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Fly Me to the Moon on Wireless Wings
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October 2001 Archives

October 31, 2001

Fly Me to the Moon on Wireless Wings

By Glenn Fleishman

Airport wireless access continues, if slowly (Thursday's New York Times): my brief article on the status of unwiring airports in the U.S. and Canada. For length, a bit at the end was cut about Nokia's expansion in Europe partnering with cellular telephone companies over there to deploy Nokia's new GSM SIM-compatible 802.11b cards and access points. The SIM card contains user account information, so the 802.11b PC Card can work with Nokia access points to use the cell telephone companies' back-office billing and roaming systems.

Sending data in mid-air: it's not 802.11b, but it's 2.5 GHz. The abbreviation MDSS I believe is a mistake for MDS or MMDS, which is multipoint distribution service paired with ITU (instructional television) licensed in the 2.5 GHz band.

Balkanization at 22 Mbps began today: Buffalo Technology is shipping today its Texas Instrument equipped series of 22 Mbps, backwards compatible 802.11b devices. These devices support full 802.11b (Wi-Fi) compatibility, but can talk to other systems that support TI's breakaway encoding scheme for 22 Mbps service. The IEEE was unable to meet in early fall to proceed on its Task Group G (802.11g) decision on whether to use Intersil's OFDM encoding; they had already voted down TI's PBCC methodology. But if the group couldn't agree on OFDM, they may still have to revert to TI's flavor. The Buffalo and TI equipment doesn't truly cause Balkanization because existing devices can talk intercompatibly to it.

Manchester is United Behind Bluetooth (little joke there for footie fans): a Manchester firm has deployed a Bluetooth hot spot in anticipation of upcoming Goodwill Games, and plans to put in dozens more. Obviously, the deployment and use of smaller devices seems to be evident in Manchester than in the States. 802.11b makes sense for a density of laptops; Bluetooth for a density of equipped phones and PDAs. Still, it seems unwise, given the short-term anticipation and some current availability of dual-mode Bluetooth/802.11b access points that will also feature some adaptive frequency controls.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:37 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 30, 2001

Strom on War Driving

By Glenn Fleishman

David Strom on wireless security: David is an industry veteran who writes for a broad IT audience, so this column is sure to raise some alarms along the lines of folks who might not read InfoWorld but have the same interests at heart.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:35 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 26, 2001

We're Not Dead Yet!

By Glenn Fleishman

MobileStar still plans a return to life: MobileStar's CEO says reports of demise are exaggerated, as the company continues to look for financing and alternatives. Earlier reports had stated that virtually all or all staff were laid off, which investors seemed to confirm. Now, it's just a majority of the staff, and the CEO, who wasn't quoted in stories following the layoffs, is either back at the helm, or merely making public statements once again. We follow these developments with some interest.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:29 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 25, 2001

Calling All Air Travellers

By Glenn Fleishman

I'd appreciate any reports from those travelling through or near airports about service in American Airlines' Admirals Clubs (via MobileStar; the signal is often available nearby); the Wayport and MobileStar service in Seatac, Austin, Dallas, and San Jose; and any new service anyone notices as they pass around.

The Starbucks closest to my office, about a block away, pulled all advertising flyers, signage, window decoration, computers, and other paraphenalia within a day or so of MobileStar's quasi-announcement of layoffs. The service still operates, however.

Email me here.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:10 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 24, 2001

Free Starbucks Access?

By Glenn Fleishman

It may be too good to be true, but, a back-office billing/account management/authentication provider for the wireless ISP market, is offering free access to MobileStar's still-operating network in Starbucks through its pilot account program. Click the JumpStart Information link and then select Sign Up. No credit card number or other information is apparently needed. (Update: 12.30 p.m. PDT: The company's PR firm confirms that their accounts allow access to MobileStar service where it remains active.)

Tie Me WiFi Dish Down, Boys

A superb account of the Melbourne, Australia, cooperative free wireless networking group. The outfit was able to secure an antenna on a tall building, helping better tie together the scattered clusters of nodes currently operating. I'm assuming that Internet access is more expensive in Australia than in the States as a percentage of relative earnings and wealth, as it is in Europe and elsewhere, so that this is a boon. The article notes that the group cannot operate as an ISP, but that members can access the Internet via the link. There's a distinction I'm missing (perhaps the for-fee part is what makes it an ISP).

The Fix is Out

Sprint's Ion service was cancelled last week, which didn't seem like a big deal in the wireless world, but read on. Ion offered a long-distance package, high-speed data (up to 8 Mbps down/1 Mbps up), and multiple phone lines for about $100 per month. This didn't prove cost effective, even though the network setup appeared to extend Sprint's ATM network into the customer premises.

Lost in the shuffle, however, was the note on Sprint Broadband's Web site: "We are suspending our effort to acquire new residential and commercial Sprint Broadband Direct customers."

Sprint Broadband employs 2.5 GHz band line-of-sight (not quite point-to-point, however) links, including service from the Chicago Sears Tower which can reach up to 35 miles from the antennas they have located there. Because they are using the licensed 2.5 GHz band, their power and interference requirements are different.

Yesterday, AT&T announced it was shutting down its Fixed Wireless service, which used frequencies in the 10 GHz band. (Thanks for Lawrence Lee for the frequency.)

Forbes offers a more detailed business view of fixed wireless.

Meanwhile, four of the five national wireless ISPs that were in business in December have closed their doors, stopped answering calls, and/or reduced operations. Wayport is the last company standing that's currently offering substantial service. (Another has appeared with no service yet; more on that soon.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:03 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 21, 2001

802.11b & Adult Education / Communication

By Glenn Fleishman

This message is designed to foster a discussion on ideas relating to the possibilities of wireless networking as it pertains to adults for educational and communication purposes.
I am currently doing research for Masters Degree study in the area of Technology in Education. Looking to focus on adults and senior citizens, I am anxious for input on this topic. Ideas involving possible scenarios where wireless devices, preferably PDA's, could be used to contribute to an adult learning / communication environment. Any information would be most appreciated, including the complexity or lack thereof, of implementing a small 802.11b system. Thanks in advance to all who contribute.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:31 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified | 2 Comments

October 17, 2001

News on 10/17/01

By Glenn Fleishman

More MobileStar fallout: Microsoft to be MobileStar's white knight (from CNet MobileStar's woes to affect whole industry or are they a reflection of MobileStar's pricing plan (from Maybe it was just a chicken and egg problem (from Red Herring).

Gateway prices keep plummeting: I'm stunned by how inexpensively you can purchase wireless gateways today. Email from this morning listed an SMC Networks gateway that supports all the good stuff (PPPoE, PPTP, NAT, DHCP), is a print spooler and sports a 3-port 10/100Base-T switch. And it's just $189.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:09 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 16, 2001

North Carolina, Indiana, and Canada

By Glenn Fleishman

WaveTel in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has a wide potential service area for just $20 signup and $50 per month, including equipment rental. They're using 802.11 with FH for sub-2 Mbps throughput.

Skyburst offers wireless in a wide range around South Bend, Indiana. Setup is $400; monthly is $50 for 512 kbps burst rate, and $75 for up to 1 Mbps burst. (I assume because they mention burst there's a limit to sustained bandwidth?)

Storm Internet offers an extensive wireless service area near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Residential customers pay Cdn$400 for setup and about Cdn$50 per month for up to 2 Mbps. Business customers are quoted a custom setup rate, and pay between Cdn$125 and Cdn$575 for 512 kbps up to 5 Mbps. They also have a list of rates under their residential service for installing poles and other work.

Storm limits residential customers to 10 gigabytes of included bandwidth per month, and only offers dynamic IPs. This is a good way to distinguish business and personal service.

Storm's site points out one of the unique advantages of wireless: if there's already access pointing at you, you're live the minute they plug the card in. No waiting for telco lines.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:36 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 15, 2001

South Shore Wireless

By Glenn Fleishman

ISP offers wireless on Boston's South Shore: a reader of this site sent in his firm's URL and answered a number of questions. The systems that this firm is using rely on 802.11b-like networking nodes that use their own encoding algorithms. Customers must use client adapters provided by the firm. Install costs are around $400; monthly service ranges from $50/month for residential to $500/month for business T1-like service.

They have a 500-foot tower mount, allowing them line-of-sight access to quite a lot of nearby residents. They have the option to employ a variety of hardware and software solutions to overlap service, which they offer at speeds of a few hundred K up to 6 Mbps. Because they're using proprietary equipment, they can control speed, access, etc., in a much more secure manner than plain old 802.11b. They're also offering VPN service.

I'd like to write more about ISPs around the U.S. and the whole world who are offering for-fee networks like this. The free networking movement is terrific, and I love it, but as I've spoken about with members of various groups, free networking doesn't have QOS (quality of service) as its primary goal. Free networks will be a great supplement, complement, and partner to for-fee networks, especially in dense population centers.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:02 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 14, 2001

Macworld Gateway Roundup

By Glenn Fleishman

Macworld surveys broadband wireless gateways: this detailed comparison is useful for Mac and Windows users alike, offering setup comparisons and a chart comparing features. This article was assembled through hands-on experience with each unit.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:42 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 12, 2001

News on 10/12/2001

By Glenn Fleishman

Midcoast Maine is a beautiful stretch dotted with picturesque villages and towns - and suffering from a severe lack of bandwidth. Users today can expect no better than mid-range modem speeds up to ISDN unless they're willing to spend a small fortue that's beyond the abilities of even a moderately sized business.

Enter 802.11 - plain old 802.11, not 802.11b: a wireless networking protocol that can stretch 30 miles or more point-to-point, and which Midcoast Internet Solutions (MIS) has been using for years to pump up the broadband. One installation links an island miles off the coast with the mainland without any fuss.

Read more about the details and the technology in my article today for O'Reilly Networks Wireless DevCenter. (And read the discussion on Slashdot about this article.)

MobileStar Round-Up

New York Times weighs in on MobileStar's closing: more detail emerges. The company hired a turnaround firm to sell itself. Starbucks hopes for continued uninterrupted operation. The Times doesn't mention which deal fell through, but it was with Nextel, according to several sources. Nextel was to provide a significant sum in exchange for huge dilution of the existing shareholders' stakes.

Local coverage from the Dallas Morning News about MobileStar: a nice level of detail in this piece. MobileStar is located in the Dallas/Ft. Worth megalopolis.

The San Jose Mercury News offers more local insight into MobileStar's woes: I'd disagree with the writer's characterization that MobileStar was one of two companies racing to install service nationwide. Wayport has been taking a slower approach, largely through partnerships with hotels and individual agreements with airport authorities.

Puget Sound Business Journal emphasizes Starbucks's side of deal: This article clarifies some of the issues about Starbucks and MobileStar's ownership and costs.

MobileStar's deal with Starbucks required it to install, own, and operate a nationwide T1 network on behalf of Starbucks, coupled with the installation of wireless access points. Starbucks's end of the deal was to get, gratis, a national network for its coffee shops to allow them training, real-time store data exchange, stored-value card systems, and other perqs. The company currently relies on dial-up service for the majority of its data interaction, including inventory and sales retrieval (polled nightly) and credit-card verification.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:29 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 11, 2001

Life Among the Rubble

By Glenn Fleishman

Wireless among the rubble: Mike Daisey found himself unintentionally in the shadow of the trade centers on the morning of Sept. 11 while he finished preliminary chapters of a book due that day. At 8.47 am, his life changed, as it did for the rest of us. Mike escaped, dust covered, and filed reports through MobileStar's network that ultimately reached tens or hundreds of thousands of people. Also, the efforts other wireless companies and free networks put out during and after the tragedy. This article is my first regular feature for 802.11 Planet for which I'll be writing weekly.

Customers left in dark, but MobileStar's plans still vague: This Reuters article also quotes the now-definitive CNet piece from yesterday, which was updated today. It now appears as if MobileStar is well on the way to shut down, while Starbucks is actively seeking a new operator. Since Starbucks apparently didn't own any of the equipment or maintain any of the relationships, this could be tricky. Starbucks also said that they weren't informed of any bankruptcy proceedings.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:54 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 10, 2001

Whither MobileStar?

By Glenn Fleishman

MobileStar lays off staff, future uncertain: Reports started coming in this morning from colleagues and anonymous sources that MobileStar had laid its entire staff off and the future of its network was in doubt. MobileStar is a major wireless ISP with a partnership with Starbucks that led to over 700 currently equipped outlets and plans to reach over 3,000 in the next two years.

By mid-afternoon, confirmation of the layoffs was received, and publications started to file stories. CNet has most of the details, while a Wall St. Journal article just appeared a few minutes ago, but the Journal requires paid registration. (The story just went out on the Dow Jones wire; the abbreviated story is here if you're a Journal subscriber.)

In the WSJ story, Starbucks made a few statements on the state of the network:

Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) said the provider of its touted wireless Internet access has warned of possible service "interruptions." The Seattle-based coffee store chain "hopes that the interruptions will be brief and is working on alternatives to continue providing wireless service to its customers," a spokeswoman said. Despite possible interruptions, Starbucks "remains committed" to providing Internet access at its retail stores.

I'm a harbinger of doom, apparently, having interviewed MobileStar's CEO just a few days ago, just as I interviewed the VP of marketing at AerZone last December four days before its parent company Softnet pulled its plug. AerZone had an ambitious plan of expansion, with deals inked for installations in San Francisco (throughout), and at United and Delta gates and lounges. Softnet had bought Laptop Lanes with the intention of rebranding and expanding it; instead, they recently sold nine of their Laptop Lanes locations to MobileStar competitor Wayport.

MobileStar's CEO told me that they were putting their new installations on hold until closing the next round of funding. It's possible MobileStar will leap from the ashes, but their liabilities are high, capital and leasing costs still largely in the future, and revenue potential remains a trickle. They've got my $12.95 per month for a limited account, and that's probably not enough to tide them over.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:25 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 9, 2001

News on 10/9/2001

By Glenn Fleishman

ZDNet analysis of the rush to 54 Mbps and 802.11a: a move to rush to the faster speed and higher bandwidth may deprecate the utility of 802.11b. Here's a similar take from The Register.

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

October 8, 2001

News on 10/8/2001

By Glenn Fleishman

Proxim ships 802.11a technology: they claim as high as 100 Mbps using their own technology. However, according to the IEEE and other sources, the current U.S. regulations would limit the encoding system from sending more than 54 Mbps.

Fortune columnist weighs in on Wi-Fi costs: I disagree with Stewart here, as he's not considering the overall cost of doing business. Making long-distance or local calls using a modem for low-speed access can rack up several dollars a trip on its own. Having high-speed access means that a travelling employee isn't really disconnected from the network. Also, iPass and others are trying to build roaming accounts that a user can connect via to any available network, wireless, dial-up, or otherwise, that should consolidate costs.

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

October 7, 2001

Designing an IEEE 802.11 compliant IP in Hardware using Verilog - help!!

By Glenn Fleishman

Hello 802.11 Gurus,
One of my friends is trying to convince me that he with a
team of 3 (inclduing himself) can design a IEEE 802.11 (WAN) compliant
IP in Verilog HDL (for digital design) (atleast the softcore, i.e. RTL, plus synthesis, Verification etc.)
starting from IEEE Specs within 12 weeks.

The average team expereince is 4 years (or 5 maximum) with hardly
any expereince on Ethernet etc. The team's Verilog strength is also
"moderate" - meaning not so great.

My question to you all experts is: "Is this a realistic schedule"? I
thought a minimum of 6 months is needed.

Thanks a lot for any suggestions (this information will be useful for
my another friend who is willing to join this group).

Sorry for off-topic, off-techincal post.

Kind Regards,
VLSI Engr.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:13 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 6, 2001

Nov 8-9th - Wireless Internet, Data and Enterprise Applications Conference

By Glenn Fleishman

Wireless Internet, Data and Enterprise Applications
November 8-9, 2001 at Bradley Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, California

Dear Sir/Madam,
We invite you to participate at 2001 Wireless Internet Data and Enterprise Applications show to be held in UCLA on Nov. 8th and 9th, 2001 (web site: <>). At this conference, participation is by significant companies such as Microsoft, Siemens, Nortel Networks, Nokia, NEC, Sprint-PCS, Motorola, General Motors, Fedex, Nextel, MCI, Deutsche Telecom, Ericsson, Symantec, United Technologies, Sun, HP, Conexant, Palm, Cingular and others.
Some of our invited speakers from industry include:
Norihiko Hirose, Vice President of NTT-DoCoMo
James Balsillic, CEO Research in Motion
Cameron Schmidt - Chief Marketing Officer of eGM (General Motors)
Guy Kawasaki - Founder and Chairman of
Steve Kromm, Vice President of Cingular
Paige O'Donnell - Senior Director of Mobile Products from Oracle
Mr. David Slonim - Vice President of Fedex
Mr. Johan Salross - Vice President of Telia the largest Swedish Wireless Carrier
Mr. Ashwin Rangan, CIO/SVP of Conexant
Mr. Johan Brundell, Vice President of Ericsson
Carl Yankowski, CEO of Palm, and,
Dr. Leonard Kleinrock, Chairman Nomadix, who is considered as the Father of the Internet after he laid down the basic principles of packet switching.

Leading Venture Capitalists such as Vantage Point, Comstellar, Celtic House, Kline Hawkes, ZoneVC, Mission Ventures, Blueprint, Osprey Ventures and East West VC will participate in panel discussions. Renowned professors giving talks from Stanford University include Professor Cioffi and Professor Paulraj, from Berkeley - Prof. Varaiya from Berkeley and Prof. Gerla from UCLA. We are planning for 200 attendees in the audience. The cost is $395 per person. Register online today at
We would like you to consider sending an attendee or getting your team to participate in a booth at our event. If this is of interest, do let me know at your earliest convenience.

Dr. Pavel Ikonomov
Program Chair Wireless Internet 2001
School of Engineering & Applied Science
46-128/A Engr. IV, Mailcode 159710
420 Westood plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Tel: 310-794-4082, Fax: 310-206-4830
Program Committee
Wireless Internet, Data and Enterprise Applications

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:51 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 4, 2001

Public Good via Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

In a time of need in New York, wireless offers a way share: a New York Times article explores several cases in the city in which nearby businesses, sometimes aided by NYCWireless, a free wireless networking organization, were able to borrow a cup of bandwidth.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:20 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 3, 2001

News on 10/3/01

By Glenn Fleishman

Find local access points with a truly useful site. If you're offering public access points, make sure and list them here, too.

Find whether you've been exposed: is listing networks that its users have picked up on their antennas.

Sprouting up everywhere: I turn on my Mac at home last night and find a new Wi-Fi network. My new neighbors are running unprotected 802.11b net. Time to introduce myself and talk to them about WEP and other security issues.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:42 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 2, 2001

News on 10/2/01

By Glenn Fleishman

Austin City Limitless: superb gem of an article about free wireless networking in Austin, Texas. The writer captures the feel nicely of what's going on, the cooperation and interest among participants, and the pitfalls and promise. (Update 10/13/01: the link to this article has died because of the newspaper's short-sighted archive policy. Not only are external links to their article killed or replaced with newer content at the same location, but their for-fee archives do not appear to contain this article.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:32 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

October 1, 2001

News on 10/1/01

By Glenn Fleishman

Secure your data, please: a Seattle Wireless freenet organizer urges folks to treat wireless data as insecure and act accordingly.

InfoWorld tries again in discussing free networking: InfoWorld's Ephraim Schwartz, this time with a co-author, takes another, slightly longer stab at the issue of free wireless networks and their potential impact on 3G. I don't really see how different this article is from the one that ran in August and generated some annoyance over the term parasitic grid to describe these free networks. As I've noted elsewhere, the phrase, also mentioned in the more recent article, should really be opportunistic, as the researcher who coined the term isn't insinuating a motivation, but rather describing how devices can attach themselves at will to whatever happens to be available ubiquitously.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:44 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

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