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Personal Telco in Portland, Ore., has set up the first voice over IP over free wireless hotspot: We think this is a first, and they think it's a first. The story says "for the price of a latte"--implying a purchase, which we believe isn't necessary--you can make free VoIP calls. The VoIP unit is plugged into a PC which is connected wirelessly to the Internet, PersonalTelco guru Nigel Ballard confirmed for me via email.
Ballard said the VoIP adapter uses a virtual line from IPKall, which offers a free public switched telephone network (PSTN) number in the 360 (southern Washington state) area code. Incoming calls, outgoing 360 calls, and 1-800 number calls are all possible, as well as SIP-to-SIP. (SIP numbers aren't six digits; this is erroneously noted in the article.) The next goal is setting up a local 503 node, Ballard said.
The article conflates a few concepts into SIP. Session Initiation Protocol governs the connection. To quote from the IETF proposal for codifying it, SIP is a protocol for initiating interactive communication sessions between users. The writer conflates codecs (compression/decompression routines) used to encode and decode sound (and/or video) and the issues of bandwidth and latency with the actual connection method.
Voice over Wi-Fi must have been a hot topic at the Voice on the Net conference: Microsoft said it is adding VoIP capabilities to its Windows CE operating system. Microsoft also said that Vonage will be its first service provider partner. Earlier this week, Vonage said that it will begin offering voice over Wi-Fi service, but didn't elaborate on what device customers would use to access the service. It's not clear if Vonage will offer voice over Wi-Fi handsets or if the service will hinge on the Windows CE devices.
A report from ABI Research concludes that proprietary broadband wireless equipment will grow as the market waits for mass produced WiMax gear: The report forecasts that the proprietary systems should grow by 50 percent from 2003 to 2004. Apparently such gear is priced the same or at times cheaper than what the WiMax folks say their gear will cost.
The analyst who wrote the report made a very levelheaded comment when he says that the threat from WiMax isn't to 3G or Wi-Fi but to landline providers. He's probably right. All of the wireless technologies will have a sweet spot but at the end of the day WiMax may compete head to head with DSL or cable modem service.
Speakers on a panel at the Spring VON conference discussed the well-known problems with delivering voice over Wi-Fi networks: Quality of service, latency, and the number of callers that each access point can support are the main issues that still need to be solved. Voice over Wi-Fi should become easier to install and manage at least for enterprises once the vendors targeting that market begin to integrate on the backend. Some, such as Airespace, have already worked on developing their platforms to support voice.
Voice over Wi-Fi is a different ball game for consumers in the open market. Sean O'Mahony, FatPort's president and CEO, notes that VoIP service providers like Vonage that want to extend the offering to hotspots will have to make deals with hotspot operators. Otherwise, users will have to sign in on their handsets once they are in range of a hotspot, which could be cumbersome. FatPort offers voice in its hotspots through its Mobitus VoIP service. When a FatPort customer walks into a FatPort hotspot with the phone, it automatically recognizes the user and opens the connection so users don't have to sign on.
The Giants will play in a field fully saturated with Wi-Fi, free to fans during 2004: SBC makes it count at home by combining their expensive naming rights to the Giants ballpark in San Francisco with its new FreedomLink Wi-Fi service. The park has 121 access points, and SBC is offering free service for 2004. Nortel is involved in the deployment, while Intel has verified the location for its Centrino branding.
While the press release (not yet available online) explains that there will be some interactive games, day-of-game stats, and local information available through the service, this is hardly cutting-edge interactivity. Instant messaging rooms, live video playback of special angles (available only in the suites apparently), and other person-to-person communication could add even more to the experience.
If you want to increase people's engagement, don't push at them, but provide them more ways to talk to each other.
Arun Chatterjee, CTO and co-founder of LESSNetworks, analyzed the numbers coming out of Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile HotSpot to estimate the subscriber base: Arun and I went back and forth refining his model, and here's some good logic from him:
At the end of 2003, T-Mobile had approximately 29,000 monthly subscribers. Here's how.
At various times, the following figures have been reported by T-Mobile: - 2,000 locations in Jan 2003 - 4,200 locations in Dec 2003 - $400k gross/mo in Jan 2003 - $1.4M gross/mo in Dec 2003 - 67 percent of T-Mobile's users are on subscription plans
Starbucks, in April 2003, reported that it had 25,000 sessions/week.
I am assuming that the average T-Mobile monthly Wi-Fi subscriber pays $25/mo, and the average T-Mobile non-monthly user pays $9/session.
Here's the math:
1. Assuming linear growth, if there were 2,000 locations in Jan of 2003 and 4,200 locations in Dec of 2003, there were (4,200 loc -2,000 loc)*4mo/12mo + 2,000 loc = 2,733 locations in April 2003.
2. Revenue per location per month went up from ($400k/2,000 loc) = $200 per loc per month in Jan of 2003 to ($1.4M/4,200 loc) = $333 per loc per month in Dec of 2003. Assuming linear growth, per location revenue grew at ($333/$200) = 1.67 times in 12 months, or increased by (1.67-1)/12 mo = 0.056 per month. By extrapolating, by April of 2003, per location revenue had grown to (1 + (0.056 per mo *4 mo)) = 1.22 times revenue per loc per month from Jan.
3. Usage per location per day at Starbucks in April 2003 was (25,000 sessions per week/7 days per week)/2,733 loc = 1.3 sessions per day per loc. Assume that usage statistics at Starbucks reflected usage at all T-Mobile locations at that time.
4. Assuming per location usage growth to be proportional to per location revenue growth, by Dec of 2003, there were (1.3 sessions/1.22)*1.67 = 1.78 sessions per location per day.
5. 67% of the sessions were by monthly subscribers. That leaves (1.78 sessions per loc per day * 33%) = 0.59 sessions per location per day by non-monthly users by year end.
6. Revenue by year end from non-monthly users is: (0.59 session per loc per day * 4,200 loc * $9 per session * 30 days) = $674,932 revenue per month from non-monthly users.
7. That leaves ($1.4M - $674,932) = $725,067 from monthly subscribers per month by year end.
8. Using $25/month per subscriber, that translates to ($725,067 per month /$25 per month per subscriber) = 29,002 subscribers.
9. Further, each monthly subscriber used the service on average (1.78 sessions per loc per day * 67% * 4,200 loc * 30 days per month / 29,002 subscribers) = 5.18 times per month.
Vonage said that it will start offering VoIP phones that operate on Wi-Fi networks later this year: The phones will let subscribers make and receive phone calls when in range of a Wi-Fi network, either in their homes or public places. A Vonage exec said the move is in response to AT&T's announcement that it is offering VoIP in Texas and New Jersey.
The market for VoIP services is definitely getting crowded so anything that can differentiate a service will help. Vonage has a market leadership position as an early VoIP provider so it makes sense for it to be a leader in extending VoIP to Wi-Fi networks.
I suspect that VoIP Wi-Fi phones will be most useful in homes or businesses. Users will be disappointed if they hope to carry the phone around everywhere and expect it to work like a cell phone. The phones will only work in very limited areas outside of the home and office. Vonage and any other provider that offers such a service will have to be very careful how they market it.
Vonage doesn't seem to have issued an official announcement with any more information about the service.
Texas Instruments's new DSL reference design incorporate Voice over IP (VoIP) and Wi-Fi: The two new designs from TI are intended to be manufacturing bases on which manufacturers create end-user or resale products. With their own flavor of quality of service (QoS) can prioritize VoIP traffic.
I compare this technology with HomeRF because HomeRF, at its outset, had the goal of prioritizing voice and integrating wireless networking, broadband data, telephony, and voice--as well as multimedia. HomeRF's flaw was that it was too slow for too long, partly due to regulatory issues, and had fewer initial participants than Wi-Fi.
Still, it's a vindication for those who developed HomeRF to see that HomeRF's design goals are finally being implemented as layers or extensions to 802.11 specifications.
Time-Warner Cable Roadrunner customers in San Antonio get hotspot access for free timed to the men's NCAA Final Four tournament this week: Time-Warner is mimicking Verizon's bundled offering in Manhattan where free hotspots are available to Verizon DSL subscribers. The company announced the plan last month, and is live in time for the Final Four. The venue uses gear from Airespace, which explains this particular press release.
Roadrunner users gain free access to the unknown number of hotspots that Time-Warner Cable will deploy, while others can use prepaid cards in 15-, 30-, and 60-minute units, or pay a fee via credit card on a gateway page.
Lots of details are obviously up in the air: how many locations and what charges, just to name, too.
Comcast's closest challenge to this is their partnership with T-Mobile where existing Comcast cable broadband subscribers can buy a single $9.95 T-Mobile HotSpot DayPass, and then receive one free DayPass each month through December 2003. [updated analysis cadged from TechDirt]
SBC's first Wi-Fi hotspot push yields thousands of popular locations, affirms Wayport's model for their future: Those of us who track the Wi-Fi hotspot industry have been waiting to see how SBC's FreedomLink Wi-Fi service would express itself, knowing only that Wayport's network would form its early core and that Wayport would be involved in providing managed services for the hotspot build-out.
Today's announcement that SBC will unwire the UPS Store affirms SBC's goal of 6,000 locations within three years and Wayport's plans to extend beyond their core network of hotels and core business of providing end-to-end service.
The UPS Store is a franchise operation with 3,300 locations, some still branded with their pre-UPS moniker of Mailboxes Etc. (Individual owners could chose to the new branding or not; new store are all called The UPS Store). 1,500 of these locations will have Wi-Fi by year's end, and more than 3,300 through 2005. The stores are expanding rapidly with 5,000 outlets projected by 2007.
Of all the chain locations that have provided Wi-Fi service to date, The UPS Store arrangement is one of the most logical. You already have businesspeople coming to the store in large numbers. There are no children throwing milkshakes, nor the constant loud ssssss of lattes.
Yesterday, I reiterated my point that Wi-Fi service's unlimited monthly sweet spot was $20. Today, SBC says that their unlimited usage plan is $19.95; their day rate $7.95. FreedomLink will include Wayport's locations, but other roaming deals aren't yet known. SBC could wield a T-Mobile-sized network, giving them the leverage to finally crack national unlimited no-extra-fee roaming.
As a Cingular cellular customer and with Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless, I remain highly interested in seeing how SBC--with 60 percent ownership of Cingular--rolls out any Wi-Fi plan to their cell partner.
This UPS Store deal also marks Wayport's entrance into the next stage of their business. Sky Dayton defined new layers to the industry in Dec. 2001 when Boingo Wireless became the first Wi-Fi-only service aggregator by stating then--as he does now--that venues, infrastructure, aggregation, and branding are all separate businesses.
This deal marks the real culmination of that layered model, more so than Cometa's plan. Cometa is an outside in operator, formulating where they want to go and what they want to do, then finding partners. Wayport is operating inside out, with a partner that solicited bids and chose them to provide the infrastructure service. This isn't on spec, like Cometa's city-by-city plan. (Cometa's Barnes & Noble network is much more conventional, but we don't know who is paying for that build out.)
Wayport's relationship with SBC will allow them to become a much stronger infrastructure builder providing recurring management revenue with much less cost, better spreading their expenses across a larger operation.
One hundred and ninety acres without a wire in sight: Vivato scores a major port: The Port of Seattle is a sprawling, busy industrial center with containers moving in and out at an alarming rate. Coordinating data across this multi-hundred acre space is obviously a nightmare. Stretching wire is expensive, even when possible. Many solutions involve proprietary equipment and licensed spectrum.
The port's information technology subcontractor, Tideworks Technology, said today that they installed four Vivato 802.11b switches to cover 190 acres of the outdoor containerized terminal, which they estimate can serve 100 simultaneous users. Tideworks worked with Psion Teklogix, which deploys wireless technology at seaports.
Vivato's switch uses a phased-array antenna technology which can intelligently scan for and pinpoint users, which allows a greater effective range with fewer devices than even extended-range access points. Vivato has had few big sales--even this one is only six individual pieces of gear--and has suffered criticism over performance of its first-generation 802.11b equipment. However, the company expects its 802.11g re-engineered device to ship later this year.
The cost of the deployment wasn't released, but a Vivato spokesperson and the press release both reiterate that the proprietary bids for data service would have runs in the many millions. Vivato's switch was originally retailing for about $15,000 in its base outdoor configuration. They're using two of Vivato's bridge/routers. There's practically no wire in this entire configuration according to the release.
Some of the uses of this 190-acre network include allowing remote, instant reporting of container levels, as well as coordinating movement of equipment and personnel who move the containers.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:08 PM | Permanent Link | Categories:
Is Seattle the center of the hotspot revolution or what? Pittsburgh firm Telerama launches national network's first outpost in Seattle: Nancy Gohring, the senior editor of Wi-Fi Networking News, examines why and how Telerama has launched its first non-Pittsburgh network in Seattle with 13 hotspots initially, planned to grow to 70 by year's end.
Seattle and its nearby cities house T-Mobile HotSpot and Starbucks, which collaborate in one of the world's largest single chain deployed networks. Cometa Networks chose Seattle as its first, and so far only, multi-venue deployment with 250 hotspots in several chains and upscale malls. AT&T Wireless is also headquartered here (for the moment). Seattle Wireless is one of the most active of the community wireless networking groups, as well.
I met with Doug Luce last week in one of the seven Caffe Ladro coffeeshops that are part of the initial network. Caffe Ladro is a well-regarded local business, one of the largest of the Seattle-only chains.
I had spoken to Luce extensively last November when Telerama first launched the hotspot division. Luce has moved his family to Seattle to spearhead the new venture's start here.
Part of Telerama's appeal to venues is that they're paying all of the costs and handling the support chain. Telerama can offer this, Luce said, because they've kept costs down all across the operation. In last November's interview, Luce said it cost $500 to unwire a hotspot. Now, it's down to $300.
Telerama also controls maintenance costs through what seems to be a unique method (or at least uniquely disclosed method) of testing a network's performance. In each store, they deploy a Linksys WAP11, an 802.11b access point which has almost no features but does offer some SNMP statistics for network monitoring. They also install a Unix-variant (BSD) computer running a Pentium II that has a USB Wi-Fi adapter attached. A Linksys signal booster designed for the WAP11 ensures quality reception around the venue.
That USB adapter can help them avoid service calls: they can test the local loop from WAP11 to client association to network connection using it. If the network tests out normally, they don't have to send someone out, but can reboot or rejigger the unit entirely remotely. If the local loop fails, then they have 100-percent certainty that the hardware has a problem. Luce says that the antennas are unscrewed from the access points more often than seems possible--a sort of low-tech/high-tech vandalism, even with the APs located typically far out of reach.
Telerama's low-cost approach to hotspot build-out is echoed in their virtual dial-up and DSL infrastructure. The company works with Covad for DSL installation for their customers, and they pay the wholesale rates for DSL when installed at their hotspot locations. (These rates are still quite high, Luce said. FCC and court decisions have allowed telcos to sell their own service top consumers below their wholesale rate to ISPs.) Dial-up is resold from Dial-Up USA.
The company tries to further keep costs down by using Internet Relay Chat (IRC) as a kind of live company intercom and support system. Customers are encouraged to use live chat to solve problems or ask questions, and company employees are constantly logged in--including Luce--to ask and answer questions of one another, provide status reports, and have ad hoc or formal meetings. This has allowed Luce to continue to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the Pittsburgh-based firm.
With costs this low, Telerama doesn't need to recover much from each hotspot to break even, as Nancy notes in her Seattle Times report. With 90 subscriptions already acquired with no marketing costs or even any announcement, and with each subscription contributing from $10 to $20 per month, Telerama is already seeing between $125 and $200 per month per hotspot. Of course, they have overhead to pay, capital expense to pay down, and their four current staffers (expanding to six) salaries to consider.
In Seattle, a town with a high rate of broadband use in the home already, the company has to overcome the no-cost model of the many, many free Wi-Fi coffeehouses already deployed, and the quality of several DSL providers in town, notably Speakeasy. Luce noted several times in our talk his admiration for Speakeasy's quality of service and interesting offerings, such as the ability of its customers to resell access to their broadband to neighbors and have Speakeasy collect and split the fee.
Luce feels that Telerama has proven in Pittsburgh that with enough hotspot locations in the right places, and a quality dial-up and DSL service, they can bring over users who want the whole package with a single company that they can turn to.
It's the opinion of this writer that the price for unlimited monthly Wi-Fi access will drop to something around $20 per month--just below the price charged by Telerama ($29.95 including dial-up) and Boingo Wireless ($21.95 in their initial 12 month subscription plan); T-Mobile charges $19.95 per month as an a one-year commitment add-on for T-Mobile cell users. (Telerama resells its service to Boingo and iPass).
At that price, the utility has to be relatively high but not superb for a customer to choose a paid plan over scattered free locations that they find convenient to them. By including dial-up or allowing a somewhat competitive DSL add-on to unlimited Wi-Fi, Telerama might be hitting that sweet spot.
It's easy to forget, too, that less than 25 percent of households nationally with Internet access have broadband; the rest have dial-up. Many students have dial-up subscriptions from Earthlink (over $20 per month) or local providers (about the same) because they have broadband at school or use free hotspots. Telerama's $9.95 per month rate for Wi-Fi and dial-up for students and non-profits is trying to court this market very strongly.
But the proliferation of free locations isn't a slowing trend. Luce told me as we sat down to talk that the Caffe Ladro baristsa told him that a nearby coffeeshop, just across the street, was complaining that Telerama's service was "interferring" with them. Luce fired up his laptop and found that the channel that Fremont Coffee Company was using was in fact the same as Telerama's. He switched the channel and rebooted the gateway.
It's this kind of easy cooperation that shows that Telerama has the Seattle attitude. But it's also the penetrating power of Wi-Fi that might dim the lights on their business model. Time will tell.
This story is pretty basic coverage of how people are using Wi-Fi in their homes but it touches on an interesting point near the end: It seems that content creators are starting to tailor their sites for Wi-Fi users. For example, Epicurious, a cooking site, offers how-to videos designed for customers to watch while cooking in the kitchen. Allrecipes.com redesigned its site to make it easier to view an entire recipe on a screen, presumably while cooking. Also, Yahoo TV is encouraging users to watch TV with their laptops to take advantage of interactive applications that pertain to a television program.
My husband actually uses Allrecipes.com on his laptop while cooking in the kitchen. The first time he did it, I thought it was a great idea that hadn't naturally occurred to me--my instinct would have been to print the recipe and bring it to the kitchen. Sites like Allrecipes.com should start marketing the idea for dense people like me as it will encourage more use of the site.
The Wi-Fi market may now be reaching a penetration level that is spurring content providers to think about what types of applications they can offer that take advantage of the portability that Wi-Fi enables. There's nothing inherently new about what Wi-Fi delivers--it's just Internet access--but the portability feature should start opening doors to new markets.
A number of cafes and restaurants in Detroit and its suburbs are offering hotspots: This story cites a number of cases where the hotspots really helped or in once case basically saved a business. One cafe in Grosse Point was really struggling to attract customers. Since it put up a hotspot, its business is eight times better. Also, the cafe is offering some innovative services over the network. For example, cafe workers film musicians who perform in the cafe and Webcast them online. The idea is to give the artists online exposure. That's a great idea and may encourage more or better performers to want to perform at the cafe, which in turn could attract more customers to the cafe. The more cafes that offer free Wi-Fi, the more they may have to develop such innovative ideas to differentiate their location from another cafe down the road.
All of the hotspots noted in this story are free to access. Detroit is also working on building hotspots downtown.
Monica Paolini at Senza Fili consulting conducted a broadband wireless report for publisher BWCS: By 2009, she expects Wi-Max chips to be built into laptops. Access for a fixed service will cost around $35 per month in 2009 with an additional $22 per month offering mobility. In that same time period, she expects fixed wireless access to account for 3.6 percent of broadband connections, up from 1.8 percent in 2005. Also, she doesn't expect the United States to lead the charge for WiMax. Rather, China, India, Australia, Europe, and New Zealand will be early adopters. Some of those markets have often been cited as ideal for broadband wireless as they may not already have landline broadband access or, as is the case in some European cities, historical buildings prevent the construction of some landline access networks.
Tiny Singapore or other similar countries offer really the only type of location where the 3G vs. Wi-Fi debate is legitimate: Singapore has 600 hotspots, which works out to one hotspot per square kilometer. While that's hardly seamless coverage, it means you never have far to go to find a hotspot. This story considers the reaction from the market when operators there start introducing 3G, which may not have complete coverage at the beginning. The price for the access to the 3G networks will have to be just right or customers may decide it's not worth using. If customers want to use the 3G network for Internet access on their laptops, Wi-Fi may offer a better deal. But if the operators can deliver interesting applications that use the 3G network via smartphones, then they can differentiate the service and attract users.
A USA Today reporter drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco, logging the networks she found: She came up with 77, which includes hotspots in the two cities. After reading this story, I was begging for more information. It's a fun experiment but all we get are stats about how many secured networks she found in an L.A. block. There are tons of reporters who can and probably have reported on hotspots in L.A. I'm more interested in stories from on the road between the cities. The reporter makes brief note of a couple of far-out hotspots on the road but no real interesting stories.
A relatively small grant of £60,000 will fund 10 rural libraries' Wi-Fi service: The backhaul isn't specified, but the program is specifically intended to try out bringing high-speed Internet access into areas that have little or no such service. The initial project sites include North Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Devon and Cornwall.
Jim Thompson explains the T-1 market to me and others: it's cheap when you're a carrier: I confess a career-long misunderstanding of the difference in cost for a T-1 line (1.544 Mbps) sold to a business, sold to an ISP, and sold to a telephone carrier. Jim Thompson was the CTO of Wayport a few years ago and more recently at Vivato.
In his post, he notes that even when he was at Wayport, his average T-1 cost was $250 per month, and that T-Mobile could be paying as little as $90 per month in many locations in which they have co-located equipment to carry their cell traffic.
Combine that knowledge with Carlo Longino's analysis of our post yesterday about T-Mobile's revenue averaging to $400 per location per month, and you start to see that they could, in fact, be running far cash-flow positive. (Carlo wonders if the infrastructure is all T-1 still; that's what T-Mobile confirmed for me all last year for Kinko's, Borders, and all Starbucks past and future.)
Carlo notes, by the way, that T-Mobile said 67 percent of users are subscribers. This doesn't give us apples to apples on sessions, but if you ascribe $1.2 million to 48,000 subscribers at an average rate of $25/month ($20 for T-Mobile cell users, $30 for one-year commitment regular users, $40 for month-to-month) that would leave you about 25,000 hourly/day sessions a month. Is it really possible T-Mobile has 48,000 subscribers?
Even if T-Mobile is paying prices all across the board, Jim's information leads me to believe that their recurring costs might be substantially lower than anyone has previously estimated. Carlo's factoid contributes the knowledge, if it's all connected correctly, that the cell carrier might be signing up many more regular users of Wi-Fi service than previously imagined.
Couple this with their iPass deal, which resells access at the same $9.95 per day rate to iPass's combined hundreds of thousands of business users, and perhaps this isn't a money-losing venture after all.
It may be hard to get reliable numbers to confirm or deny each of the aspects of this chain of logic that Carlo, Jim, and I have assembled. Nonetheless, with more of the numbers exposed, it may be simpler to confirm any one of them.
Sprint PCS Wi-Fi Access's bilateral roaming agreement with Truckstop.net clarifies the plan: Sprint's services builds out the locations, and the Wi-Fi service roams: This is the second bilateral roaming agreement that Sprint PCS Wi-Fi Access has announced, and Truckstop.net will have a large footprint. Who is building the footprint? Sprint. When Sprint said last year they would roll out 1,300 of their own locations, it might have been closer to say they would be building locations for others and as part of those deals have roaming access.
Sprint PCS Wi-Fi network originally comprised just Wayport locations. The additional 1,300-odd hotspots could be their recent deal with STSN (about 700+, with 900 under contract to build) and Truckstop.net. Truckstop.net has 3,000 locations that Sprint is contracted to build out with Wi-FI.
They may yet surprise us with their own deals, but this set of information puts the whole plan into clear focus.
The Austin Wireless City Project will build and maintain hotspots in some Austin public parks and a new city hall: More parks are queued up for coverage in the next couple of months. Apparently the project is also hoping to build networks that cover public housing complexes. Austin and Portland, Ore., seem to stand out as cities where city governments work closely with community wireless groups to extend the reach of Wi-Fi.
Cellular operators are still feeling cautious about jumping into the next wave of higher speed data networks: At least that's the impression one reporter at the recent Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association conference walked away with. He's right that Verizon seems to be talking the loudest about its future data plans, but he neglects to mention AT&T Wireless, which said it is on track to roll out four cities with a higher speed network this year.
But some of the more interesting comments in this piece come from Nextel's chief technology officer, Barry West. He said Nextel isn't committed to rolling out a network using Flarion's gear, the equipment being used in Nextel's Raleigh, N.C., trial. He also said that Raleigh is more than a technical trial, but doesn't seem to then explain what exactly it is. A nationwide rollout of such a network could cost Nextel about $2 billion, which is twice what Verizon and Spring say their high speed data networks will cost.
He also made a comment about pricing which I haven't heard many cellular execs make. He notes that $80, which is the price Verizon suggests it will charge per month for access to it's higher speed network, is too much. Nextel is still looking for a technology that will allow it to offer lower prices for access but he said he hasn't found it yet. That's interesting because it's been widely reported that Nextel has taken a close look at WiMax. WiMax supporters hope that their alliance means that the cost of products will be low so that operators can offer similar prices for access as the DSL and cable modem providers. Nextel may not be convinced that's true. Or maybe Nextel just wishes that it had an option it could turn to before WiMax gear hits the market.
Alcatel and Intel say they've formed a strategic alliance to define, standardize, develop, integrate, and market WiMax solutions: They expect to start offering products the second half of 2005. Many of these goals (well except for the delivery of products) are the same goals of the WiMax Forum, which includes many more companies. It seems that this is an extremely convoluted way of saying that Alcatel plans to use Intel chips to build WiMax equipment.
Central Virginia Electric Cooperative will offer power-line networking direct into the home along 500 miles of wiring to 4,000 households: This not-for-profit electric cooperative is working with International Broadband Electric Communications to run signals straight to users. Some systems are deployed in a combination that uses Wi-Fi to bypass the home step-down transformer that otherwise interrupts the signal. In this system, they're using a physical bypass. Customers plug in HomePlug adapters to get 256 Kbps symmetrical service for $29.95 per month.
Rural electrification was an attempt started in 1935 to bring the benefits of labor-saving devices to the farm, including appliances and refrigeration. One of the goals was to improve the lot of the rural citizen; another to stem migration.
The former may have worked, but the latter didn't. In the current age in which people have become increasingly tired of the pace and nature of an urban lifestyle and are fleeing to exurbs (more widely spaced neighborhoods that border suburbs on one side and rural areas on the other), rural bandwidthification may be part of the next chapter that sees some outflow to less dense regions as well as improving the informational lot of the rural citizen.
At their investor day at the European CeBIT conference, Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile's parent), said they grossed US$1.4M per month in the U.S. for hotspots: Analyst James Enck, a telecom analyst for Daiwa Securities SMBC Europe, wrote in to note that in answer to a question at the presentation, a Deutsche Telekom official said the U.S. T-Mobile hotspots were grossing US$400K per month in January 2003, but $1.6M by the end of year.
Enck noted, however, that with 4,200 locations by year's end, $1.4M works out to $13 per hotspot per day on average. This is slightly higher per store revenue than estimated a year ago when Starbucks slipped the news that they were averaging 25,000 sessions per week. At that time, I was estimating an average of $150 of gross revenue per Starbucks locations per month. The more current numbers are triple that.
But with roughly $400 per month per store, how does T-Mobile ever expect to even pay on a current basis for the cost of each store's dedicated T-1 line, much less other ongoing costs, and the original capital expenditure? They would need to at least quadruple this revenue figure to pay out CapX and current operational costs.
Enck also noted that Deutsche Telekom will offer Wi-Fi in Germany as an add-on for upcoming TDSL subscribers, a DSL service that the company is launching next month. The add-on price will be an initial unlimited usage plan for €9.99 per month, but switching in October 2004 to three hours for €9.99 and then €.08 per minute thereafter. In the U.S., T-Mobile's unlimited rate is $19.99 per month for T-Mobile cellular customers.
(You can hear these numbers in the video of the presentation during the question and answer segment.)
Connexion by Boeing has set its pricing for broadband, in-flight Internet access: Pricing was estimated to run about $30 to $35 for the longest flights. Today's news shows that Connexion is willing to be quite granular and offer a larger variety of plans to appeal to a greater range of in-flight user.
The pricing is quite sensible. They offer both flat-rate and metered charges. For flights of six hours or more, $29.95; three to six hours, $19.95; less than three hours, $14.95. Metered pricing is 30 minutes for $9.95 plus 25 cents a minute thereafter.
Given the nature of the service, these rates seem well tuned to the audience and the cost structure. This announcement doesn't note it, but previous interviews with airlines and Connexion stated that the initial services will be 5 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream; up to 20 Mbps downstream is available if usage warrants, however.
Lufthansa will be the first to have a plane in the air with commercial Connexion service. Others, including SAS and ANA, will follow this year.
Connexion's only serious competitor, Tenzing, remains shrouded in doubt with only a few airlines offering their low-speed walled-garden/client-based offering. In June 2003, Tenzing said United Airlines would adopt their offering as JetConnect via Verizon AirFone as a partner. At the time, I predicted failure for the service, because it was priced at $15.98 per flight for extremely low-speed service that required a special Web-based client for remote email access via an in-plane proxy mail server.
Worse, you paid extra fees per message exceeding 2,048 bytes. And virtual private networking connections were impossible: no speed and no direct Internet access.
It's clear that Connexion is going right after the heart of Tenzing's United commitment--which we've heard nothing about through United's bankruptcy process--by offering sub-three hour flights for $14.95 and three to six hour flights for $19.95. These durations represent virtually all domestic U.S. flights.
A Network World reporter visits the Times Square McDonald's for the second time in hopes of getting online: Apparently during his first visit, he couldn't get online and store workers couldn't help. This time, a couple of workers had to grab a manager to help him out. The manager offered him printed instructions of how to get on. The network worked fine and the reporter got on for free. But he was the only person in the restaurant with a laptop.
I still find the Wi-Fi in McDonald's idea to be a stretch. McDonald's shops that are near freeway exits might be nice for sales people or other travelers on the road. Otherwise, I just can't imagine wanting to hang out in a McDonald's to get Internet access.
An Israeli news source reports that Intel acquired a WLAN chipmaker Envara for $40 million: Envara designs but doesn't make WLAN chips. No official from either company confirmed this report. If this is true, it'll be interesting to find out what Envara has that Intel finds valuable. [link via Jeff]
Broadcom is officially shipping its previously announced Afterburner technology which ups the net throughput by 40 percent; previous raw data rate promoted as 125 Mbps is dropped: It's still the battle of the raw numbers, with Broadcom trying to top Atheros's 108 Mbps Super G with Turbo combination, but only by using the term "125" without tacking on the "Mbps." We'll have to wait for Tim Higgins of Tom's Networking to perform his usual exhaustive tests to tell us what the real throughput speeds are.
Broadcom reiterated its stand that Afterburner offers increased speed without sacrificing other nearby networks or devices, while pointing to work done by The Tolly Group that Broadcom says shows the Turbo mode in Atheros's Super G severely degrades nearby 802.11g networks.
In a phone call today, an AMD spokesperson stated emphatically and categorically that the company was not engaged in a guerrilla marketing campaign or unsolicited stickering of their hotspot signs: In another twist to the story we reported on earlier this week about AMD's new hotspot directory and promotional campaign, a spokesperson for the company responded to that story by stating unequivocally that the company was not responsible for unsolicited window stickers.
Jo Albers, who was unable to comment when I contacted her last week, called this morning to provide additional detail. Albers said that "there's no rogue effort that we're aware of" and "We are not posting stickers without permission." She said that the program was entirely driven by calling locations, obtaining their permission, and sending them packets, which included the stickers.
"We send the materials to the business and it's entirely up to them whether they want to display the materials," she said. "We do not know of any sort of rogue effort, and we do not endorse the placing of stickers on business without permission, obviously."
Albers comments make the reports from Austin even odder. If the company is unaware of any internal efforts, who is stickering shops? And why would a company the scale of AMD bother to deceive on a subject like this? There's no profit but ill will.
Public utility companies in Franklin and Benton counties in Washington have already built fiber backbones: Now they've built Wi-Fi antennas in towns and are opening their networks to any ISP that wants to offer services to residents there. The antenna recently hoisted in Pasco, Wash. can serve businesses or residents in a 1.5 mile radius.
I wrote a story for the Seattle Times about a year and a half ago about Washington public utility companies that were building fiber networks. These utilities have the rights of way to build such networks and they do it because the areas have no other options for broadband access. These are rural regions that the DSL and cable modem companies ignore. The utilities are looking to wireless technologies to bridge the last mile.
Many of these areas have laws that prevent the utilities from actually providing the service to end users so they lease their networks to ISPs. That's a great idea as it promotes competition. Also, the utilities must be offering decent rates to the ISPs. One quoted in the story expects to deliver service for as low as $25 a month.
T-Mobile says 154 Starbucks in the UK have Wi-Fi access: Tony Smith of The Register notes that prices at the stores remain quite high, at £5 for an hour up to £16 for a day. U.S. prices are $6 for an hour or $10 for a day. T-Mobile's location finder for the UK shows 250 locations, which includes a host of petrol stations.
They started with Pringles cans and moved to ruggedized containers, but a $200,000 grant should let them expand further: In this Illinois college town from whence Mosaic sprung 11 years ago, two community wireless networkers have received a $200,000 grant from George Soros's Open Society Institute to try to affordably build out downtown Urbana.
The Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network has built their own hardware (using Soekris boxes, a commodity platform for community wireless groups) and their own mesh routing software. You can read about the specifics on their site. The software is open source under the BSD license.
As with many of the newer or renewed community wireless groups, having an off-the-main-grid local network is part of their goal, which was a concept originally articulated by the folks at Seattle Wireless.
BellSouth is starting a new trial of broadband wireless in Palatka, Florida: The company is still leveraging its expensive wire base, but it's conducted ongoing tests of broadband fixed wireless as a way to reach customers beyond the range of DSL.
Wireless Tech Radio is on the air tomorrow at 10 a.m. Eastern, 7 a.m. Pacific, 3 p.m. Zulu (GMT): Tomorrow's show has Steve Stroh on the latest industry news; Matt Larsen discussing bandwidth management; Tim Nash of Purple Patch Wireless (Scotland) with the European view. The show is archived following each weekly broadcast.
Boingo Wireless announces two deals today: three airports with 11 million passengers, and 500 truck stops: The airport deal adds Sacramento and Savannah/Hilton Head via Airport Network Solutions, a division of ICOA. Baton Rouge is on its way. The strategy of unwiring smaller airports provides a much more focused, motivated audience of consumers. Travelers who spend a lot of time in and out of those airports are thus much more likely to tick over and become unlimited monthly Boingo customers ($21.95/month in their first 12 months).
The inclusion of the Sacramento location validates a previous point I made back in August 2003 when that airport's unwiring was announced. The article I linked to them said that the network's usage was predicted unreasonably at 35 users per day at $6.95 a pop. I pointed out that they needed to be reselling the network and having much higher usage expectations at much lower revenue to produce the outcome they hoped for.
Boingo's second deal connects them with Truckstop.net which has 500 hotspots in the U.S. and Canada at a number of travel plaza operators' locations. Interestingly, Boingo's unlimited price is only slightly cheaper or the same than competing truck-stop networks. But Boingo's service has 6,000 other locations included in the same price.
Wireless Tech Radio uses its wireless broadband connection to beam its show out over the Internet each week: I was a guest recently, and it's a pleasure to be interviewed by a host of hosts (three folks) who are technically and wirelessly savvy. The show is broadcast live each Wednesday and archived online. Our plan at Wi-Fi Networking News is to provide their schedule in advance each week so you can plan your listening.
Wireless radio sounds like an oxymoron, but not in this case.
Amateur-radio operators (hams) fear that power-line networking could spell an end to their private hobby and public service: The Wall Street Journal covers a debate that's been swirling for months, and starting to percolate out into broader media. Power-line networking encodes data over high-voltage power lines to distribution into homes, often requiring a relay (like a pole-mounted Wi-Fi device) from the pole to the house. This overlay is a hack, and hams are finding that the lack of design for this purpose in electrical wiring throws off heavy interference into their common bands.
The FCC has granted primary and secondary license status for many (all?) of the bands that hams use, which means that interferring uses have to be shut down. However, hams fear that the utility of the utilities' deployment will provoke new rulings, allotments, or legislation that will eventually disable their use.
The article notes that it's easy to prove interference in some areas, while in other tests, the deployment apparently causes no problems.
Direcway Wi-Fi Access is now formally available as a broadband backhaul to businesses for which wireline broadband is too expensive or unavailable: Hughes originally launched its satellite service targeted at RV parks, which are typically full of people who want access and outside of metropolitan wire networks. Pricing isn't mentioned.
The press release has a whopper, claiming that Wi-Fi hotspots in the U.S. will generate $9 billion in revenue in 2004. Maybe by 2009 -- at which point Wi-Fi and cellular revenue will be hopelessly intermingled. The most recent analyst estimates put U.S. 2004 Wi-Fi revenue at under $100 million, optimistically.
Can you say "wireless mesh backhaul"?: T-Mobile's venture arm has invested $2 million in BelAir, but does this signal an interest in deploying BelAir's equipment to provide wireless mesh backhaul for the 4,200 hotspots in the T-Mobile HotSpot network? According to many sources over the last few years, MobileStar and then T-Mobile committee to a T-1 infrastructure for Starbucks, paying all the costs. Switching to wireless backhaul has the potential to dramatically reduce recurring costs if there are enough Starbucks stores reachable by point-to-point signals.
In related news, T-Mobile adds another logo to their hotspot model. The network is now officially Cisco Powered, as opposed to before when it was just Cisco "powered." There's a co-marketing benefit from this, but no practical change. It's more of a boon for Cisco which can try out Wi-Fi authentication experiments in the real world.
Eastern Washington's "capital," Spokane, unwires 100 city blocks: Yesterday, we reported that the nine square miles of Cerritos, Calif., will be wirelessly enabled through Tropos Networks' mesh gear. Today, Spokane 100 city blocks in the central core are slated to get Wi-Fi'd with Vivato's switch and bridge. Spokane has a population of 190,000. It doesn't mention for-fee services, focusing instead on public safety and free public access. The project involves several private and public partners.
AMD's guerrilla marketing campaign to promote free wireless locations appears to have papered over the actual network builders in some cities: Intel has successfully associated itself with wireless hotspots in the eyes of the public through its $300 million Centrino advertising campaign. Its only substantial processor competitor, AMD, is trying its own low-cost strategy, but its guerrilla approach to promoting free hotspots already has supporters and detractors, some of whom claim that AMD has literally papered over their efforts.
AMD's logo started appearing in dozens, perhaps hundreds of hotspots that they list in a directory page of free locations starting about two months ago. They call these locations "AMD Hotspots." AMD collected this list beginning early this year by calling hundreds of free hotspots and asking if they wanted to be listed, according to sources at community wireless networking groups and businesses that received the calls. Venues received a window sticker and some collateral material as part of the arrangement.
The Register first reported on AMD's plans on March 16. I corresponded with Tony Smith, who filed that story, and he said that his sources confirmed that a second-quarter rollout of the directory is planned, which leaves open the question of why AMD has made this page available now.
A spokesperson from AMD, Jo Albers, responded to a phone call about the program via email, and declined to comment on the state of the program, promising more details later in the year when the program officially launches. Albers provided a longer statement to Boston Globe columnist Hiawatha Bray in this article in which she says, "We are supporting businesses that offer free WiFi access to their customers. We're just providing advertising and promotional support." AMD also apparently confirmed this statement in a News.com story on Friday.
Smith of The Register said his sources indicated that AMD might be considering financial incentives for locations to offer service for free, but that at the moment, a team was just trying to find existing locations with which to co-market. Other news reports that picked up The Register story took Smith's note to this effect out of context, and asserted that AMD had funded the hotspots they listed, which our reporting indicates is incorrect.
The sign-up page for businesses linked from the AMD Hotspot home page does indicate additional resources that AMD may offer in the future, including a directory applet (not yet on the site) and promotional events. It also notes that AMD's retail and channel partners could help promote locations. Given the number of resellers of AMD projects, this could help drive significant business traffic to free locations, especially those in the vicinity of these partners.
Intel's Centrino verification program, in contrast, took funds from the $300 million marketing budget for the entire Centrino line to test a specific set of technology requirements at hotspots. According to Intel and many hotspot operators of all scales that I interviewed in spring 2003, Intel sent teams of engineers with elaborate test suites to more than a hundred -- and possibly several hundred -- hotspots around the world.
Many hotspot operators privately praised Intel's program for helping them troubleshoot problems that prevented users from reliably making virtual private network connections or having a seamless connection each time. (These operators declined to be identified by name to avoid exposing their previous networking faux pas.)
AMD's program is trying to get some of the marketing benefit without this testing, but they may also have overstepped in their zealousness to list and sticker locations. In our reporting for this story, some businesses listed in the directory said they never heard from AMD; some said they had turned AMD down but were still listed and received the collateral; while others agreed to be in the directory and are positive about displaying AMD's logo in their window.
The story may have begun in Austin, Texas, where the Austin Wireless City Project has helped dozens of businesses install, operate, and market free Wi-Fi service to customers. The AMD signage did not generally go down well among volunteers and venues, according to Richard MacKinnon, president and chairman of Austin Wireless.
MacKinnon met with an AMD representative, Kyle Odiorne, almost by accident in late December 2003 through a connection with a colleague. Odiorne is the director of mobile marketing for AMD, according to his biography at a conference he will be speaking at. I spoke briefly to Odiorne, who confirmed that he was in charge of the hotspot program, but asked that I direct inquiries to AMD's spokesperson, as is the company's policy.
MacKinnon said he offered suggestions to Odiorne about supporting free hotspots, including providing money for marketing and non-profit incorporation of community groups, and assistance in funding collateral material, such as signage to identify free locations in each community.
The next time MacKinnon heard about AMD, however, was when their free locations started receiving the calls and materials from AMD and signs started appearing shops. MacKinnon said that Austin Wireless was "not on the ball in terms of providing our own collateral," and that "I don’t blame the venues for wanting to hang the sign."
What's disturbed MacKinnon is not that venues agreed to display the sign, which he feels is entirely their perogative, but AMD's behavior reported back to him from Austin Wireless locations. Each hotspot in the Austin Wireless City Project has a volunteer who helps caretake the location. One volunteer objected to the AMD sign placed in the window of one of his caretaker hotspots and removed it with the permission of the owner. The owner then reportedly received a call from AMD saying, MacKinnon related, "if you don’t take your sign down, we'll pull you out of the directory." Others in Austin confirmed similar stories.
MacKinnon also noted that "We know of at least a couple of venues where the venues didn’t agree to do it but they got the signs anyway." Zane McCarthy, the owner of Austin Unleashed, a wireless consulting and broadband operator, has installed and helps runs several free Wi-Fi hotspots in coffeeshops and restaurants in exchange for the promotional value and good will. McCarthy said that AMD signs started to show up in locations he provides resources for.
In at least three cases he knows of, including the Green Muse Cafe, AMD stickers were installed without the owner's knowledge. At the Green Muse, the AMD sign appeared moments before he stopped in. Many of his locations are anti-corporate, McCarthy said, and even display stickers like "corporate coffee sucks."
Chris Tom of AMDZone, a site devoted to AMD, was the first to raise the alarm on the Austin Wireless mailing list (not archived on the Internet) about a month ago. He noted via email that he contacted AMD, which provided some ambiguous statements about not infringing on other people's venues. However, he is still not sure who is responsible for the guerrilla stickering.
McCarthy is considering legal action again AMD, citing his attorney's contention that AMD's actions are a "grievous tortuous interference" as well trademark violation. McCarthy likened it to him taking an AMD processor and sticking his own label over the AMD logo before offering it for sale. Because he receives much of his business through word of mouth in the tight-knit community, he is highly concerned that Austin stickering campaign could cost him business. McCarthy said, "We're considering legal remedy in this case. What I want is a public apology."
In a spot check of several hotspots out of the Austin area, Wi-Fi Networking News found a mixed bag. Paige Kayner, the owner of Aurafice Cafe in Seattle, one of the oldest free locations in the city and part of Seattle Wireless's support network, said she was completely happy with the AMD request and branding. "I don't have a problem with AMD and the free signage," she said. She reviewed her listing on AMD's site and found it appropriate, and said that she believes this will spread the word further about the cafe's free Wi-Fi service.
Another Seattle-area business, Teahouse Kuan Yin, was contacted and agreed to be the directory, co-owner Eric Nordstrom said. Nordstrom told AMD when they called that he wanted to look at the store signage, but found it appropriate and mounted it. Nordstrom said AMD told him that the hotspot directory will improve over time and the program will include promotional tie-ins.
In Chicago, Goose Island Beer Company was listed in AMD's directory. However, the company's CTO Tony Bowker said no one at the pub had spoken to AMD, nor were they displaying the AMD signage. Bowker said, however, that he has no problem with being listed by AMD, as it increases their exposure. "We have no business model [for the Wi-Fi service] so whoever wants to publicize it is fine," he said. Bowker said following an article in the Wall Street Journal recently about Wi-Fi service he listed Goose Island's location on two Internet directories of free hotspots.
Another coffeeshop in Seattle which has offered free Wi-Fi since July 2003, said they had not heard from AMD, were not listed in the directory, and would not display signage for anyone if asked. (The store employee declined to provide her name.)
Several community wireless networking organizers and group heads said via email that the current situation reminded them of Boingo Wireless's launch in early 2002 when the firm listed community locations without explicit advance permission. Boingo recovered from the criticism leveled at them in part by removing locations when asked and later phasing out most informal free locations. But many in the community remain wary of directories that haven't received specific permission as a result.
AMD's plan to promote free hotspots appears to be real, practical, and generally supported. But the company may have slipped too much incomplete information too early combined with an guerrilla stickering campaign in at least one city, which has left some free network developers and retail stores feeling marginalized and overwritten.
McCarthy of Austin Unleashed noted that previously, he had used only AMD processors in his server equipment. "They blew an entire lifetime of good will from me with this one action," he said.
(Note: This story includes reporting by Nancy Gohring. Photograph of AMD Hotspot sign by Richard MacKinnon, used with his permission.)
(Disclosure: Wi-Fi Networking has a financial, advertising, and marketing partnership with JiWire, Inc., which maintains a worldwide directory of hotspots. JiWire licenses this directory to Intel, a competitor of AMD. JiWire's CEO Kevin McKenzie confirmed that as of this writing AMD has not approached JiWire nor has JiWire approached AMD about licensing the JiWire directory. JiWire's directory includes both free and for-fee hotspots.)
AT&T Wireless moves towards UMTS, Verizon Wireless reveals deployment scope for this year, and Sprint PCS stays mum on suspects EV-DV plans: The 3G world heats up as AT&T Wireless indicates that it will be testing UMTS in four cities this year. UMTS is the 3G migration path for GSM/GPRS networks. AT&T Wireless currently has EDGE deployed nationwide.
Verizon Wireless says that 30 percent of the US will have Ev-DO coverage by the end of the year. Ev-DO is a data-only 3G flavor with a speed that Verizon is advertising as just 300 to 500 Kbps, but which has a nominal top speed of nearly 2 Mbps.
Samsung has tipped its hat that a US carrier is ordering EV-DV (integrated 3G voice and data) equipment, and that carrier must be Sprint PCS, the article notes, because EV-DV and Ev-DO are the 3G flavors for the CDMA technology that Verizon Wireless and Sprint PCS use. EV-DV has a slightly higher nominal data rate, and has the benefit of offering greater voice clarity and capacity as well.
A New Zealand hacker convicted of obtaining passwords through a virus took his community service seriously, rolling out a community wireless networking project with some free, some fee components: The idea behind the network is that the local loop is free, and a local email server will allow users to receive and send email without direct Internet access. Webcams and other tools could be used over the local network as well. If you want Internet access, you have to help subsidize the project, which cost a few thousand NZ$ to deploy, and for which the bandwidth costs could be as much as a couple thousand NZ$ per month.
Lufthansa's long-awaited launch of Connexion by Boeing service should premiere next month: This article quotes a Lufthansa spokesperson confirming that the first Wi-Fi-equipped plane offering broadband will be in the air. The article probably misreports the download speed as 20 Mbps. 20 Mbps is the highest possible download speed, but in all my interviews with Boeing and airlines, the highest deployed speed was intended to be 5 Mbps down. Systems can later be upgraded. It's possible Lufthansa changed its mind, but this wasn't an issue for them in testing.
The article also notes that passengers will be able to plug in via Ethernet. However, in testing and in early reports, Lufthansa and most other Connexion customers intended to put Ethernet jacks only in first or first and business classes while offering Wi-Fi throughout.
Lufthansa won't have all of its 80 long-haul planes unwired until the end of 2005. Other airlines are expected to bring their Connexion service online this year, typically in fewer planes, and all of them only on their long-haul, high-passenger-count aircraft.
Connexion is now allowing you to sign up for service. You can set up an account without being charged or providing credit card information.
Wireless Week is posting PDFs of its complete show daily from the CTIA cellular industry conference this week: The show daily rounds up more than the press releases with a number of reporters (including Wi-Fi Networking News's own Nancy Gohring) interviewing company principals and filing reports at the show. The show runs through Wednesday.
Intel launches its French-language hotspot directory, powered by JiWire's listings: If you're a Francophone or just know one, visit Intel's new French-language hotspots directory. You'll note that France is number three in hotspots worldwide listed in the directory. The directory relies on JiWire listings; JiWire is a partner of Wi-Fi Networking News.
Texas Instruments has a cellular handset platform that allows b/g or a/b/g integration with GSM, GPRS, CDMA, and EDGE: The two-chip solution relies on TI's earlier cell chip work, with which this system can integrate and make use of some overlap in materials. TI expects to ship the chips mid-year. Several technological improvements allow reduced interference, lower battery usage, and a reduction in the number of overall chips in a complete Wi-Fi/cell-phone design.
TamoSoft's latest monitoring software revision can handle rogue detection and WPA in Pre-Shared Key mode: The software allows network monitoring of wireless LANs. The WPA-PSK decoding is trumpeted as a unique feature, yet I would suspect networks that would purchase this package would be unlikely to use PSK mode, and would only be using WPA in 802.1X authentication; the 4.2 update can decode 802.1X, as well.
DotSpot will offer free access to consumers supported by advertising; they're targeting waiting areas: The company's first push, they say, is in automotive service waiting rooms, and then into medical waiting and service areas. The site offers no public information on what the venue pays initially (they buy the access point, but are apparently reimbursed by ad sales?), how they qualify venues, nor what advertising rates are. Their site is heavy on information about how Wi-Fi works.
Tropos Networks claims Cerritos is the first city in the U.S. to have complete residential, commercial, and municipal coverage of Wi-Fi: Tropos reseller Aiirmesh (that's no typo in their name) unwired the city using Tropos's mesh networking gear. The 8.9-square-mile city is part of greater Los Angeles.
For reasons not explained in the press release--possibly socioeconomic reasons--the area has no cable broadband coverage and limited DSL availability. The Airmesh service offers pay-as-you-go service (hourly, daily, and monthly rates), as well as commercial and residential offerings.
A deal between Pronto Networks and Sun Microsystems pushes the iForce Wi-Fi Appliance out to hotspot networks for deployment of 25, 50, or 100 hotspots: The system provisions, authenticates, manages access, creates walled gardens (areas of private in-system content available without payment and authentication), and roaming settlement, among other features. Above 100 hotspots in a network, and the companies steer you towards Pronto's higher-end software installed on a Sun server.
A related announcement from Pronto covers their partnership with Syniverse to allow Pronto management system users to use Syniverse as a clearinghouse for bi-lateral roaming with fee settlement.
A deal to integrate Boingo Wireless's authentication system into Wificom's hotspot management and billing software opens Boingo to more WISPs: Adding Boingo roaming could be as easy as checking a box for wireless ISPs using Wificom's SAB Server. The release notes a Brazilian WISP with 167 hotspots just flipped that switch. This should allow Boingo easier penetration of markets scattered worldwide. The SAB server manages authentication, billing, and other features needed by WISPs.
Tatara successfully shows that it can authenticate a user via a GSM SIM module across a Wi-Fi network without 802.1X: As the press release notes, 802.1X authentication makes it possible to send a variety of Encapsulated Authentication Protocol (EAP) messages across a gateway without special coordination. EAP-SIM is one flavor that some companies favor for using cell phones and cell-based PC Cards with the standard SIM module that's used to handle authentication and billing of GSM phone users.
Tatara's demonstration proves, they say, that they can offer SIM authentication without widescale adoption of 802.1X in public hotspots, but that they can also transition to 802.1X/EAP-SIM when it's available.
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Asustek introduces commodity hard drive case for Wi-Fi, Ethernet network attached storage (NAS): The case was introduced at CeBIT, and features 802.11b and g support, as well as two Ethernet ports. It allows a user to add a 2.5-inch hard drive and then make it available as NAS. It will ship in May for $150.
Broadcom announces that they've built in Cisco Compatible Extensions V2, a set of security add-ons to 802.11 networks: We at Wi-Fi Networking News remain dubious about proprietary add-ons, regardless of how widely and openly available, that circumvent industry bodies such as the Wi-Fi Alliance that have successfully prevented a fork in interoperability among devices in consumer, enterprise, logistics, and other spaces. With the 802.11 family through the Wi-Fi certification program remaining one of the most unified and successful long-term implementations of technology across an entire industry, anything appearing from one company outside of this process should be looked at long and hard.
Most chipmakers jumped on Cisco's ship. They're the biggest gorilla by far with their dominance in the enterprise and, with their purchase of Linksys, substantial minority ownership of the consumer space. Could Cisco's extensions hurt? Unlikely. But they're a chink in the wall. Cisco couldn't get its way through committee, so it appealed to commerce. So far, it's working.
Dave Hughes reports that the final piece in the Mt. Everest and Tibet plan is in place: voice over IP over wireless: Read Dave's heartfelt words about the importance of linking the village of Thame wirelessly using relays, satellite, and a variety of technology to bring the words of the rest of the world in. Dave has said that the goal of the Sherpas both in Tibet and in the rest of the world (including near him in Colorado) is provide distance learning to provide more opportunities to preserve and enrich the native culture making it less of a necessity to leave villages like Thame to have happy and healthy lives.
JiWire's buying guide for cellular data plans is now available: Written by Slate contributor Paul Boutin, this guide offers a great grounding in the ins and outs of getting connected to the Internet via a cellular connection: what equipment and cables or wireless connections you need, how it works, and what service plans cost from the various providers.
The demise of Monet Mobile Networks might be cautionary tale for Verizon Wireless's expansion: Julio Ojeda-Zapata writes that Monet's demise could teach Verizon Wireless something about the cost of building advanced networks and acquiring customers. The small firm offered EvDO in more than a dozen tiny markets hoping for early adopters who had few other choices.
But according to reports at its launch, Monet charged just $40 per month for unlimited access, which one might think was competitive with broadband DSL or cable modem, which would be less uniformly available in the regions that Monet picked.
Still, I and others believe that the growth of high-speed cellular data networks hinge on business travelers who are need access at all times and high-end consumers who use the service for games and streaming media as well as a variety of communication with friends and family.
Monet's lesson might be that deploying in one area can't sell the service, thus validating Verizon Wireless's plan to spend a billion dollars to push EvDO out nationwide this year. [link via Om Malik]
Daily Wireless suggests that Portland, Oregon's new I-5 corridor-paralleling light-rail line should have free Wi-Fi at each stop paid for by advertising: It's not a comprehensive plan, but Daily Wireless provides its two cents on how the free service could easily pay for itself, while enticing more riders to the new line. (The article is one of the reasons I'm making Daily Wireless a regular stop in my reading.)
This idea could be extended even further when PC cards and integrated wireless in laptops combine 2.5G, 3G, and Wi-Fi. Imagine arriving at the station, getting some work done on Wi-Fi, hopping on the train, continuing to work on Wi-Fi. As the train leaves the station, your PC card or laptop mini-PCI module switches automatically to the highest speed 2.5 or 3G signal you've paid for that's available. As you near the next station, Wi-Fi switches over again.
Or, Wi-Fi could be enabled the entire time in the train and stations, and the trains could switch backhaul from a local WiMax or Wi-Fi bridge while in stations to 2.5G/3G while en route.
Techniques like this could increase productivity and reduce the amount of wasted commute time that people have to make up in other parts of their days. I'm not suggesting that folks should stop reading books on trains. But rather if you can get an hour of work done in the morning and evening it just might cut up to two hours out of the rest of the work day. I know many of the ferry commuters in the Seattle area find this to be the case.
This story gets some facts wrong and goes over the top by suggesting that WiMax will seriously threaten 3G cellular networks: The author compares the two network technologies by writing that WiMax can cover a distance of 50 kilometers, ten times more than a 3G base station. While a WiMax signal can indeed travel as far as 30 miles, I've never talked to a vendor that suggests that a user 30 miles away from a WiMax antenna will get top speeds. Users within two to three miles will experience high data rates but behind that the speeds begin to drop off and a customer who is 30 miles away would likely get very slow speeds.
The story also notes that WiMax has an "alternate" name, 802.16. In fact, 802.16 is the designation offered by the IEEE standards body and WiMax is a name created by the WiMax Forum to refer to its definition of 802.16. The WiMax Forum plans to certify products that comply with its definition of the standard.
It's certainly worthwhile to consider the affect any new technology will have on a market. However, it's best to temper such considerations with reality. In this case, WiMax stories should include a caveat about timing and the big IF. For WiMax to pose a threat to any other wireless technology, it will need a major operator to commit to building an extensive network. That hasn't happened. Also, WiMax wouldn't pose a significant threat to 3G or Wi-Fi until the mobile version of the standard is complete. Once it's complete, vendors have to make equipment and that gear must be certified, then an operator must build a network. That process will take many years.
U.S. Robotics says it is introducing new turbo products that can deliver 100 Mbps to 125 Mbps throughput: The company achieves those speeds by using chips from Texas Instruments and packet aggregation and frame bursting technology. The gear will work with standard 802.11g and 802.11b products.
U.S. Robotics joins a crowd of other manufacturers delivering proprietary upgrades for faster data rates. Such upgrades may contribute to the 22 percent failure rate of products that are submitted to the Wi-Fi Alliance's certification program. A slew of publications picked up on comments made by the alliance at CeBit about that failure rate, though it's not news. In January, the alliance said that a quarter of products fail certification and plenty of outlets covered the story.
The alliance has said it will certify products that have proprietary modes as long as the products are shipped in a mode that is certifiable. Vendors are coming up with proprietary upgrades to try to differentiate themselves and because a standard doesn't exist that delivers the higher speeds. Proprietary modes fracture the market because they only work when the access point and client device come from the same manufacturer, thus requiring users to buy certain gear if they want the faster speed. But, you can't blame the manufacturers for introducing improved products in the absence of a higher-throughput standard.
Airespace, the wireless LAN switch platform developer, is launching a cross country road trip in its "magic bus" from which it is offering product demonstrations to potential customers and the press. Glenn Fleishman and I stopped by to see the "bus" (actually a well-affixed semi-trailer) in Bellevue, Wash., yesterday, equidistant from Boeing Field and Microsoft's headquarters.
While the WLAN switch market is crowded, Airespace says it has a couple of unique features that set it apart from the rest. Its strategies may be working as the company boasts 120 customers including Fidelity, Oracle, San Francisco's Moscone Center, and University of California at Berkeley. Also, Nortel, Alcatel, and NEC are selling self-branded switches from Airespace.
Airespace clinches some sales due to its support for voice over wireless LAN, said Jeff Aaron, a senior manager of product marketing for Airespace. The company works closely with Vocera, the maker of voice activated badges that workers use to talk to each other. We saw a brief demo of the Vocera devices, which had some difficulty understanding our voice commands with the background noise in the bus, but typically coped after one or two tries.
We were able to try out the location capability that the Airespace network enables on the Vocera badges. (Listen to MP3 audio of our test.) When users ask the badge to locate another user, the network uses triangulation plus additional software algorithms that compare the triangulation results with data about the potential interference caused by the shape of the building to determine where a user is. The results are accurate to three meters, which complies with E911 location requirements, Aaron said.
The Airespace platform is ideal for supporting voice, he said, because of the way calls are handed off between access points. Airespace licensed the code behind Atheros chips--which use flexible software-defined radio (SDR)--and altered it so that the chips splits the MAC layer between the access point and the backend switch. The access point handles association requests and the switch handles authentication and quality of service. That means handoff between access points as users move can happen in under 50 milliseconds, which is fast enough to support voice, Aaron said.
Airespace has an innovative approach to selling products to organizations that may not be ready yet to deploy a widescale wireless LAN. It now offers access points that operate just in what the company calls wireless prevention mode. Companies without wireless LANs can deploy a minimal number of access points just to ensure that employees aren't hanging unauthorized access points. Once the customer decides to build a wireless LAN, a software upgrade enables the access points to act as regular access points in a network and adds more as needed.
Airespace also sets itself apart from competitors by its rogue detection capabilities. Most wireless LAN developers offer some type of rogue detection but usually they accomplish it by switching the access points into scan mode to look for unauthorized access points. During that time, the access points aren't transmitting data for users. Airespace access points can listen and transmit at the same time. When the system locates a rogue, it marks it with a skull and crossbones icon on the customer management software tool, which depicts the layout of the building and shows the coverage area of all access points.
Airespace has a unique advantage in simultaneously monitoring and providing service in that they modified the baseband code in the Atheros chips to allow this function: the entire 2.4 GHz spectrum is analyzed and the currently assigned channel for that AP has its range sent on for signal processing. This is unique in our experience.
Aaron often compared Airespace's efforts with those from Trapeze Networks, another wireless LAN switch vendor that has also scored many customers. Trapeze is known for its Ringmaster software that makes network planning and deployment easy. The two companies seem to be making a buzz at CeBit in Germany. Airespace announced there that it is opening an office in Munich and that it supplied a network for Suffolk College in the U.K. Trapeze also recently introduced new software that allows customers more flexibility in where they can locate switches and access points.
But while Aaron seemed to admire Trapeze's Ringmaster for its capabilities, he also noted that its utility is limited. "Trapeze is so focused on network planning, which is 1 percent of the life of a network," he noted. Airespace or a value added reseller that sells an Airespace platform usually do a lot of the network planning for customers. "What's more important is making sure they have ongoing management," he said. Airespace's software shows the continually changing spectral picture of the network (see photo below).
T-Mobile said its 3G service will become available in Europe in May: T-Mobile is expected to be the first European operator to start selling 3G handsets. Instead of distinguishing between all the various network technologies, like GPRS, EDGE, and UMTS, T-Mobile will start referring to all data services as T-Mobile Multimedia, or TM3. It sounds like T-Mobile will include Wi-Fi in that designation. If T-Mobile introduces price plans that include both Wi-Fi and cellular data to users of integrated data cards that operate over either network, the single TM3 designation might work. But if T-Mobile continues to offer plans that include only the Wi-Fi hotspots or only cellular data, using a single term to refer to any of them could be really confusing for consumers.
It will be very interesting to watch how T-Mobile handles offering both networks in Europe. When the 3G network launches, we'll begin to see experimentation on how operators can best use the Wi-Fi and 3G together to offer the best service for users.
Wi-Fi Alliance offers its own directory: This hotspot directory includes 9,000 locations that have registered themselves with the Wi-Fi Alliance. In the original flavor, this was supposed to be an expensive branding program, initially free. Now the site's for providers section says, no, it's free, and you just have to meet these minimum requirements, which are pretty minimal.
I have a partnership with and write for JiWire (see all over this page, for instance), so I whatever I say will certainly be read as colored by that relationship. So don't listen to me. Visit _____________.org's rundown of hotspot directories.
Wall Street Journal notes that adoption hasn't met predictions; analysts revising future trends downward: InStat/MDR estimates $28M in revenue last year from hotspots in the US this year and $80M worldwide. Gartner says operators won't be profitable until at least 2006. (This lumps together the largest and smallest operators into one bunch, of course.)
Cometa's ambitious plans are noted and compared with reality. A statement from the CEO seems to back away from numbers provided as recently as last fall, when the company reaffirmed to me in an interview their 20,000 target and the full-scale rollout to a couple of dozen cities.
The article doesn't tie my concern about the growth of actual locations to the slow revenue growth. With a slow-growing pool of locations and many, non-overlapping, non-roaming networks, it's impossible for revenue to increase rapidly.
Korea is cited as a place of rabid Wi-Fi uptake with one company, KT Corp., offering 12,000 hotspot and US$13 unlimited monthly access subscriptions. Their home broadband subscribers can add unlimited Wi-Fi for a buck a month. They have 364,000 Wi-Fi subscribers, which is probably 20 to 30 times the number in the U.S. including aggregators like Boingo and excluding aggregators like iPass (which don't figure into monthly recurring subscriber fees).
Europeans, by contrast, are charging arms and legs for Wi-Fi access, partly to protect their cellular data investment.
You can tell the reporters talked to Pyramid Research in Boston, because the end of the article cites a single free hotel which is used in Pyramid's cost analysis reports that indicate a trend towards free Wi-Fi in hotels.
The writers mention this single hotel, but omit noting that about 7,500 hotel properties in the U.S. are now committed to free Internet access using a combination of wired and wireless service.
Adaptive antennas and a pure IP infrastructure are at the heart of this high-speed, long-distance cellular data technology: The article might overhype the average speed and utility of the network, but with a clean slate, this firm was able to avoid overlays and legacy issues by building out a technology that relies on modern radio and networking techniques. The company claims performance up to nine miles from one of its base stations.
The company says the iBurst technology will cover 75 percent of homes and 95 percent of businesses in Australian by 2005, which is certainly a feat, even in the largest population centers.
Service seems relatively expensive: an AUD$500 (about US$375) modem and a monthly fee of AUD$150 (US$112). But it's costs only somewhat more than slower and less available EvDO service in the U.S. from Verizon Wireless. And it could be a true in-home/roaming broadband replacement.
EvDO will be available to 80 million Verizon Wireless subscribers by year's end (link expires in 7 days): The faster cellular data service may make inroads, but, as this article in the Wall Street Journal notes, some of the limits make EvDO a broad niche technology instead of a total broadband replacement.
The article doesn't mention the tragedy of the commons, which is nowhere near happening yet, in which if EvDO becomes so popular, speeds could drop. Spectrum is scarce and with unlimited monthly data plans for $80/month currently, one could expect that dense areas of urban usage could see burst speeds up to the rated level and average speeds much lower. We won't know until deployment and usage moves far up.
The writer says EvDO stands for Evolution Data Optimized; most sites expand this as Data Only, however. It also omits EVDV, which is the Evolution Data/Voice upgrade for CDMA, which has top speeds several times faster, and integrates voice, which could improve voice quality and help carriers with overall voice capacity.
The end of this article muddles a few points. It notes that the carriers aren't abandoning Wi-Fi, but then cite Verizon DSL's limited Manhattan pay phone Wi-Fi rollout, which was already scaled back. In fact, it should have cited Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless's failure to roll out networks as announced last summer and into fall. AT&T Wireless has stuck with reselling Wayport and Cingular has no Wi-Fi plans.
Also, the statement about long-range wireless -- small wireless Internet-service providers are using variants of Wi-Fi, or various proprietary technologies, to provide wireless Internet access with ranges of several miles -- implies that this is coverage area, not point-to-point service.
T-Mobile Europe offers 15-minute increments, lower prices, but still far above U.S. counterpart: Europe continues to be the most expensive place to purchase Wi-Fi access as T-Mobile drop in prices shows: it's still pricey. T-Mobile Europe's new plan drops 15-minute chunks to €1.50 to €2.00. Day rates are €16.50 to €25.00. T-Mobile's US division charges $6 per hour, one hour minimum, and $10 per day.
Users can gain access to T-Mobile's network through SMS, sending the word "open" to a special short code and receiving a username and password in response.
Coin operated Wi-Fi AP: I'm not sure what to make of this puppy, as the description of how it secures access seems trivial to override with any sniffing software. And how does it control access? By MAC address? [via TechDirt which found it at Daily Wireless]
The Sharp Aquos 15L1U features built-in Wi-Fi, battery, but runs a cool $1,600 for flat-screen, luggable perfection: David Pogue reviews the high points of the Sharp unit in the New York Times, noting that it's a jaw-dropping product which executes quite well on all of its selling points. It weighs 11 pounds, and can transfer video without a hitch even as you carry it around a house.
But you have to rewire your home video system, deal with delays in remote controls, and cope with a 1 hour, 45 minute battery life. It can be easily plugged in, however, to both power and a direct video connection. Pogue also found that the unit functions best within 35 feet, not the 50 feet in the manual or 100 feet in the marketing literature.
It also, unforgivably, uses 802.11b (11 Mbps), not 802.11a or g (54 Mbps). 802.11a might seem like a bad choice except that the unit comes with a dedicated base station and receiver; it doesn't work over an existing wireless network. The base station also has the infrared and video adapters.
SFO's claim of the first northern Californian full-Wi-Fi-access airport is trumped by San Jose: San Jose's service, operated by Wayport, has been running for four years throughout all terminals. It's a much smaller airport than San Francisco International (SFO), which T-Mobile has unwired.
The story notes that T-Mobile is handing out free access cards, but misses the boat by stating that T-Mobile and Wayport require these cards for access. In fact, you can sign up for both services on the spot for single-day sessions the last time I used either using a gateway page and a credit card.
The FAA still doesn't have a definitive answer on the dangers of in-flight interference: Devices are designed to only work on specific frequencies, but there's concern about spill-over. This article doesn't mention it by name, but there's also an issue of harmonics in which certain kinds of reflection and opacity to radio signal can produce much fainter signals in entirely different bands.
The answer? Each carrier still makes up its own mind, and private charter flights typically allow any device.
Power over Ethernet extends range to more devices: You stick your access points in the ceiling for best coverage and then spend a bundle putting electrical outlets up there, too. Instead, more companies and schools are turning to Power over Ethernet, which can deliver enough juice over standard Ethernet cables to run devices like Wi-Fi access points, video cameras, and intercoms.
The savings cited in the article for specific projects are quite staggering. Running Ethernet cable is typically cheaper than installing full-blown alternating current. In many states, Ethernet wiring must be done by professional electricians, however, because it qualifies as low-voltage wiring and runs though the walls.
The split between Motorola and the Multi-Band OFDM Alliance (MBOA) has deepened in recent days: The MBOA stated several days ago that they would be pursuing their own track independent of the IEEE 802.15.3a task group in which the UWB standard for high-speed short-range (10 meters or less) networking was mired. The split deepened this week as noted in two reports.
On Monday, the EE Times reported that Motorola has changed its proposal: Motorola is returning to the 802.15.3a task group a modified version of its direct sequence approach that has substantially higher throughput at very short ranges while still meeting the 10 meters/110 Mbps goal set by the group. At two meters, Motorola can exceed a gigabit per second. Motorola claims that this is the sweet spot for the kinds of applications to which UWB will be placed, like streaming video in home entertainment.
Meanwhile, the MBOA has revised its own standard farther away from the 802.15.3a draft: Their revision makes it much less likely that there will ever be interoperability by adding features at the MAC layer that handles addressing. This will make it easier to run ad hoc networks and mesh UWB systems. However, the MAC layer for 802.15.3a was already agreed to be the main 802.15.3 standard.
The conclusion is that we'll have two competing, incompatible UWB standards which will fight it out in the marketplace. Consumers lose: if you buy equipment from different consumer electronics makers that use different UWB standards, you'll be out of luck. I imagine that an MBOA brand will appear on MBOA-based gear, however, and Motorola will decide on their own name.
This is not to say that Motorola can fight it out against the 80 firms in the MBOA; Richard Bennett, a MAC designer involved in many wireless task groups including 802.15.3a, thinks that Motorola's already lost the battle for the consumer market.
But Motorola will ship product and that will cause confusion in the marketplace even if they ultimately succumb to the weight of the MBOA. Motorola also owns patents via its purchase of early UWB developer XtremeSpectrum. In the IEEE process, the MBOA would have been able to license patents used in 802.15.3a under reasonable and customary terms; in fact, all parties had signed such agreements or agreed in principle.
There's no deal of that sort outside of that standards process, so MBOA's UWB, even with its different design, could become mired in litigation as Motorola fights a rearguard action.
Remember that Motorola was one of the firms to continue to support Wi-Fi's one-time competitor for the consumer market, HomeRF, long after most companies (including Intel) had given it a pass.
This story profiles an entrepreneur in Miami, Fla., who is single handedly trying out a whole slew of business models, hoping to hit on the most profitable way to build and support hotspots: He has generally found that building hotspots with his own investments doesn't pay off so he strives to convince the venue to fund the build. Still, his most successful effort so far is an apartment building where he paid for the network. He has also tried out gear from different providers, experimenting until he settled on a security and management solution from Lok Technology.
He makes an interesting example of how a small operation can make this business work. He has a general idea of what he thinks works but he's flexible such that each site he builds has a different model, suited to fit the situation. Also, his overhead is low as he has no regular employees.
SBC launched the first of many hotspots in Evansville, Ind., starting with a couple of hotels downtown: The network will also ultimately cover the airport, civic center, and other areas downtown. The network is being built as a partnership between SBC and the city's economic development agency. Even though one leader is quoted here as saying "build it and they will come," the groups have more concrete plans for the network. They hope the network will improve the chances of the city getting approval for its application to the Indiana Department of Commerce to create a technology park in town, which includes a facility for startup technology businesses. Some of the revenue generated by the Wi-Fi network will go to a fund for improvements to the park. If the facility is approved, tax funds could be used to improve technology and infrastructure for the park. It's an interesting, albeit complicated, goal for how the Wi-Fi network can actually improve the economy in the area. In many other towns, the networks are being built with a vague idea that its very presence will spur the economy.
In other new hotspot news, a reader wrote to tell us about a new hotspot he just noticed in South Station in Boston. The hotspot, along with about 20 others in the Boston area, are provided by Salicom Wireless Broadband. It appears that Salicom offers a range of setups for venues, including building and supporting hotspots for venues in exchange for a share of the revenues from users. [via Aaron]
300-bed hospital saves 3,400 hours a year with Vocera's communicator: Vocera's wearable Wi-Fi-based voice communicator is a hit at hospitals, with the 40 out of 60 of the company's customers coming from healthcare. In a study of one hospital conducted by a third party, nurses saved 1,100 hours per year and the hospital 3,400 hours a year.
If you try to do the straight math and calculate hourly wages and benefits and a figure for potential overtime, you might look at that as, at most, $340,000 ($100 per hour all in, best case). But that ignores the reason that nurses and others in a hospital need to communicate: improved efficiency in patient care can reduce complications which can dramatically reduce costs above pure wages.
And it only takes one avoidable mistake due to time that leads to a multi-million-dollar malpractice lawsuit that increases premiums hugely to make the system worth much more than a pure per hour wage replacement cost.
Mesh Networks is releasing a mesh software suite, MeshConnex, that can be embedded on any standard 802.11 chip: Initially, Mesh Networks built the software into Atheros 802.11a/b/g access point chipsets so that products built with those chips can support mesh networking. Embedding Mesh Networks' software onto standard 802.11 chips means that customers can buy products from a variety of vendors. The move could also drive down the price for equipment with MeshConnex because the software will be added to standard 802.11 gear.
"We don't break the 802.11 standard," said Rick Rotondo, vice president of marketing for Mesh Networks. "The end products are certifiable because we don't touch anything to do with the Wi-Fi standard." To date, customers could only buy equipment with the Mesh Networks capability directly from Mesh Networks. Mesh Networks sells access points based on a proprietary radio technology called QDMA or based on 802.11.
Access points that use a Mesh Networks-enabled Atheros chip can create a mesh network with a nearby mesh-enabled client or AP or communicate with non-mesh devices. It can do both simultaneously. Atheros is the first chipmaker that Mesh worked with but the company is working with other chip manufacturers as well, Rotondo said.
Mesh Networks will demonstrate its MeshConnex software running on Atheros chips today and tomorrow at the IEEE meeting in Florida. The timing is right for Mesh because IEEE members are likely to discuss at the meeting the formation of a working group to standardize mesh networking. During the last IEEE meeting in Vancouver, the group approved a study group for mesh networking. In Florida, Rotondo hopes that group will become a full-fledged working group and a chairman will be elected. Companies including Intel, Cisco, and Motorola have expressed interest in being part of the mesh networking working group, he said.
Posted by Nancy Gohring at 11:05 AM | Permanent Link | Categories:
San Francisco International AirPort (SFO) should announce today full Wi-Fi coverage: The service, initiated in April 2003 by T-Mobile HotSpot, should now be available throughout all terminals. When I was in SFO a few months ago, I found access (for free at the time) in an Alaska Airlines gate that had previously been a dead zone.
What's missing from this news, however, is when T-Mobile will transform SFO into a vendor-neutral host that resells access to other networks. When the deal was first announced with great fanfare and with many public officials, the statement was clear: other hotspot operators would be able to pay T-Mobile for access at a sensible rate. Since then, nada.
You'd think T-Mobile would be using this as a leveraging tool for negotiating roaming with other hotspots operators who have the concession at other airports.
Om Malik points to some studies that show that far more consumers are aware of voice over IP then Wi-Fi: An Ipsos-Insight study showed that 74 percent of consumers know about voice over IP while just 19 percent are aware of Wi-Fi. Still, just 6 percent of consumers use voice over IP. I'm surprised that so many more consumers know of voice over IP than Wi-Fi. While voice over IP has been talked about for many years, it has only recently gotten mainstream attention since some of the big mainstream telecom and cable players have started offering it. Wi-Fi, by contrast, has been grabbing headlines in the mainstream media for a few years now.
I wrote a story for Wireless Week looking at the differences between 802.16, which is backed by the WiMax Forum, and 802.20, the group spearheaded by Flarion and ArrayComm: The two initiatives have somewhat similar goals but they're using different approaches. Leaders who I spoke with in both camps were pretty defensive when I asked about how the efforts differed which made me feel like there was a big battle between the two. In some ways I think there is because companies seem to switch sides. For example, representatives from companies that are part of the 802.20 effort said that IPWireless is active in the development of 802.20. But when I called IPWireless for comment, a spokeswoman told me that IPWireless is active in the WiMax initiative, not the 802.20 activities.
Ultimately, I don't think it's a one or the other situation. Both methods may find a market. Currently, WiMax is ahead in terms of developing a standard and attracting big name backers like Intel. But the 802.20 group scored a coup when Nextel launched a trial using Flarion gear in Raleigh, N.C. An analyst I spoke with may be right when she suggests that the official 802.20 standard effort may wither away but that a de facto standard might emerge that ArrayComm and Flarion may support.
AMD may be about to introduce a hotspot program that offers to market hotspots for venues: The hotspots must be offered to end users for free and in return AMD will market the locations of the hotspots and offer special giveaways and discounts to end users. AMD hasn't officially launched the program so a lot of details aren't clear.
If this is true, it would appear to be an effort by AMD to put some marketing muscle behind its competition with Intel. While Intel leads the market in Wi-Fi chips built into laptops, AMD has a presence in the lower cost laptop market. During a recent trip to Best Buy, I found that most of the laptops in the lower price range had AMD processors. A hotspot program like the one described here would be AMD's take on Intel's program of placing signs in venues to mark hotspots except in AMD's case, the hotspots will be free for end users.
Cometa network locations are now available to iPass customers: iPass users will be able to use Cometa locations. No pricing information is noted in this press release, which comes from Cometa, but iPass generally offers fixed per-minute, per-hour, or per-day rates for hotspot locations.
Truly excellent television news coverage in Austin of Austin Wireless City and the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference's free music preview at free Wi-Fi hot spots: Watch the video for this segment about the community wireless group's partnership with SXSW to put music (via Apple's iTunes music library sharing) from acts that will appear at the event in dozens of free hotspots.
Washington Post writer Rob Pegoraro finds Verizon Wireless's EvDO service performed better than he expected: Pegoraro's testing around the Washington, D.C., area seems to have surprised him with the quality and consistency of service. Verizon Wireless has its EvDO service available in Washington, D.C., and San Diego. Pegoraro noticed speeds of up to 600 Kbps, and seamless handoffs to the 1xRTT service which runs about a tenth the speed.
San Jose Mercury News reporter tries to find some of that free Wi-Fi deployed in San Jose and succeeds -- eventually: Highlighting the difficulties of deploying Wi-Fi across zones and advertising the notion that it's available ubiquitously, Jon Fortt equips himself well and sallies forth. But it requires some inside information for him to find an ideal spot within one of the three free hot zones in San Jose that the city is promoting. [link via TechDirt]
Agere is latest to offer faster, quasi-proprietary extensions to speed its Wi-Fi chips: Of course, the faster speeds aren't Wi-Fi because they're not tested for interoperability nor would they pass most interop tests. Agere's "150 Mbps" uses a variety of techniques, the most interesting of which is client-to-client transfer in which an access point is ignored in the interests of higher speed when possible.
Most of the major chipmakers now have their proprietary packages; some are already offering the firmware upgrades, while Agere is pre-announcing a fall delivery. (Linksys just announced the faster version of their flagship Wi-Fi gateway.) Fall is key in that 802.11e is expected to be ratified by then, and many of the proprietary extensions will be tweaked to comply with that standard.
Atheros also announced their Dynamic Turbo mode update today: This mode sits on top of their other Super G (non-Wi-Fi) extensions and is the disputed mode that Broadcom claims causes interference across the entire 2.4 GHz band for Wi-Fi devices. Turbo uses channels 5 and 6 simultaneously to achieve higher throughput. The Dynamic version listens for traffic and moves into the mode only as needed. Atheros claims 60 Mbps of net throughput with Super G including Turbo.
The short-term push for speed is all about marketing: who can put the fastest speed on the box even when that speed only works among like devices and has an actual net throughput of a fraction of the number on the box. The vast majority of consumers don't need more than 20 Mbps (the rough throughput of an 802.11g-only network), and businesses won't adopt this pre-standard equipment except in small offices.
The run-up to 802.11g's ratification involved lots of early distribution of a standard in flux, but manufacturers worked like crazy to continually update the firmware towards more compatibility. But even with that proviso, early 802.11g adopters faced mysterious problems, network slowdowns, and other hassles.
Is it worth the extra speed now instead of waiting for ratified versions of the underlying standards which will work across all devices by all makers? No. There's no home networking purpose that has that much bandwidth demand.
Tom Krazit of IDG News Service shares that perspective: More speed is grand, he notes, but how can consumers use it? His pithy summary: ...it's a moot point to millions of U.S. and European home users stuck with Internet connection speeds far below the bandwidth promised by new 802.11g products.
Alan Reiter notes that the cellular industry's big CTIA event next week is in a conference center that thought it had Wi-Fi covered, but didn't: Alan notes that the conference center's management said they had Wi-Fi coverage, but when the CTIA organizers checked it out, the venue had seven APs (and two dead ones) covering millions of square feet. Needless to say, the CTIA stepped up to the plate with sponsor Cisco's help to provide free Wi-Fi in all common areas during the event.
Remarkably, the Atlanta Georgia World Congress Center hasn't had much call for Wi-Fi. This might reflect the paucity of service or possibly the center's fee structure for it, too. Or, when organizers discover the dysfunctional system, they book elsewhere. Let's not do a posteriori reasoning here, Atlanta!
Canadian service offers 2.2 Mbps download speeds for Cdn$40 per month over broadband wireless: In areas of Richmond, B.C. (south of Vancouver), and Cumberland, Ontario, you can purchase iFido's broadband wireless service for Cdn$40/month service (intro rate of $20/month for six months) plus $125 or $325 for signup depending on whether you commit to 24 months or not. A $50 setup fee is being waived as part of this introductory deal. (I have to ask: will the Quebec version be called iFeydeau?)
T-Mobile releases Connection Manager, its tool for identifying its hotspots; it includes a searchable directory: As is the trend with all hotspot operators, T-Mobile has released a Windows 98/Me and 2000/XP client package. It does not appear to require a T-Mobile subscription to use. It offers per-network profile management in which you can store WEP (but not WPA) keys and use 802.1X authentication for login via Smart Card, EAP-TTLS, or PEAP. It can also easily manage a VPN connection that you have created through Microsoft or other software, and shows you the status.
The 802.1X authentication is necessary for T-Mobile to start testing out its new authentication style in which users will be able to create a secure connection to an access point with a unique encryption key through an 802.1X negotiation. This will allow T-Mobile's users to have substantially more security in T-Mobile hotspots even without a virtual private network (VPN) connection. Of course, VPN remains the gold standard, as it provides a tunnel for traffic to a remote, ostensibly secure location, like an enterprise or VPN managed service.
You enter your T-Mobile account information in a special profile so that it can be stored and automatically retrieved when you connect to a hotspot. This also ties in with 802.1X: a T-Mobile user should seamlessly be connected via 802.1X without ever having to make any configuration changes.
The software shows connection time and a list of networks in the vicinity with an excellent display of detailed information, including network type (infrastructure or ad hoc), the BSSID (the unique adapter ID for the base station), and signal strength. It has some elements in common with Boingo's software, although each have their strengths.
The T-Mobile HotSpot Locator, an offline directory included with Connection Manager, is a quite lovely way to find locations in T-Mobile's network. The primary interface is a map of the United States (in the current version). You can click a state to select it, or choose a state and city, enter a Zip code, or enter an area code. The results are neatly organized into nested folders by type of location (Borders, Kinko's, Starbucks, T-Mobile retail locations, and airports or airport lounges). You can also refine the search by category and choose one of their retail or location partners.
Update to original post: PCTel is the maker of the T-Mobile software, according to this press release. The software is available as a 30-day free trial download in a slightly modified form. Of course, the T-Mobile client appears to be free even without a T-Mobile account.
Florida coffeeshop put on notice about using Starbucks's trademark venti, but offers free Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi (misspelled Wi/Fi) is but a footnote in this article, which pits a local coffee house against Starbucks. The brewing giant trademarked venti (Italian for 20) in the context of retail coffee; Indian River Coffee Company was using the term, too.
The article explains correctly that arbitrary terms that have no specific meaning in an industry's context can be trademarked. So you can trademark a video line called Kultur, German for culture, but not Culture.
Indian River is the home of the greatest citrus in the world. So they should be battling over freshly squeezed juice, no?
Bruce Einhorn weighs in from Hong Kong for BusinessWeek on how the Chinese efforts to require their own, proprietary flavor of Wi-Fi security will fail: Einhorn notes that the effort is a clear violation of World Trade Organization rules, a group which China battled long and hard to join. The US Information Technology Office also believes that allowing a private, closed encryption standard to be allowed in this restrictive manner would open the door to future such efforts. A similar effort in the 1990s to require a certain form of PC software encryption failed for similar reasons, Einhorn notes.
One piece missing from his analysis is the refutation that this is a security issue. All of the officials and companies involved with the Chinese standard keep beating that drum. It should be clearly stated that the security issue has been put to bed with WPA, 802.11i (upcoming), and 802.1X. There's no reason to develop a closed standard in the first place--it ensures failure because encryption standards that aren't widely tested are almost uniformly crackable. It also reinforces my contention that WAPI almost certainly has a built-in government backdoor to the encryption protocol to allow simple monitoring.
Coverage from the People's Daily, the official Chinese government newspaper, notes at the end that Intel's refusal to comply with Chinese rules may offer AMD an opportunity in the market. AMD doesn't sell an integrated Wi-Fi solution, which makes it less of a direct conflict for them.
ZyXEL gets in the game with its Prestige 2000W VoIP Wi-Fi phone: The phone supports SIP (session initiation protocol), which allows it to talk to any compatible gateway for communication to other VoIP devices or to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). It has 802.11b and WEP support, and a variety of IP-assigning options, but no 802.1X. [via Engadget]
Marketplace Development works with Concourse to update plasma-display advertisements in LaGuardia via Wi-Fi: Marketplace creates the current generation of airport retail spaces, managing them for the airport authority. The company uses plasma display screens to provide information, which includes advertising and travel information. By using Concourse's host-neutral Wi-Fi network, Marketplace can update the content on a much simpler basis. Every time you have to pull a wire or add a service in an airport, big dollars are involved because of the clearances for staff and the time of day when such work can be performed. Wi-Fi obviates cost and delays.
Matos Reseau's Raphael offers a photographic tour of Wi-Fi Day at Radio France in Paris (en français): The report proves that the French know nothing about tea, but are quite sophisticated at demonstrating Wi-Fi. (See the last page of photos at the bottom: the French Pringles cantenna or beef stew/instant coffee can equivalent uses a Lipton tea container.) [link via GeeBlog]
Research firm Maravedis expects the sub-11 GHz fixed broadband wireless market to grow from $430 million in 2003 to $1.6 billion by the end of 2008: While researcher forecasts sometimes sound like wild guesses, this report has some interesting figures about the existing market for broadband wireless that reveal significant growth. This growth comes even before a standard is in place. For example, the study found 10,000 sub-11 GHz base stations and 1.2 million client devices installed worldwide, providing at least 256 Kbps service. Access makes up the majority of applications, accounting for 84 percent of installations with backhaul making up the rest. The researchers expect backhaul to increase to 30 percent of the market by 2008.
The study somewhat states the obvious in its finding that Intel is expected to dominate shipments of 802.16e gear. Intel is one of the primary supporters of that standard and the WiMax Forum, the association backing the standard.
Fixed broadband wireless has always been a niche market but the use of it seems to be growing, possibly partly due to the general growing awareness of wireless because of Wi-Fi's popularity. Once WiMax gear is on the market and assuming operators use it, fixed broadband wireless has a good chance of becoming more popular than ever before.
PC-maker Gateway said it will make Wi-Fi access points that will start hitting the shelves in April: The APs will target small and medium businesses. The company hasn't revealed pricing but promises that the price will be "incredibly disruptive," according to the InfoWorld story. Gateway will be entering a crowded market but it has the brand power to attract attention and buyers.
Nine Canadian cities will become race courses this year: Navigate the Streets is an urban race where teams of two follow clues to find checkpoints. Some participants carry laptops and use hotspots to get online help for solving the clues. Teams pay $5 to enter and proceeds go to a charity called Right to Play.
McDonald's may have news on its choice of Wi-Fi hotspot infrastructure vendor, number of locations: This article spends a lot of time reviewing old news at some length, but it does have one bit of new information: McDonald's should shortly choose among Wayport, Cometa, and Toshiba, and define the extend of their hotspot deployment.
Sources have told me that Toshiba's efforts overall--not specific to its Chicagoland McDonald's deployment--have been lackluster and haphazard without a comprehensive plan behind it. Cometa recently lost AT&T as a reseller of their network, and AT&T Wireless does not list Cometa locations (even though it ostensibly resells them). Cometa just redesigned its Web site removing a logo bar that had been in place for month showing their reseller partners. Their new site contains no information about how to get access to Cometa networks, but it does have a hotspot locator.
China responds to Intel's decision to not support proprietary WAPI scheme: "calm down": Intel rejected WAPI, a Chinese-controlled Wi-Fi security standard that would have required it to co-develop technology with one of a small number of Chinese companies. Intel argues that WAPI has no advantages and some disadvantages.
The Chinese response seems outdated: they say that WAPI resolves Wi-Fi security problems, but it's as if they haven't heard of WPA and 802.11i.
D-Link's European division starts selling 108 Mbps channel bonding Super G Turbo hardware; cites Wi-Fi Alliance's lack of clear stance: As we've reported over the months, Broadcom claims that its 802.11g products drop enormously in speed on any channel when a nearby D-Link or NetGear device using Atheros chips is running the dual-channel-bonded Turbo mode in the Super G package of speed enhancements that Atheros offers.
D-Link Europe originally held off on shipping equipment with this mode available, but this TechWorld article cites an engineer saying, "The Wi-Fi Alliance haven't made any comments on Super-G but they haven't refused to certify products, as long as they also run straight 11g."
The Wireless Performance Prediction (WPP) group has been formed to create standards by which performance of wireless networking devices are measured: The idea is to create a consistent set of tests that can be performed and allow comparison of device functionality. The Wi-Fi Alliance certifies equipment as Wi-Fi compliant, but performance isn't a criteria for compatibility and interoperability.
The WPP includes individuals from Intel, Texas Instruments, Broadcom, and Hewlett Packard, and will have its first public tutorial at the next IEEE meeting; it's a study group within the IEEE, not a task group yet.
The Possio PX30 uses Linux and Java to bind together 802.11b and Bluetooth; cellular data optional: This review details the features of the PX30, which has built-in 802.11b and Bluetooth and can also take a module for GPRS and 3G flavors of cellular data. The device also has an Ethernet and USB interface. The PX30 can route data among devices or networks connected via any port. It even supports OSGi, a standard for networked devices that need to communicate with one another.
This is one of the few articles that questions whether free Wi-Fi offered by a city in the downtown core will lead to the benefits the city hopes: I've been asking this question for a while. Many city leaders who spur the development of downtown Wi-Fi networks say that the networks will draw business into the city. I haven't been able to figure out exactly why that is. I'm doubtful that a business would decide to move into a downtown area and solely rely on a free Wi-Fi network for connectivity--it doesn't sound reliable enough for most businesses. Wi-Fi could be the tipping point for a cafe, for example, that may be deciding between two locations but I'm doubtful that one or two cafes can justify a city Wi-Fi network. Random people surely enjoy the ability to get online over the networks but I'm not sure how many people would choose, for example, to visit a shop downtown vs. one elsewhere because after shopping they can get online in the park out front.
San Jose, which plans today to celebrate the launch of its free downtown network, plans to monitor usage so that it can figure out if the network is worth maintaining. Apparently Long Beach, near Los Angeles, has a downtown network that isn't monitored and the city doesn't know how many people use it. They say they don't get many complaints about it and restaurants ask them to do more advertising about it so people know it's there. In San Jose, Global Netoptex, which will manage the network, will monitor daily use and even how long each user is online.
Such monitoring will be key for municipalities that support free Wi-Fi networks, otherwise they won't be able to prove the worth of the network in order to continue to fund it. Also, such monitoring may be able to help the city improve the network in ways that will continue to attract more users.
Pulver ships WiSIP: Voice over IP over any Wi-Fi network: This portable phone puts Wi-Fi and VOIP into a single package for $250. It was announced last October at Pulver's VON conference, but Joi Ito just received his, and the Pulver site still says that it's shipping at the end of January 2004.
The phone works by default with Pulver's Free World Dialup network, but can be reconfigured to work with any SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) gateway. If you use a VOIP service with access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and which provides its SIP details, you can configure the phone to make real calls. The phone handles WEP, not WPA, and MD5 authentication, which is considered weak for untrusted, sniffable network uses.
Starbucks reportedly to offer music burning service in up to 2,500 stores: The system will allow customers to have CDs burned while they wait; eventually, it will also allow downloads of music over Wi-Fi, the article in BusinessWeek says.
Starbucks demanded a T-1 (1.544 Mbps in each direction) digital service infrastructure from its first hotspot partner, MobileStar, as well as its second, T-Mobile. I've speculated for a while on how this high-speed network could be used to cache material in each Starbucks, like movie and music downloads.
This latest project sounds somewhat misguided for the reason cited by the Forrester analyst in the article: Your typical barista may be great at making espresso but is not in a position to fix the broken CD burner.
My cousin Steven was involved almost 20 years ago with a company called Personics. The company had worked out a catalog licensing deal with more than 70 labels from the largest down to some independents to allow them to offer custom mix tapes for about a buck a song. This was a reasonable price in those days. The system had a few thousand songs mastered onto CD-ROMs stored in a special employee-operated CD-ROM changer behind the counter. An employee would punch in your choices, and the system created a high-speed cassette tape dub.
The company failed for two primary reasons: the hardware was proprietary, meaning that engineers had to fly around the country to fix it when it inevitably had glitches; and the catalog they offered too small because labels balked at including their most popular stuff for fear of cannibalizing pre-recorded CD and tape sales. (Price, my cousin reports, was not a problem: many customers were willing to pay even more, he noted to me after this item was originally posted.)
If Starbucks creates the expectation of an easy process that's always available and then isn't available even part of the time at any given store, they lose their audience. Starbucks makes its money from processing a high volume of custom drinks--you don't want to distract from that. CD burners aren't that difficult to keep operating, but a failure rate that's a fraction of that experienced by typical home and business users could be a dramatic problem in a high-expectation retail environment.
The article says the price is comparable to Apple and other download services. Two problems with that comparison. First, it's not. It's $7 for five songs, or 40 percent, or $13 for an album, or 30 percent higher. That's a significantly different price when you're dealing with price sensitivity. It's comparable to a mass-produced discounted audio CD.
Second, you're receiving an audio CD, not digital music per se, which could be a turnoff for the audience that might be interested in a fast, in-store music service. (However, since HP is the partner, and is reselling their own version of the iPod, it's possible that the ultimate digital delivery system will be a version of the iTunes Music Store.)
This is the latest incarnation of Compaq-cum-Hewlett Packard's attempts to capitalize on their relationship as a supplier to Starbucks. In January 2001, when the MobileStar deal was announced for installing hotspots, Starbucks made a big deal about Microsoft and Compaq's participation. Compaq wasn't a partner, though; Starbucks had signed a $100 million, five-year deal to buy equipment and services. Microsoft was a partner, and it never seemed to amount to anything that saw the light of day.
In the years since this deal, Compaq and then HP have reaped advertising benefits, appearing in full-page newspaper advertisements as part of the Starbucks hotspot system, even though they had nothing to do with MobileStar and T-Mobile's deployment. At one point, Starbucks had Compaq iPaq's available for customers to play with, and those disappeared, too.
It's this fumbling that's I originally noted was uncharacteristic of Starbucks until my cousin reminded me of Starbucks dalliance with the Internet. They invested in Cooking.com, Living.com, and Talk City, and had an enormous investor backlash. They then made a deal with Kozmo, of course. My cousin's conclusion: Burning CDs is hardly their first tech-intensive misstep. [link via PaidContent]
Sensible, clear advice on protecting your Wi-Fi network's in-transit data in The New York Times (free reg. required): Frequent readers of this site know that we take mainstream media to task--even publications that we occasionally write for--when they get the story wrong and focus on the wrong advice or lazily fail to interview people who know what's going on. So let's praise correctness, too.
This piece by Sean Captain about securing Wi-Fi networks is a model of clarity and accuracy, covering all of the major points about encryption using WEP, WPA, 802.1X (without using that wonky standards number, even), and VPNs--all while avoiding jargon and too much detail. It's enough to be useful without overwhelming.
Sean is an editor at PC World the last time I checked, and he was responsible for a large package of stories evaluating 802.11g routers that ran last fall. It, too, was an incredible effort that distilled lots of useful wisdom and practical testing into a solid package.
Sputnik, the developer of a managed software and hardware solution for hotspot operators, is introducing an upgraded platform and new pricing schemes: Customers can now buy Sputnik APs that support 802.11g. Also, the AP now includes a four-port wired Ethernet switch so users can include wired LANs or third-party wireless access points in the same platform. Customers can then manage all the networks--wireless or wired--from a single software tool. The new platform also enables dynamic firewalling so customers can enable different security policies on each network. "Users could isolate different subnets so that the wired LAN is completely separate from the wireless," said Kathy Giori, director of product marketing for Sputnik. Those features could be useful for a venue that may want to separate a wired LAN, for example, only for employee access.
As part of the new products, customers can also begin offering pre-paid cards, coupons, or codes that allow access to the network.
Sputnik is also offering a new pricing plan. "We're not only adding new functionality, but we're doing what we promised which is to leverage the whole commodity wave of technology coming out of Asia-Pacific to ride down the cost curve to offer cheaper and more powerful solutions," said David LaDuke, CEO of Sputnik. The Sputnik Starter Kit, which includes two of the new APs plus the management software comes for $495. A single AP costs $185.
The new platform doesn't yet support 802.1X. "The hotspot customers haven't been beating us up about that but the tide is turning because T-Mobile is clearly making that happen," said LaDuke. T-Mobile said it is introducing support for 802.1X in its hotspots in a bid to attract business travelers.
Intel has finally weighed in on the Chinese proprietary Wi-Fi encryption mechanism, saying it won't build products using the method: Last year, the Chinese government said that only Wi-Fi gear that uses its own security technology would be allowed in the country. Foreign companies that want to build products with the mechanism must partner with Chinese companies that have been offered rights to the technology. Intel said that it won't develop chips based on the Chinese standard because it can't come up with an appropriate solution that meets Intel's quality standards while following the standard. That reasoning is a bit weak but still, it's significant that this huge chipmaker which has planted a major stake in the worldwide Wi-Fi market has cast its vote against the Chinese plan.
Apparently China is Intel's biggest market after the United States so this is a bold move for Intel. A company spokesperson in this story says Intel hopes to find a solution to this dispute so that it can make products to sell to the Chinese market. I'm hopeful that Intel's move combined with letters recently sent to China from the U.S government and other comments from vendors will ultimately pressure China to change its tune. Other reports show that U.S. officials haven't ruled out an official World Trade Organization complaint if negotiations don't change the Chinese plan.
The Chinese system isn't necessarily better or worse than WPA and 802.11i (WPA2); in fact, we haven't seen any reports detailing how the proprietary system works or compares to other method. Further, China has shown at every technology turn their interest in controlling or having access to encryption systems, which means that the Chinese Wi-Fi security standard almost certainly includes a government backdoor.
Ottawa Wireless built a Wi-Fi network in Grand Haven, Mich. that covers 70 city blocks: The network uses gear from Proxim, which allows Ottawa to backhaul access points wirelessly. The coverage for this network, which supports WPA, is pretty impressive and the pricing is great too. Customers can pay $20 a month for unlimited access around town. If they want great coverage in the home, they pay an additional $200 startup fee, presumably for an access point in the home that extends the signal inside. The company sells a special Wi-Fi radio modified for marine usage which allows boaters to use the service as far as 20 miles out on Lake Michigan.
The pricing for visitors is cheap too. Travelers pay $5 for a day or $10 for three days. Ottawa Wireless apparently built the network with an eye toward using WiMax gear, once certified equipment is available.
This announcement really doesn't say a whole lot but it's worth noting that AOL has allowed its name to be associated with a fixed broadband wireless offering: In Canada, Inukshuk, along with a handful of partners, has built a broadband wireless network using gear from NextNet. NextNet has been around for a while and was active when the MMDS market started then faltered. NextNet is active in the development of WiMax.
In this deal, basically all that AOL Canada says is that AOL customers can use this broadband connection on a trial basis in parts of Toronto. It's part of AOL's "bring your own access" offer, which allows customers to use dial-up, DSL, and now wireless to connect.
While the deal itself isn't terribly meaningful, it is significant that a major brand name like AOL is giving broadband wireless a try. Historically, wireless has a bit of a stigma and has been largely avoided by large companies, with some exceptions. A stamp of approval from AOL, with its reputation of offering Internet access to the masses, could offer a boost for wireless options.
We can't say it any better than Owen Thomas: Linspot is an old idea the time for which has passed: Linspot regurgitates the failed model behind Joltage (dead), SOHOWireless (disappeared), and Sputnik (transformed into an enterprise and hotspot software company).
Thomas's post spells out most of the reasons. Let me give three more: locations are likely to be in people's homes who are running network connections which aren't allowed to be shared under the ISP's contract; people don't like to park outside other people's homes to use Wi-Fi very often; and the prices cited on their how it makes money page are dramatically overinflated. Most of the networks outside of T-Mobile's US and most European WISPs charge much, much less. Unlimited Boingo Wireless usage is $21.95 per month and this includes all of its worldwide affiliated networks.
I don't mean to be part of a wave that crushes what could be good software, but to quote Thomas's conclusion: If Nuyens were smart, he wouldn't make this a revenue-splitting service. He'd just sell software licenses at $19.95 a pop, and leave it up to his customers to figure out how to actually make money.
Broadbeam's Uni-Fi Networking platform lets clients seamlessly roam between Wi-Fi and cellular networks: The offering supports all the flavors of wireless, including 802.11 a, b, and g as well as GSM, GPRS, CDMA, 1xRTT, Nextel's iDEN, EV-DO and EDGE. I've seen plenty of announcements from companies that say they offer this capability but few leap to mind who have actually deployed it for real customers. London Ambulance service uses this for ambulance dispatch in a 620-square-mile radius. Each ambulance is equipped with gear that can operate over two different GPRS/GSM networks and Wi-Fi.
Another user is CSX Transportation, the rail network operator in the United States. Train conductors use an application to report on their work process throughout the day. They can use the local area network, 1xRTT, or GPRS, or data can be stored and forwarded later if the conductor is out of range of any network.
I wonder if Calypso, which recently received a patent for its technology that enables roaming between networks, has or will go after Broadbeam. I've been surprised that more companies don't want to talk on the record about the Calypso patent, which could be narrow enough to allow other ways of enabling such roaming. But I suppose it's a legal issue and companies may want to let their lawyers handle it.
A reader reports 121 Kbps performance on Cingular's GPRS network--which means EDGE is enabled: A Bay Area reader noted in email that he was able to achieve speeds well above GPRS's 40 Kbps or so limit using DSL Reports speed test. GPRS, a somewhat improved 2.5G cell data standard for GSM networks, uses one or more GSM-like channels to operate at speeds of 10 to 40 Kbps, typically. The number of channels can be limited in many areas. Our correspondent achieve 121 Kbps which is only possible with EDGE, GPRS's 2.5G successor, and a step on the road to W-CDMA's broadband speeds.
Cingular's CTO told me last year that the company would have EDGE fully deployed by June of this year. Its acquisition of AT&T Wireless, which already has an almost entirely deployed EDGE network, means that Cingular doesn't need to build out overlapping infrastructure.
I expect that when the merger is approved, Cingular customers will have immediate formal access to AT&T's EDGE network. Cingular needs to offer this service to compete with T-Mobile's unlimited GPRS plan (an extra $20 per month) and Verizon Wireless's 1xRTT and 1xEvDO speeds (50 to 70 Kbps and 100 to 400 Kpbs, respectively).
A reader asks where to find the operating guidelines for using Wi-Fi in Hong Kong: If you know where to find these details, please email me and I'll pass them on to the reader.
Vendors say that access points and PC cards that use MIMO technology will be available by the end of this year: MIMO, which stands for multiple-input-multiple-output, is a smart antenna technology that promises to boost speed and throughput of wireless gear. Some say that MIMO will likely be part of the next Wi-Fi upgrade, 802.11n. This story quotes an unnamed vendor executive who says that in trials, gear using MIMO chips from Airgo produced a 200 percent to 400 percent increase in throughput over standard gear and 150 percent to 300 percent better range.
Supporters say that MIMO shouldn't increase the price of gear dramatically. I'm not sure I believe that but I suppose I'll see.
Atheros and Broadcom both declined to say if they're working on MIMO. Amusingly, they both pointed out that customers won't want to buy products that don't comply with the IEEE standard. Both companies have products that boost throughput in a proprietary fashion so that argument hasn't stopped them in the past.
Barnes & Noble bookstores will be fully unwired as hotspots by Sept. 2004 via Cometa: Remember how we noted the lack of news since fall from Cometa a few days ago? This doesn't quite qualify as the kind of news that Cometa wants publicized. The Barnes & Noble deal has been well known since early 2003. For some reason, however, the execution has been severely delayed while Barnes & Noble's leading competitor Borders was fully hotspotted by T-Mobile's network. So while this adds a significant number of locations to Cometa (pushing them to nearly 1,000 publicly committed or unwired locations), it's more of a confirmation of how long it takes to move from a deal starting to actually executing.
Barnes & Noble has 647 stores nationwide, and hasn't quite regained the momentum it lost by trying to compete head to head against Amazon.com. Their online venture has done extremely poorly, never achieving more than a fraction of Amazon's book sales. This move to add Wi-Fi is certainly an attempt to bring savvier users in.
One factor I've wondered if Borders and Barnes & Noble have considered: as David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times pointed out in a story a couple of years ago, the big box booksellers have moved from discounting many titles to just heavily discounting a few. This means that the kinds of users likely to use the Wi-Fi service might also be likely to price compare. They browse the book in the store and then order it online for free shipping and 30 percent less. (My site, isbn.nu, offers book price comparisons by title or ISBN, for instance, among several of its ilk.)
There's an egregious statement in the press release that I must explicate: Unlike other public Wi-Fi networks, where customers have only one choice of service provider, the Cometa Hotspot(sm) network at all Barnes & Noble stores will be open to multiple providers. Customers can choose which provider they want.
This isn't about the customer, it's about the network. If you want to resell Cometa hotspots as a wireless ISP to your customers, you have to arrange a deal with Cometa in which you agree to pay their wholesale fees. And in many hotspot locations, customers actually already have a choice: the native network (Surf and Sip, for instance), a roaming partner (FatPort, for instance), or several aggregators (iPass, Boingo, GRIC).
Further, there are no national networks except Boingo that allow a user to simply sign up and gain unlimited fixed monthly fee access to virtually all popular networks except T-Mobile. (iPass and GRIC offer their services via resellers, but they meter their services.) So the question of choice is moot: who is competing against Boingo's $21.95 per month rate?
Who are the other networks that these customers are members of that they would want to be able to choose among to use a Cometa location? The value proposition of choice is unproven in the context that Cometa cites it.
Cometa wants to suck all the cell carriers into its wholesaling model, but it still lacks enough locations of the kind that cell carrier customers need to be a major player in the industry. Their plans over the next few months might reveal that they have been spending the last year in contract negotiations, and have some of the additional thousands of promised locations and dozens of additional Cometa-ified cities.
AT&T just severed its Cometa relationship, and AT&T Wireless doesn't list its Cometa hotspots in its hotspot finder. The next few months should be telling.
A fellow Weblogger also points out that T-Mobile service is in many of the Starbucks locations connected with B&N (so much for customer choice), and that his local Barnes and Noble stores have removed seating in their stores, leaving the Starbucks cafe as the only sitting alternative.
PCTel will distribute a keychain-sized Wi-Fi signal detector designed by Chrysalis Development: Despite the enthusiasm in the press release, and the coolness factor of the size and nature of the device, many questions are left unanswered. PCTel says they will distribute this device, but not at what cost or on what basis. There's a lot of focus in the press release on the intellectual property rights associated with it, but that has more to do with protecting the design than how customers might use it.
A Wi-Fi signal locator is only useful in limited circumstances. If you're in an area in which you wonder whether there's a signal, a sensor that can inform you in the affirmative or negative obviates you having to remove your laptop from its case, power it up, and run a sniffer.
But even though this device claims to distinguish 802.11b/g networks from general 2.4 gigahertz microwave signals with directionality, it doesn't identify individual networks. If you're in Manhattan and you want to know whether you can connect to a given hotspot network, this doesn't help. You'll always see a strong signal indicator in any urban environment.
Since the introduction of Kensington's difficult-to-use but sophisticated WiFi Finder, which actually has a built-in 802.11g chipset, I've been waiting for a small form factor device that would actually display a scrolling list of discovered networks -- a mini-stumbler that's entirely computer-less.
Even better, a micro-form factor unit with a USB interface so that its firmware can be updated. Kensington revised the firmware of its WiFi Finder, but there's no way to update older devices. It could also store limited information about which network names are associated with which WISP networks so you could specify to sound an alert when a Boingo hotspot was found.
The ultimate device would have a series of LEDs that would provide true directionality advice--"cold, cold, warmer, HOT HOT HOT"--so you could actually hone in.
It's still unclear whether handheld Wi-Fi finders are more than a novelty if they only have directional signal strength displays.
Some analysts are predicting the demise of the Internet cafe with the advent of Wi-Fi: In the U.K., an Internet cafe chain called Easyinternetcafe, has changed its model from building standalone Internet cafes to adding Internet cafe capabilities to existing venues. The phenomena of Internet cafes vs. hotspots is really a complete reversal, according to one analyst. People don't have to find a new place to get Internet access which happens to also sell coffee, like they did with the Internet cafe. Now they go to the same place they got coffee, which happens to have Internet access via Wi-Fi.
Internet cafes never became super popular in the U.S. Still, I think they'll survive around the globe, especially where tourists hang out. Internet cafes have been a blessing to me in remote places where I wouldn't dream of phoning my friends, because the cost would be outrageous, but sending emails with tales of travel has been ideal. Internet cafes will always be ideal in places where it's likely that people won't have their own laptops.
On an interesting side note, the head of The Cloud comments in this article about how expensive Wi-Fi access is. He said that The Cloud is signing up some big name companies that plan to sell access for far less than the going rate. He also predicts that within 18 months most bars, restaurants, and cafes will be giving Wi-Fi away as a tool to attract customers. [link via Gigaom]
Fiberlink allows its client software adds 3G cellular to the list of roaming options for its secure client/server software users: Fiberlink's virtual private networking software lets enterprises tune policy management for what users can do and what methods of Internet access they can employ while away from the office. The latest version adds support for 3G networks. Fiberlink can opportunistically use dial-up, Wi-Fi, 3G, or wired networks as available and as the enterprise allows these particular networking methods. The software also ensures that a remote users has the latest anti-virus, firewall, and intrusion detection updates installed.
AirMagnet is introducing a new version of its distributed WLAN monitoring platform: The updated platform includes a completely new user interface, new rogue detection blocking and tracing, and policy management features.
AirMagnet customers place sensors throughout their WLAN network which sniff the air for unauthorized APs. From a central console, network administrators can view every AP in the network, including those in remote offices that may be around the globe. In the previous version of the product, the sensors could only identify rogue APs when their MAC address wasn't authorized. Now, the sensors can identify rogues based on manufacturer, MAC address, and SSID.
If a rogue AP is found, it can be remotely disabled essentially by jamming it. "But that doesn't pull its socket out of the wall which is what you want to do," said Rich Mironov, vice president of marketing for AirMagnet. Administrators can set how they'd like to be notified if a rogue is detected, including via a pager, and then they can go to the location of the rogue and physically disconnect it.
Users can also identify APs that might be in range of a sensor as a neighbor AP. The feature would be useful for companies located in office buildings where a nearby company may also have a WLAN with signals that bleed into the next door office. Once an AP is set as a neighbor's, the AirMagnet sensors won't send alarms based on its settings.
The sensors also flag APs that use the manufacturer's default password. Using the manufacturer's password is a security vulnerability because anyone could find out what that password is and use it.
The AirMagnet sensors can also be set to monitor security policies, which may differ from AP to AP. Any time those security policies are breached, the sensors alert the administrator.
Mironov stresses that the platform doesn't just identify issues. "It's a network overlay to diagnose problems and tell users what to do," he said. For example, when the sensors find an AP using the manufacturer's password, the software describes to the administrator why that's a problem and recommends that the administrator change the password.
AirMagnet's platform is often criticized by the new WLAN switch vendors because AirMagnet requires customers to deploy a separate network of sensors to monitor the air. "I agree in principle that the monitoring should be built in," said Mironov. Ultimately, he hopes that an AP vendor will license AirMagnet's technology and combine AirMagnet sensors in the APs. Ideally, such an AP would include two radios: one that sends and receives data for users and one dedicated to monitoring the air. Otherwise, the APs would monitor for rogues the way that the WLAN switch systems do. Currently, APs from WLAN switch vendors quickly switch the radio to monitor mode, during which time they aren't transmitting data for users.
In addition, Mironov says that a separate overlay solution like AirMagnet's may always be ideal for enterprises that use APs from a variety of vendors.
Wayport is just one of a handful of companies announcing new places to find hotspots over the last week: Visitors to San Francisco's Moscone Center will be able to get access from Wayport in common areas and meeting rooms by the spring. Most of the conference center will be covered by then with the rest coming later.
A slightly different clientele will likely be using a new hotspot in Philadelphia. The mayor announced that the city will set up a hotspot in Love Park. Apparently the park used to be filled with skateboarders who were recently banned from using the park. But a compromise is being worked on that will allow skateboarders during certain hours. They'll now be able to tote their laptops to the park as well.
In other city hotspot news, San Jose is planning a big bash Thursday, March 11 at 11:00 at the Circle of Palms to celebrate San Jose's downtown Wi-Fi service. The mayor and members of the Silicon Valley Wireless Communications Alliance will be there. Demonstrations of the service will be available and the new Downtown Wi-Fi portal will be launched.
Finally, for those iPass customers who have been waiting for the iPass/T-Mobile agreement to come to fruition, the wait is over. Starting today, iPass users will see 4,200 T-Mobile hotspots in the iPass directory of available access sites. IPass customers can also find more information about those and all iPass broadband access sites now that iPass has licensed a directory tool from JiWire. IPass customers will be able to view maps of where the hotspots are and read detailed information about the venues that offer the hotspots. The tool includes information about all iPass broadband locations, wired or wireless, around the globe. JiWire is a Wi-Fi Networking News partner. The announcement about the T-Mobile sites isn't available online and JiWire doesn't seem to have posted its news release on its site yet.
Just after the Wi-Fi Alliance touted how many companies have received certification for the WPA security specification, some vendors are suggesting they may not seek certification for some products: Going forward, the Wi-Fi Alliance requires WPA for any product to be certified. Netgear said that while it plans to certify ts products that target business users, the company is not sure if it will submit its consumer devices for certification because consumers are happy with the more basic security mechanisms.
This story points to Belkin and SMC as other vendors that haven't certified their gear. But Belkin says that its products support WPA but just haven't been certified yet.
Netgear is the only company this story cites as balking on certifying some of its gear to meet WPA requirements. The Wi-Fi Alliance bragged in February that 175 products had been certified for WPA since September 2003. While it would be a concern if a bunch of vendors were holding out on WPA, Netgear alone doesn't prove that such a trend is happening. With all the buzz around the lack of security in Wi-Fi, I would think that most vendors will want to offer as much security as possible to reassure nervous potential users.
Intel's moves in the Wi-Fi market may squeeze out other players in the market, including access point makers: Intel is moving toward building chips that can allow a laptop to serve as an AP. Some say if that becomes standard gear in laptops, it may threaten the vendors that make standalone access points. I have to agree with some of the comments in this story that while in some cases it is convenient for a laptop to serve as an AP, at other times it isn't. I would prefer a standalone AP in my house because otherwise I'd have to keep my laptop running all the time. I suspect that laptops with built-in APs will appeal to a certain market but it won't kill the market for standalone APs.
Intel could also give TiVo a run for its money as it develops chips for entertainment PCs. TiVo is apparently working to make its product cheaper and easier to use in anticipation for the competition.
From the "you can roam, but you can't hide" department, Brian Jepson repeats a way to bypass high STSN iBahn per-minute charges through Boingo: Jepson is at a conference that has 25-cent-per-minute iBahn service from STSN. This is the typical STSN rate for pay-as-you-go. Guests of the same hotel can typically pay a fixed day rate as part of a package involving phone service; or service might be free for guests.
Jepson hacks the system by signing up for an initial Boingo As-You-Go package of $7.95 for two one-day sessions. (This rate only applies for your first As-You-Go pass purchase, however; after that, it's $7.95 per day pass.) He then uses iBahn's extra options to authenticate via Boingo. If he'd had the Boingo software installed, he could have bypassed even more of the hassle.
Church offers Wi-Fi for reading scripture commentary, comparing texts, and following sports scores: It sounds like a parody at first, a church providing Wi-Fi access throughout the building, but Richard Tallent makes a good case for combining technology with religious practice. It's not quite the parable of the prodigal son, but he notes that it's the folks who are hardest to reach who are the ones who should have the most outreach to bring them in.
He also provides a link to Acts which describes a listener to Paul who fell asleep and out an open window while he was preaching. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes). [via Robert Scoble]
A brief poetic look at Simplifi's sky-high charges: Esme Vos of MuniWireless presents her take on the high charges for ad hoc access to iPass's network via Simplifi which we discussed a few days ago.
On a drive this last week from Los Angeles to Seattle, I noticed more hotels advertising free high-speed Internet access than ever before: I drove with my brother-in-law and a border collie from Los Angeles to Seattle over 2 1/2 days, starting on "the 5" (which turns into "I-5" north of the great central valley), cutting over to 101 along the northern coast, and then cutting back to I-5 at Grants Pass, Oregon.
I saw several hundred billboards and the front doors of many hotels and motels as we drove along. Unlike previous long trips I've taken in the last couple of years, Internet is now a major bullet point for travelers. Most of the signs that advertised Internet service noted that it was high-speed and free, as well.
Taken in the context of the travelers who pass along the routes we took, I can see that those services are a big necessity. In our case, our one night in a hotel in Ukiah didn't lead us to broadband since we were traveling with a dog. We looked into one chain, but they only had smoking rooms. We stayed at an inexpensive Super 8 that had free local and toll-free calls. My ISP had a Ukiah number, astoundingly, and thus I paid nothing for access in any case.
USA Today reports on a bunch of small airports that offer Wi-Fi for free: Some of them, including Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky., offer it for free because the airport is close enough to other airports that it competes with them for business. When airfares are comparable at any of the nearby airports, some customers may choose to fly from Blue Grass because they can use the free Wi-Fi as they wait for their flights to take off, says an airport spokesperson. The network is pretty extensive too, covering enough area outside of the terminals that fliers can use the network while sitting on the plane on the tarmac during long delays.
I was surprised to see how many other small airports offer free Wi-Fi. Some of the airports cater to business people from nearby big companies, such as the Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville, Tenn., which attracts workers from Eastman Chemical Company. The article notes Pittsburgh as one of the only big airports in the country with free Wi-Fi for all.
Currently there are so many different models for Wi-Fi at airports that it will be interesting to see which work out in the future. We see airlines, third parties, and airports hosting the service, which comes for free or a fee.
The Austin Chronicle takes a look at the Austin Wireless City Project's initiatives around the SXSW music festival, which happens next weekend: The project is offering free iTunes music to users of the free hotspots set up by the project. In addition, the IC2 Institute, a research unit of the University of Texas, is making a presentation during an Interactive Conference going on in conjunction with the festival. The institute will talk about how everyday people can benefit from connectivity. Howard Rheingold, who wrote Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, will also speak at the conference.
Other coverage of the Austin Wireless City Project's efforts include a story written by its co-founder, Rich MacKinnon. He offers a really great description of all the parties that benefit when a venue offers free hotspots. He gives the example of a free hotspot at an Austin restaurant and describes how a consultancy made money to install the router, a printing company was paid to make new coasters touting the free Wi-Fi, MacKinnon's company Less Networks pays a hosting facility to support the hotspot and a PR firm is paid to promote the free hotspots. He notes that even the big companies make money here, including Kinko's which printed a new sign, CompUSA which sold the access point, which was made by Buffalo, and SBC which provides the DSL connection. The list actually goes on, offering a strong argument for the business case behind free hotspots. [both links via Less Networks]
Wall Street Journal talks to home Wi-Fi users who can't seem to get the range they need even on small homes: It's a growing problem, and well explored in this article, that home users are finding that Wi-Fi's limited range can't cover an entire ranch-style home, much less a big apartment--or one with thick walls.
The article mentions several solutions, all of which involve additional access points or devices that promise more range. It misses just one of my favorite solutions: HomePlug. HomePlug lets you run 14 Mbps over home electrical wiring, and even has a Wi-Fi access point version to extend a network into areas that a signal otherwise wouldn't reach.
It appears that there will be a delay in creating a standard for thin APs to communicate with switches: An effort that became known as lightweight access point protocol was started mainly by WLAN switch vendors who hoped to come up with a standard communication method for thin APs. Such a standard would eliminate the requirement for enterprises to only buy APs from the same vendor they buy their WLAN switches from. But the LWAPP standard proposal has expired. In its place is a new effort known as CAPWAP, or the control and provisioning of wireless access points. Eventually, the idea is that a standard like the one the LWAPP group had hoped to create will be worked on within CAPWAP. In the meantime, CAPWAP's goal is to work on defining the architecture of WLANs.
I'm surprised that LWAPP ran out of steam and I think it's unfortunate for the WLAN switch makers. One of the biggest complaints that I've heard of from enterprises that want to deploy WLAN switches is that they have to buy access points from just one specific vendor.
Calypso, which recently was awarded a patent on technology than enables roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, named vendors that it says infringe on the patent: The company said that that patent would have major implications on the way Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia do business. The press release also said that companies that don't want to license the technology right now but plan eventually to make devices that roam between networks will have to obtain rights from Calypso but doesn't explain why that's so.
I've asked leaders of a few companies such as Radioframe and Bridgeport--both are working on roaming between cellular and Wi-Fi networks--for their take on the Calypso patent and neither was interested in commenting. I had a similar experience when looking for comment on the patent for redirect that Nomadix received recently. However, this story quotes the CTO of Birdstep as saying that its technology, which enables roaming between the networks, doesn't interfere with the Calypso patent. Perhaps that means that companies may be able to get around having to license from Calypso.
On a side note, parts of Calypso's Web site are pretty amusing. On the company history page, I found this statement: "Calypso stunned the telecommunication industry when it introduced the world's first and only mobile video phone…" That's interesting as I'm not sure I recall that happening nor have I heard of any operator selling the product. I wouldn't call that "stunning" the industry.
Three big wigs in the Bush administration sent a letter to China's deputy prime ministers urging them to back off the plan to ban Wi-Fi gear that doesn't include a Chinese-made proprietary encryption standard: The letter came from Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick. Last year the Chinese government released its proprietary standard, known as WAPI, to a group of Chinese companies and said that any foreign company that wanted to sell Wi-Fi gear in China would have to work with those companies to include WAPI in the products. Foreign companies fear sharing their intellectual property with Chinese competitors and would prefer to use standard gear around the world to realize cost savings.
This article points to Britain and the United States as nations that have set technical standards in a similar way but I'm hard pressed to come up with examples. Some U.S. cell carriers built networks based on CDMA, a standard created by Qualcomm, instead of the worldwide GSM standard but that choice was in no way dictated by the government and of course some other carriers here opted instead for GSM. European governments have dictated that operators there use GSM but GSM is a worldwide standard--there's no nation that insisted on a proprietary tweak to it within its borders.
The story points to analysts who say that in requiring WAPI China is trying to take its turn as a standard-setter. But forcing companies to do something isn't the way standards are set. They're set by consensus among industry leaders and companies follow them by choice.
In other news of pressure to the Chinese government over WAPI, Pat Gelsinger, the CTO of Intel, plans to meet with Chinese officials to talk about the requirement. Clearly the requirement would affect Intel which would have to alter its Centrio chips, for example, to accommodate for WAPI in order to sell products to the Chinese market.
The University of Michigan is facing a budget crunch which may limit the growth of Wi-Fi on campus: While parts of campus are already covered, many departments have included new Wi-Fi networks in their budgets. But because of the university's tight budget those items may not get approved.
It seems like many universities are facing budget shortfalls and it would be unfortunate if that slowed down the growth of Wi-Fi on campuses. However, I continue to see news about universities that are building out their Wi-Fi networks so perhaps the University of Michigan's experience doesn't point to a trend.
A new service called Simplifi lets travelers prepay for voice and wired and wireless Internet access: Users can connect to any hotspot that is part of the iPass network or make phone calls using a single prepaid account. The service may be useful to individual business travelers whose companies don't use iPass because iPass focuses on multi-user accounts. It also lets customers pay for what they use rather than requiring them to pay a regular subscription.
However, it's a terrible deal. In North America, Simplifi users will pay almost $15 per hour to use a hotspot. Most hotspots that are part of the iPass network charge quite a bit less than that so it's not clear why users would pay that much for access. For example, T-Mobile is part of the iPass network and it charges $6 an hour or $9.99 for a day pass. The Simplifi concept is interesting as it offers users a single point to pay for access but the prices will have to decrease for it to be compelling.
Via Licensing is starting a group that aims to make it easier for companies to license patents related to 802.11: Via Licensing has formed similar groups for standards such as MPEG. The topic of patents in the Wi-Fi industry has taken center stage recently. Agere and Proxim have filed lawsuits against other companies for making 802.11 gear that they say infringes on their intellectual property. More recently, Nomadix and Calypso have received patents for functions in 802.11 networks and they say they'll pursue infringers, though we haven't heard of any action yet.
The idea behind a licensing group is to offer a one stop shop where a vendor can go to pay for all patents related to 802.11 gear as they develop their products. But key to such a group is including members that have the important patents. Via Licensing hasn't revealed how many companies or which companies have expressed interest in the group.
Retaining intellectual property is important but if these companies start trying to gouge each other with royalties it'll increase the price of products and stall the market. Then nobody will make any money. One of the reasons Wi-Fi has been so successful is that the equipment has gotten so cheap (an exec I spoke with yesterday said he saw an ad in the newspaper last weekend for a Wi-Fi card for $6.99, after rebates). I suppose that's a double-edged sword because while it means that more customers buy products it also means vendors see tighter margins. All the talk about patents recently may be an attempt by vendors to capitalize as best they can on a growing market.
BellSouth says it is building 100 hotspots in Charlotte, N.C.: Existing DSL and dial up customers will be able to use the hotspots, which will become available in the second quarter, for free. It's not clear if folks who are not BellSouth Internet customers will be able to use the network. BellSouth doesn't seem to have a press release about this on its Web site; maybe the story was announced locally in Charlotte.
BellSouth is one of the few major landline operators that has yet to announce a Wi-Fi strategy. The company owns a variety of wireless licenses in and around the MMDS bands. This is pure speculation, but BellSouth would be smart to build hotspots once WiMax gear is available and comes down in price because it can use its licensed frequencies and WiMax to backhaul hotspots at a low cost.
The Register reports on a story that ran in a magazine called Computing Which? that details failures to get standard Wi-Fi gear from different manufacturers to interoperate: The editors tried to set up a Linksys 802.11g router and a Netgear bridge but couldn't get the two devices to interact. Eventually one Netgear help desk agent told the writers the products could be incompatible.
It doesn’t appear that the original story is online so it's hard to know more about this trial. It sounds as though the aim of the report was to test how easy or difficult it is to set up wireless networks. The writers concluded that it's too hard to use. It would be unfortunate if the industry has a hard time attracting additional users because the products are inoperable and difficult to use.
Alcatel and Nortel are both promoting voice over WLAN systems by reselling WLAN equipment from Airespace and handsets from SpectraLink: Cisco started selling voice over WLAN handsets last year and ironically it appears that move is actually good news for SpectraLink, which has been making such phones for many years. That's because Cisco competitors like Alcatel and Nortel need to sell voice over WLAN systems to customers but certainly won't sell Cisco phones. Instead they'll use SpectraLink's.
This story included some interesting figures form Forrester Research about WLANs. The study found that 20 percent of companies have or are in the process of building WLANs. About 15 percent of companies said they had completed or were in the process of rolling out voice over IP systems, but the story doesn't distinguish if that refers to voice over WLANs or voice on regular wired phones. I suspect that the companies that have deployed voice over WLANs are concentrated in certain market segments like factories or warehouses. It's likely that there are few companies in standard offices using voice over WLAN as the benefits are less clear and because building a WLAN to support voice is a more challenging proposition than constructing a WLAN just for data.
It's more vaporware: cell phone billing for hotspot usage for hotspots that don't exist: Over the last year, four Canadian cellular telephone carriers have made deals for inter-network roaming, issued press releases, and most recently said that Wi-Fi usage could be billed directly to a cell phone account.
Of course, the carriers haven't built a single hotspot, and the leading Canadian firm FatPort already offers a variety of billing and roaming options. FatPort has partnerships for bilateral roaming with other networks worldwide, including Surf and Sip. Their locations are resold via iPass, GRIC, and Boingo. They work with Excilan to allow certain cell customers to pay via cell phone for their service already.
All this to say that the cell companies in Canada are offering a lot of noise for no results. Their promise to build 500 locations by the end of 2004 might be impeded by the locations and chains already under contract to FatPort and to companies to which FatPort has licensed their technology or for which FatPort is operating networks.
The article also incorrectly states that hotspot users have to enter a credit card each time, disregarding the many subscription plans and pre-paid card options offered by FatPort in Canada and other hotspot networks worldwide. I know the Globe and Mail is a major daily newspaper, but this article was written by proxy by the cell carriers who told the reporter exactly what to think--note the paucity of quotes and none from companies outside the partnership. [link via TechDirt]
The Semiconductor Industry Association is calling on the Chinese government to drop its proprietary Wi-Fi encryption mechanism: The Chinese government recently said that only products that comply with its own encryption scheme will be allowed in China and foreign companies can only make gear based on the standard in partnership with handpicked Chinese firms that are privy to the encryption technology. I've noticed that recent pleas from foreign companies or groups to the Chinese government tend to focus on why a Chinese standard would hurt the Chinese market. They argue that the Chinese IT industry will slow because Chinese firms won't be able to access innovations made by companies around the world because they'll be required to stick to their own unique standard. Maybe groups like the Semiconductor Industry Association figure China doesn't care if its plan hurts foreign companies but that it might care if its plan hinders its own companies.
We've been following developments on this issue and you can read some recent news about the likelihood of a formal WTO complaint here.
The boxing analogy in this story gets old really quickly but the piece notes that Wi-Fi was a hot topic at the annual GSM conference in Cannes, France, last week: The battle between 3G and Wi-Fi has been portrayed slightly wrong in many articles, though. It's not a direct battle between 3G and Wi-Fi--the offerings are just too different to imagine that they can compete head to head. The real battle will be between the cellular operators who have aggressively pursed Wi-Fi and those that haven't.
They are all pursuing some sort of higher data rate upgrades on their cell networks and they must. Wi-Fi makes a great alternative to those networks where it's available but the cellular networks are equally great where no Wi-Fi is available, even though they're slow. Wi-Fi will cannibalize cellular data networks--but only for cellular operators who don't own Wi-Fi networks. The cell operators would be smart to build their own Wi-Fi networks so they can earn revenues from their customers who prefer to use Wi-Fi where it's available.
I wrote a story that ran today in the Seattle Times about WiMax: The idea originally was to look at how WiMax and Wi-Fi might co-exist in the future and I found people had opinions on either end of the spectrum. Some, mostly those who are in the business of making WiMax gear but also some analysts, said that in the future if operators build out wide scale, mobile WiMax networks, the need for public Wi-Fi hotspots declines. Others, including some WiMax vendors and analysts, say that the two will both fill needs in the market.
I think WiMax offers an opportunity for operators to buy gear that is lower priced than the proprietary stuff available today or to improve on the use of Wi-Fi as a longer range last mile technology. It could spur an increase in an already large market of small rural operators using wireless to offer broadband to otherwise unserved communities.
I also think that Nextel offers the most hope for a very wide scale WiMax network because Nextel has a bunch of MMDS spectrum that it bought from Worldcom. Sprint and Bellsouth have good chunks too so they could also build WiMax networks. Other operators would be reluctant to exclusively use unlicensed bands.
This very general story supposedly about 802.11i in U.S. News is so out there it's comical: I guess we're all "hipsters" since the writer says "hipsters" call access points hotspots. He also refers to future 802.11i access points as "'i' generation" hotspots. I wonder where he got that phrase. It's also not clear why he's even writing about public hotspots since he's under the impression that 802.11i will only be used in corporate offices.