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Recent Entries

Wee-Fi for April 30: WSJ on Muni-Fi, Iridium Pricing, Heathrow Express
Why Wi-Fi Isn't the New Asbestos
Metro Wi-Fi Firms Want Guarantees
Tinfoil Walls
Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 27
EarthLink Pulling Back? Not Exactly
Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 26
FCC Outlines 700 MHz Auction Process Today
Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 24
Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 23

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April 2007 Archives

April 30, 2007

Wee-Fi for April 30: WSJ on Muni-Fi, Iridium Pricing, Heathrow Express

By Glenn Fleishman

Wall St Journal looks at Fon, metro-scale networks: The money quote is from Dana Spiegel of nycwireless, the long-time community networking group. "Today's baseline is dial-up. When municipal networks roll out, you'll see a move from dial-up" up to a new baseline, he told the Journal.

Iridium's satellite phone network drops price: The network comprised of 66 low-earth-orbiting satellites now carries calls for as little as 15 cents a minute, far below the roaming charges often found on international networks. Iridium covers North America. That's the lowest rate, with most prepaid package running 30 to 40 cents a minute--still a bargain outside of regular mobile range.

Heathrow Express claims first wireless broadband underground: The shuttle service, noted here last week, offers T-Mobile UK HotSpot service between Paddington Station and Heathrow on its 15-minute route. The Nomad technology--a clearly rising firm in train-based Internet access--is the first to provide continuous access through a long tunnel, they claim, and I'd have to agree.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:49 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi | 1 Comment

Why Wi-Fi Isn't the New Asbestos

By Glenn Fleishman

A spate of articles, mostly in the UK, are trying to use bad science and anecdote to freak us out: I am from Missouri, as the saying goes, and I say: show me. The reports that Wi-Fi in specific and wireless data networks in general can make people sick seem to rely entirely on a rickety framework. Despite the focus of this site on Wi-Fi, I will be the first to trumpet the news loudly and continuously if Wi-Fi turned out to be dangerous to use, or if clinical proof in peer-reviewed journals appeared about electrosensitive individuals. As noted here in the past, I have no doubts that people who claim to be electrosensitive have probably a range of illness that defies diagnosis, but I also have no doubt that the many anecdotes I've read as well as purported studies don't provide confidence that electromagnetic radiation is the culprit.

The latest round of articles seems to beat the drum that Wi-Fi or EMF "poisoning" is just another example of an industry lying to its customers and regulators while subverting scientists. Look at the tobacco industry, for instance, which turned out to have a multi-decade campaign of suppressing the truth about the effects and addictiveness of nicotine-bearing products. But let's face facts. It was well known by the 1950s that cigarette smoking was bad for you, and the next 50 years were just wishful thinking. (My father convinced my grandfather to quit smoking in the early 1950s, and my grandfather never smoked again, and lived until his early 90s.) In the intervening period, tobacco firms also manipulated the level of nicotine, and didn't fret over harm, thus producing more addictive products that meant more bad health effects.

Asbestos as a case study is interesting, too. Miners have never been particularly well treated in any era, despite their vital role in powering each aspect of industrial revolution. Coal still runs a good hunk of American electrical plants, and metals forced from the earth are rendered into servers by the millions that then suck coal into computation. In the early part of the 20th century, deaths from workers mining asbestos was already well know. Asbestosis's first diagnosis was in 1924.

The risk from these two causes was well-known long before action was taken to correct them. Doctors knew. Academic papers were published. Information was available. What wasn't known was how irresponsible the industries involved were about handling the issues, and how much they suppressed and ignored in the process. (There's also a twist: Asbestos cases may have been dramatically overstated because of radiologists and attorneys who managed to give a diagnosis of asbestos-related illness to people with no exposure and no disease, in effect stealing money from miners and construction workers who deserved it.)

On the wireless side, there's no such early evidence. The studies to date that have been peer reviewed and published--not collections of anecdotes or World Health Organization forums--show cellular effects only in circumstances that don't mimic actual short or long term use. The studies that look at large cohorts find no effect, even over long periods of time. Of course, each of these studies is critiqued by those with either vested health or financial interest--people who think they're being harmed by EMF or would like to make a buck off it.

But we're not in the position where obvious, widespread health effects are visible among even the population of long-term mobile users. Wi-Fi, having been in use since 1999 in some organizations, also hasn't produced any noticeable effects.

This is not to say that there's no possibility that particular aspects of cellular and Wi-Fi technology couldn't produce harmful effects on users or those in the vicinity of their use. But there's no parallel one could make between our current understanding of the possible effects of EMF on human beings from these widespread technologies, and what was known about asbestos and tobacco long before appropriate steps were taken.

My father uses Wi-Fi all the time, and I'm not about to ask him to stop.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:36 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Health

April 29, 2007

Metro Wi-Fi Firms Want Guarantees

By Glenn Fleishman

From Wilkes-Barre, we find that yet another firm wants to mitigate their risk in building a metro-scale network: First, MetroFi says they're no longer planning to offer free public Wi-Fi in cities that won't commit to minimum municipal service purchases. Then EarthLink, after another quarter of earnings pulled down by the decline in dial-up and Helio's startup costs, says they're looking into how their early cities work, and seem unlikely to bid on smaller-city RFPs. Now, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., has to re-issue an RFP after its winning bidder stated--according to this article--that it needed the city to act as a guarantor on a $1.25m loan required for it to execute the project.

The city voted against the proposal because of that requirement, which the city maintains wasn't part of the initial negotiations with the firm, from what this article says. A councilman is quoted stating, "We talked to other companies that said they could do it at no cost to the city because it will pay for itself, so we’re rebidding it." Unlikely. That was last year, and a previous set of expectations.

I had wondered when city-wide Wi-Fi would mature to a point that service providers would require multiple lines of business to be in place before building out a network. That point appears to have arrived quite loudly.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:51 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal

April 28, 2007

Tinfoil Walls

By Glenn Fleishman

I'm sure this woman is ill: But tinfoil and a "special shielding fabric" over her face wouldn't actually accomplish what she suggests. The article lacks any skepticism about the specifics of her claims. I'm not skeptical about her symptoms, just the etiology. A physicist or perhaps testing her measurements would have gone a long way to making this something other than an article that adds to squishy thinking.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:25 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Health | 2 Comments

April 27, 2007

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 27

By Glenn Fleishman

Electronic Frontier Foundation compares Utah proposal to Great Firewall of China: The proposal backed by SCO chair Ralph Yarro would require ISPs to have a higher degree of responsibility to restrict access by minors to indecent material, coupled with a requirement that open wireless networks censored Internet connections. "Giving ISPs the responsibility and incentives to censor a paricular subset of the web is precisely the same architecture that the Chinese Communist Party uses for their 'Great Firewall of China.'"

The final word on wireless fidelity: Look, Wi-Fi doesn't stand for anything. It's a trademark. Back in Nov. 2005, BoingBoing and I wrote about this. Wi-Fi Planet, however, has now written the definitive article on how Wi-Fi doesn't mean wireless fidelity, how the Wi-Fi Alliance doesn't claim it does, and what other names were suggested.

Incumbents build out to challenge Lompoc network: As in many other cities, incumbents install high-speed service as soon as a city or town suggests they might roll out their own. Lompoc had some technical setbacks in buildings its Wi-Fi network, and has an extremely low early subscriber rate. That could be attributed, this article suggests, to the fact that Verizon and Comcast started putting in high-quality DSL and cable broadband just as the Wi-Fi network went live. I've suggested before that cities could improve broadband quality through fake plans for building Wi-Fi networks at much lower cost than building those networks.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:28 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

April 26, 2007

EarthLink Pulling Back? Not Exactly

By Glenn Fleishman

The AP ran a short story this morning that made it sound like EarthLink was about to pull back from the metro-scale Wi-Fi market: This was tied in with EarthLink's latest earnings, which show a net loss of customers, and additional losses on their books from Helio, a joint venture with SK Telecom to gain mobile phone and data customers in the US. I read the story as if EarthLink wouldn't respond to new requests for proposals (RFPs) from cities while it analyzed its existing network performance, but EarthLink spokesperson Jerry Grasso says that's not the case.

In email, Grasso noted that EarthLink is turning inwards to look at the current network buildouts to "to ensure we are delivering what we've promised to the cities, residents and users of the networks." At the same time, they'll keep analyzing RFPs to see if they meet their parameters.

This strikes me as in line with MetroFi's recent move to require anchor tenancy on networks that they build in cities with free, ad-supported access for residents and visitors. EarthLink might be tightening the requirements they have, which have been among the highest in the industry already. Recall that EarthLink didn't bid on Wireless Silicon Valley, but submitted a note that the number of houses passed didn't meet their threshold.

Update: InfoWorld offers a little more detail, in which it seems EarthLink is talking about not replying to small cities' RFPs, more than anything else. I suppose Anaheim would be out of the running today if EarthLink weren't already building it out. InfoWorld also reports EarthLink has just 2,000 monthly subscribers nationally, but none of its networks are yet mature.

And they're cutting their capital expenditures on Wi-Fi in half--which is a little tricky, because many of their largest projects are still in the buildout phase, so I'd expect a much larger capital commitment this year than last year. We'll see how that plays out.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:40 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal | 3 Comments

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 26

By Glenn Fleishman

The Economist surveys wireless present, future: The latest issue of the Economist (April 26) has a comprehensive survey by Kenneth Cukier, their telecoms reporter, on the pervasiveness of wireless communications. As he notes in the opening essay, one computer scientist he spoke with estimates that the Internet could contain a trillion devices within 15 to 20 years, most of them wireless. The survey covers mobile phones, short-range wireless technology, and even wireless power.

Fon adds host-based hotspot software: A beta of Fon's software for Mac (Intel) and Linux operating systems is out, allowing users to run a Fon hotspot on a computer with a wired or 3G connection. Of course, you can already share a connection via Wi-Fi without Fon's network features under Mac OS X, most Unix/Linux flavors with good networking support, and Windows XP and Vista.

Suffolk County sees responses to its RFP: The Long Island county has received responses from seven firms, notably EarthLink, IBM (plus a partner), and MetroFi. [link via]

India proposes free broadband for all by 2009: But it might kill telecoms.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:34 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

April 25, 2007

FCC Outlines 700 MHz Auction Process Today

By Glenn Fleishman

Outline of Advanced Wireless Spectrum auction rules due today: The FCC will draw a picture of how they plan to sell off the last great hunk of spectrum from the digital television transition--the 700 MHz band. At issue is how much of the band will be allotted to public safety purposes, and whether proposals to allow mixed use on those public-safety pieces would be allowed. In the mixed-use scenario, a private operator would build out the network, and first responders would have priority access over commercial users. Outside of local or national emergencies, the band would function like any other commercial network. Ostensibly, the operator would have provisions to shunt commercial traffic to other bands, too.

Update: The meeting was delayed from 10.30 Eastern until the evening while procedural issues were settled. Ultimately, the FCC decided to seek more public opinion on how to proceed.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:41 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Regulation, Spectrum

April 24, 2007

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 24

By Glenn Fleishman

Heathrow Express gets T-Mobile Wi-Fi: The short-run trains between London's Paddington Station and Heathrow Airport will have Wi-Fi service including within a 6 km tunnel.

Tomizone has hotspot software embedded in D-Link routers: The firm's software allows a switch to be flipped on two D-Link models to enable about US$3 per day hotspot service through their network, which handles payment clearance. The hotspot operator gets half the proceeds.

"Is the wi-fi revolution a health time bomb?" The answer, of course, is "no" writes BBC commentator Bill Thompson: Another good bon mot: "While those who want to limit the use of wi-fi argue that they need evidence that is it safe, the problem with trying to prove that something is safe is that you can't."

Guy Kewney also expresses electromagnetic indignation: Kewney notes the same thing I do. Pro-electrosmoggists point to problematic studies, cite industry suppression, draw conclusions unfounded by the science. To which I add, they also ignore contradictory studies no matter how large, nor how well reviewed. He notes that Powerwatch campaigner correlates ADHD with Wi-Fi use, despite logical and scientific problems with that correlation. Kewney, like me, is a tree hugger. Kewney, like me, makes this statement: "in short, if there's a problem with electromagnetic radiation, I'd just love to be able to prove it."

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:46 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

April 23, 2007

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 23

By Glenn Fleishman

City of London Wi-Fi lights up: The business district of London has its square mile activated. 350,000 people work in the 2.6 sq km area. Service is £12 per month with a year commitment covering the national network run by The Cloud, which built this network and will build out several city center networks this year.

Wi-Fi on trains is among appeal in Europe as flight alternative: Trains are fast, arrive in city centers, and some even have Internet access. For shorter distances, for comfort, and for productivity, trains beat planes in many cases on the Continent. The article cites the Thalys line, which has a terrible Web site for figuring out what they offer. A 2006 press release says they're working to put Wi-Fi on all trains. The best I can find on their site is a German-language press release from Aug. 2006, says that the combined train authority had narrowed technical partners to 10 companies.

OECD ranks US 15th among its members: The OECD, which includes 30 leading nations worldwide as its members, including most of Europe, Japan, the US, and Australia, places the US at 15th in broadband penetration. Broadband is defined as 256 Kbps or faster. If the cutoff were truly symmetrical broadband (say, 1.5 Mbps over 768 Kbps), I would imagine the dropoff in penetration would be more startling compared to leading nations.

Bart Captive Portal-1BART-Fi: Matt Peterson, an early influence among community Wi-Fi groups, wrote in to note that he spotted this screen at a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station. While he hasn't heard of Wi-Fi Rail (nor I), he notes that its IP range is allotted to IP Networks, a metro-scale Ethernet firm with rights-of-way agreements with the local power utility.

IEEE brings on the pirate 802.11 spec (that's 802.11rrrrrrrr, to you): The 802.11r group covers fast roaming, which allows devices to move from one access point to another with near-continuous connectivity while maintaining security and quality of service. There have been efforts over the years to pass tokens between APs to allow a device to re-authenticate without the ensuing delay, some of those efforts being proprietary.

TG Daily editor shows LA Times reporter how easy sniffing Wi-Fi can be: The reporter got a lot of the little details wrong, but the big stuff correct. Humphrey Cheung sat with David Colker from the LAT in a Starbucks and showed him all the data passing, unencrypted, over the local network. Colker then talked to some of the folks whose data he saw, and freaked them out. T-Mobile's 802.1X support would have prevented that (providing a unique encryption key for each logged in client), but as Colker notes, the connection software is Windows only and hardly emphasized.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:34 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

April 22, 2007

Fon Loops in Time-Warner in First US Deal

By Glenn Fleishman

Time Warner Cable will allow its 6.6m broadband subscribers to share their connections via Fon: The Spanish startup has based its strategy on leveraging existing broadband connections, and, in fact, pitching to ISPs that more connections would be installed as a result of Fon's approach. Fon turns its members'--Foneros--access points into hotspots that cost about $2 or €2 for access. You can also share your Fon hotspot at no cost to a like group of Foneros.

Until now, only a few major ISPs outside the US had partnered with Fon, and only Speakeasy (just purchased by Best Buy) among US broadband providers allowed sharing of a broadband connection without a business connection or additional limitations. The AP story says Time Warner Cable confirmed the broad outlines of what Fon has announced. Precise details are yet to be set, apparently.

While Fon's US head calls T-Mobile and similar services' pricing "extortion," hotspot operators typically put a lot of effort into maintaining a consistent network experience, and offer phone-based and online customer support, among other details. I do think that $10 per day is about twice as expensive as it needs to be, but it's not extortion when you can typically walk down the street or find a coffeeshop next door for free Wi-Fi. In hotels, airports, and conference centers, Fon won't make an impact with this deal.

Fon says they have distributed 370,000 of its La Fonera access points worldwide. The La Fonera creates a private, protected network for local users, and a shared network for Fon users. Only registered phone users can access the public network.

Update: Some news stories note that Foneros get free Wi-Fi when they roam. That doesn't appear to be the case, although Fon's details on joining are confusing. The more information page states, "Our members share their wireless Internet access at home and, in return, enjoy free WiFi wherever they find another Fonero’s Access Point." But later on the page, it says that "most of us are Linuses," and that's where free comes in. Their shopping page makes the point more clearly: "Go social and enjoy WiFi everywhere for free, or make money from others accessing your Access Point."

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:07 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot | 1 Comment

Independent of UK Writes Scare Piece on Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

The Independent rounds up non-science, packages it as reliable: There's reasonable cause to want to study Wi-Fi and the whole range of wireless data technology for health effects. No sane person should suggest otherwise, because it's always reasonable to figure out whether your expectations match reality. But the Independent's package of articles that state bluntly "children at risk from 'electronic smog'" don't have enough detail to point any fingers at Wi-Fi, which is acknowledged in just one place operates at a much lower power level than mobile phones.

For instance, "Virtually no studies have been carried out into Wi-Fi's effects on pupils, but it gives off radiation similar to emissions from mobile phones and phone masts." Different specifications are used, the technology is somewhat different, and the signal strength is vastly different.

I guess if you take enough disparate facts, ignore whether they come from peer-reviewed journals or industry sources (there's an anti-electronic-signal industry, remember), and don't include the large amount of science that shows no connection, you've got a great story.

The articles present electromagnetic sensitivity as a given, too.

In previous threads on this topic, and in private email, it has been suggested to me that a large body of evidence exists to back up sensitivity and other health issues related to EMF and wireless voice and data networking. Inevitably, these sources break down to a few people or organizations, and, if any, only a few small peer-reviewed studies (typically focused on lab testing of mobile phones at high signal levels not found on average in usage). One person directed me to Russian studies in the 1920s through 1950s.

The idea of science is that you test, reproduce, and isolate factors. If you can produce the same results in different places without bias intruding based on the same conditions, then you have a conclusion. This doesn't allow you to cast aside all evidence you disagree with that conforms to those standards.

I keep reading the sources, when available, of the folks who promote the notion of electronic smog, because I'm inclined to believe there should be some kind of noticeable health effect. But so far, I haven't found it compelling.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:19 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Health

April 20, 2007

EarthLink, AT&T Contend for Chicago

By Glenn Fleishman

EarthLink and AT&T are the leading bidders for the Chicago network: AT&T has previously bid only in conjunction with MetroFi for municipal Wi-Fi projects. AT&T is focused on Chicago; EarthLink said they'll reach out to suburbs, too, if they win the bid. (MetroFi has been working with some suburbs, although a recent change in their business model that requires cities to make minimum municipal service purchases seems to have caused Batavia and two other cities to rethink a deal.) NextWLAN has apparently made a proposal as well that calls for indoor wireless to supplement outdoor systems.

Sprint has also chosen Chicago as one of its early mobile WiMax rollout cities, which could give residents an abundance of choices. AT&T is relying on a multiple play, with DSL to the home, wireless via the former Cingular, and Wi-Fi allowing them to have a rich bundle of services. EarthLink has the experience in building networks, and could be seen by Chicago as a useful alternative to the incumbent.

The article doesn't misstate WiMax's properties, but the fact that individual Wi-Fi transceivers span hundreds of feet and WiMax miles isn't important if you're building dense service. You still have to build out densely placed WiMax nodes to have enough service available to cover a busy network, just as you need many Wi-Fi nodes. You need more Wi-Fi nodes than WiMax per square mile, but Wi-Fi is also cheaper to deploy, especially when you factor in license costs for WiMax.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:21 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal

More on Southwest Airlines's Wi-Fi Interest

By Glenn Fleishman

The Denver Post has a full story on Southwest's Wi-Fi trials: The airline would fit a few planes with Internet access to test the service. No vendor has been selected. AirCell and JetBlue's LiveTV division both have licenses for air-to-ground spectrum over the U.S., but LiveTV's chunk is only big enough really for email. Row 44 recently threw its hat in the ring with a high-speed satellite offering. Frontier and United also confirmed some interest in in-flight Internet.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:36 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

April 19, 2007

Southwest Mentions Wi-Fi Offhandedly

By Glenn Fleishman

Southwest CEO tells the Dallas Morning News it's considering in-flight broadband: It's an offhanded mention in this article about how Southwest has to restructure to deal with rising fuel costs, but significant that the company will test out offering Wi-Fi onboard. Given that there's only a single real option for in-flight Internet over the US, AirCell, this is another interesting sign about the competition for business travelers that could result from having continuous broadband service. (JetBlue bought a much narrower sliver than AirCell of air-to-ground spectrum through its LiveTV division, but it's hard to see JetBlue partnering with Southwest. I could be wrong: they might all rise together, instead of falling apart.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:30 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel | 2 Comments

Air France Sets Trial Date for In-Flight Calling, Texting

By Glenn Fleishman

Air France has finally set a date for the test of its in-flight mobile services, including voice: A six-month trial of mobile calling, texting, and other data services will begin in July . The carrier had long planned in partnership with OnAir--a venture of Airbus and airline-owned systems integrator SITA--to equip a single Airbus A318 for a trial period. During the first three months, text and data services will be available; voice will be added during the next three months. Calls should cost $2.30 to $2.50, as previously expected; text services haven't yet been priced.

The delay is described as one involving certification of the on-board equipment. In Europe, there are still local aviation authorities, such as the CAA in Britain, and approval of airworthiness can come from one of the these agencies and then be picked up by others without necessarily requiring additional testing.

Ryanair has now delayed the start of its plans to add calling and texting to its entire fleet to commence trials in third quarter, and a full launch by the end of the year. BMI, an early announced partner of OnAir, told that it hopes to start service sometime this year. TAP of Portugal made no statement in this article.

Part of the delay in OnAir's launch plans had to do with their basing their service on Inmarsat's fourth-generation (4G) satellite network. Inmarsat's satellites launched much later than planned, and trans-Pacific service is still not active.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:18 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

SCO Chair Argues for Open Wi-Fi Crackdown in Utah

By Glenn Fleishman

Open a Wi-Fi gateway and be responsible for all that passes across it: The head of SCO, a group that maintains Linux is a derivative product of copyrights they hold, testified as a private citizen that Utah should regulate how wireless networks are configured. Free and unintentionally open networks would be banned in Ralph Yarro's view, and individuals or network operators would be fined for leaving networks open and responsible for any pornography that passes across it that's viewed by minors. Of course, a host of federal law already deals with aspects of this, including the liability that those running networks have for content that passes across it.

A local ISP's head wasn't at the Utah legislative committee hearing, but noted that he would shut down the free wireless he operates in libraries in Utah should such an idea get enshrined in law. Further, he notes, he doesn't believe national ISPs could be held to these standards within Utah, and points to the inconsistent standards for what kind of porn is available where.

Restricting access to pornography by minors is often used a wedge to restrict speech in broader ways, usually starting with all pornography to all ages.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:17 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

Metro Round-Up: Milwaukee (Wisc.) Delays; Italy, Ariz., Virg.

By Glenn Fleishman

Milwaukee's citywide fiber and Wi-Fi network is still behind schedule: Midwest Fiber Networks, this article reports, has been given an extension on setting up the first stage of the network it plans to build citywide by March 2008. It sounds like negotiating rights with the city and a utility for pole placement was part of the delay.

Brescia, Italy, to build 4,800 sq km network: The network will span 200 rural towns with broadband and VoIP. 600 of 800 Cisco access points are already in place. Half the province of Brescia has no Internet access. The network's cost is a surprisingly low €4m, with the province providing half the cost, and a private operator funding the rest.

Sahuarita, Ariz., candidates for town council differ on Wi-Fi: Three of four candidates are concerned about the estimated $4.5m to $6m plan to unwire the town. There are concerns about the network's reach and its ability to pay for itself.

Radford, Virg., deploys Radnet across 2 sq mi: The for-fee service will eventually cover the 9.5 sq mi city. Rates are $30 or $35 per month for residential customers (1M/384K or 3M/768K), or $40 or $45 for business (2M/768K or 3M/1M).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:13 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal

April 18, 2007

Qantas To Trial In-Flight SMS, Email

By Glenn Fleishman

A single Boeing 767 for Australian flights will be equipped to test the potential for in-flight text messaging (SMS), email: The specific plane won't be running on certain routes, and only on boarding will you know the feature is available. Voice calling will be disabled. Qantas would expand SMS and email to their fleet if the test is successful. Qantas will use an Aeromobile picocell, a tiny cell receiver, which will backhaul over Inmarsat satellite (probably third generation). A ZDNet article identifies Panasonic Avionics and Telstra as also being involved. Qantas has in-flight calling still in operation, unlike US airlines.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:26 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel | 1 Comment

Sansa Connect Should Be Spectacular, But Falls Short, NYT Says

By Glenn Fleishman

Sansaconnect Internetradio1David Pogue reviews the latest Wi-Fi-enabled music player, and finds admirable features alongside showstopping problems: SanDisk has promoted the notion that its flash-based 4GB, $250 music player can access any of 2m songs from Yahoo's $15/month music service. Pogue notes that it can do no such thing. Instead, the player has access to only songs that are streamed via Yahoo Internet radio stations and a few limited lists, and some of those songs can't be downloaded because of licensing restrictions.

Pogue likes the intent of the Wi-Fi connection, providing direct access to the Internet via hotspots or home networks to download music and view Flickr photos. But, good gravy, the limitations are ridiculous. The Sansa Connect won't enable Wi-Fi if the battery has dropped below 60 percent; Pogue found Wi-Fi network connections erratic in his testing, too. There's no provision to connect to a network that requires payment or authentication. (One hopes they solve that through either Boingo or Devicescape or both.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:32 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Mainstream Media, Music

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 18

By Glenn Fleishman

Can open Wi-Fi network be used as child porn defense? A Texas appeals court upheld a search warrant that was issued when an instant message with child porn was tied to an account used from an IP address that corresponded to a particular subscriber's address. CDs with child pornography were found in the area of the house used by the subscriber, although he had other housemates. While the subscriber pled guilty, he appealed the legality of the search warrant, because his open Wi-Fi network would allow people outside the home to use the network for access, leading to what was argued as insufficient cause for a physical search. The higher court disagreed.

Santa Monica considers Wi-Fi: The beachfront town (home of Boingo Wireless) would partner with Azulstar, which is currently in testing with the city. Slower-speed service would be free but ad-supported; higher speeds for a fee. The city is 8.3 sq mi.

IRS wireless flaws exposed: The IRS still has unauthorized wireless networking equipment attached that could lead to exploits, says the inspector general of the service despite an earlier test revealing the same problem. Smart enterprises require 802.1X or other authentication that prevents an Ethernet port from being used without appropriate credentials. Less intelligent networks allow any device to attach itself via Ethernet.

Rural school bus to get Wi-Fi: A round-trip commute of up to three hours to school could be supplemented with Internet access for educational purposes via the Aspirnaut Initiative in Sheridan, Ark. "High ability" middle school and high school students would receive computers and ride a specially equipped bus. Perhaps Nintendo could sponsor it.

Highway hotspots at Total gas stations in the Netherlands: KPN will install outdoor hotspots at gas stations with marked parking places showing availability.

Oxford commuter shuttle to get free Wi-Fi: The Oxford Tube comprises 25 vehicles, running 24 hours a day, shuttling between London and Oxford. A successful trial is leading to a full deployment. Moovera Networks operates the free service using Vodafone UK's cellular network.

Discussion of Apple's support of IPv6 tunneling in their AirPort Extreme Base Station with 802.11n: The summary is that enabling IPv6 tunneling by default leads to a backdoor into IPv6 enabled networks, which would include a network of Mac OS X systems and an Extreme N base station. That said, turning off incoming IPv6 connections disables all IPv6 functionality, which will have increasing importance. The "pinholing" discussion sounds a lot like port mapping and punchthrough, which I had hope we'd get away from with IPv6.

LA's Little Tokyo gets free Wi-Fi: A joint project of several agencies, it's a pilot project with a community site as part of it.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:13 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

April 17, 2007

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 17

By Glenn Fleishman

More lawbreaking Wi-Fi moochers, now in the UK: BBC News reports that two people in Redditch, Worcestershire (that's "Woostashur") have been arrested for using other people's Wi-Fi networks. The latest case, a man parked in a car, is along the lines of marginal sanity on the part of the moocher. He was in a car with cardboard obscuring the windows with the glow of a computer coming from within. Was he working on creating a  T.A.R.D.I.S.? The charge: "dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment."

London gets its Square Mile Fi: The City of London, the financial district, will finally have its Wi-Fi network installed. The Cloud announced the network many months ago; Wi-Fi nodes are finally being installed 350,000 people work in the Square Mile. A few other areas are to come. Monthly service is £12.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:15 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

New Life for In-Flight Internet?

By Glenn Fleishman

Row 44 claims 81 Mbps downstream; Starling, 10 to 15 Mbps: Neither firm has provided an idea of what it would cost to airlines. Row 44 is starting up with North America coverage via Ku band satellites, the same approach that Boeing used (at maximum speeds a quarter of these) with Connexion for trans-oceanic connections. Wi-Fi isn't yet certified to be used in planes traveling in FAA airspace, so there's that issue to overcome, too. Row 44 plans future entertainment offerings over the high bandwidth service.

Row 44's equipment weighs 150 pounds and requires two days' installation. That means that the appropriate service window must be found. Based on details from Boeing and other firms, I would expect the full cost of installation, including airplane downtime, is $250,000. We'll see if Row 44 provides additional details on cost and pricing. By contrast, AirCell says its air-to-ground gear will weight 100 pounds, and cost about $100,000 and be installable overnight. AirCell has the advantage of installing an antenna under the plane pointing down, too.

Row 44 will be competing head-to-head with AirCell in the western hemisphere, but AirCell's current maximum downstream (and upstream bandwidth) are constrained to about 1.5 Mbps based on their technology choice (a good one) and the spectrum they won at auction.

Starling will also offer Ku-band service using an "ultra-small" antenna to provide the least amount of drag. Drag is equivalent to weight in terms of fuel burn, and thus less drag reduces the cost of operating the service. The service is promised at as fast as 10 to 15 Mbps downstream and up to 1.25 Mbps upstream. On-demand TV and other entertainment offerings would be part of the package. Starling is demonstrating the service this week. The article linked has an incorrect conclusion: it looks like only the FAA would need to approve on-board Wi-Fi, and guidelines from the FAA for airworthiness on satellite links are already promulgated.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:08 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel | 7 Comments

April 16, 2007

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 16

By Glenn Fleishman

Intel research director warns of same-device wireless proliferation problems: A single cell phone in 2009 might handle GPS, Wi-Fi, mobile WiMax, Bluetooth, ultrawideband, and digital TV over something like MediaFlo--and have to have all the receiving and transmitting antennas and radio circuits within millimeters. Better cooperation among standards makers--such as what happened in 802.15.2 and the Bluetooth SIG to coordinate with 802.11/Wi-Fi--will reduce problems. The director also said 60 GHz will be the next hot band by 2012.

McDonald's free Wi-Fi (and more important IT uses): I confess I didn't know that the Wi-Fi in 8,000 McDonald's was free with purchase; I know there was a brief promotion of that sort years ago. But Nintendo DS gamers, who get free McD Wi-Fi whenever, account for 25 percent of network use. This article examines wider uses of Wi-Fi in "quick-service restaurants" (QSRs) for payment, back-office, and other purposes.

Ruckus offers interoperability testing: The Wi-Fi media adapter and bridge maker's Ruckus Interoperability and Open Testing (RIOT; good theme) Metro program counts most major mesh and metro-scale equipment makers among early partners: BelAir, Mesh Dynamics, Motorola, Proxim, SkyPilot, and Tropos. The program ensures that Ruckus's customer premises equipment doesn't work at counter purposes or encounter compatibility problems with edge networking equipment. In some cases, monitoring and remote configuration can be available to a service provider's core network operations, too.! To my knowledge, no one has employed this play on words yet (cf., The Muppet Show) for the US military's partial funding of a Q1 2009 launch of an $80m satellite that will use Internet protocol routing. Cisco and Intelsat are partners in the venture, but the private funds are coming from a venture fund. The satellite's first year of use is dedicated to Pentagon purposes; thereafter, commercial rental. The satellite will have one C-band and two Ku-band transponders.

Pierce County, Wash., sees first stages of rollout: The entire county, which encompasses Tacoma, will be covered. The rollout by CenturyTel, which specializes in less-than-urban market telecom and landlines, started with a square mile in Steilacoom.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:05 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi | 1 Comment

Gefen: HDMI over UWB; Belkin: USB over 802.11n

By Glenn Fleishman

Gefen's first foray into ultrawideband didn't pan out: Gefen (along with Belkin) preannounced UWB-based cable-free USB hubs using Freescale chips way way back in Jan. 2006. Gefen abandoned the attempt entirely, but comes back to market with UWB-based HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) extenders. HDMI couples audio and video in a single cable, and can wrap encryption (HDCP) on top of that if required by content owners. They're using Tzero chips to extend HDMI over UWB. It'll ship in June for $750 for a pair.

Belkin will ship a USB-over-802.11n hub in June for $130: This 802.11n-based USB extender requires host software for Windows. It has five ports. Mac software is due in August.

Belkin, by the way, has been promising its revised UWB Wireless USB four-port hub with host dongle setup since last year, when Popular Science gave it a best product award. The last update says the product would ship Jan. 12, which did not happen.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:01 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 802.11n, UWB, Video

April 14, 2007

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 14

By Glenn Fleishman

Portland network passes evaluation: The City of Roses says that an independent survey of the first phase of MetroFi's network meets the contracted specifications. The network has 70 nodes running and 230 awaiting this milestone to switch on.

Microsoft quietly fixes risky Wi-Fi connection behavior: Paul Rubens notes that Microsoft made big announcement about a fix a few months ago that improves security in Wi-Fi connections in Windows XP SP2 by reducing the amount of information broadcast and the kinds of ad hoc connections created by default.

Common Linux Wi-Fi can be fuzzed: The Wi-Fi drivers for Atheros chips from Madwifi--originally a port and now a fresh Linux codebase--could be exploited through techniques documented last year by David Maynor and Jon Ellch (with help from many others). The exploit can affect machines just looking for Wi-Fi beacons. The fix is out, but because of the lack of monolithic Linux releases, updates may require manual patches. Likewise, however, there's little danger of a widespread attack.

Wi-Fi iPod parts ordered? A lot of dubiousness about this DigiTimes report that two Taiwan firms will build and assemble iPods with Wi-Fi built in.

Clearer coverage of Cambridge, Mass., sensor net: The early reports on this wireless network spanning MIT and Harvard's hometown was muddled. MIT Technology Review provides a better picture, noting that early two-radio nodes, already installed, will monitor pollution and atmospheric conditions.

Concord, Calif., network launches: MetroFi covers 10.5 sq mi or 60 percent of the city in the first phase.

Review of Sansa Connect wireless music player says it's unlike an iPod, and that's okay: The Wi-Fi connection is key to enjoying music, photos. Integration with Yahoo is quite tight. The reviewer has a number of provisos about setting up the unit and some wireless glitches. But it sounds like the first portable player to look at the Internet as the main medium rather than the local network with computers on it. The Apple iPhone may have a similar orientation for some parts of its operation.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:13 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi | 1 Comment

April 13, 2007

Our Latest Staff Addition

By Glenn Fleishman

Small RexOur new junior editor will specialize in hospital Wi-Fi: Filed from the trenches, please welcome Rex Warner Fleishman, the latest member of the reporting team of the future. Using the latest advances in medical technology, Rex has already had pictures of himself beamed to all corners of the globe through free Wi-Fi provided at the hospital from which he started his beat yesterday morning. (Mother and child are resting comfortably; postings by dad will be light for a few days.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:30 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Administrative Detail | 1 Comment

April 11, 2007

NY Times Finds Draft N Underwhelming

By Glenn Fleishman

David Pogue reviews four 802.11n routers, and finds only Apple's meets most of the promise, Belkin second: Pogue was unable to achieve the highest speeds promised by these routers, except with the Apple AirPort Extreme. That may be because all these early routers are single band (2.4 GHz) except Apple's. They may also all be much more susceptible to interface or back-off from adjacent networks, although Pogue isolated a lot of variables. As other reviewers have found, range is much better than bandwidth, but Pogue wasn't able to get more than 49 Mbps from any device but Apple's. I have only thoroughly tested Apple's router, and achieved 70 to 80 Mbps in unoccupied 2.4 GHz channels.

Pogue had kind words for Belkin's Draft N gateway, due to its superb installation instructions and labeling and its  clear troubleshooting icons that are built into the front of the gateway. If there's a problem, an icon representing the part of the network that's faulty flashes an amber outline; network components that are okay are outlined in blue.

His conclusion? "If you’re in the market for new wireless gear and can’t wait a few more months for the “n” committee to finish the spec, buy the polished, upgradeable gear from Apple or Belkin." I'm not waiting for the spec to be finished, but rather anticipating a wave of firmware upgrades that should improve performance in the 2.4 GHz band based on the latest draft from the 802.11n committee. (Pogue says that Linksys didn't promise to him that the device he tested can be upgraded; the other three manufacturers did.)

While the draft was approved in March, it may be weeks yet before firmware appears for shipping devices that accounts for changes, especially in how 802.11n and previous 802.11 specs work together on the same network and in adjacent networks. The Wi-Fi Alliance will also announced certified devices sometime this quarter for Draft N, which would mean new firmware as a result of "plugfests" and other lab testing to achieve that seal of  interoperability.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:54 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 802.11n | 2 Comments

Houston Approves Network

By Glenn Fleishman

The Houston city council appears to have set a record in approving a Wi-Fi network: EarthLink was declared the winning bidder just two months ago. Many larger cities have spent 8 months or longer getting from winning bid to council-approved contract. Houston will be an anchor tenant. The network is estimated to cost $40m. As in many other EarthLink-contracted cities, the vote for approval was unanimous.

The network is currently the largest committed deployment at 600 sq mi. While county-wide networks and Wireless Silicon Valley may be larger (the latter covering 1,500 sq mi), those larger networks typically are in trials or require city-by-city sign-off for urban deployment. Free access is promised for five percent of the area.

Agreements for attachment to electrical utility poles--cue ominous music--are still underway with a private firm, Centerpoint Energy.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:31 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal

Update on Metro-Scale Security

By Glenn Fleishman

Kite Networks provided answers to my questions on their network security: It's certainly partly my fault due to timing issues, and Kite was polite enough to provide some follow-up answers to my recent article on Metro-Scale security. As I expected, Kite is following a similar course to EarthLink and MetroFi in securing end points, backhaul, and their users' access. Follow the link to read the updated article.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:26 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Security

More on Limping Muni Networks

By Glenn Fleishman

Broadband Reports notes that they weren't alerted it was "citywide Wi-Fi is over-hyped" week: I didn't get the memo, either, but it appears to be a week in which much is written about networks that fail to live up to their expected potential. BR runs through stories already posted here, but there's another one: MetroFi's Foster City network has achieved 60 percent citywide coverage after six months, rather than a promised 95 percent. The problem here isn't equipment or intent, but rather that MetroFi hasn't obtained attachment rights in neighborhoods where light poles aren't owned by the city. They're working on it.

I keep telling you, loyal readers, that utility poles are to citywide wireless networks what printing presses are to books. If you can't get access to the printing press, you've got limited distribution options. If you can't attach to utility poles, other real-estate options are expensive and hard to obtain. Another point of evidence: Carol Ellison writes at that AT&T told a Georgia town that it has to become a CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) to have access to utility poles AT&T maintains. It's rather unclear whether a CLEC requirement is necessary, and a recent FCC ruling doesn't carry clarity for me.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:13 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal, Regulation

April 10, 2007

Limping Muni Networks

By Glenn Fleishman

GigaOm rounds up the low subscriber numbers at early metro-scale Wi-Fi networks: They note the SF Chronicle story from yesterday about Taipei's underrun on necessary subscribers; point to Lompoc's 281 subscribers on a $3m network, where 4,000 are needed to break even (based on a 2003 analysis); and to criticism of MetroFi's first-phase Portland, Ore., rollout. EarthLink wouldn't give Katie Fehrenbacher usage numbers for their early networks.

Fehrenbacher concludes that mobile workforce applications will drive metro-scale networks--as Craig Settles noted--and that the way these early networks have been deployed, they don't provide either high speeds outdoors nor good indoor coverage.

As I've been writing for some months now, it's been very clear that the expectations set have been too high based on network density. It seems clear that to achieve indoor access rates at the level that residents expect, not the level at which a network can be financially and technically optimized, may be far above the density of nodes that are being built in most networks.

Of course, these are still early networks. Taipei is the largest single deployed network, although nothing like the largest network planned. They made some missteps in rollout, including having no compelling applications--not even a deployed VoIP service--that would change usage patterns. Lompoc has had equipment and vendor problems, and is rejiggering prices. Portland, Ore., is barely deployed, with just a few percentage points of the initial network installed.

St. Cloud, Flor.'s mayor just told me that every antenna in their network has had to be replaced due to water damage. They didn't pay for the antenna replacement, but city workers' time was apparently involved. St. Cloud scored highest in a recent network evaluation of several deployed U.S. Wi-Fi systems, but even they're having teething pains.

Update: The folks at Meraki sent me a link to the live overview of usage in their San Francisco network. As a free network with exposed stats, it's pretty interesting to see what usage is like on an ongoing basis.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:42 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal | 5 Comments

April 9, 2007

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 9

By Glenn Fleishman

SanDisk taps into Yahoo for remote Wi-Fi services on music player: The SanDisk Sansa Connect player released today ($250, 8 GB flash drive) works with Yahoo services like Launchcast Internet radio, Flickr photo sharing, and Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go's music subscription services. This is the first announcement of a Wi-Fi-enabled music player that actually uses Wi-Fi as a network medium instead of, as with the Zune, just a way to move files among existing music players.

Avis to offer Wi-Fi in cars: $11 per day gets you a portable router connected via cell data. The service rolls out in San Francisco next Monday, this story claims, and nine other major cities before May; then to 100 cities over six months. The router can be powered via car adapter or AC, and taken out of the car to use in a hotel room or other location. Autonet Mobile's system is the one in question; they'll sell their device for $400 and $30 per month this summer.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:27 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi | 1 Comment

Metro Round-Up: Houston (Tex.)

By Glenn Fleishman

Houston might sign $2.5m contract with EarthLink as part of unwiring deal: The drum of anchor tenant keeps beating. Houston might contract for $500K per year of services from EarthLink over a five-year contract. Roaming accounts would be handed out to the usual suspects: municipal workers, like building inspectors, for which being able to connect in the field is worth every penny. Some building inspectors and restaurant inspectors currently have cell data cards that come with $45 per month subscription fees; EarthLink's account rates for the city would be $10 per month, and use built-in Wi-Fi on laptops, requiring less capital outlay for special cards. Police and other public safety officers would also gain access, as well as traffic lights and parking meters.

$10K given to explore Wi-Fi around New Hampshire: The $10,000 matching fund would be available to towns to explore or equip wireless networks.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:27 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal

Taipei Network Falls Far Short

By Glenn Fleishman

The San Francisco Chronicle reports from Taipei that the city-wide Wi-Fi network is far short of coverage, subscribers: Though its launch was promising, and early tests of coverage found it quite good in outdoor areas, subscribers are scarce. Q-Ware, the firm that bore the risk and built the Wifly network, sees 30,000 average monthly users (20,000 monthly subscribers, 10,000 limited pass users) short of what the Chronicle says was the 250,000 average monthly users predicted for the end of 2006. The company said it needs 200,000 regular users to break even. Taipei's population is 2.6m.

Even the city government has been underwhelmed, signing up for just 1,000 of the 3,000 accounts that they had initially expected to purchase.

While 90 percent of residents are covered with 4,200 nodes deployed, coverage and speed are inconsistent according to the reporter's experience and residents he spoke with. Q-Ware will double its nodes this year--8,400 nodes over 52 square miles would be an incredible density, almost a factor of four above networks built in the US. But it seems like Q-Ware wants to avoid requiring indoor repeaters; they've given away 1,000 such bridges so far.

Q-Ware has a number of other initiatives, including doubling network speed from a paltry 500 Kbps average to 1 Mbps, at which point it might compete with 3G cellular that's in use on the island; partnering with Sony for PSP gaming access; and personalizing the Taiwanese equivalent of YouTube (I'mTV) for better mobile user results.

As with other early large networks, it sounds like the curve for adoption is much steeper and user expectations are much higher than expected. Q-Ware's plans mean a substantial increase of capital expense from the $30m planned. 4,200 additional nodes will cost as much as $10m to $15m, exclusive of mounting costs.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:21 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal | 2 Comments

April 6, 2007

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 6

By Glenn Fleishman

700 MHz spectrum auctions still being finalized: Competing proposals address public-safety component. The sale of 60 MHz of the spectrum could raise $15b to $30b for the Treasury. So far, 24 MHz is allotted to public safety. Cyren Call's proposal appears dead as it requires rewriting auction rules, and giving a single company managing a not-for-profit trust control over that segment. One synthesis proposal could take 12 MHz of the public-safety allotment and turn that over to a not-for-profit trust which would hire a commercial partner to build the network; commercial services on that band would have primary access except in emergencies.

Harvard, BBN Technologies plan to deploy weather, pollution sensors: The project has a very long timeframe--100 sensors deployed by 2011!--and would put 802.11a/b/g mesh nodes with  across Cambridge, Mass. The reporter hasn't written about municipal networks before because he writes, "The system solves a constraint on previous wireless networks--battery life--by mounting each node on a municipal streetlamp where it draws power from city electricity." Was this written in 1983?

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:25 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

New Book on Apple's 802.11n Gateway

By Glenn Fleishman

Cover 80211N AirportMy new ebook, Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Extreme Network, is out: The 154-page electronic book (immediate download) covers every aspect of using Apple's new 802.11n base station and client adapters, including how to set up a side-by-side legacy network (802.11b/g in 2.4 GHz) and new 802.11n (5 GHz), choosing the right band and channel, the benefits and logistics of adding shared hard drives via the base station, and connecting an Apple TV to the network. I run through all the security options now available, including Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), which Apple has integrated into both its operating system and its base station firmware.

The book costs $10. Wait, did I say $10? As a Wi-Fi Networking News reader, you get 10-percent off (paying $9) by following this link or using this coupon code: CPN005070406WNN. Excerpts are available through that link, as well the full table of contents, and other details.

I spoke to Chuck Joiner at MacVoices about 802.11n networking in general and Apple's flavor in particular in a podcast.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:30 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Book review

April 4, 2007

St. Cloud May Face Network Cutbacks

By Glenn Fleishman

Much discussed St. Cloud, Flor., network might cut back Wi-Fi: The small town has been cited as one of the best-performing networks in the country in a study by Novarum, and as one of the most highly used municipal networks. However, MuniWireless reports that a statewide property tax rollback would force cuts in non-essential services, including the network, which costs $400,000 per year to operate; service wouldn't be discontinued, but they'd have to trim the budget. The city's annexation of developers has also added to network costs; new developments in the city pay fees that go towards Wi-Fi buildout. The city doesn't yet use the network widely for municipal purposes.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:13 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 4

By Glenn Fleishman

High-powered smart radio conference in Virginia on Friday: The Smart Radio: Smart Markets and Policies event is high powered in terms of presenters and panelists; smart radios themselves can be quite low power and still be highly effective. The topics include a panel on the "white space" proposals in which empty areas in the TV spectrum would be used for next-generation telecom. The event is in Arlington; $100 fee for a day of knowledge.

Trustive launches hotspot network with 20,000 locations. connection software: The firm will offer a variety of access plans that are all metered, ranging from prepaid offerings of 275 and 575 minutes (used within 12 months from first connection) for €30 and €60, respectively; to 150 and 450 minutes per month with a one-year commitment at €15 and €40, respectively. 40 percent of Trustive's locations are The Cloud hotspots. They've released Hotspotter, a network connection tool, that incorporates email proxying.

European powerline networking standard advances: 10 firms are now certified interoperable using the Universal Powerline Association (UPA) standard for data over electrical circuits. UPA is not interoperable with HomePlug, which has seen primarily US inroads.

Housing project in SF gets Wi-Fi: Volunteers install Meraki mesh gear to power a network at the 135-unit project. About $100K in funds comes from the city and a non-profit group. 16 Mbps of service is aggregated into the network. A computer lab is available in an unused apartment.

Telstra opens hotspots for Nintendo DS in Australia: 1,000 locations for gamers at no cost.

EarthLink to build 26 sq mi network in Arlington County: The network will span the Virginia county.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:47 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

April 3, 2007

WEP Breaks Faster

By Glenn Fleishman

German researchers can break 104-bit WEP with a minute or two of data: The probability of success with their approach ranges from 50 percent with 40,000 packets to 95 percent with 85,000 packets. They actively force a network to generate traffic, which allows them to harvest data at will. The calculations require 3 seconds on a slow Pentium M with 40,000 packets captured. 40-bit keys are even easier to break. They released a proof-of-concept tool. Their tests were on a mixed b/g network with a variety of chipsets in the gear they tested. They could extract 764 different packets a second.

I have heard before from security researchers that WEP could be broken much faster than current public estimates; this is another step towards what I believe some private organizations have available to them to break a WEP-protected network. The researchers note that their attacks are specific to WEP, but should work with dynamic WEP (802.1X with WEP keys), although each station gets a unique WEP key in that scenario that would increase the time to break.

The best you can say about WEP, along with MAC address restriction and closed networks, is that it's a "no trespassing" sign designed to alert people that your network isn't available for public use. Cracking a WEP key and then using a network would be a crime in many U.S. states and other jurisdictions.

The practical upshot is that anyone who has relied on WEP for even a shred of security, thinking that 15 to 30 minutes of active network data would need to be obtained (if they even knew that) should just give up any pretense. WEP was already dead. These researchers have dug it up, had a party with it as the guest of honor, and re-interred it even deeper.

You can download their very clearly written paper as a PDF. [link via Slashdot]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:05 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

Plane Crazy: Phone Ban Upheld, Journal Story Critiqued

By Glenn Fleishman reports that the FCC has dropped its inquiry into lifting an in-flight cell phone ban: The agency released an order that drops the consideration because of technical concerns. The cell industry association (CTIA) agreed with the FCC decision, because they maintain that in-flight cell phone use would interfere with terrestrial networks; tests of on-board picocells seem to have contradicted that, but I don't have access the data. The FAA's advisory body--the RTCA, which is an industry-led technical group--has yet to release its airworthiness recommendations for the entire panoply of electromagnetic radiation-producing devices, including cell phones. The RTCA does have the picocell data, by the way, because their members include airlines and plane makers.

Journal story not quite right on cells in flight: This Wall Street Journal story about in-flight calling and broadband by Scott McCartney, who I usually rely on as an expert on air travel, is full of errors, starting with "the FCC has already auctioned off radio spectrum for cellphone use..." The spectrum was for broadband network access, which might include voice, but, you know, see FCC story above. McCartney says that only 14 calls could be made at the same time; that's with Inmarsat's third-generation satellite, not with AirCell's equipment nor with Inmarsat 4G hookups. And so on. I checked with AirCell, and they said voice is nowhere on their near-term roadmap; cell data devices are of much greater interest, but that's still down the road.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:38 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel | 1 Comment

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 3

By Glenn Fleishman

Mexico City to become one huge hotspot: Chinese telecom firm ZTE will unwire the whole teeming metropolis, but details are scanty.

Terahertz not the name of new NBC ingenue or town in Indiana: Forget about billions of cycles per cycle--let's talk trillions. University of Utah researchers have shown the first practical way to filter super-high frequency spectrum from 100 GHz to 10 THz. The potential is for channels 1,000 times higher in capacity than in GHz data networks.

Motorola offers mesh trade-in deal: The company will allow early mesh deployments to move over to its HotZone mesh wireless gear. Conveniently forgetting that many early mesh deployments are through partnerships between Motorola and Tropos and others.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:15 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

April 2, 2007

AirDefense Protects WEP through Quantity, Not Quality

By Glenn Fleishman

AirDefense has unique, patented approach to making broken WEP encryption work: They flood the network with Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)-encrypted frames that disables the ability of a cracker to obtain enough traffic to extract the key. AirDefense says they developed this approach for the Payment Card Industry (PCI), which includes a huge range of retail establishments using legacy devices that are expensive to upgrade, or impossible, requiring replacement. AirDefense isn't saying much about their technique, although it makes a beautiful sort of sense. At Wi-Fi Planet, they aren't resting on their laurels, noting that they expect they will need to continue to evolve responses to improvements in active and passive WEP attacks. The cost of this WEP cloaking could be as little as $200 to $400 per site.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:49 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security, Vertical Markets

Wee-Fi: Short Items for April 2

By Glenn Fleishman

April Fool's canceled due to lack of interest this year: I didn't find Google's potty humor very funny.

Ricochet signs deal with Denver to add Wi-Fi, WiMax: Ricochet is currently owned by Terabeam, which also owns Proxim. The Denver deal allows Ricochet to use its current rights of way for its 20th-century service (state of the art back in its day) to expand into the 21st. The first segment will be 2.5 sq mi in downtown. While Ricochet shut down most of its service, it's been running a network in Denver since 2002, possibly to preserve these rights-of-way agreements.

USB over 802.11g: Icron releases WiRanger, which uses 802.11g to carry USB 2.0. That flavor of USB has a raw data rate of 480 Mbps; G, 54 Mbps. It's a bit of a mismatch, but the combination of range and cost could make up for it--if it weren't for the price: $400 for the four-port hub and matching dongle for the host. Ultrawideband, just about to hit the market any day now, c'mon fellers, will likely cost $250 for a similar hub/dongle set, and can carry USB 2.0's highest rates, but over a much shorter distances--perhaps a few meters compared to 802.11g's rated 30 m range. (Icron has a whole USB ecosystem that lets them push USB over large-scale networks of which this Wi-Fi setup is just one element.)

France keeps 5 GHz devices at bay: Early adoption of new radar-avoidance rules for 5 GHz wireless devices in France make all current generation equipment unsuitable. Complaints have been filed.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:32 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi | 1 Comment

April 1, 2007

Six Years of Wi-Fi Networking News

By Glenn Fleishman

This site launched just about six years ago: I've been writing Wi-Fi Networking News since 2001, launching the site shortly after having spent some weeks researching a story for The New York Times on publicly accessible Wi-Fi hotspots. Hotspots numbered in the hundreds in 2001. HomeRF was a viable technology, but on its inevitable road out, although there was some doubt. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi were in contention. A way faster future standard named 802.11g was around the corner with blazing 22 Mbps speeds. And this site was named 802.11b Networking News.

I assumed six years ago that Wi-Fi would be slowly grow into an essential part of the networking kit. I had no idea that the inflection point would take just two years--in 2003, as 802.11g finally launched and prices plummeted. Since then, cost for the cheapest gear has held steady as newer, faster flavors rotated into view, and then became commoditized. I still laugh over predictions that by 2007 (or even 2005) only a percentage of laptops, like 75 percent, would have Wi-Fi adapters built in. It was clear by 2003 that Wi-Fi would either be in nearly every laptop or a total failure.

Blogging went from a technical niche to mainstream within the first three years of this site's operation, and monetization of a blog through advertising to real viability for high-traffic sites has taken the last three years. While this site is technically profitable (my real hard costs are all my own labor), revenue is nowhere near the level needed to make this either my entire living or to hire a staff. (You need a broader focus like my good colleague Om Malik who launched GigaOm across a spectrum with private investment to jump start it.)

I can't believe I've been running this site for six years, and I expect that means I'll find myself here in another six.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:35 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Self-Promotion

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