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« 802.11 Planet Day 1 | Main | Sharing Well with Others »

November 28, 2001

802.11 Planet Day 2

Summaries in order of most to least recent sessions.

Glenn Joe Bob says: ten fingers way up. Great conference, great content, lots to think about, lots of rational exuberance. At many conferences, you find presenters who have five things to say and spend an hour telling you that over and over again. At this conference, every presenter had 50,000 things to say and one hour to say it in.

What's Next For WLAN?

Moderator: Bob Liu, Executive Editor,

Bob tried to shake things up on this amazing panel that had strategic folk from Atheros, Intersil, and Texas Instruments.

Jim Zyren, Director of Strategic Marketing, Wireless Networking Products, Intersil Americas Inc.

The 802.11g solution: "Aside from bringing higher data rates to 2.4 GHz band, and facilitating backward compatibility with 802.11b devices, it also facilitates future development of dual-band radios." Once we have OFDM in both bands, it becomes easier to make dual-band radios in a cost effective manner.

Chris Heegard, CTO for the Wireless Networking and Home Networking business units, Texas Instruments

"There isn't a lot of animosity - we all get along fine" in regards to collegiality. (Although there was a bit of sparks later in a patent discussion.) TI talks about "11b+11a= 11g".

Mark Bercow, VP of Marketing, Atheros Communications, Inc.

Atheros has been shipping 802.11a chipsets (two chips in total with everything on them) since September. 10 announced customers including Proxim, Sony, Intel. 12 more not announced. Dual-mode radios (a + b) due out from some of their customers soon.

a vs. b speeds: Link rates of 3 to 5 times the speed with 802.11a compared to b because of stepdown speeds in the same facility up to 225 feet.


Q: Upper band of 5 GHz (5.725-5.825 GHz) support? A: Intersil: not yet, but in future. Atheros: can get four more channels (in addition to eight in lower 5 GHz band) out of that upper band.

Q: Dual-band radios (a + b/g)? A: Atheros: "What's the need for it? Our view's a problem that's more easily solved at the access point than it is at the client." If you have an existing b network, a dual-mode or a point next to the b point, everybody's covered. TI: It's going to happen and networks will grow this way. 100 Mbps didn't work well until you had dual-mode versions. 1 Gb mode supports older forms, too. "If there wasn't much b out there, you could argue just throw it all away." Intersil: client side needs dual mode - if you roam and there's a different infrastructure, you'll want what you need with you as you roam.

Q: IEEE patent licensing issues? TI: OFDM have extra-IEEE standards and patents issues, so not all of OFDM are in the IEEE process All of the participants will license OFDM pieces from Agere, Intersil, etc. "I'm more concerned frankly with people who don't participate in the IEEE than those who do." Policy places emphasis on member's conforming to IEEE's general statement Intersil: Participants need to reveal policies and license equitable - or license for free Anyone can make any claim about anything they want - are the patents relevant? Claims have to be made. No such thing as a clear title to IP rights. (There were some sparks on stage: Intersil has a variety of challenges to OFDM, the merit of which has not been determined. PBCC is based on older, pre- or non-patentable ideas, mostly, so not subject to the same sorts of modern challenges.)

Power usage, especially in smaller Wi-Fi devics? A.
Atheros: power - do you need 54 Mbps in a handheld? Probably not.
Intersil: dual-mode compelling designs will have 2 to 3 chips and be highly integrated; CF devices today are not power efficient yet, but 802.11b uses a lot of power. Bluetooth has a design advantage.
Restricting usage to lower bandwidths would occupy larger segments of the available bandwidth (1 Mbps takes longer but uses same "width" as 11 Mbps)

Q. Proxim patent claims over Intersil? A: Intersil May be resolved by middle of next year, but didn't want to go into depth because it's in process.

Fixed Wireless Goes Mobile

Allan Scott, Business Manager, the Americas, Agere Systems ORiNOCO: intro


Dr. John Rasmus, VP Business Development, GRIC Communications

Carriers getting involved. In Asia, carriers starting to throw out deployments of a few dozen points to test the market and infrastructure. Equipment may change to reflect needs. Applications will develop on top of ubiquity: collaboration, video, streaming content, and worldwide instant messaging.

By middle of next year, market heats up again and WLANs become part of a bigger set of concerns and industries. "To think of wireless LANs as a market unto itself is wrong" - total access solution will include WLANs.

Antti Eravaara, Marketing Director, NetSeal Technologies

(Intro: MobileIP bit part of this company's business)

Netseal has Mobile Private Network (MPN) to move freely across networks, within networks, etc.

<pMatt Brookshier, VP product Marketing, PacketAir Networks, Inc.

"Want to have to do it without worrying about loading up special software just to get on a certain different network." Like cell phone: "I don't have to worry about" coming from San Diego to Santa Clara.

Dr. Francis "Butch" Anton, Jr., VP of Advanced Technology, hereUare Communications

Not enough coverage for roaming/mobile needs.

Q: MobileIP and IPv6? A: Some part of the solution, but not coming immediately, and won't be the end solution. One panelist's product is compatible, but they can do everything in the router, avoiding client-side support problems.

Q: Who's going to buy products now? A: Will work on wireline and wireless, and solves a number of related roaming issues (packetair?)

Q: What's WISPr (Wireless ISP roaming) doing now? A: (Butch) Creating ideas about interoperability for WISPs. User wants same credentials, process, experience. "Best common practices" document due out for public comment soon.

Q: Carriers' continuing role? A: Antti: Scandinavian carriers are all offering some Wi-Fi public access. Carriers' role going to be great. History shows. ISPs: mid-90s, grass-roots. Today: consolidation. Local telcos are ISPs, buying out smaller players. Some large non-telcos involved, too (MSN, AOL, etc); it has required huge investments. Broadband wireless: Ricochet, $1B raised, but failed. ("Maybe they were too early?") MobileStar "another example of that." Both companies "did not understand the breadth and width and investment size it takes to build a really good solid service provisioning business."

Rasmus rejoins: Yes in Scand., but slowing business or on hold. Rest of Europe and similar countries, much more interest, but "in the planning stage" not deployment stage. Cautious and limited pilots.

Antti: Economy overall, but usage of data applications totally different than in US. If you're in Finland, you're running your business just there (like just in California or just in Maine). Travel is less extensive.

Q: Difference in use of WLAN in Europe vs. US. In US, mostly business. What's the story in Europe? A: Data usage much lower, but picking up.

Silliness interlude: Alison's Pantscam - reading Doc Searls's Web log, I came across this ingenious use of 802.11b technology to look at a young woman's underwear (requires Java). Bravo, young person!


Q&A: audience member asks if it isn't overhyped? Panel said turning current security on isn't a bad idea because it's there, even if a determined hacker can get through easily enough.

Q: Are VPN servers robust enough? A: Not in general, as most servers are expectcing some batches of 56K dial-up customers, not huge bandwidth users.

WEP ever appropriate? Yes, to make sure someone doesn't accidentally or incidentally attach. But companies should use VPN - all companies, says Cox.

RADIUS: Cox says he uses RADIUS as a simple solution because it can hand off authentication to more secure implementations, such as SecureID or Windows-based Kerberos.

Mandy Andress, CEO, ArchSec Technologies

Very, very detailed description of solutions appropriate for various sizes of WLAN. Mentioned a specific example from a university in Georgia that uses a combination of Kerberos, Unix IPTables (IP-based port filtering), and Web-based authentication to allow a redirect to a login that then passes a specific machine for a period of time through the firewall.

Phil Cox, consultant

(By the way, I'm getting access in the room for just the moment through the floor...)

Cox discussed all of the current challenges and problems with WEP. He went throught the basics and how to avoid key problems by not using ASCII passphrase encoding, but then blew that all away by describing the complete lack of protection available with WEP.

Building and Equipping Wireless Networks

Jessel Frankel, NeTeam Corp

Biggest wireless university? Akron, OH University of Akron.

"All radios are not created equal" if even Wi-Fi compliant. "Transmit power, receive sensitivity is not identical from vendor to vendor."

Capture requirements: "Everybody's accustomed to understand the concept of deciding where you want coverage, … but this is another security issue: you also have to design where you do not want coverage."

Jim Thompson (Musenki, moderator) noted that the Dallas/Ft. Worth Wayport installation: 50% of cost was electrical wiring. Jesse Frankel noted that union requirements and other details add to cost and suggested power-over-Ethernet which reduces cost substantially at install.

Thompson also pointed out that 2.4 Ghz is the harmonic frequency for water: "when you put a bunch of what I like to call bags of salt water in an environment" it changes characteristics of the environment. People absorb signal.

Matt Peterson, BAWUG (Bay Area Wireless User Group)

Matt talked generally about BAWUG and community networking.

Community benefits: make friends. "I have a T1 at home and I'm becoming very popular around the community."

Access points are pretty bad: "for the most part they suck." Like first-generation cell phones. Bad manufacturing.

War Driving (scanning for open APs): Market & 4th in SF: "60 APs with a normal PC card, no external antenna," nothing special, and only two have WEP encryption turned on.

802.1x is still in progress: "at least a year down the road until 802.1x is pretty viable."


Jim mentioned that "Taiwan, Inc." was partly responsible for drop in 802.11b prices, as they are churning out equipment cheaply. 802.11a, for him, is an attempt for manufacturers to retain profit margin, but Intel has set price low (mid $300) so that may not be in place.

802.11a has better characteristics for dealing with multi-path fading so you could have overlapping 802.11a/b installs where 802.11a can hit 11 Mbps everywhere b can, but you can have hot spots with higher speeds.

Jim's comments on g where that of the multiple standards approved for encoding in 802.11g, you'll only find three of four in any device, and OFDM will operate at 54 Mbps in that band within just a few feet while blowing other transmissions out of the water – shutting them down.

Jesse: cost of electrical install had to do with local electrical standards.

Q: How to restrict RF propagation? Jesse: you can control output power of radio through various settings on some devices, and can create back shields to tune shape.

Josh: "You need to deploy some kind of security mechanism on an AP" whether WEP or 802.1x or something else. In Berkeley, in testing security, they were able to see APs in San Francisco, 10 miles away!

Related to another q, Matt mentioned that ad hoc networking (card-to-card without AP) is very different without the same kind of standards. Point-to-point is very cheap; they're running 20 mile cross-SF Bay links for a few hundred bucks. But no cookie-cutter method: have to dive into it.

Frankel: bridging – design characteristics important. If someone wants "five nines reliability" (99.999%), then there's much more work to be done to assure with wireless point-to-point bridging. Josh: price point: $10,000 for Tsunami link versus a few hundred.

Wireless Any Time, Any Place

I was moderating this panel which featured a number of interesting folks deploying and handling different aspects of public space, for-fee wireless networks.

The panel comprised Stephen Saltzman, general manager, wireless LAN operation, Intel; Phil Belanger, VP, Wayport; Rick Ehrlinspiel, CEO and founder, Surf and Sip; Clark Dong, hereUare communications; and Anurag Lal, iPass. (I'd had the opportunity to interview everyone but Clark Dong for various articles.)

We talked about a number of topics, mostly centered on roaming, as the conference track was the Enterprise one. It's clear from the folks on the panel that seamless, well-managed roaming across networks is building to a head, and will involve lower costs than previously anticipated.

Phil Belanger specifically said that Wayport is trying to avoid or eliminate roaming fees: if you're a monthly Wayport subscriber and roam onto an iPass network partner, you wouldn't pay an additional fee for other wireless access and vice-versa. That's his notion at least, and there was a variety of response about venue managers (hotels, conference centers, airports), and issues with how revenue gets generated if there aren't roaming or site fees.

802.1x came up again as a good end-to-end solution that public space providers can implement to provide link security with encryption key management. As it starts to become available, they'll deploy it, but they still believe overall security is a customer issue: end-to-end encryption using VPNs or other methodologies.

Greatest quote from the session: "The time of crack-induced business plans is over," from Stephen Saltzman. This was in reaction to several questions from the audience about what MobileStar did wrong. (My response to that question was, "When a company asks you to build a national T1 network for them at your expense and won't agree to mention you in a press release, say no."

The Next E-Business Evolution

Dean Douglas, IBM Global Services

(IBM Global Services was MobileStar's contractor for installing Wi-Fi into Starbucks.)

Talks about new concept of gold-collar workers: people who are critical to a company or organization who aren't office workers or skilled manual laborers – people who have interactions with technology to move things along or report status, but it isn't necessarily the key part of their job.

Wireless LAN devices (wearable computers) offer employees a chance to perform tasks while they're interacting with a network instead of turning to a keyboard or stopping the task to perform a computer operation.<p/p>

IBM says they save $75 million/year in real estate costs due to WLANs, including savings of not reconfiguring and constantly updating technology in shared spaces (conference rooms, etc.)

In Q&A: use in other countries? In Scandinavia, one cell carrier lets you plug in names and phone numbers, and the phone tells you when you're near someone you know or want to meet.