotels. I thought that a captive audience might not be the best one to make threats, but it turns out that enough competitors decided to not add the complexity of charging for access and there's enough free service around in cafes that hotels can use free access as an advantage. (Some say that charging for Internet service doesn't make you more in the end because you're really trying as a hotel to get more people staying and the more full you are, the less you have to discount.)
Journal reporter Johnson points out that the average room night has risen to its highest level since 2000, so the hoteliers have a little more money to throw around on extra amenities. A great statistic is worked into the story, too: we all know that hotels used to suck money from guests for telecom charges. Cell phones have killed that business: 55 percent of the telecom revenue was lost between 2000 and 2004.
One thing not mentioned in either article is that the spread of 3G cellular data networks means a further demise in Internet fees at hotels. I've been waiting for this to really hit home, and it will probably be by mid-2006 that it slams hotels entirely. With EVDO prices already down to $60/month (2-year commitment, voice subscription required), a business traveler who otherwise doesn't need EVDO data has to make the simple calculation that four nights of Internet access more or less pays for their EVDO subscription each month.
Now hotels often have one or more T-1 lines or the equivalent and EVDO speeds are far below T-1. But for all practical purposes, EVDO is a fine replacement technology for hotel Internet. The big difference is that if you're an Internet pusher--moving data back to the home office--the 50 to 100 Kbps upstream speed on EVDO is inadequate compared to 1.5 Mbps on a T-1 line.
Great travelers think alike, too, obviously:
WSJ: Some travelers are perplexed by the disparity. "What really irritates me is that at the lower level of hotels, Internet will be free, while at the highest end, it can be as much as $15 a day. I have no idea why," says Arthur York, a 70-year-old retired executive who lives in Villanova, Pa.
NY Times: Eric D. Horodas, the president of Greystone Hospitality, a San Francisco hotel company, was not buying that. "I am very annoyed when I check into a high-end hotel and find I have to pay extra to connect to the Internet," he said. Business travelers, he said, should "demand complimentary Internet access."
Interesting side point to the Internet access: if you have free Internet access, you can very easily use Internet telephony. Some hotels may block this just as they block outgoing email. Enter corporate VPN, Google VPN, or VPN-for-rent services: it imposes a little load, but it enables VoIP and Internet calling.
Perhaps in response, some hotels bundle in unlimited domestic calling (local, long distance, and toll free) as part of a nightly data fee, a resort fee, or as part of the free service they offer to affinity club members. Given that hotels can now get the same advantage of paying practically nothing for long distance, free calling is just another amenity, too.
The FTC alleges Transnet Wireless Corp. has made false claims in its Wi-Fi kiosk-selling business: The company wanted $10,000 to $15,000 for a single kiosk that would serve up content via an LCD screen or via Wi-Fi. While the company said it would deliver kiosks with two weeks to 45 days, and that they would generate huge returns--$1,000 to $2,000 per month--the FTC complaint alleges that it terminals were rarely delivered, and the firm had no basis on which to make financial claims.
The FTC received a temporary restraining order against the firm to prevent it from continuing to sell the kiosks, and to freeze the assets of the firm and its principals. [link via TechDirt]
Is the new model for municipal networking one in which private companies offer to bear the full expense? If so, this defangs two muni-Fi-opposing arguments: taxpayer money at risk and public competition with private firms.
Philly paper praises EarthLink plan: The unsigned editorial from the Philadelphia Inquirer praises the executive branch and Dianah Neff for developing a plan that has raised the city's profile and attracted a bid that won't cause any money tsorres for the town. The editors critique a recent performance by incumbents testifying in front of the city council: "In testimony, they all but patted Neff patronizingly on the head, saying the city should leave the 'competitive, challenging and risky business' to the pros in the field, i.e. them."
I was amused by this as well because the bidders for many municipal networks are now firms that are pretty good at the risky stuff involved in building networks.
Milwaukee offered $25 million municipal network at no cost: Midwest Fiber Networks would build the network in exchange for access--on what terms, it's not mentioned--to city facilities, like conduits. As this reporter has written a number of times, facilities are one of keys to muni-fi: rooftops, poles, conduits, and electricity are expensive and only electricity is a commodity. All the rest requires lots of negotiation, sometimes taking years, for private companies to obtain.
The financial details aren't clear yet, nor what the company would charge. It sounds like they are partnering for a wholesale model in which ISPs handle the public side. The mayor stressed that the deal would be non-exclusive. Still, it's hard to imagine that if there isn't a city-wide privately own fiber infrastructure today that Midwest Fiber would have competitors. Especially if Midwest can sign a comprehensive deal that encompasses facility use.
[links to both articles via the fine people at The Wireless Weblog]
Palm, Inc., introduces its cheapest Wi-Fi-equipped model today: The Palm TX includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 128 MB of RAM, and a 320-by-480–pixel screen for $299. Their goal, the company said in a briefing, was to answer customers who wanted Wi-Fi for much less and wanted a big screen with which to browse and use applications. There's no camera, but it's otherwise hard to point a finger at what they left out to bring it to this price point.
The Wi-Fi is 802.11b and while it supports WPA Personal, it doesn't offer WPA Enterprise, which is needed for use inside corporations. Palm is pitching the TX at the mobile consumer and business traveler who wants access while out and about. No word on VPN support, although both 802.1X/WPA Enterprise and VPN packages are readily available for Palm OS, and there's a mention of the necessity of a VPN for some purposes in the press release. A 30-day trial T-Mobile HotSpot subscription is included.
The Bluetooth connection can be used for synchronization and file transfer, but also for modem calls via handsets that support that method. Palm included just Bluetooth 1.1 support--which is just odd. I can understand not adding 2.0+EDR for cost, battery, and complexity issues. 3 Mbps versus 1 Mbps when you have Wi-Fi built in isn't a big deal. But 1.2 contains the frequency hopping coordination details that allow Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to avoid each other. However, if this is a single chip radio with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the manufacturer may have engaged in its own compatible but not 1.2 scheme.
The company has pushed hard on battery life and said during their briefing that they expected five days of life during typical use that includes Wi-Fi transmissions. We'll see how that translates when under heavy Wi-Fi use.
The Palm TX has an SD/SDIO slot that accepts memory cards up to 2 GB in size. Palm is billing the device in part as a media player. This could be a great appliance for photographers, too. Throw in a Palm OS-based Secure FTP client or other file transfer software, and you could shoot photos and use the Wi-Fi and FTP program to upload them. There's also a USB port.
Palm is bundling Documents To Go from DataViz, a Microsoft Office converter that handles Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; Avvenu, a secure remote file transfer package for reaching documents on your wired desktop computer; and MobiTV, a subscription service for bringing television to handhelds, the price for which hasn't been set yet during testing. MobiTV plus Wi-Fi should produce lovely results on the large screen. DataViz will offer a premium upgrade in the near future to support PDF display.
The screen's orientation can be changed in software through a single click from portrait to landscape, which is useful for all kinds of purposes, including mainstream behavior like watching video to more obscure objectives, such as terminal windows.
This Palm will work with its GPS Navigator, a $249 hockey-puck sized geographical coordinate finder that connects via Bluetooth. The product manager said that a 1 GB SD card would hold all the maps of the U.S.
The company said it expects 60 percent of purchasers to be upgrading from other Palm and PocketPC models.
The island of Chebeague in Casco Bay (near Portland) has Wi-Fi: Two nearby islands will also gain ubiquitous coverage through Ubiquitair. The fees are a little odd, as you pay $40 per month for unlimited access within their coverage area, but only $30 per month if you stick an antenna on your house if you're outside the 10 to 15 acres and some businesses they broadcast around.
The folks behind the service aren't looking to make a fortune, but believe that summer usage from the population quintupling will be the equivalent of Christmas sales for the retail world.
Over in Midcoast, an area defined by what it's between--Bath on the southeast to Searsport on the north--Midcoast Internet Solutions has been running long-range wireless since about 1997. They offer coverage to a few marine islands and many towns that are effectively inland islands with little connectivity.
Miami's airport will be unwired--by the end of 2006: The system will be set up by January but not operational until they complete a long bidding process. Meanwhile, Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood airport has free service. A hotel in Terminal E at Miami has for-fee service that costs up to $9.95 per day.
I've written about the Prodigy WiFlyer before, but now they're co-branding with SBC: The WiFlyer from Always On Wireless puts Wi-Fi, an Ethernet port, and a V.92 dial-up modem into a single box. They're now selling a version that will be branded as, deep breath, SBC Yahoo! Dial for $130 starting today.
There are tens of millions of Internet-equipped households that use dial-up, and there are practically no simple dial-up-to-Wi-Fi devices. Apple's AirPort Extreme Base Station is $200, and while it offers a built-in modem, it's not functionally superior to the WiFlyer for this particular purpose.
At Mobile Pipeline today, I write about Google's broad mobile plans into which Wi-Fi fits as a piece: Google's Wi-Fi bid for San Francisco has been billed as a one-off, and after speaking to their business-development guy responsible for it, I'm convinced it is. What he said quite openly--and that he said many reporters haven't been very interested in--is that Google would use SF as a place to assemble a platform of services for municipal networks that would have revenue on the back end. This set of services could be offered to companies like EarthLink--with which they have lines of communications--a way to generate revenue immediately beyond subscriber revenue.
In the article, I also cover Google's phone strategy, which, while not unique and not as broad a portfolio as Yahoo and not as deep as some independent firms, is part and parcel of their overall approach.
The WLAN management tool company adds radio features, site planning: I've spoken to a number of IT managers, largely but not exclusively in academia, who turned to AirWave as a way to better manage often hetergeneous wireless LANs that are comprised of equipment from many vendors. Some prefer AirWave to vendors' own management tools, too.
The latest version of their software includes site planning with visualization overlays--which boiled down means they can show RF patterns on a drawing. The planning tool doesn't offer simulation of signal propagation, which are part of other vendor-specific tools.
This version also adds rogue access point detection using the wired LAN as a primary tool to ferret out commodity APs without requiring constant network scanning. (This assumes undisguised APs, of course.) The company has extended the makers and brands of access points and switches they support, as well.
This new version ships this month.
AA says that Massport's alleged security concerns at Boston-Logan are just an attempt to force use of their vendor's Wi-Fi network: Continental was earlier in a dispute over their free Wi-Fi in their membership clubs. Now American Airlines is in on the action in a filing to the FCC.
Massport's response from a spokeswoman is laughable. Laughable!
A profusion of airline-operated WiFi signals, Levy said, could jam radio frequencies used by the State Police and Transportation Security Administration.
I am now terrified. Police and TSA are using 2.4 GHz unlicensed frequency devices for critical equipment? Heaven help us all. This is, of course, prima facie ridiculous. Wi-Fi doesn't interfere with the bands used for public safety. The feds even have their own agency-specific bands; the TSA may be using some of those.
Even better: the TSA hasn't complained here nor anywhere else in the United States, nor have I ever heard about police complaining anywhere in the U.S., even in airports with five or six different Wi-Fi networks.
This isn't to say that interference among Wi-Fi devices isn't an issue that should be dealt with through coordination policies. But Massport is trying to use obviously false security concerns to trump federal telecom and spectrum policy.
They will lose.
Adelaide airport gets limited free Wi-Fi: Broadband firm Internode is providing the access. Existing customers can use their accounts; Web access is available for free for limited periods. Pricing for full access coming soon.
It's not just Intel, Atheros, Broadcom, and Marvell--but a host of firms behind a 802.11n proposal: The Enhanced Wireless Consortium comprises 27 chipmakers and equipment manufacturers including those four named chipmakers who originally seemed to split from the pack. Their new proposal for 802.11n, merging elements of TGn Sync and WWiSE, is available now. The EWC possibly has the 75-percent supermajority necessary to take any approved proposal (50-percent required for that) and accept it as the working draft that's then moved forward into ratification after details are smoothed out.
The proposal's press release includes the word "or" quite a lot, which shows the compromise. The new standard will reach raw speeds up to 600 Mbps, which would require a full implementation of most optional features--the most antennas and greatest channel bandwidth, for instance--but the baseline goal remains at least 100 Mbps of actual throughput regardless of implementation.
In an interview this afternoon, representatives from Atheros, Broadcom, Conexant, and Marvell spoke about the need to jumpstart the process of rallying around a single proposal. Bill Bunch, the director of WLAN product management at Broadcom, said, "Part of what's going on here is as a group we're staying on track." He noted, "At the end of the day, we think that there is pent-up demand to get this job done, and that arguing over technical minutiae is not what we want to do any more. We are actually forming a group that doesn't want to argue over technical minutiae."
The EWC proposal contains a lot of hooks and omits a lot of disagreement. The focus, said Dave Hedberg, senior scientist at Conexant, was on making sure that 802.11n was backwards compatible with a, b, and g, and achieved "What we've concentrated on doing is that any hooks and things that have to be in every device are there and are mandatory," Hedberg said.
For instance, a point of contention between TGn Sync and WWiSE had to do with closed-loop beamforming. In the EWC approach, beamforming is by default open, but the hooks to allow closed-loop beamforming are fully available.
TechWorld has a superb overview of the reactions primarily from MIMO-pioneer Airgo and handset maker Nokia, neither of which are part of EWC. Both companies criticize the lack of handset friendly features in the EWC proposal. Reporter Peter Judge also looks into the procedural issues around how Intel and others shopped their proposal around to other members of the group trying to integrate the two leading Task Group N proposals.
This consortium could assure that 802.11n is ratified by the end of 2006 or early 2007, but it also likely means that shipping silicon will appear sooner. There's a RAND licensing provision for members of the EWC, which ensures that everyone can cross-license intellectual property at a rate that is "reasonable."
EWC was designed to terminate itself if its functions are taken over, representatives of the companies said. This would be defined as the entire proposal being subsumed into Task Group N.
The representatives couldn't speculate whether they have the supermajority necessary for adoption of their draft by Task Group N, nor could they predict how individual voters would cast ballots because IEEE membership is by individual not by company. "We think we're building the right consensus to achieve 75-percent support," said Broadcom's Bunch.
The formation of EWC shows the ongoing dynamic between companies and the IEEE that has played out over the last few years. Companies can stack the deck by funding additional participants from their own firm, partner firms, and academia, or can be underrepresented. Over in 802.15.3b, which is developing an ultrawideband (UWB) standard, FreeScale Semiconductor is spending enough money to ensure that a supermajority can't be reached by the other participants in the standards process. Despite almost the entire rest of the industry voting with their feet by forming the Multi-Band OFDM Alliance, now subsumed into the WiMedia Alliance, 802.15.3b remains stalled.
The WBUR program OnPoint interviews reports, Dianah Neff on municipal wireless: The show includes John Battelle and Jesse Drucker, who cover Google (independent, author of a book on Google), and telecom (Wall Street Journal). The programs also includes an interview with Philly's CIO Dianah Neff, and Ellen Daley, an analyst at Forrester Research. The program is from Oct. 6 and is archived in Windows Media and Real audio formats.
First step towards Cape Code-wide coverage?: Orleans, Mass., receives a grant to install wireless coverage across the community in a boost to business, travelers, and residents. It's not a public-private partnership: it's more about private enterprise banding together to bring in more private enterprise. The idea is to create a model and a catalyst for wireless access across the entire cape.
A schismatic group of companies secretly working outside the IEEE 802.11n group's process may submit a new proposal Monday: News.com reports that Intel, Broadcom, Marvell, and Atheros have a new plan. All but Broadcom are also part of TGn Sync; Broadcom was part of the WWiSE proposal. The future of 802.11n has huge market consequences, and there's more than a whiff of collusion when four giant semiconductor makers engage outside a standards process.
Still, by presenting their proposal, they may take potential prosecution off the table. But it's unclear whether if their proposal isn't accepted that they go back to the table or walk off and start a trade group as happened with 802.15.3a and UWB (ultrawideband). Intel leads the WiMedia Alliance (formerly the WiMedia Alliance and the Multi-Band OFDM Alliance).
Scottsdale downtown drive: The city wants Wi-Fi across downtown and is considering a four-year contract with a provider. This is unusual: trials usually proceed contracts which often are much shorter in duration. Interesting point in the article: the contractor will pay the city to use facilities like poles. The service won't be free.
Wilkes-Barre wants Wi-Fi now! Later won't work because of the sunset provision of the Pennsylvania law that disallows new municipal telecom and data networks that aren't in place by the end of the year without a specific waiver granted by the incumbent. Yeah, that's the way democracy works: cities have to crave permission from private corporations which receive public subsidies. The proposed service would cross seven square miles and they'd try to charge about $20 per month with a private contractor handling the installation and operations.
Sans Fils, Sans Fee: My bad bilingual pun of the day would be to propose that free networks should be called "sans fee" (pronounced sanz fee) to make a double entrendre on the French phrase for wireless, "sans fils," which pronounced "sonnz fee."
The in-flight broadband division would like entree to the second most populous country in the world: These two airlines operate long-haul flights that would ideal for Boeing's target customers. India to anywhere outside the region is quite a distance, and the most likely travelers are very likely carrying piles of technology.
Glenn's broken record is: let's talk about security on the local link: I've written about this before, but it's worth repeating. None of the municipal Wi-Fi networks I've read about have any consideration for security over the local link. They all imply that there's either no security risk or those with interest in protecting their passwords for POP email and other unencrypted services use a VPN (virtual private network) to tunnel all of their vulnerable data inside an encrypted stream that's not vulnerable over Wi-Fi or even wired Internet.
This explains Google VPN experiment. If it's unreasonable to expect everyone on a muni network to use a login name and password over Wi-Fi (using WPA Enterprise), or if it's impossible to have Wi-Fi bridges preconfigured with this authenticated method, then most users will be sending their data in the clear along with lots of passwords. (My co-authored Take Control of Your Wi-Fi Security ebook just out has a section detailing precisely the kind of data that's passed in the clear by default, and what's encrypted.)
Fundamentally, supporting encryption requires more homogeneity or it incurs a large support expense. Providing users with bridges that are preconfigured to use encryption would be the easiest method as it would circumvent the security issue. But those who don't want to use bridges, or who are using the Wi-Fi in public places, still need some kind of client software that works on their platform (including Linux, FreeBSD, Windows 98SE, etc.), and that's simple to support over the phone.
The local link is the weak link because if the traffic is sent in the clear, an enterprising young thief just drives around, sucks down lots of data, extracts unencrypted POP passwords (which are often the same as a user's password elsewhere), along with anything else the user sends in the clear, and is off and running on fraudulent activity and identity theft.
In fact, it's so obvious that it's a given that the first time that a large-scale unencrypted local link Wi-Fi cloud powers up that there will almost immediately be this kind of behavior resulting in criminal acts.
Thus the Google VPN. If Google runs the municipality and throws in not just free usage but also free VPN service, then it sidesteps security. If you ask Google about security if they win the bid for installing San Francisco's network, they'll say, we offer every visitor and resident a free VPN to bypass that problem. Not all SF Wi-Fi users may decide to use the VPN or understand how to install it, but Google wins the argument by offering a powerful and free method for those who can manage it.
Configured correctly, locally subnetted computers and other devices are still reachable, while all Internet resources pass through encryption.
I've made this argument before only to be told by people who blame the victim and expect far too much especially from the average currently unconnected user that users should employ application-specific encryption methods, such as POP over SSL and SFTP. Yeah, right.
Securing the local link in a simple, free, and default method is the only way in which a municipal network won't become the basis of massive fraud.
Bell Canada will build out Wi-Fi for Canadian shops: The service will launch with 140 locations in Ontario, expanding to 400 across Canada in the next year.
BoldStreet is providing the Wi-Fi installation and operation services for Bell Canada, according to this story at the Ottawa Citizen. Ten of 13 Starbucks in Ottawa will have Wi-Fi this week, along with 130 other locations throughout the province.
The guy who invented the cell phone says 3,000 APs per square mile not 300: Marty Cooper has said unpleasant things about Wi-Fi in the past in defiance of its actual, working, functional nature, but I have to listen to what he says about ubiquitous cloud-like coverage. However, his firm ArrayComm has its own proprietary technology for the same effect, so we'd better not discount that factor, too.
I spoke to a telecom analyst in SF yesterday who said, bluntly, he thought it would cost $250 million to unwire San Francisco because of the topography, density of existing Wi-Fi installations, cost of obtaining rights of way (even if the city provides a lot of it), and even basics like electricity to handle the thousands of AP.
There's not much detail: It's possible Nintendo will be setting up some hotspot partnership or infrastructure here; it's possible that you'll be able to set up a Wi-Fi gateway that any nearby Nintendo player can access. But it might just be a Wi-Fi plug-in to access the LAN and the Internet for other players.
My brief in the New York Times on Roku's upcoming Internet radio tuner: It's an interesting device and I can't wait to get my hands on one for review in a month or so. I found out a few interesting items not mentioned in this brief from interviewing Roku's founder. Because they aren't using a computer (PCI) bus, their choices for Wi-Fi chips are limited--that's why they are using Philips 802.11b chip with WEP-only drivers.
The WPA drivers are in the pipeline, and the unit could ship with them, but it's unlikely. However, since this is an Internet-connected device, a software update will provide the WPA support with little effort to push the new firmware in by the user. (I wish someone would hack up a $50 WEP bridge with extreme firewall settings for WPA-only networks that want to use WEP-only devices.)
Also interesting is that HD Radio (digital AM/FM) isn't anywhere on Roku's radar because Internet radio effectively displaces the need for HD Radio--for stations that stream simulcasts, at least.
The quality of service (QoS) standard for improving voice, streaming data is out the door: The news that it was approved for publication in late September seems to have eluded most of us who cover the industry. A subset of 802.11e has already been released by the Wi-Fi Alliance as Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM), a set of extensions that helped voice applications. The full specification defines four queues that determine packet priority. The article quotes a SpectraLink executive who says the default priority is voice, video, best-effort, and background. Devices transmitting packets must mark the packets with this priority information.
iBahn says that they're the first hospitality operator to put 802.1X across their network: iBahn's approach is, by the way, not "WPA" but WPA Enterprise. WPA Enterprise uses 802.1X to allow unique logins that are assigned unique encryption keys. The company didn't want to say WPA Enterprise when I interviewed them in July because it's a little unwieldly. T-Mobile's head and iBahn both agree that a better rubric is needed to make 802.1X and WPA Enterprise more understandable in the way that Wi-Fi signifies so much, so clearly.
iBahn spent a million dollars upgrading their network. I know that T-Mobile's costs were lower because their gear already supported multiple virtual SSIDs on the same AP; iBahn needed to swap out early gear, it seems. They operate 900 hotspots with up to 80 access points in each location as they serve the hotel market.
This line in the story doesn't make sense to me: "WPA, and its successor WPA2, distribute different keys to individual users, and will also shut down if an attack is detected." First, as noted above, this is WPA and WPA2 Enterprise, but this isn't an integral part of the standard. Perhaps iBahn is running intrusion-detection software?
Update: See comment below on WPA's attack detection. This is a pretty simple protection, but it's designed to catch spoofed frames; it's not robust intrusion detection.
Boingo users will roam onto 1,588 BT OpenZone hotspots: The BT service operates throughout the UK and Ireland, including dozens of airport terminals and lounges. These locations aren't included in Boingo's unlimited usage monthly flat-rate plan, but are charged per minute; they are included in the unlimited SkypeZones calling plan, though.
Great AP rundown of how good samaritans used cutting-edge tech to bring voice and data to areas hit by Katrina: Of course, FEMA got in the way, even of groups connected with the military. Government and emergency coordination seems practically non-existent, as most other reports have confirmed, so these on-the-ground volunteers just went out and did what was needed to bring communications to hospitals and evacuation centers. Companies opened their warehouses--I'd heard this from other sources, too--and sent whatever was needed.
The efforts included pre-WiMax, self-healing mesh, VoIP, and satellite uplinks mostly combined with Wi-Fi on the local link. Of course, smaller groups are fleeter than bureaucracies, but there's something a little ridiculous in how quickly and easily these connections were set up. NASA apparently decided that small missions could achieve more discrete goals more readily; perhaps emergency response needs to organize into big and small cells to allow more discrete tasks to happen with less overhead.
eWeek argues that EarthLink's municipal entry is more about its future than Philadelphia's: A smart article outlines the challenges that EarthLink and other providers face in light of the Supreme Court's Brand-X decision which prevents the requirement of competitive access to cable operators' end-user data services. That coupled with piles of decisions that give ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers) almost total power over their phone wiring for competing DSL providers means that EarthLink needs to cut the cord and use as little incumbent-owned wire and fiber as possible. Municipal wireless with guaranteed city telecom business is a very effective and cost-contained way to experiment.
(Two notes on the eWeek story: Esme is not a he, and that quote from Doug Luce cited from my site is from more than a year ago--not a recent comment.)
The dramatis personae comprise Airbus, Tenzing, and SITA: As our story opens, a Web site's life is dramatically cut short, ripped from the ether. The last time the site was sighted (or cited) was in early 2004. Then, the big sleep.
Tenzing, Airbus, and integrator SITA created a new company called OnAir absorbing Tenzing which no longer appears to offer JetConnect in connection with Verizon AirFone. You can't find a mention on the current site of the email and instant messaging service that was, at one point, available on thousands of domestic U.S. planes operated by United and other airlines. Tenzing's past was erased.
Which might explain the strange article in today's New York Times accompanied by a stranger sidebar. The main article focuses on Connexion by Boeing's business case; Connexion is a broadband in-flight operator for Lufthansa, SAS, and seven other airlines currently using satellite for the Internet relay and Wi-Fi within planes. The article traces the history of Connexion, which began during flush airline times before Sept. 11, 2001; the company shifted strategies as the domestic carriers shed expense and long-haul international routes gained appeal.
The division won't turn a profit until 2008, the article quotes the current general manager of the division saying. I've noted many times on this site that "profit" excludes what has been estimated as billions that Boeing must already be prepared to write down at some point (or perhaps has written down in an oblique fashion already) or they wouldn't keep funding this division. Because Airbus now has its own competing service, they are practically compelled to keep running Connexion.
Here's where the article seems to parallel the missing Tenzing. The writer notes, "Airbus, Boeing's European rival, quickly countered by buying a 30 percent stake in Tenzing, a Seattle maker of in-flight Internet systems, thinking it would enable it to provide onboard e-mail in 500 planes by 2003." In fact, by early 2004, Tenzing's email system was active in something like 2,000 domestic planes by piggybacking on existing AirFone installations. I have some leftover one-flight-free kits from that marketing effort.
The article fails to mention Tenzing's current incarnation in which they will be reselling Inmarsat's fourth-generation satellites and offering units of about 450 Kbps that can be bonded into higher-speed offerings. Back when it was Tenzing, the company explained to me that they believed Inmarsat's offering was more robust than the approach Boeing was taking: Connexion relies on cells of coverage from commodity satellite transponders. Too many planes in a cell of several hundred square miles, and the total available bandwidth could drop quite a bit. Inmarsat is using beam forming to pinpoint airplanes and other ground resources, which both offers more flexibility--each plane getting essentially its own connection--but could be a victim of success in which there just aren't enough beams to go around. That's a problem any satellite company would love to have.
Then the article talks about United committing to Verizon's service which won't be available to 2007--and doesn't note that the auction for the 4 MHz in question is still up for grabs; here's my take on this from Dec. 2004. Verizon is a very likely winner of some large part of it, but there's no guarantee.
And another bit of Twilight Zone from the main article: "Meanwhile, American, Continental and Delta have no plans to add connectivity to any of their planes. "We are still reviewing it but it has not been on the front burner,' said Benet Wilson, a spokeswoman for Delta Air Lines, which sought bankruptcy protection last month.' " Continental, United, and US Airways all offered or signed up for the JetConnect service with Tenzing and Verizon. Verizon AirFone still archives the press releases.
Here's a better article from last month from Canada's Globe and Mail that covers the same scope of this main story.
The sidebar in the Times is more problematic; I emailed the author because of a few errors in it. Oddly, the errors are not in the main story that the sidebar accompanies.
First, the service isn't $9.95 per hour, easily confirmed by visiting Connexion's site. It's both more and less expensive. The $9.95 rate buys 60 minutes in a row on some airlines that offer that option, but it's only 30 minutes (non-contiguous) on the pay-as-you-go model in which additional minutes are 25 cents each. Unlimited usage per flight varies from $14.95 for flights under three hours to $29.95 for flights of six hours or more.
Second, the writer asserts that the Connexion system takes two weeks to install. This might be correct, but Connexion's sales director told me and a plane full of reporters last September (see my post) that they had reduced the installation time to seven days to fit within a routine maintenance window. Right after this point, dozens of additional planes--up from a handful--had Connexion added, so I expect that statement is true and the NY Times got this wrong. Since it's not attributed, I don't know where the detail came from in their report.
This article misses a kind of overarching issue, too: with international routes full, ostensibly profitable, and competitive, the weight factor is an issue, but so are additional paying passengers. Every airline I have spoken to about Connexion has said that they see this as a fundamental way to both poach passengers from airlines that don't offer the service and to have people fly more because they know the service will make flight time productive.
The 600 to 800 pounds of gear corresponds to three to four passengers with luggage more or less. If Connexion adds business-class fares or business travelers who will pay $15 to $30 for the Connexion service, thus covering the fuel, and hundreds or thousands of dollars for the flight, then this is how Connexion works for the airlines.
How Connexion works for Boeing involves aspects mentioned throughout both Times articles: they have to diversify outside of pure passenger services and into areas that the airlines spent a lot of money on. The telemedicine issue is large and only mentioned briefly in the sidebar: "Lufthansa, which operates about 40 wireless-enabled aircraft, is developing an application with Charité Hospital Berlin that lets doctors monitor a passenger's vital signs via a broadband Internet connection."
Each time a plane needs to land because of a passenger illness, which happens with real frequency, and it could have been avoided through good telemedicine, it can cost the airlines tens of thousands of dollars or more. There's a lot of money to be saved just through that one additional service.
Philadelphia picks EarthLink to build its wireless network: The 11-year-old firm will use Tropos equipment to build a citywide mesh of Wi-Fi. The word on the street from several sources is that EarthLink will make aggressive bids for many of the major RFPs out there; they're one of the bidders for San Francisco's network. At Esme Vos's Muniwireless conference last week, EarthLink announced the formation of a municipal networking division.
This is a unique moment in the history of EarthLink. To my knowledge, the company has owned effectively no substantial infrastructure in its history. It was founded on buying modem time from shared pools. It has resold DSL and Wi-Fi service maintained and operated by others. This move into municipal infrastructure certainly gives them a chance to derive revenue other than from the shrinking dial-up user base and the ludicrously over- and underregulated DSL market.
The next step in Philadelphia's process, ostensibly, is raising the money. Wireless Philadelphia, a non-profit, is supposed to raise funds through grants and loans to pay EarthLink to build the network out. More recent reporting suggested bonds might be involved, even though those seemed specifically ruled out in earlier reports of early-stage financing. The project's plan calls for operating revenue to provide any cash flow to fund additional budgeted infrastructure without returning to outside sources for money. A substantial amount of this operating revenue should come from Philadelphia, which has pledged its telecommunications business to Wireless Philadelphia.
Reports this morning say that EarthLink will bear the entire cost of building the network. This will take the wind out of the sail of critics who have claimed consistently that taxpayers would be on the hook at some point: either in using bonding ability, in failing and requiring taxpayer bailout out, or in failing and requiring Philadelphia to renegotiate a telecom deal with someone else.
EarthLink will offer direct service, but also resell wholesale access. The non-profit, the administrator of the network, will receive a cut of the service fees and use that to fund digital divide initiatives, according to a source involved in network planning. The city will not have direct access to these funds.
EarthLink's willingness to pony up real cash coupled with San Francisco receiving 24 bids to build a network at the bidders' own expense and offer low rates for service also explodes the notion that there's no profit--even indirectly--in municipal networks.
This also means that cities on the fence about putting out a bid for companies to bear full expense are probably all going slightly ape at the moment: if the feeding frenzy is on, we know that citie will try to cash in while the getting is good. If they write smart contracts, they can own infrastructure (not a bankruptcy court) if endeavors go south.
More detail: EarthLink PR sent me their press release which notes that they will resell access on a wholesale basis both to other ISPs, already noted, but also to hotspot operators. There's a key difference, because hotspot operators will have sporadic users, not regular ones, who want a single login to use the network.
EarthLink will also offer daily and weekly rates for access, and free service in some parks and public spaces. Small businesses will be able to buy T-1 replacement service. This is a fascinating part of municipal networking as EarthLink can choose to put in much higher levels of coverage in business districts and use point-to-point or point-to-multipoint to target businesses with a guaranteed QoS.
Boingo Wireless adds Japan Telecom's 820 Japanese hotspots: This deal gives Boingo a higher presence in Japan, and aids the West Coast U.S. travelers who find themselves in need of connectivity on regular trips back and forth. With the Connexion by Boeing deal providing slightly discounted, single account in-flight access, Boingo users on some airlines should be able to stay connected from departure through a trip and back.
Wi-Fi added to latest dictionary: Merriam-Webster takes words in wide circulation that are contemporary and likely to stay a while adds them to their Collegiate Dictionary. The threshold is clearly lower than for more established dictionaries that often track terms for five to 10 years before deciding that they're becoming a permanent part of the language.
The speculation has been that Google thinks it will make back what it spends on an SF Wi-Fi network in more advertising sales: The first supposition is that by adding a Wi-Fi network citywide that Google will increase overall Internet usage. Because it already owns the minds of a large percentage of Internet users in general, branding their putative San Francisco-wide portal won't shift lots of users from other search engines or outlets. They have to rely on adding clicks if they're trying to justify it in part through additional income from advertising clickthroughs.
Google doesn't have a per-se average clickthrough price. You can pay a nickel a click for unique and unpopular keywords, but those aren't delivered very often for that reason. Keywords relating to asbestos litigation can cost $60 or more a click.
I'm going to estimate that for Google to build the low-broadband-speed ubiquitous network they propose for San Francisco that they'll have spend $5 million to $8 million. Philadelphia's network will be more expense because they have twice the population (over 1.5 million versus SF's 750K) and nearly three times the area (135 square miles versus 46 square miles)--and because Philly wants a higher level of minimum bandwidth. They'd like 1 Mbps in each direction; Google's plan promises 300 Kbps.
If Google can add a few million incremental clicks a year, it's possible that the network will be entirely paid out of ads. But that's not what they're aiming for--they don't really need incremental users to drive delivering more ads and clicks. They're aiming to move more advertising dollars out of the devastated newspaper business in the city and suck more life from telephone book display advertising. National advertising in the U.S. comprised $45 billion the first half of 2005; local advertising, $26 billion.
Because Google will run the network, they can deliver ads targeted to the city block for folks using their Wi-Fi network without knowing anything about the individual consumer, as it will be entirely based on the Wi-Fi network not consumer characteristics. I imagine Google views this as a massive experiment and money well spent.
The Manila Bulletin speculates on turning the archipelago into a Wi-Fi zone: The chairman of a national commission suggested that the technology is almost there to blanket the nation of islands with Internet access. The incumbent telco says that 98 percent of the country has Internet access, but we know from the U.S. market that "98 percent" means lots of things: perhaps that 98 percent of citizens have the ability to get a phone line for dial-up service or that 98 percent of the provinces of the Philippines have at least one high-speed line.
The Philippines still controls Wi-Fi use in the 2.4 GHz spectrum with gradual liberalization. It's not unlicensed, but it's become easier to use, and is legal for personal use in the home. Only three percent of homes in the Philippines have computers with a population of nearly 90 million people--the article states it's the lowest computer penetration in the Asia Pacific region.