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Recent Entries

Ricochet Bounces into Other Hands, Again
Wi-Fi Enhances RFID Capabilities
Copenhagen Public Squares Go Wireless
Orange France Expands Hotspot Network (at Absurd Prices)
Yahoo BB Opens Wi-Fi Network for Aggregator Roaming
NetNearU Brews Managed Services for Tully's
Indian Railways Launches Wi-Fi on Trains
Apple Cuts Prices on Wi-Fi Gear
NetGear Packs a Wallop in Portable Package
Broadcom Puts 802.11g on a Single Chip

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June 2004 Archives

June 30, 2004

Ricochet Bounces into Other Hands, Again

By Glenn Fleishman

Ricochet Networks is now part of YDI Wireless: This article traces the history of the network as it passes into its fourth set of hands. Nonetheless, YDI is well positioned through its existing business to make use of Ricochet as an adjunct to higher-speed and fixed offerings.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:14 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Roaming

Wi-Fi Enhances RFID Capabilities

By Nancy Gohring

Apriso and AeroScout are partnering to offer companies a logistics platform that marries RFID and Wi-Fi for sophisticated asset tracking applications: AeroScout's Wi-Fi location tracking offering can be used by companies to track items that have RFID tags. Apriso offers the backend logistics software. The solution can be used to track resources such as equipment, people, and containers around the globe.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 10:16 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Enterprise

Copenhagen Public Squares Go Wireless

By Nancy Gohring

Danish hotspot provider Hotspot Networks is offering Wi-Fi access in many of Copenhagen's central squares and parks: Hotspot Networks has deals with iPass and Boingo, so those subscribers will have access to the network. The release should be available here eventually.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 9:58 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: International

Orange France Expands Hotspot Network (at Absurd Prices)

By Glenn Fleishman

Orange France will have 4,500 hotspots by the end of 2004, but still charges excessive fees: The company has 3,000 locations already, and is continuing to expand its network. While paying 17 centimes a minute, 10 euros an hour, or 30 euros a day isn't out of line with most other European Wi-Fi operator fees, it's not a sustainable price to drive adoption and use.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:22 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, International

Yahoo BB Opens Wi-Fi Network for Aggregator Roaming

By Glenn Fleishman

Yahoo BB's 636 Wi-Fi hotspots in Japan will be available to GoRemote, iPass, Boingo customers: The joint venture of Softbank and Yahoo Japan will expand to 5,000 locations by March 2005, the article says. While the hotspots are currently free on a trial basis, Yahoo BB customers will pay 40 yen or 37 cents per minute to use locations outside the network, an enormously higher rate than NTT's competing domestic service. It's also unclear how Yahoo BB customers will gain access to iPass aggregated locations, for instance.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:19 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, International, Roaming

NetNearU Brews Managed Services for Tully's

By Glenn Fleishman

nnu.roamingNetNearU shifts its business model slightly to gain some former Cometa locations, including Tully's: NetNearU's business to date has been entirely focused on building an authentication and accounting platform that they can license to venues and network builders such as and CEDX.

The company today tweaked its model to incorporate some former Cometa hotspot locations, according to a note from NetNearU's president and COO Cody Catalena. NetNearU didn't want to compete with its platforms licensees, but it had an opportunity to expand the network in a way that benefits them: the Tully's and similar managed services locations that they take over will allow free roaming from existing NetNearU partner networks' customers.

The president's letter states unequivocally that NetNearU isn't establishing a separately branded managed services business. The Tully's locations will be labeled with the coffee vendor's identity.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:46 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Roaming

Indian Railways Launches Wi-Fi on Trains

By Glenn Fleishman

Indian Railways has installed Internet access via Wi-Fi on the Delhi-Amritsar and Delhi-Bhopal runs: Service is available via Wi-Fi and is initially free. Kiosks will be available in luxury coaches.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:45 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: International, Rails

June 29, 2004

Apple Cuts Prices on Wi-Fi Gear

By Glenn Fleishman

airport_extreme_base_90x80Apple lowers the price on its 802.11g equipment: Bowing to market necessity, Apple has made only the second price cut in its history of selling Wi-Fi equipment. The original AirPort Base Station (802.11b) cost $300 and AirPort Card $100. Both remained at those prices until Jan. 2003--while other makers raced to the bottom--when Apple introduced one of the first 802.11g gateways, the AirPort Extreme Base Station ($200 or $250 depending on features) and its accompanying $100 card.

The Extreme Base station came in two models, later expanded to three: a basic unit ($200); one with a built-in modem and antenna jack ($250); and most recently, a plenum-rated fire-safety version that supports Power over Ethernet ($250).

Today, Apple dropped its card priced to $80, still well above comparable PC Cards from other companies using the same chips; formally eliminated the basic $200 base station model; and dropped its modem/jack base station price to $200. The plenum/PoE unit remains at a $250 retail price, although schools typically pay $25 to $50 less for that model in single units and quantity.

Apple's AirPort Extreme equipment does have a few unique features. It's almost impossible to get a modem in a gateway these days; the Bluetooth/Wi-Fi interaction in Apple's gear is managed at a firmware level to reduce interference; and the AirPort Extreme Card works in all Apple models, avoiding taking up a PC Card or PCI Card slot in machines that have them.

The AirPort Express Base Station at $130 is due to ship in mid-July, and its price might have caused Apple to trim their incredibly healthy margins.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:18 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware

NetGear Packs a Wallop in Portable Package

By Glenn Fleishman

wgr101NetGear's WGR101 lacks a fancy name, but its compact size might make it a good companion: NetGear hops on the underexploited portable access point market with its sub-$90 802.11g portable device. Its unique feature is an external switch for changing between a single user mode, multi-user shared mode, and configuration. It lacks WPA at the moment, but support is promised. The price and features compare favorably with Apple's upcoming AirPort Express, which retails for $129 and includes USB printer sharing and streaming music, which aren't critical features for a road warrior.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:06 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware, Road Warrior

Broadcom Puts 802.11g on a Single Chip

By Glenn Fleishman

Broadcom's latest 802.11g system puts the whole megillah on a single chip: While we don't highlight every chip announcement, this is another roadpost on the way to the inclusion of higher-speed Wi-Fi in any product that could benefit from it. A single chip is easier to integrate, reduces the overall cost of materials, and decreases power consumption.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:53 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Chips

June 28, 2004 Chases Big Contracts

By Nancy Gohring offered Landstar a special program that offers Landstar drivers a discounted subscription rate: Trucking company Landstar has thousands of drivers who can now sign up to use hotspots at a discount. The drivers can use the networks to email delivery confirmations and look for new loads on Landstar's board.

The deal doesn't have any sort of figure associated with it for how many drivers will sign up and signing up is totally voluntary so it's not clear how significant of an agreement this is. But, it's a smart idea for to go after large trucking companies or other organizations that have workers who are on the highways often as a way to load its network. currently has just over 400 hotspots and has plans for 3,000.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 12:47 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Deals

New Twist on Municipal Hotspots

By Nancy Gohring

Manchester, New Hampshire, plans to announce in mid-July that a hotspot will be available downtown for anyone to use free for one hour: It appears that the city decided it wanted a network and put out a request for proposal. Signull Technologies offered to fund and build the network and then offer one free hour per day per user. An hour a day might be useful for folks who may want to check email during their lunch break or for visitors to town. The agreement sounds like a good way for Signull to pull in potential customers and for the city to offer a useful service for visitors and residents.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 11:12 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

One More Argument for Security

By Nancy Gohring

In an amusing instance of a less-than-brilliant criminal mind, a Maryland man is busted for trying to extort a company via emails sent from unsecured hotspots: In an effort to get back at a business that competes with his own, this fellow used unsecured hotspots around town to send threatening emails and demands for $17 million. Apparently he figured that using the unsecured sites would keep him anonymous. The trouble is, he slipped up when he instructed the recipients to write the checks out to him. The FBI had tracked down the emails to the hotspots but seeing as the owners of the hotspots had no connection to the business receiving the emails, they were clearly not involved.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 10:56 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique

Netopia Offers Hotspot Solution

By Nancy Gohring

Netopia joins a handful of other companies offering a hotspot-in-a-box solution: Netopia's hotspot solution costs $300 for customers that already have a DSL modem and an additional $40 a month for support. Users, which could be a cafe or retail location, are given cards with log on numbers that they can sell or give to end users. Netopia will also sell customers Web site design and maintenance service.

Surf and Sip and AirPath are just two of a handful of other companies that offer hotspot services to venues. These services are aimed at venues that don't want to deal with supporting a network themselves. It's unclear yet if the pricing structures set up by these providers will fly in the market.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 10:29 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot

IEEE Approves Most Recent 802.16

By Nancy Gohring

The IEEE ratified the 802.16-2004 standard, marking a milestone in the development of the standard: Still, there's a long way to go. This article doesn't draw the distinction between 802.16 and WiMax. Now that the IEEE has ratified what had been called 802.16d, the WiMax Forum must still release its final specification for WiMax, which will be essentially a subset of the larger standard. Products built to the WiMax specification that get approved by the WiMax Forum can be assured to be interoperable with other WiMax gear.

The IEEE ratification is an exciting milestone but the reality of a WiMax market in the United States is much farther in the future than some writers and industry followers acknowledge. This article notes that WiMax approved equipment should be available early next year. That's true, but basically all manufacturers will build their first generation products to operate in frequencies used overseas, not in the United States.

It also remains to be seen how the final specifications--802.16 and WiMax--will affect folks like Alvarion. Alvarion is offering products today that it promises to upgrade to meet the final WiMax specification. Glenn described the whole process a couple weeks ago. Alvarion isn't taking much of a risk because their customers will pay for any upgrades needed if the customers actually decide to install WiMax standard software or hardware when Alvarion makes it available.

Some analysts have told me that some vendors are feeling a bit of a squeeze as potential customers are deciding to wait for certified WiMax equipment. In the meantime, the vendors aren't selling any gear. So Alvarion made a reasonable guess at what the final specification would look like. They're hoping that they are close enough that they don't have to offer major, expensive upgrades to customers in the future to make the products WiMax compatible.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 9:42 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: WiMAX

June 25, 2004

Caring about 802.11i

By Glenn Fleishman

The IEEE has ratified 802.11i: what next? The news yesterday that the IEEE had finally approved the 802.11i security standard known slightly tautologically as MAC Enhancements for Enhanced Security produced a number of news reports and a little bit of analysis. The Wi-Fi Alliance stole 802.11i's thunder in late 2002 by announcing that it would implement and test its own interim version of 802.11i called Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) in an effort to shore up an increasingly battered security model that was preventing adoption in the enterprise and made home users nervous.

WPA succeeded wildly in changing the perception of Wi-Fi's security, even as it took months beyond its initial intended roll-out to make inroads in firmware and driver upgrades, finally appearing widely by fall 2003 in major operating systems and products. WPA repaired faults in the encryption and integrity parts of Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) with the intent of providing backward firmware compatibility with older gear. We got the better TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) along with other improvements without having necessarily to upgrade all of our equipment. (Mileage varies: Some cards as old as from 1999 can support WPA; other access points made as recently as 2002 must be replaced.)

802.11i's substantial change over WPA's interim rollout involve better handoff and better encryption. The 802.11i standard supports AES key using CCMP which conforms to government security standards. Most silicon made since late 2002 already has the pieces in place to handle the more advanced AES encryption computation and management. For the vast majority of users, AES is an unneeded improvement because it turns an already insoluble problem for all intents and purposes--100 years might be enough time with today's tech to crack a well-chosen TKIP key from some quadrillions of bytes of ciphertext--into a crack that requires the death of stars to achieve.

Still, governments and critical enterprise operations want orders of magnitude better encryption than what TKIP offers for two reasons: first, flaws that reduce the computational magnitude of cracking a TKIP key might still leave the 802.11i advanced key far beyond reach; second, computation speed improves all the time, meaning that a 100-year crack today could be a 1-day crack in five years.

Robert Moskowitz of ICSA Labs, a veteran cryptography expert, said via email, however, that many in the community believe the underlying algorithm for WEP and TKIP will be broken in the next few years in such a way that even TKIP won't provide any real protection against a crack. He recommends a complete transition to AES-based keys as soon as the drivers and hardware support it. I haven't seen the consumer interface to AES yet, so I don't know how feasible that is.

Other improvements in 802.11i have more immediate benefits, as Eric Griffith of Wi-Fi Planet ably explained: first, it offers key caching to allow quick re-attachment to servers when you return; second, it offers pre-authentication for fast roaming among access points in a network. The former capability reduces irritation for uses; the latter helps support encrypted VoIP over WLAN and retains state for short-lived applications, like streaming media.

The practical upshot of 802.11i's ratification is that the floodgates will open as firmware upgrades and new products enter the market: companies that held back due to security concerns can couple the availability of AES keys with robust encrypted EAP sessions for 802.1X authentication. The whole security chain for logging in, exchanging credentials, authenticating, and encryption the link layer becomes so much more robust that a network and a session's integrity just needs to be managed not protected.

The press has been full of reports for years that enterprises were on the verge of adopting WLANs on a widescale basis. A talk I had with Airwave a few days ago indicates that networks with thousands of access points are becoming routine in academia and enterprise. With security beyond reproach available, the switch (pun intended) will be thrown, and the real spending for wide-scale networks will now begin.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:19 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

Airports Hit Brick Wall in Regulating Unlicensed Radio

By Glenn Fleishman

The FCC says landlords, associations can't regulate Part 15 use: The FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology says that the function of regulating and coordinating frequency use is reserved to the FCC itself. It's a clear refutation of mall owners, airports, and condominium associations to limit use of Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies. (Document as Word, PDF, Text.)

The report says in part, the FCC has exclusive authority to resolve matters involving radio frequency interference [RFI] when unlicensed devices are being used, regardless of venue. We also affirm that the rights that consumers have under our rules to install and operate customer antennas one meter or less in size apply to the operation of unlicensed equipment, such as Wi-Fi access points - just as they do to the use of equipment in connection with fixed wireless services licensed by the FCC.

And it's hard to put their conclusion any better than they themselves: The rules prohibit homeowner associations, landlords, state and local governments, or any other third parties from placing restrictions that impair a customer antenna user's ability to install, maintain, or use such customer antennas transmitting and/or receiving commercial nonbroadcast communications signals when the antenna is located "on property within the exclusive use or control" of the user where the user has a "direct or indirect ownership or leasehold interest in the property, except under certain exceptions for safety and historic preservation."

Dewayne Hendricks notes in his post of this order that airports' only recourse now is to
appeal this decision to the entire Commission
. In other words, airlines, start your (Wi-Fi) engines. [link via Dewayne Hendricks]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:26 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Politics

Penn Station's Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

A correspondent notes that Amtrak's waiting room at Penn Station has AT&T Wireless's Wi-Fi active: He writes, the splashpage finally arrived at the Amtrak waiting-room at Penn Station. After filling in the personal info ( they have the nerve to ask for the last four digits of your SS number!)... He was on a PDA and the page failed to allow him to purchase a connection. A call to AT&T Wireless Wi-Fi was a waste of time, the lady I talked to was clueless. The funny part is that I got far enough into the process to receive an 'Thank you for registering for the AT&T Wireless e-Wallet' e-mail.

The correspondent notes, There's a Starbucks at the other end of the station (I have an account with them) and hopefully the McDonald's also in the station will work again soon. And then Verizon which works from the McDonald's on 7th Ave. if you sit close enough to the front window.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:19 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Transportation and Lodging

June 24, 2004

Insecurity through Clarity

By Glenn Fleishman

World Wide Wardrive finds most access points unprotected: The fourth week-long international wardrive found 288,000 access points in their survey, more than 50 percent of which had no security enabled. Since these were passive scans, it's impossible to tell whether those access points were inside or outside corporate firewalls, and thus not open portals, but it's likely that the overwhelming majority were just plain open. Nearly 30 percent had the default SSID or network name set.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:46 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hacking, Security

Aero-Conferencing on Lufthansa

By Glenn Fleishman

eric-in-the-airComputer company eats its own dog food in live video chat from Lufthansa flight: Two Apple product managers try out Lufthansa's version of Connexion by Boeing: Wi-Fi inside a plane relayed to ground by satellite. The quality was good enough, apparently, to conduct a live two-way iChat AV videoconference.

This is just a taste of things to come, of course, as airlines consider in-plane cellular antennas. Voice over IP should also be a snap with a high-speed connection like Connexion's and next year's service tweak for Tenzing. The voices, the voices: can we ever escape them? Unlikely.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:44 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Unique, Voice | 1 TrackBack

Three Municipal Wireless Networks Foreshadow Future

By Glenn Fleishman

Bob Brewin dives into three cities that are deploying large-area Wi-Fi networks for public-safety-only and mixed-use purposes: Spokane has unwired 100 city blocks, Rio Rancho claims over a 100 square miles, and Cook County ultimately expects nearly 1,000 square miles of coverage for public safety in Chicago and surrounding areas.

The movement shows that municipal Wi-Fi has moved from a curiosity explored without many concrete goals--let's bring more people into downtown and see what happens, for instance--into a critical part in managing emergency response for fire, police, and medical personnel. When major incidents hit, the critical question is how well these networks perform, especially compared to cellular, landline, and proprietary (and expensive) public-safety band equipment.

Spokane and Rio Rancho will offer public access to the network, while Cook County is focusing purely on public safety. Cook County's routers can switch to cellular or satellite networks as needed.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:36 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal | 2 TrackBacks

Security Standard 802.11i Ratified

By Glenn Fleishman

eWeek reports that the IEEE ratified 802.11i, the updated security standard for Wi-Fi: The new 802.11i standard will appear as firmware upgrades to modern equipment--notably almost everything shipped since late 2002 with some exceptions--by September, the article states. 802.11i adds a few key pieces on top of the interim WPA standard, and should allow companies to remove the restriction of putting access points outside of a firewall and using expensive LAN-speed VPNs for wireless users. Combining 802.11i's AES encryption with 802.1X/EAP-TLS or PEAP and there's an enormously high degree of security in the authentication process and in Layer 2 communication.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:30 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security, Standards | 1 TrackBack

WeRoam Adds New Hotspots

By Nancy Gohring

WeRoam, which offers authentication, billing, and settlement services to operators, added Ireland's Bitbuzz to its network
: Bitbuzz now has about 30 hotspots but plans to grow. The agreement means that customers of WeRoam's operator customers, such as Orange of Switzerland, can now roam onto Bitbuzz hotspots. WeRoam mainly touts its ability to do SIM-based authentication but it will support other types of authentication based on the capabilities of the hotspot operator.

We covered WeRoam's business model and how it compares to other roaming solutions in May.

Posted by Nancy Gohring at 10:22 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Deals

Paris Outskirts Become Europe's Largest Hot Zone

By Glenn Fleishman

The enormous complex La Défense on the outskirts of Paris will become 30 hectares of Wi-Fi coverage: The complex has 150,000 regular workers and 50,000 visitors a day. While it's a paid service, some information will be available for free, such as traffic details and transportation schedules. Costs weren't listed.

Update: An alert reader pointed out an earlier story on Wi-Fi Networking News pointing to a park in Lisbon that has a hot zone of 100 hectares. La Défense certainly will have vastly more regular users, but it doesn't cover more area.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:51 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: International | 1 TrackBack

Los Angeles Looks to Build Municipal Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Project is looking for proposals to build a free Wi-Fi zone in downtown: has the RFP (request for proposal).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:45 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal | 1 TrackBack

June 23, 2004

Historically Linked by Trade and Empire, Two Continents Connect with Hacker Wireless

By Glenn Fleishman

dscf0006Morocco and Spain connect, however temporarily, with a wireless link: In a project that involved many people and organizations and had a political as well as technical goal, a 32-kilometer link between the continents was established from Tarifa, Spain, to Tangiers, Morocco (often spelled Tangier, too). The link has symbolic significance spanning countries, the sea, and hundreds of years.

Spain and Northern Africa have a lengthy shared history dating back 1,000 years and more, through Moorish Spain, the expulsion of Jews (which led to the Sephardic Diaspora), and more recent immigration and cultural conflicts. The empire of the Moors led to a cultural revolution unmatched again until the Renaissance in which algebra was invented, poetry was written, and members of a number of monotheistic religions lived in relative harmony. [link via Slashdot]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:10 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Politics

Logan Launches Wi-Fi Service

By Glenn Fleishman

Boston's Logan airport turns Wi-Fi on for a fee tomorrow: The service will run $7.95 per day and be offered in Terminals B, C, and D; E already had Wi-Fi. A may come later--it's currently being rebuilt for Delta Airlines. There's no word on roaming or resale through aggregator networks or bilateral roaming agreements with other operators. [Update thanks to Jason Levine]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:02 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Hot Spot

Wi-LAN Sues Cisco over OFDM Patents

By Glenn Fleishman

It's been brewing for years, but Wi-LAN of Canada finally sues a big player: Wi-LAN has alleged for years that it holds patents that cover a variety of issues to do with OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), the modulation scheme used for 802.11a and g, among other standards.

In fact, at the first 802.11 Planet conference, representatives of Intersil and Texas Instruments traded barbs over the inclusion of OFDM in 802.11g with TI suggesting patent issues could muddy the water. Its own abandoned PBCC (Packet Binary Convolution Code) has an entirely different approach.

Wi-LAN is going after Cisco, and ostensibly hopes that if it can either win in court or get Cisco to settle that it has a basis for collecting royalties from the entire industry. Wi-LAN could collect vast amounts of money, but they are probably poised to offer reasonable terms. Most patent holders want to ensure strong royalties by not encouraging an ultimate migration from their covered rights. If they lose in court, it's unlikely to cause a ripple.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:57 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Standards

Standards Body May Approve 802.11i Thursday

By Glenn Fleishman

Ratification nears for 802.11i, the security update for Wi-Fi: 802.11i is the final version of a major security overhaul, parts of which were released based on its interim draft as Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) by the Wi-Fi Alliance last year. WPA was an interim measure to improve security in the short-run; 802.11i adds advanced encryption keys that government agencies will require, as well a few other miscellaneous pieces that will improve authentication handoff from one access point to another.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:47 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

Boingo's Pocket PC Edition Available

By Glenn Fleishman

Boingo Wireless has released their Pocket PC client software for Windows Mobile 2003; Palm version to follow: Boingo has had a Pocket PC beta out for quite a while; their release version appeared today. A version for the Palm Tungsten C is due out this summer.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:45 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Software

June 22, 2004


By Glenn Fleishman

Watch out, houseboat dwellers and nearby shore residents: sniffing hits human-powered water vehicles!: In my hometown of Seattle, some intrepid souls pack their gear in plastic bags and kayak around Lake Union, a mid point in the connected bodies of water from Elliot Bay through to Lake Washington. Lake Union is home to high tech and biomed companies around the periphery and houseboats and marinas directly on it. The lake is a little dodgy--I wouldn't want to swim in it--but it's a pretty view from the shore or out in it.

Warkayaking is the latest variant in the war- prefix series of sniffing Wi-Fi signals from various places or indicating the presence of Wi-Fi through various means. There's been warflying, wardriving, warchalking, and even warwalking.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:32 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hacking | 1 TrackBack

Gilder Says 3G Trumps Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

If being wrong about the value of fiber-optic cable wasn't bad enough, Gilder predicts Wi-Fi will be killed by 3G: Gilder's latest predictions have proven right in the short term, it turns out, according to Forbes, which notes that a service tracking his model portfolio has had high returns. (Let's remember that great phrase, though, which is that historical returns don't predict future performance.) Watch the sketchy video linked from the article--shot outdoors with little editing, so it doesn't do him justice, honestly. I've never agreed with parts of what he's said more.

Gilder specifically says that 1xEvDO will kill Wi-Fi, which can't be the case because 1xEvDO is too asymmetrical: it has a typical upload speed of 50 kilobits per second (Kbps) and download speeds of 200 to 400 Kbps on average. Compare this with the service being rolled out across the downtown in Salem, Massachusettes, which is deploying three 6 Mbps downstream, 1 Mbps upstream ADSL connections as part of for a cost of about $180 per month total. There's a lot more bandwidth potential in the conventional wireline side using plain copper.

Gilder has a lot to say that's correct, which is that other countries--he especially notes Korea--have massively more bandwidth available to homes and businesses in the wireline and wireless markets. This is due to something he doesn't mention: cost. South Korean and Japanese firms particularly have managed to roll out extremely high-speed DSL and cell services often at the same price we pay for tiny pipes in the U.S. I'm still not entirely sure how they pull this off.

Regulation, as he points out, might be one issue, but it's also the market climate: a lot of money was spent by U.S. companies pursuing Gilder's last vision, and thus the resources that could have been devoted to pursuing inexpensive DSL were spent in overbuilding competing fiber-optic networks and in messy acquisitions at fraudulent valuations.

Gilder's observations on the Wi-Fi side show that as a holder of Qualcomm's stock, he's not looking closely at the current generation of Wi-Fi and related wireless deployments. He notes in the video for this story, that there is "small coverage and not all that much bandwidth [in] the average Wi-Fi hotspot." As noted above, DSL service has become cheap enough to offer enormous increases in speed, and a number of cities are deploying partial or complete Wi-Fi service using mesh-based or smart antenna technology. This trend seems to have legs rather than slowing down, implying that the deployments actually work in cities that try it.

Because Wi-Fi service can have many high-speed links and has such an overall local area network capacity, it's possible to have an enormous number of users of a larger network with injections of bandwidth all over the place rather than relying on the limited spectrum--there's that regulation again--that cellular operators have to dole out for 2.5G and 3G networks.

Verizon Wireless told me in an interview recently that their rollout isn't quite an experiment, but they're chary about offering any exotic services, like a network sharing offering such as the Junxion Box (which I wrote about yesterday). They and other carriers are investing a lot in networks that they're not entirely sure what the capacity is once users start to sign up in droves. They want a clean network to see what sticks, and it's clear with so much near-term competition prices will drop.

The capacity is surely quite high, but we get back to the issue of how much bandwidth is needed in different scenarios. 3G will be ubiquitous, which is useful for all kinds of purposes, but most people work only in certain kinds of spaces in which Wi-Fi will be available with higher upload and download speeds than can be relied on in the cellular network over the next two to three years domestically.

Just remember that 50 to maybe 100 Kbps upload limit on an unloaded network on the fastest cell data trunks that will roll out in the next 12 months, and a 512K symmetrical DSL line or, better, a 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up line doesn't seem quite so slow. Gilder says that 1xEV-DO offers "up to 3.1 Mbps connection." Sure, if there's no one else in your cell and you're on top of the tower.

Cell operators may be paying Qualcomm large patent royalties, but they're also building Wi-Fi networks and reselling existing networks. It's not an either/or: it's a both. [link via TechDirt]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:40 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 2.5G and 3G, Financial

UPS Starts Wireless Logistical Deployment in Europe

By Glenn Fleishman

UPS starts its global roll-out of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular systems to speed up package processing: The system will start its rollout in Europe in package sorting centers. Sorts will wear a Bluetooth ring on their middle finger that will scan bar codes. The ring hands data off to a belt-worn Wi-Fi device which communicates with the network. By 2007, UPS will have 55,000 ring scanners deployed in 118 countries. They predict enormous savings in repairs and downtime as well as spare parts inventory. It also provides worker flexibility: there's no fixed station needed. 73 sites will have the system deployed by the end of 2005.

UPS will install about 12,000 access points across 2,000 facilities as part of this rollout. While they say the resulting network will be one of the largest in the world, a conversation I had with a firm today that builds software to manage large-scale access point deployments indicates that there may be several hundred companies today with thousands of access points across all branches, and that topping 10,000 access points for a worldwide corporation won't be unusual in a year or two.

In the U.S., UPS is testing its DIAD IV (Delivery Information Acquisition Device) which combines GPS (for positioning), Bluetooth (for scanning), Wi-Fi (for transmission), and GSM/GPRS cellular data (for uplinking). The device even has an acoustic modem for the backroads that UPS finds itself delivering packages to.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:42 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Enterprise

Another Billion into Networks, as Sprint PCS Heads for 3G; Cingular Makes Plans, Too

By Glenn Fleishman

Sprint PCS joins the third-generation cellular rush in the U.S. by committing a billion dollars to building a 1xEV-DO network: The company had previously signaled its interest in waiting and then deploying an EVDV (data/voice) network that might have had higher download speeds and integrated voice into the same 3G footprint. Now they say that some markets will have their brand of service year's end with many more in 2005.

Cingular, meanwhile said today that UMTS could appear as soon as next year. Cingular had recently expressed doubts that with the current available spectrum they could deploy 3G data networks before 2006. Now, they plan a trial of two kinds of UTMS: one operates at 384 Kbps (unclear if this is the rated speed or the typical speed), and another at up to 14.4 Mbps. That's megabits per second. Trials will start in Atlanta this summer, and extend in 2005 to the rest of the country.

AT&T Wireless, which Cingular is in the middle of acquiring, has reiterated its plans in the last few months to try UMTS's W-CDMA flavor in a few cities by the end of 2004. T-Mobile's plans are obscure, but EDGE (2.5G/100 Kbps) should be on its way. Nextel will most likely pursue a private cell data plan with higher speeds but that use none of the popular flavors.

Suddenly, some towns with no-better-than-modem wireless speeds could have four competing cellular data networks with 100 to 400 Kbps average download speeds. (All of these flavors ostensibly have restricted uploads of about 50 Kbps, however.) Expect price competition. At $80 per month flat for Verizon Wireless's high-speed network, the race to the bottom will start in earnest. Verizon Wireless will still likely have a leg up by offering service first in most competitive cities.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:34 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: 2.5G and 3G

June 21, 2004

Wi-Fi Phones

By Glenn Fleishman

Every day brings more voice over IP (VoIP) phones with Wi-Fi, and Daily Wireless rounds it up for you: In their usual exhaustive fashion, Daily Wireless integrates the latest news about ZyXel's Wi-Fi VoIP phone and other related projects, including Skype's new Linux client--it's wireless if you're using a wirelessly connected laptop!

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:37 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Voice

T-Mobile, Kinko's Complete Deployment (Nearly)

By Glenn Fleishman

Almost all 1,100 Kinko's in the U.S. have T-Mobile's HotSpot service installed: I've never seen a press release that said all locations (almost), so I'm not sure of the timing of this announcement not waiting for the actual completion. Because it's "nearly all," you still have to check whether a particular Kinko's has service before you expect to use it.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:25 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot

Wyndham Re-Ups with Wayport

By Glenn Fleishman

Wyndham has long been the mainstay of Wayport's hotel market, and they've re-upped: The new contract will last three years, and comes at a time that Wayport is exploring new business models for providing flat-rate reseller access to their retail partners--hotels and other venues could follow, but not for months. Wyndham has both wired and Wi-Fi service, mostly in-room wired broadband and Wi-Fi in public spaces, and provides free Internet access at its 85 properties to members of its By Request affinity club. Membership in the club is free, but must be completed before checking in.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:23 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hotels

GoRemote Says Unique Totals Are Better Than Reported

By Glenn Fleishman

GoRemote presents information about their Wi-Fi hotspot network locations that put them in better light: Two weeks ago, I reported on the inconsistencies I found between the publicly available listings of hotspot locations provided by the three major aggregators of roaming service, Boingo Wireless, iPass, and the newly renamed GoRemote (formerly GRIC, but its acronym remains the same).

Aggregators resell access to other networks that they don't operate. In exchange for this, they pay the operator a fee for every connection to their network by an aggregator customer. Boingo sells Wi-Fi service only using an unlimited monthly fee model. iPass and GRIC sell to corporations to dial-up, wired, and wireless service on a metered basis with the cost being per usage unit not per user, which can avoid costly monthly subscriptions for users who venture on the road regularly but would never pay back the cost of an individual subscription.

GoRemote came out the worst in the comparison I made, which used Boingo's public directory, iPass's iConnectHere software's directory listing, and GoRemote customer RoadPost's connection client. GoRemote doesn't provide their complete list of hotspots on their site in searchable form.

At the time I wrote the article, GoRemote didn't respond to two queries about how they came up with the numbers they promote on their site. It turns out that they were in the middle of a massive software overhaul as they release their 5.0 connection software to enterprises and reseller customers.

GoRemote wanted to set the record straight about their business's main thrust and the unique locations they offer.

RoadPost's list of Wi-Fi hotspots is incomplete. RoadPost is using the previous generation platform, GoRemote said, which has some limits in it. Further, each reseller customer of GoRemote has the option to choose which sets of dial-up, wired, and Wi-Fi locations to include based on the charges that each network offers. RoadPost uses a subset of all locations. Although GoRemote hasn't made a list of locations available to me, they have provided detailed numbers across their whole network.

My article prompted Robert Fuggetta, the director of worldwide marketing for GoRemote, to work with the global access group within the company to determine the number of unique venues versus the number of access points listed. The company reports 6,906 unique Wi-Fi venues worldwide in their aggregated network which are listed at 7,634 hotspots. iPass reports similar numbers of Wi-Fi-only locations; Boingo reports over 3,300 active locations worldwide.

In the U.S., Fuggetta said, GoRemote was able to determine that they have 1,954 unique Wi-Fi venues represented by 2,550 hotspots. I reported from the RoadPost software that they had just 843 unique locations represented by 1,361 listings. The difference has to do with RoadPost's choices.

Fuggetta and GoRemote's Wi-Fi consultant Lumin Yen, who has worked with them on the integration and aggregation of hotspots, explained that the overcount has to do with specific venues that don't offer complete coverage. Yen said that for one hotel in New York, for instance, they had represented it in their software as a single entry. But only odd-numbered floors and certain areas had service.

"We initially had it just as one hotel, and then some of our users went into these places," Yen said, and found locations where they couldn't get any signal
GoRemote went back to Wayport and asked for more detail, which produced an access point list. When hotels have full coverage, they are listed as a single location. The same is true with airports, such as San Jose International, which has 11 covered areas and several without coverage.

To confirm GoRemote's overall count, since I do not have access to their complete list, I asked for their major hotspot operator network partners, and they listed Wayport, STSN, AirPath, and NetNearU. Wayport and STSN have a mix of Wi-Fi and Ethernet in the hotels they covered, with newer properties increasingly using Wi-Fi only. Nonetheless, these four networks alone represent at least 1,500 service locations, and GoRemote has other partners, making their numbers highly credible.

Fuggetta noted in the interview last Friday that the company's focus hasn't been on Wi-Fi as a separate offering, but as part of one branch of their business, and as a result, the company hasn't spent much time trying to clarify their position. He and Yen discussed ways in which the industry could regularly report on the network sizes for more transparency, and GoRemote may post a summary of the unique and listed locations on a regular basis on their Web site.

"We want to set the standard in the industry for being very open and clear about our Wi-Fi coverage," Fuggetta said. "We consider our coverage to be really strong, and we think, competitively, if you look at the chart [which GoRemote provided to me], we stack up very nicely."

Fuggetta explained that GoRemote has three lines of business: providing connectivity for remote offices for corporations, supporting telecommuting workers of all types, and offering connectivity for mobile users. The first two legs of the business have been more significant, but GoRemote finds more of its remote office customers asking for mobile access as well, which has increased GoRemote's focus on that area.

GoRemote considers itself largely in a different business from iPass and Boingo, the former having a laser-beam attention on mobile access through enterprise integration and the latter selling fixed-rate subscriptions to Wi-Fi networks. GoRemote, by contrast, has clients like Schwan's, a frozen-food manufacturer, for which they provide remote services for 650 distribution centers around the U.S.

"We're not an access provider; we don't position ourselves that way," Fuggetta said. Fuggetta said their end-user is often an retail manager at a store, a user at home, or users at branch offices. "We're not competing in the marketplace against Boingo or even iPass," he said. GoRemote acquired Axcelerant last year to boost their remote office portfolio: Axcelerant handles managed braodband virtual private networks with existing Fortune 500 customers in their client portfolio.

GoRemote isn't trying to de-emphasize Wi-Fi, but made clear in the interview that as a small but significant factor in their business, they plan to be more transparent about the numbers in the network to remove comparisons as a factor in how they handle their mobile business.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:03 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Hot Spot, Roaming

Junxion Box Puts Cellular Data at Workgroup's Disposal

By Glenn Fleishman

Junxion Box acts as bridge between growing cellular data networks and the need for ubiquitous, driver-free workgroup access: In today's Seattle Times, I write about local firm Junxion which will shortly ship its Junxion Box, a small device that uplinks to cellular data networks through a PC Card, and shares the connection via built-in Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Think of it like a portable Internet feed.

The Junxion Box is driver free in the sense that the company handles the software connection for several kinds of PC Cards to several national data networks. Local users connect via the LAN side--they don't have to install and configure the special PC Card drivers which are available for specific platforms with specific limitations.

Temporary work sites and mobile workgroups will benefit most from the system, which is an effective modem and analog line replacement given current cell data speeds. But as cell networks increase in speed and prices continue to fall, it's likely that the Junxion Box's niche will expand as more of a broadband replacement for certain kinds of markets.

I've tested a prototype of the Junxion box, and it's just as easy as the company maintains. You plug it into AC power or a DC car adapter. You wait a few moments for it to train up to the cell data network. You connect.

Will cell operators allow the Junxion Box on their network, and can they do anything to stop its use? The answers seem to be maybe and no.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:52 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: 2.5G and 3G, Cellular, Roaming, Unique | 3 TrackBacks

June 18, 2004

NYC Plans Giant Safety Net

By Glenn Fleishman

Computerworld reports that New York City will build a wireless network to supports 10,000s of public-safety users at speeds of up 70 mph: Bids are expected next month. They'll start with a three-month pilot project to test with multiple bidders, and then award a five-year contract with the potential for two five-year renewals.

The bid's spec apparently calls for two Mbps access and simultaneous streaming for 1,000s of users. The first phase would support about 5,000 fire, police, and emergency medical personnel.

The full cost could be $500 million to $1 billion, but the city won't confirm it. Mesh architecture is practically a necessity, the article quotes experts as saying. Tropos says they could deploy such a network with 600 of their access points in the 2.4 GHz band. More would be needed to use the 4.9 GHz public-safety band. Lucent suggests that EvDo running at 2.4 Mbps in the 1.9 GHz band would be an option as well.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:12 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Mesh, Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal | 2 TrackBacks

Wi-Fi's Function Starts to Infiltrate Homes

By Glenn Fleishman

Wi-Fi isn't just for networking any more: devices hang off home networks for audio, video, voice: Julio Ojeda-Zapata files a round-up of the transformation of a home wireless network from an early adopter's geeky add-on to a mass-market offering with support from companies like Comcast and Qwest. Remember when cable firms threatened users who shared their network connections with their families?

Ojeda-Zapata notes the increasing variety of devices that can use Wi-Fi networks as their Internet or local network feed, including Apple's new AirPort Express for beaming music to home stereos, Microsoft's Media Center Extender for their home entertainment hub, and Gateway's streaming DVD player.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:56 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hacking, Home, Mainstream Media

SanDisk Wi-Fi SD Card Works with Palm--One Model, At Least

By Glenn Fleishman

Long-delayed drivers for the Palm OS to work with SanDisk's Wi-Fi SD card arrive with support for a single model: Tom's Networking reports that the discontinued Zire71 model is the only that will work with a version of the SD card scheduled to ship by early July. The newer Zire72 has a driver problem that Palm hasn't acknowledged privately or publicly. [link via Engadget]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:28 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware

Stealth Wallpaper

By Glenn Fleishman reports on BAE Systems's radio frequency blocking wallpaper: It's 50 to 100 microns thick and can adhere to most surfaces. It's a mesh of copper and a polymer created in a manner similar to how circuit boards are laid down. There's no timeline for commercial availability. Some versions can be switched on and off; others are permanent. [link via TechDirt]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:24 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security, Unique

Farmers Grow Backsides with Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Wi-Fi networks on farms should allow farmers to control and monitor more of their operations remotely: Trial projects attempt to show that with farm-wide Wi-Fi coverage, that irrigation, packing, and other parts of a farm's business could be handled through remote control. Eventually, tractors and other devices might be run by wire (or by wireless, as it were).

Anthropomorphism abounds: runaway tractors are a risk, but crazy runaway tractors? "What we're really scared of is killing someone if it goes nuts," Pocknee said of the robotic tractors.

Likewise, this strange statement needs some explanation: Pocknee can sit in his office and see the position of a 600-foot irrigation system in a nearby field on his computer screen. The system is equipped with a global positioning system to provide its location. A wireless video camera shows how it is operating. Why first thought is "why would an irrigation system move?" and then I realized these are irrigation systems that are rolled over fields.

Of course, this kind of automation helps big agribusiness more than small farmers who may be unable to afford the technology investment upfront on a scale where it makes sense. Labor can be less expensive than technology, as certain countries have taught us. I'd like to also see projects in which open-source-flashed Linksys gateways are hooked together for a few hundred dollars on a 100-acre farm than ever more multi-million dollar research investments that let farms be run from hundreds of miles away. [link via Robert Moskowitz]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:40 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique

Alvarion Says Pre-WiMax Means WiMax Commitment

By Glenn Fleishman

alvarion logoAlvarion VP says that the company's new platform is ready for WiMax, backed by their promise to upgrade it: A few weeks ago, I wrote about Alvarion's BreezeMax platform and took the company to task for not spelling out precisely what they were promising customers when saying that BreezeMax was their WiMax platform. WiMax hasn't reached a final certification stage yet for equipment that complies to IEEE 802.16a: broadband wireless point-to-point service in the 2 GHz to 11 GHz range for licensed and unlicensed bands. That certification standard might not be ready until 2005; likewise, chips designed for it could be that far ahead, too.

I wrote in May that Alvarion should have said We're not selling WiMax equipment, but something we believe we be so close to it that only firmware upgrades are required. I also wrote, Interestingly, while they say futureproofed on one page, they don't mention whether purchasers would receive free hardware upgrades if the WiMax standard as deployed is too different to allow firmware changes to this equipment.

Alvarion wanted to clarify what they meant, and I spoke today with Carlton O'Neal, the vice president of marketing for the company. I asked O'Neal if Alvarion is guaranteeing its customers--as a few other firms have apparently done in a limited way--that BreezeMax would be a WiMax upgrade when the final standard was available. He said it would. (Note: An earlier version of this story said it was zero-cost. That is incorrect. Alvarion later clarified that customers would pay a negotiated fee when the WiMax upgrade was available. Cost will depend on the extent of the software or hardware upgrades.)

O'Neal said that the company had built the platform to allow software upgrades, firmware upgrades, and hardware upgrades. They believe that with the current state of the WiMax standard they can entirely rely on software and firmware to handle full WiMax certification: "Our hope, our plan, is that it's software and firmware," he said. Their last resort would be hardware, but "we're prepared to do that."

Alvarion has been developing the BreezeMax system for three years, and decided that given the state of WiMax and their own readiness, they needed to bring the carrier-grade equipment into the marketplace with a commitment to make this their flagship WiMax platform even though the standard is still under development. What they deploy today works, and some of their customers may choose to stick with it far past when interoperable WiMax hardware and their own upgrades are available.

Alvarion will eventually rely on chips built by Intel to power their WiMax gear, and Intel's circuits aren't due until 2005 at this point. But Alvarion is confident that they've made the right choice in hitting the market. "Right now, this box is good enough to be WiMax for everything we know, and the closure path from everything we know to certification is small," O'Neal said.

O'Neal said that as a public company, Alvarion has to pick its promises and its wording carefully, and he has resisted efforts by his staff to put prefixes and suffixes on the term WiMax because he said the company doesn't want to maintain that their equipment is something it's not. They eventually decided on calling it "pre-WiMax" because of their knowledge of the standard and their commitment in upgrading to a WiMax-certified system.

O'Neal said that at least a couple of Alvarion competitors, which he declined to name, had declared that their existing equipment was WiMax "like" or WiMax "ready" when it lacks some of the basic commonalities with the 802.16 and in-progress WiMax certification standards.

Thus, O'Neal said, Alvarion is only moving forward with its new platform as a WiMax-based product. "We will not play liar's poker" in terms of attaching a standards name to products that aren't close to it or won't be upgraded to meet the eventual certification.

In the past, I've criticized firms that are using the term WiMax to refer to equipment that simply provides point-to-point broadband wireless from a central location to a customer receiver. Just like Wi-Fi isn't just anything, but it's a rigidly defined and tested process for interoperable 2.4 and 5 GHz Part 15 data networking gear, so, too, is WiMax not a generic term but a way to create a pool of devices that compete on performance and specs, not on incompatible standards.

More clarification from companies like Alvarion that are promising a WiMax migration with the purchase of existing product lines for fully interoperable and compliant equipment should remove the ability of firms to capitalize on the name but not deliver the goods. Along those lines, it's surprising that the nascent WiMax Forum isn't fighting harder against dilution of their trademark.

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

Airports and Tenants Contend over Spectrum Rights

By Glenn Fleishman

The Industrial Telecommunications Association (ITA) wants the FCC to declare that airports can't restrict airlines use of unlicensed spectrum in airports: Airports want to coordinate spectrum, but their networks might not be optimized for the airlines' needs, and the airlines claim that they can build their own networks more cheaply and quickly, the Computerworld article says. The ITA and members like United Airlines say airports are motivated entirely by revenue, not coordination or utility.

A couple of interesting tidbits emerge about airline deals, too, that might explain why AT&T Wireless charges $70 per month for unlimited access to their Wi-Fi network, including $10 per day for airport usage: they pay Denver International Airport $250,000 per month or $3 million per year for the right to operate the network. Nokia built the network and paid DIA fees until they could exit, and turn off the business to an operator.

AT&T Wireless would need 300,000 sessions a year just to gross enough money in Denver to pay those costs; I can't imagine who signed off on that decision. Its one of two AT&T Wireless airports (the other is Philadelphia), although both Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and AT&T Wireless said months ago that they would be taking over Seatac's Wi-Fi network from Wayport--we haven't heard anything since. AT&T Wireless also resells access to Wayport's airports.

Boston negotiated a much smaller fee for Logan: a minimum of $200,000 in the first year and $300,000 by the fifth. The article says that the deal calls for 20 percent of gross revenue if it exceeds these amounts and that the company estimates that could eventually be $1 million per year. Maybe. That would require $5,000,000 in gross revenue. Based on the sea change in the market, that might be impossible to achieve.

Logan would need to either get as many as five million sessions a year at a buck a pop to gross that much, or find, say, 50 resellers willing to pay a flat rate of, say, about $8,000 a month each to gain access to Logan as part of a reseller network if they followed the Wayport model. Both seem implausible.

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

Intel Stumbles on Wi-Fi Again, with Grantsdale

By Glenn Fleishman

eWeek reports that Intel's new desktop CPU system won't have Wi-Fi at launch: Intel had been talking up its "Grantsdale" chipset's ability to act as a Wi-Fi software access point for months, but now won't be able to include Wi-Fi at all in the shipping version. They expect to provide a separate PCI card late in the year to enable Wi-Fi and this function. The idea that purchasers of a desktop system will have to return to the trough and then install an internal PCI card is, of course, ludicrous for most consumers--including business IT professionals who don't want to buy a system that lacks a critical function.

Intel's gap leaves the door wide open for competitors like Broadcom, which already ate Intel's lunch on the laptop side, and has been a serious provider of integrated modules that include gigabit Ethernet, a 56K modem, and 802.11g Wi-Fi. Will Dell and others who turned to Broadcom for laptop Wi-Fi turn to them for the desktop version, too? At least there will be a flurry of competition among the several chipmakers who can supply the market.

This delay is another major stumble for Intel, which came late to the Wi-Fi party with Centrino, shipping 802.11b-only radios a year ago spring with that laptop system, after having promised 802.11a options. Then, with 802.11a, and a/g radios scheduled for 2003, was unable to provide them. At this writing, the Centrino successor Dothan still hasn't appeared on the market in a big way, with manufacturers shipping their first models based on it just this week with 802.11g only.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:47 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Future, Hardware | 1 TrackBack

June 17, 2004

Proxim, Intel Join Forces on WiMax

By Glenn Fleishman

Proxim and Intel will work together on WiMax, a boon to Proxim: The smaller company's stock shot up 27 percent today on the news that it would be participating in what Intel has increasingly focused on as the next important wireless market. WiMax has the potential to offer point-to-point and mobile standardized broadband wireless service, but its time to market is still a concern.

If it doesn't achieve productization quicklly enough--and signs are that we might not see unlicensed WiMax products in the US until 2006--existing somewhat proprietary solutions could commoditize quickly enough for the market. Meanwhile, higher-speed cell data offerings might take the sheen off the necessity of mobile WiMax, although the latter's potential for using unlicensed bands gives it an edge.

SkyPilot's announcement today--after a few years of development--of their broadband wireless system adds another player to a tightly focused market that hopes to fill in the home and business broadband market. Their equipment works in the unlicensed 5.8 GHz band.

Although the press release says that Proxim expects to ship fixed broadband equipment in early 2005 and "portable" (not mobile) devices later next year, it doesn't state whether these will be shipped in the US or overseas, nor which bands will be used.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:07 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: WiMAX

June 16, 2004

Buffalo's AOSS Really Is One Touch (But a Few Steps)

By Glenn Fleishman

WBR2-AOSS-BUTTON-PUSHA few weeks ago, Buffalo mentioned that their AOSS (AirStation One-Tocuh Secure System) was worth a look in light of security issues: I wasn't dubious that AOSS worked, but a doubting Thomas wants to press the button himself. The way that AOSS is supposed to work is that you install the Wi-Fi card, install the client software, turn on and configure the base station, and then press a button on the base station for a few seconds. This AOSS button enables the negotiation mode. In the client software on your laptop, you click the Profiles tab and click the AOSS button. Sit back and wait a few minutes, and the connection is negotiated securely so that a mutually agreed upon WPA key can be delivered to the client card. (The drawback: AOSS works only with Buffalo equipment, and only certain devices, though that list keeps growing.)

My problems started immediately, as I was unable to get the client software to properly recognize the Buffalo adapter. I tried installing and uninstalling, disabling Wireless Zero Configuration, and the usual troubleshooting. I even got a Buffalo technical support manager on the phone who walked me through a number of steps. No luck.

It turns out that the eMachines laptop I was using already has a Broadcom-based Wi-Fi adapter built in. I knew this, but I didn't know that the two sets of drivers would interfere. Possibly something to do with NDIS 5.1, which makes all Wi-Fi adapters look sort of similar to the system.

An officemate brought in his Dell laptop that lacked an internal Wi-Fi device, and I followed Buffalo's manual. This time, no problem. There are about six steps that take you from start to finish, but it's really one touch for the security portion.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:27 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware, Security

Radiuz Combines WPA-Enterprise with Free Access

By Glenn Fleishman

bkgdlogoRadiuz offers WPA-Enterprise logins to free networks at no charge: Radiuz is a grand experiment in providing enterprise-scale security and encryption to free networks. Any network that wants to use Radiuz's authentication has to have an access point that handles pass-through 802.1X authentication, which most consumer units do. The access point is configured to talk to Radiuz's server, and that's it.

Radiuz is using WPA-Enterprise, as the Wi-Fi Alliance terms it, which is 802.1X port-based authentication coupled with WPA encryption keys. Radiuz further layers PEAP (Protected EAP) on top to provide a secure exchange of credentials with their server.

Radiuz tries to solve four interconnected problems with home and small-business networking.

First, security isn't tight enough: most home users leave encryption off because it's annoying to manage.

Second, even users who want to share their network connection are slightly leery of letting anonymous folks onboard. The development of NoCatAuth and LessNetworks's adaptation of that software are both attempts to provide accountability--in the former case, through a click-through terms of service; and adding user accounts in the latter case, although the accounts are free.

Third, WPA-Personal uses a static key for all users, making it possible for one user with a WPA key to sniff the traffic of any other user. Distributing a WPA-Personal key to "protect" a network doesn't help protect it in that way. (A WPA key that's kept private among a home or workgroup does, however.)

Fourth, WPA-Enterprise is beyond affordable for most smaller businesses, although products like Interlink Network's LucidLink and Wireless Security Corporation's Wireless Security Guard are steps in that direction.

John Leibovitz is one of the founders of Radiuz, and we spoke recently about the organization's goals. Leibovitz describes Radiuz as a "cross between Wi-Fi and Friendster in a very kind of loose way." He and his co-founder Stephen Robinson want to build a community of registered users first and then see how to connect them. "The goal is really to build up that network, and to think creatively beyond that about how to make that economically sustaining," he said. Authentication will always remain free, however.

People who want to join the Radiuz network sign up and receive information on how to configure their access point to use Radiuz's servers. Users who want access to Radiuz authenticated networks need to sign up out of band: you can't connect to the free network you need credentials. When you sign up, you have to confirm via an email message to ensure that you have at least some valid footprint on the Internet that's trackable for a moment.

Leibovitz said that the time was right to launch Radiuz because native supplicants that support PEAP are available for all major platforms, including Linux (Open1x), Mac OS X (version 10.3 in Internet Connect), and Windows XP. (A Windows 2000 WPA client is free from Wireless Security Corporation.) "Any time you have installable clients, you impose costs and configuration issues on a user," he noted.

The operators of access points will have the ability to add and remove users who can access their particular network via Web site. The general idea is that all Radiuz users would be able to access all Radiuz networks, but Leibovitz said they're providing user restriction as an option.

We discussed some of the current limitations to Radiuz's system that might cause users with less technical expertise to have some pause before switching their access point over. Because Radiuz requires a live Internet connection for users to authenticate, a loss of service at the access point's source--a DSL line going down--or anywhere between the user and Radiuz would disable all Wi-Fi access to the network. A user would have to connect via a wired port and turn off RADIUS authentication to regain access.

Wireless Security Corporation avoids this problem by having their own client which manages the distribution of a back-end WPA key, and supplying a server that can run locally to handle failover to provide continuous protected access during an Internet disruption.

A secondary problem is that even with each local Wi-Fi user having a unique key and thus protected from other users, the Ethernet segment of the network, even just linking the access point to a broadband modem, allows network sniffing. A feature available in newer Linksys firmware allows you to turn off the LAN segment for Wi-Fi users: they can only "see" and "hear" the Internet feed on the WAN.

Radiuz represents part of an interesting trend towards increased options for WPA authentication. It's worth watching how this develops for both free and fee networks, and for home and business networks. An ISP could easily offer this service for their home users, just like Radiuz can for all free networks.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:21 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Community Networking, Security

Linksys Offers Range Extender with Limits

By Glenn Fleishman

Linksys's WRE54G is a logical repeater, listening to network traffic and rebroadcasting it; but security options are lacking, advice is odd: The description of this device contains slim information. As far as I can tell, it's a Wi-Fi only logical repeater, meaning that it's using networking magic to relay data. It can't be using Wireless Distribution System (WDS) because Linksys notes it works with any 802.11b or g network. It must attach as a client to an existing network and redistribute access as an access point itself. This function is similar to Linksys's WET11 and WET54G, which bridge Ethernet networks to any access point by simulating a client and masquerading MAC addresses.

The manual for this range extender mentions multiple times in the first few pages of configuration advice that the range extender is easier to use if you turn off WEP encryption--which is extremely odd advice coming from a Wi-Fi equipment maker at this point in time. The unit only supports WEP as an encryption option, meaning that more secured networks that use WPA can't take advantage of range extension.

The unit will cost $99, but I'm not sure it's necessary except for legacy home networks. For about $80 you can purchase a WRT54G, but Linksys has only enabled wireless bridging as a fixed mode: that is, a WRT54G can't bridge and be an access point at the same time. A similar unit from Buffalo, the WLA2-54G, costs about $100 and like Apple's AirPort Extreme and AirPort Express Base Stations, can serve clients while bridging to other gateways.

If were building a network from scratch that required bridging and I wanted WPA security now, I'd choose Buffalo's gateway as the fundamental element.

Update: Tim Higgins received a clarification from Linksys that this device works only with three Linksys 802.11g routers: the WRT54G, the WRT54GS (802.11g with SpeedBooster), and the WAP54G. No other gateways are supported, which would reiterate my recommendation to stick with Buffalo for bridging a network.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:50 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware, Home

Amtrak's Stationary Solution

By Glenn Fleishman

Amtrak and AT&T Wireless put Wi-Fi hotspots in six Northeast train stations: Boston (Router 128), Providence, New York (Penn Station), Philadelphia (30th Street), Wilmington, and Baltimore (Penn Station) have Wi-Fi service starting today, according to the press release. These stations process a million passengers a day. It's $10 per day per location--unlike T-Mobile's $10 per day throughout the network fee. They also offer a 5-pack ($30 or $6 a session) and a 10-pack ($50 or $5 a session).

Business subscribers only who already participate in AT&T Wireless's "Corporate Digital Advantage and Wireless Business Advantage" plans can purchase unlimited monthly service for $40 per month to supplement voice plans or $35 per month to supplement data plans.

Roaming wasn't mentioned. This pricing is clearly out of whack with the current trends, and should dramatically suppress usage unless AT&T Wireless is also aggressively promoting resale. Given that competitor T-Mobile is offering all you can eat Wi-Fi at $20 per month for all existing voice customers, not just business plan customers, AT&T Wireless may have misgauged the price sensitivity in the field.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:39 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Transportation and Lodging | 1 TrackBack

June 15, 2004

Community Wireless Summit Announced

By Glenn Fleishman

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will host the 2004 National Summit for Community Wireless Aug. 20-22: The event is organized by CUWiN (C-U Community Wireless Network) which is working on an open-source mesh project, and Prairienet, with the help of other groups and individuals. Their goal is 100 attendees from across the U.S., and they're attempting to raise funds for travel stipends for groups that would otherwise be unable to afford to send a representative.

The mission is statement is that the conference will focus on grassroots action, impacting national regulations and policies, and building a coalition of local groups, researchers, policy leaders, decision-makers, and community activists.

The cost is low: $30 for students and low-income; $75 for all others. They're encouraging press to attend, as well.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:42 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Community Networking, Conferences

AirWave Signs Universities from Coast to Coast

By Glenn Fleishman

AirWave Wireless's tool for managing large-scale access point deployments has signed 10 major universities: A little indulgence here, but my alma mater (Yale) and my hometown university (University of Oregon) are both on the list of 10 universities that AirWave will provide their management platform to. AirWave's approach allows heterogeneous enterprise APs from many major manufacturers to be used on a single network and managed with a single interface.

If you're all Cisco or all Proxim, you might choose their expensive, exclusive management consoles. Or, you can opt for AirWave and have more flexibility about mixing and matching equipment that can be monitored and configured centrally. A tool like this helps commoditize enterprise hardware by allowing a level playing field for equipment from many vendors--including those that don't offer a central management system.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:37 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Academia, Enterprise

iPass Shows 802.1X under Standard Reference Platform

By Glenn Fleishman

iPass has demonstrated its client connecting over 802.1X on a hotspot front-end that supports the Generic Interface Specification (GIS) which allows co-exists with browser page logins: This marks a big leap forward in security of local network links in public places. By providing the iPassConnect client with the ability to use secured 802.1X/EAP transactions to gain access to a hotspot network, iPass customers can have a unique key assigned to their network link. This prevents sniffers from using the wireless side of the network to snoop on traffic.

iPass developed GIS as a way of securing an authentication session, but the more generic 802.1X protocol coupled with secured EAP is a simpler and more industry standard way to provide access to a Wi-Fi network. iPass's demo shows that GIS, 802.1X, and browser-based logins can co-exist which makes it easier for hotspot operators to migrate customers over time to more secure logins and sessions.

The weak link in 802.1X/EAP is that while it provides a unique encryption key to each user in its most useful form, because users are then routed onto a wired network to reach the Internet, if a user can join the network, they can still sniff bridged traffic from the wired side because they're part of the local area network. Some access points can be configured to disable LAN access and only allow Wi-Fi clients to reach the wide area network or Internet feed.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:33 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Security | 1 TrackBack

Bluetooth Worm

By Glenn Fleishman

Symantec reports on a Bluetooth worm: It spreads itself on Nokia Series 60 phones and tries to install itself on any Bluetooth device it finds, reducing battery life for the infected phone. A recipient has to accept the file, apparently, for it to transmit. It's hard to delete because it hides itself in a directory that's not accessible to the average user. [link via Xeni Jardin]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:25 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Bluetooth, Security

June 14, 2004

Broadband over Powerline Moves into Real Trials

By Glenn Fleishman

Bits over juice starts to take off in trials, though its future is still uncertain: A Washington state public utility is working with a private Internet provide in an inexpensive 60-day trial to see how well BPL actually works, and whether customers will find it interesting. Nationwide, a few dozen trials have about 2,000 actual customers. The future of the technology depends on the real cost and the real speed when it's deployed in the field. Unlike unloaded copper wire, which has known properties, the numbers of systems and the distances involved in BPL add variables that need performance testing. Broadband has to avoid truck rolls to houses to keep costs affordable.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:26 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Power Line

If It's Free, Will No One Pay?

By Glenn Fleishman

TechDirt briefly dissects Associated Press story that points out no one (that they talked to) is profitable in the hotspot business: We try not to be defenders of the flame here at Wi-Fi Networking News, but examine news stories and company announcements as well as hardware and software with some degree of objectivity tempered by experience. The AP article isn't inaccurate, but we'd rather point to TechDirt's brief dissection of it than the original story because the premise is flawed.

It's abundantly clear after the events of the last couple of months--not to mention years--that there is no such thing as a standalone Wi-Fi hotspot business. I'll beat the drum that Sky Dayton first stretched the deer hide over back in Dec. 2001: the business of selling hotspot access is a different business than signing contacts with venues and installing hardware and running a network.

Wayport's ongoing transformation from 2000 to present from a customer-facing organization into a customer and reseller-facing group into a pure wholesale managed services and network operator demonstrates most clearly that standalone hotspot operators are and were a temporary phenomenon.

The networks that remain will eventually derive the majority of their income from either roaming users from their reseller partners, from managed services for venues that want to handle their own billing or be part of a larger network, or from the per-venue/per-month fees that Wayport is promoting as the model to build larger audiences.

The AP story is prescient in that the idea of there being a "Wi-Fi hotspot business" has practically become passé already. Mass-market companies like cell operators, cable system owners, telcos, warehouse membership clubs, and other groups with millions of customers will be most people's experience with hotspot service in the future.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:48 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Future, Hot Spot, Mainstream Media

June 11, 2004

Airgo Has Manufacturers for Its MIMO

By Glenn Fleishman

Airgo will be the first company to the hit the market with multiple-in, multiple-out wireless systems for consumers: The MIMO approach has started to achieve traction, with it likely being the basis for 802.11n, a high-throughput IEEE standard in progres.

When you build antennas and wireless access points, you can increase signal strength, decrease noise inside the chips, or improve antennas--or all three, among other technqiues. By integrating the signal from several antennas, MIMO effectively increases the range through better receptivity and interpretation. It's all interrelated.

While Airgo has received plenty of press, so did Vivato and Etherlinx, both of which firms have had rocky roads on their way to production units which didn't seem to live up to early expectations. Airgo, however, has continued to pursue its same initial goals, and products will start appearing through distributor and manufacturing partners in July, according to the article.

In an interview in April with CEO Greg Raleigh, he told Wi-Fi Networking News that consumer products based on Airgo's first generation might cost a bit more--possibly $50 more for an access point--but offer such a greater range even in the Wi-Fi bands that a user might need a single access points instead of two or three, a common problem for even moderately large or old homes.

Raleigh also said that while their current generation of product handles 802.11g and its own 100+ Mbps proprietary flavor, he expects the next generation to offer multiples of that speed. Airgo's 100+ Mbps offering has a net throughput of 45 Mbps, he said.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:27 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Future, Hardware, Home | 1 TrackBack

Le Wi-Fi Bus in Paris

By Glenn Fleishman

Paris transportation authority working on Wi-Fi-enabled buses: They're demonstrating the bus at an exhibition, and have a trial planned on a north/south Paris route. The buses will connect at higher speeds when they pass or stop near Wi-Fi gateways, and drop to GPRS in transit.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:54 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: International, Transportation and Lodging

June 10, 2004

Ferry Test Shows Wi-Fi in Motion

By Glenn Fleishman

Washington state ferries will have Wi-Fi by summer: It's been a while coming, but a small firm in picturesque Port Townsend ran their first full-scale test between that town and nearby Keystone, one of the shorter ferry runs. The system uses 5 GHz (possibly 802.11a) signals from ship to shore, and 802.11a/b/g on board.

By summer, two heavy commuter runs for Bainbridge Island and Kingston will have the service in addition to the Keystone/PT route; by fall, the third heaviest single run, Seattle to Bremerton, will be added. The article lists the actual ferries that will be equipped. Even as a local, I'm not sure how many ferries run or in what rotation on each route, but it appears to be about all of the regular ships.

Nearly half of the ferry systems' 5.1 million passengers handled in the first quarter of 2004--remember, this is one of the largest ferry systems in the world, and the largest by vehicle volume--are served by the first three lines that will be equipped. Another 10 percent more will be added with the fall run.

The first three runs have crossings of about 30 minutes; the Bremerton run is about 60 minutes. Service will be free until fall, when a price for service will be set.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:59 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Aquatic

Arenas and Stadiums Adopt Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Charlotte Bobcats are latest sports venue to offer Wi-Fi to fans: As venues remodel or try to appear more au courant, Wi-Fi becomes a necessity. But even the chief information officer of the SF Giants worries that people might bring too much work to the game. About 200 fans use the Giants currently free Wi-Fi network per game. The ultimate goal: delivery of exclusive replays and angles to those attending.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:55 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot

Austin Wireless Juggernaut Continues to Roll Through the Press

By Glenn Fleishman

screens_feature5-1If you haven't read enough about Richard MacKinnon yet, just click: MacKinnon is now officially ubiquitous, along with many other members of Less Networks and Austin Wireless City, through this extensive, multi-story coverage in the Austin Chronicle about the efforts that lead to the current free movement in that city, and how it's proceeding through cooperation with commercial entities, retail establishments, and the city. MacKinnon is a civic booster of the finest order: he doesn't talk and hold meetings--he builds.

Zane McCarthy of Austin Unleashed (inset) is interviewed alongside his pal Bruce Sterling: McCarthy couples an interest in the community side with business-grade installation and support. This takes some load off volunteers and provides businesses who want someone they can pay to worry about their problems with an outlet.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:02 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Community Networking | 1 TrackBack

FCC Restructures Crucial Band

By Glenn Fleishman

Steve Stroh says today's FCC reworking of the MMDS/ITFS band makes sense, but will be for naught: Read Daily Wireless's explanation of the move for details, but broadly, almost 200 MHz of sweet-spot spectrum in the 2.5 to 2.7 GHz range that's been carved up and relicensed in unpleasantly small and low-utility ways will be restructured for more utility and continuity.

Stroh notes, however, that the FCC has opted out of the process by which the transition of existing users will take place. This means that the owners and users of the band have to figure it out. Stroh feels that currently deploying fixed broadband wireless companies have a huge advantage over those that were expecting to carve out new space in this band. Stroh also expects this entire band to go license-exempt within 10 years.

Daily Wireless remarks that the 6 MHz sub-bands in the revision fits cellular 3G's needs. In the CDMA world, 1x = 1.25 MHz, as in 1xRTT and 1xEv-DO; 3x = 5 MHz. The service currently hosts a very small number of actually instructional television broadcasters, and they'll have new contiguous channels to use.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:28 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Future, Politics

AirDefense Finds Wi-Fi Planet Riddled with Insecure Users, Crackers

By Glenn Fleishman

AirDefense monitors traffic as a sponsor at trade show and produces its regular report of horrors: In a press release not yet posted at its site, AirDefense said that in the most recent Wi-Fi Planet conference run by Jupitermedia, which concluded today in Baltimore, they found instances running of new cracker tools. The intrusion monitoring company noted eight devices running Hotspotter, eight running Airsnarf, and 12 soft APs. (They didn't note whether other intrusion monitoring firms might have been running any instances of these packages to demonstrate the flaws, however.)

Hotspotter uses a Windows XP (pre-service pack 1, apparently) flaw that allows it to force a Windows XP client to reassociate with a laptop running Hotspotter to scan the computer. Soft APs are access points running on a laptop that can be used to the same effect simply by using names identical to existing networks. Airsnarf automates password extraction on networks to which a computer is connected.

The company also found a small host of MAC address spoofs, invalid MAC addresses, and ad hoc networks, while witnessing several denial of service attacks. There was also plenty of unsecured traffic running over the Wi-Fi network among what should have been a fairly sophisticated user base.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:59 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

June 9, 2004

WiFi Seeker Nears Shipping Date

By Glenn Fleishman

10SEEKWiFi Seeker ships June 15, company says : In Thursday's New York Times, I write about the WiFi Seeker, a small Wi-Fi signal sniffer that produced the most page views of any article ever on Wi-Fi Networking News. The company says that they plan to ship the $29.95 device to individual customers starting June 15. If you order at least 250 orders, you can customize the unit with your logo.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:55 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware | 1 TrackBack

Mount Hope Brings Service to Individual Residents

By Glenn Fleishman

As this article notes, most "digital divide" spanning efforts put computers and access into common spaces; Mount Hope is trying one-to-one: Using wires and wireless, a South Bronx community development group will bring Internet access to the 1,250 units in 32 buildings in a half-mile radius that they operate. Service may cost as little as $7 a month and be folded into the cost of rent. Half the residents have computers; the rest can purchase them from a Bronx firm that refurbishes used machines.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:25 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique

Ellsworth, Maine, Has Downtown Hotzone

By Glenn Fleishman

Downeast Wireless has installed service throughout the Ellsworth downtown: Subscribers to Downeast.Net get 10 free hours per month; those from away spend $10 for 10-hour chunks of time. The coverage extends existing service in and around municipal buildings to the library and nearby businesses. The provider makes space available in its office for its users, too, during its weekday business hours--unique in my experience.

The folks who run Downeast.Net have long roots in the area that involve more convention radio broadcasting on the FM dial. Local resident Noel Paul Stookey--he's the Paul in Peter, Paul, and Mary--is one of the firm's owner, along with Don and Jean McKillop.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:35 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Municipal | 1 TrackBack

Portland's Mayor of Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

coverstoryLocal paper covers Portland's Personal Telco community wireless project, focusing on its lead booster, Nigel Ballard: The article in Willamette Week presents a comprehensive look at Personal Telco's efforts to date. It examines Nigel's work on the Box, an education-consortium-funded pastiche of back-haul, front-haul, and mesh that could be a tool for free wireless in urban cities as well as Internet access in remote reaches of the world. The article looks into how municipal Wi-Fi in Portland might challenge entrenched commercial interests, as well.

Two coffeeshop businesses that offer free Wi-Fi with Personal Telco's help clearly see an effect. Both report a new audience of regulars who spend money.

Nigel is a frequent correspondent to this site, always providing interesting insight into the what's coming next. The article doesn't even mention that his past and current day job has been to build commercial Wi-Fi networks at hotels and elsewhere. There's too much to say about the public efforts.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:56 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Community Networking, Hot Spot, Mainstream Media

June 8, 2004

Hospital Provides Patients, Visitors with Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Mountain View, Calif., hospital offers free Wi-Fi: For now, service is free for everyone, but visitors will probably be charged $3 per day starting in September. The service will expand to include bedside computers between 2007 and 2009 when a new hospital opens. For now, customers must bring their own computers or handhelds. A filter will prevent access to what the hospital considers is inappropriate content.

As more diseases become managed instead of fatal, more people than ever before will feel fine and be productive members of society, but forced to spend large amounts of time in outpatient care. I've spent many hours on two occasions in the last year in an outpatient surgery waiting room, and while the surgery itself wasn't life-threatening, there's nothing worse than idle hands when you have no information.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:12 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Medical | 1 TrackBack

Aggregators' Counts Require a Close Look

By Glenn Fleishman

Aggregators and resellers of hotspot access are likely to rise to more prominence as roaming becomes de rigeur, but how many locations do they offer, anyway? Three companies dominate hotspot aggregation and reselling: iPass, GoRemote (formerly GRIC), and Boingo Wireless. The former two work almost entirely with large corporations, offering a combination of dial-up, wired Ethernet (in hotel rooms and elsehwere), and Wi-Fi hotspots. Boingo resells just hotspot access. None of the three build infrastructure; Boingo does offer turnkey hotspots for venues that want to be Boingo-only locations.

A question has been raised many times over the last several months about how hotspot operators and aggregators count their locations. Even companies that don't resell, like SBC, have adopted terminology that isn't entirely clear. SBC talks about 20,000 access points and 6,000 locations over a few years--but why mention access points or individual pieces of hardware at all?

To produce a comprehensive list and a spot check of counts across each aggregator, I downloaded the free client software either directly from the company, in Boingo and iPass's case, or through a reseller that provides up-to-date listings, in the case of GoRemote. A few days ago, I updated the listings for all the software. I was able to extract the directory information for iPass and GoRemote; it's stored in plain text in a clearly labeled file. Boingo uses a database structure that's password protected, and so I turned to their Web site's location finder to get accurate results.

First, let's look at how each company states their current pool of hotspots venues. The tricky starting point is that many hotel locations that are aggregated by Wi-Fi-only Boingo are, in fact, mostly or entirely Ethernet based. Newer or revamped installations typically feature Wi-Fi in common areas and Ethernet to the room, although more hotels are switching to or choosing all Wi-Fi. So you can't entirely split out wired from wireless locations.

iPass states that worldwide they have over 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspot and Ethernet broadband locations. Boingo Wireless notes that they have 6,000 total locations under contract of which 3,300 are currently available to their users worldwide. GoRemote says it connects to 7,800 Wi-Fi hotspots in 45 countries and territories and 1,391 Hotel Ethernet locations in 27 countries.

Next, I took all of GoRemote and iPass's information and loaded into a flat database fielded by their particular values so that I could examine apples-to-apples information. I used Boingo's Web site and reviewed their entries and address listings to come up with their totals. I started by spotchecking three cities, two of which I had some familiarity with: Seattle, New York (all boroughs), and Houston.

In Seattle, Boingo listed 26 locations, all of which were unique. iPass had 160 entries that represented 149 unique venues. GoRemote, on the other hand, had 35 entries which represented seven unique physical locations.

Drilling down, I found that the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Seatac) was listed as a single location by Boingo, four locations by iPass, and 26 locations by GoRemote. Consistently, Boingo had the most conservative, unique count; iPass had an overlap of the same address of about two to three percent for non-airport locations; and GoRemote listed every access point in a given venue, floor by floor and concourse by concourse.

In an interview with iPass a few weeks ago, the company explained that in cases where different network names were used across a facility, they tended to have multiple entries. This information is provided by companies like Wayport, and inflates their raw counts. I found examining all of iPass's airport listings that they often provided two to eight entries for each airport. But other listings were generally clean.

I contacted GoRemote a few weeks ago to get an explanation of how they differentiated between access points (individual hardware installations) and hotspots (individual venues). Their press contact promised to get back to me, but did not. A follow-up was unanswered.

A side note: this site operates as an independent marketing and editorial partner with Jiwire, a hotspot directory. They were not involved in the preparation of this article. Jiwire currently counts a hotspots as a unique provider at a unique vendor, but that will ultimately change on a timetable they have yet to announce.

In New York City, Boingo provided 62 unique listings with no overlap; iPass had 258 entries which represented 247 unique locations, with LaGuardia providing most of the overlap; and GoRemote had 61 listings, but only 21 locations, with the Warwick Hotel accounting for 37 separate entries. I confirmed in their client software that I was seeing these multiple locations for the Warwick, too.

In Houston, GoRemote showed 17 listings and 14 unique locations; iPass had 106 unique listings and locations; and Boingo had 41 unique listings and locations.

It was tedious, but I also built a comparison nationwide in the U.S. -- tedious, because I needed to examine thousands of records (sorted, fortunately) to determine where overlap was occurring. Boingo's records were cleanest with 2665 entries in the U.S., and at most, one to two percent overlapped with each other. Airports were again the culprit for multiple entries for a single venue.

iPass listed 6829 locations, and after excluding airports, which represent no more than two percent of their listings, the general overlap rate was under three percent. Finally, GoRemote had 1361 listings, and 843 unique locations, a remarkably higher rate for this sub-sample. GoRemote doesn't appear to be differentiating in their marketing between the necessary additional entries required for roaming across a venue, and the unique number of locations that a purchasing decision might be made on.

It's clear that for maximum transparency to the user base--including those making purchasing decisions--aggregators should work even harder to collapse their listings into unique venues rather than provide multiple numbers or multiple entries. The decisions required by software to handle many network names in a single venue should be entirely, not partially, hidden from users. Boingo manages to achieve this; there's no reason why all resellers cannot.

When we try to interpret the scale of this industry, having an accurate count of unique numbers offers a better gauge of the relative scale of aggregated networks, and a better tool for customers making decisions.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:59 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Enterprise, Hot Spot, Hotels, Roaming | 1 TrackBack

Rest Stop Hotspot Deep in the Heart of Texas

By Glenn Fleishman

restTexas Department of Transportation puts Wi-Fi into all of its rest stops: The service was put into trial in the panhandle at three locations. It's now soliciting bids for 84 rest areas and 12 information centers. The service will be free, and they hope to have Internet kiosks that will charge a small fee for use. Part of the thinking is that providing this service will encourage travelers to make more frequent stops which could reduce the incidence of accidents due to fatigue.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:33 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Municipal, Road Warrior

NetGear's Patch Just Changes Account, Doesn't Close Hole

By Glenn Fleishman

NetGear patched a gaping security hole that used a backdoor username and password--by changing it to another, easily discovered username and password (in German): Heise Security reports that a recently reported security hole that affects NetGear systems among others has been patched in a way that doesn't increase security. The site suggests that this might be reason enough (at least in Germany?) to return the product for a refund. NetGear's download page says the patch "Fixed illegal user access the WEB configuration utility." See more discussion of this patch on Slashdot.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:27 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware, Security

Computer Scientists Can Turn Linux into Greedy Wi-Fi Consumer

By Glenn Fleishman

Swiss computer scientists demonstrate that a simple change in a Linux protocol's code lets that box suck more Wi-Fi juice: Their hack causes a Linux system to push aside other users of the same Wi-Fi network. While the hack can be detected over the network through intrusion or monitoring systems--including a tool that the inventors have patented called Domino--other computer scientists suggested that there are many other methods to "misbehave."

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:22 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

RADIUS without Tears from LucidLink

By Glenn Fleishman

InterLink introduces cheap, easy-to-administer, single-minded authentication server with WPA and 802.1X/EAP-TLS support: RADIUS is expensive and complicated. Small businesses either can't afford the server software or the staff to support it. InterLink is trying to reduce the cost of providing a secure Wi-Fi network by introducing its LucidLink client and server software that has one. Unlike robust, multi-purpose RADIUS servers, LucidLink authenticates in one way for one purpose.

LucidLink's client software manages certificates used with EAP-TLS, the most secure method of out-of-band messaging for the authentication portion of joining a Wi-Fi network using 802.1X. With EAP-TLS, the certificate on the client machine assures the server of the correct identity. LucidLink uses WPA for keying material. It supports certain releases of Windows XP and 2000.

LucidLink is the flip side of the coin from Wireless Security Corporation's out-of-house solution. WSC runs its RADIUS system as a managed service over the Internet, charging $4 to $5 per user per month. InterLink's server will cost $449 for 10 users and a lower per-user cost for higher quantities, and requires a Windows 2000 or 2003 server. The client software is nominally free, but the license for users resides on the server side.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:19 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Enterprise, Security

USB Key Replaces Gateway Login

By Glenn Fleishman

Pronto Networks introduces USB key to allow secure login without passwords: Pronto's Internet Key lets a user plug in this small device into a USB port to authenticate themselves over a Pronto-based network. The release doesn't mention what software is required to use the system, which was co-developed with Sweet Spot Solutions.

While this is an idea that's been churning for a while--Microsoft is working on something of this sort, for instance--it's problematic when it's a single-vendor solution. Think about the grocery store affinity programs: how many cards do you have to carry to get the best price if a single store isn't convenient to you? My mother-in-law has a dangly array of those, which are capable of being managed, but not ideal.

So, too, would a USB-based authentication system quickly get out of hand if you needed to carry a separate key for each system you might use. The best solution will be something akin to a SIM card as used in GSM phones, which has already been successfully tested as a method of secure authentication across a Wi-Fi network to a back-end cellular accounting system.

SecurID_fobInstead of a single key for each system, carry a USB key with either biometric (fingerprint) or password-based strong encrypted for mounting that contains a variety of certificates for use with an 802.1X EAP-TLS system. Even better, embed Secure ID into the USB key so that its ever-changing number is visible. This would provide yet another level of security: stealing the certificate and the username/password doesn't gain access without the Secure ID number.

These kinds of authentication systems don't need to be baroque, and different networks might require different levels of security. But there should be checks and balances so that the theft of a string of data (like a certificate) or a piece of hardware (like a USB key) doesn't jeopardize the integrity of network.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:59 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Security

Seattle Councilman Urges Unwired City

By Glenn Fleishman

Jim Compton suggests Seattle should move from most wired to most unwired city: The councilman is starting a task force today to discuss how to move forward. Seattle's topology makes it problematic to offer city-wide coverage, and there are issues of competitiveness with broadband providers and enablers, like Qwest, DSL, Comcast, and Speakeasy.

I'm entirely in favor of this model of promoting competition. A city has certain inherent monopoly abilities that make it easier to work with utilities and gain access to spaces. But they also have higher costs, union issues, and other details that make it hard for them to be entirely fleet. Another player in the market can always help, however, by making the pool of customers larger. [via Brian Chin]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:45 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

Cometa's Clock Running Down

By Glenn Fleishman

Tully's hotspots, at least, say June 18 is their last day: Steve Stroh and I separately discovered that if you log into a Cometa hotspots at Tully's Coffee in Seattle, your splash screen notes that the service is free but that it will be shutting down June 18. In previous articles, Tully's and other Cometa customers were scrambling for a replacement, and Cometa said it would try to help its venues move to other networks.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:25 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot

As Airport Wi-Fi Use Grows, So Does Coordination

By Glenn Fleishman

The Wall Street Journal reports on airports' increased control of the unlicensed airwaves in their confines: This is both an old and new story. Airports started demanding control years ago, but it's a slow boil as existing lease agreements expire and are revised, and as airports start to see the full revenue and logistics potential of having ubiquitous Wi-Fi for passengers, themselves, and their airline and concessionaire tenants.

What's most interesting in this piece is that airlines and other airport "customers" are starting to push back, given that Wi-Fi works in an unlicensed band. The writer notes, If an airline's Wi-Fi hardware isn't compatible with an airport-installed network, the carrier would have to buy a whole new system. This isn't quite it: Wi-Fi hardware all works with other Wi-Fi hardware. What she means becomes clear in the next paragraph when talking about UPS, which employs a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi that might not work within all Wi-Fi networks.

A related story at Wi-Fi Planet gives the run-down on JFK, one of the world's largest and busiest airports. Concourse Communications has installed Wi-Fi in about a third of the airport terminals, with the rest to follow this year. (Back in early 2002, I wrote a piece in the New York Times in which Concourse was saying JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark would be lit during 2002 and 2003, but that's a function of the market conditions at the time that it was so delayed.)

But you have to love the president of Concourse's perfectly correct statement about JetBlue's rejection of Concourse's paid service being offered in their gates. "It is problematic. It devalues the services in order to help them sell tickets." Can I just say--exactly! Wi-Fi's bottom line has to be a tool, not a means in itself. For JetBlue, free Wi-Fi now becomes a draw even in JFK where other airlines have bought into the for-fee model.

The flip side, of course, is that if enough Wi-Fi subscribers can roam onto JFK as part of a $20 or so monthly unlimited subscription that covers the U.S., then the difference between free and fee becomes pedantic: you're not paying extra, so it feels "free."

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:23 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Politics

Wi-Fi Stock Portfolio

By Glenn Fleishman

Forbes looks at which stocks relate to Wi-Fi: In a brief analysis coupled by a table, Forbes examines whether Wi-Fi has forward growth and which companies could capitalize on that growth. The writer has a wonderful mot juste on 3G cellular's limit: As demand for 3G picks p, so will demand for Wi-Fi. Reason: In very dense areas 3G networks slow to a crawl. Another reason, not mentioned? Upload speeds for domestic US 3G networks will be no faster than about 50 Kbps on average, regardless of download speeds until at least 2006. Qualcomm has technology up its sleeve that would allow more symmetrical high-speed 3G networks, but its not scheduled for deployed, and adoption isn't fast, as we've seen, of new flavors.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:18 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: 2.5G and 3G, Financial

June 7, 2004

Hapless Wi-Fi Crackers Head to Pokey

By Glenn Fleishman

Crackers who break into Lowe's over-exposed Wi-Fi network start pleading: The first two members of a three-man ring have agreed to plea bargains in a case that revealed how poor Lowe's external wireless LAN security was. While there's no excuse for cracking, Lowe's network allowed them to gain access at several locations, at which point these three allegedly (two have stipulated, one is still alleged) installed credit-card capturing software among other acts. Lowe's security team noticed the activity, monitored it, and worked with police to stage the arrests. Sentencing is yet to come, and the third man will be arraigned later this month.

Interestingly, the plea bargain includes their cooperation in explaining what they did. That's surely not useful at this point: eight months after the attacks, you have to hope that Lowe's has completely overhauled every element of their external-facing systems and intrusion detection monitoring.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:58 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

Reviews Finds All Speed Boosted 802.11g Gateways Perform the Same

By Glenn Fleishman

So much for hype: Becky Waring gets to the heart of performance in 802.11g gateways with proprietary speed boosting extensions in PC World: Waring performs real-world tests of units from D-Link (Super G), Buffalo (AfterBurner), and Cisco (SpeedBooster). She saw no interference between Atheros's Super G technology and Broadcom's AfterBurner. All three units produce throughput in the 22 to 24 Mbps range in her testing, versus about 18 Mbps for plain G. The top of the range offers significant improvement -- 33 percent--but it may still not be enough to warrant spending a few more dollars for.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:20 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware

Apple Raises Bar on Portability, Price, and Features in a Home Gateway

By Glenn Fleishman

indextop06072004AirPort Express from Apple puts audio, print spooler, bridging, and Ethernet in one tiny package: Apple has released a seven-ounce home Wi-Fi gateway that's barely larger than a power adapter. The AirPort Express works with any Wi-Fi device, but it particularly supports streaming music through a built-in analog and digital audio jack and USB printer spooling through a built-in USB port on certain later release of Mac OS X and Windows XP and 2000.

The small device runs 802.11g with full WPA support, and handles bridging via Wireless Distribution System (WDS). Apple guarantees WDS will work only with its own devices. The AirPort Express can act as an access point and bridge at the same time. Apple's free iTunes software for Mac and Windows will have a small update this week to handle choosing a particular AirPort Express base station's attached stereo or powered speakers.

The AirPort Express raises the bar on features, as it combines print spooling, audio streaming, and WDS in one form factor. Similar features are available from many other manufacturers, but typically only as a single device (audio/photo/MPEG streaming only) or with limitations, like Linksys's WRT54G which can either bridge or be an AP, but not both.

It remains to be seen whether Apple can find a broader audience for its product with a $129 price tag when it ships in July, but its combination of portability and plugs might push it into the forefront of both the home market and the roaming traveler's world.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:12 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware, Home, Road Warrior

The Cows Says, Mooooove it by Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

GPS, Wi-Fi, shock collars combine to make a movable virtual cow fence: It's a little strange, but cow-herding-by-wire (or by wireless) might become a way to manage long herds. A collar with an embedded GPS and Wi-Fi and the ability to make sounds or produce shocks could allow a farmer to wrassle cattle virtually, avoiding more expensive management techniques. The Wi-Fi is used to convey GPS coordinates. Solar-powered Wi-Fi hubs could handle relying information back to a central control.

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

TeliaSonera Adds Portugal to Roaming

By Glenn Fleishman

The Europeans call it football, but it's still football fever: Sweden and Finland's combined telecom giant TeliaSonera has extended its extensive roaming agreements by adding 200 hotspots in Portugal that are part of the PT Wi-Fi and TMN networks just in time for the Euro2004 soccer (US)/football (everywhere else) championship. HomeRun users now can access 6,500 hotspots in Europe through roaming agreements, although it's wise to note that that's a single login, but not a single fee: roaming fees are involved for all non-TeliaSonera locations, which now number 700 in its two home countries.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:05 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, International, Roaming

Yes, SBC is Wayport's First Wi-Fi World Partner

By Glenn Fleishman

The official press release comes a few hours later than the New York Times story which had a side mention of the deal: Wayport's Wi-Fi World model gains immediate traction with the partnership of SBC, which offers phone and data service across 13 states. In the Wi-Fi World model (explained here), Wayport charges a fixed monthly fee per location in their retail venue network to each reseller.

SBC hired Wayport as a managed services provider to build out their own unique FreedomLink network. This deal puts SBC front and foremost as the first to resell under Wi-Fi World, but also the first to participate on the back-end of Wi-Fi World, too, as a network provider. Wayport said during its briefing on Wi-Fi World that network providers who chose to participate in marketing opportunities would pay Wayport a monthly fee, reducing the cost of network service.

So with Wayport working in several different ways with SBC, most of which are non-exclusive or at least non-restrictive against future reseller and network partnerships, they've kept their per-location costs extremely low in SBC's territory. Wayport's CEO said two weeks ago that with a single reseller and with McDonald's arrangement to also pay fixed per-location management fees, they were already at break-even for the network's cost.

SBC's resale of Wayport's network in incremental to The UPS Store partnership, so that FreedomLink customers will get both McDonald's and UPS Store venues for the $19.95 per month unlimited usage fee. The press release reiterates that SBC DSL subscribers will receive a "significant" discount on this price later this year.

In a Reuters story about this deal, SBC notes that they are selling 3,000 Wi-Fi gateways per day as part of their promotion to home users.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:30 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Hot Spot

June 6, 2004

SBC Is Wayport's Partner?

By Glenn Fleishman

NY Times slips that SBC is Wayport's first reseller partner for Wi-Fi World: In a by-the-numbers piece questioning whether free Wi-Fi hotspots were challenging for-fee hotspots, Matt Richtel doesn't mention Wayport by name, focusing instead on T-Mobile. We've heard quite a bit of this before, but usually involving more sweeping free service, such as that offered by hotel chains (wired and Wi-Fi), or the model promoted by Austin Wireless City or

The writer says that Cometa went out of business because it was not providing a suitable return to investors. I disagree. Cometa stated, and several sources confirmed for me, that it was unable to raise additional funds from new investors. AT&T and IBM, cited as part of the financing, never invested serious money.

Richtel gets to the heart of it when he quotes a Wi-Fi user at a free location saying, he would consider subscribing to a Wi-Fi plan if there were a provider that offered universal access to hot spots everywhere. Bingo. I'll reiterate my Yogi Berraism: in the future, unlimited national Wi-Fi will be free and it will cost $20 per month. Either you'll pay nothing and deal with any of the potential downsides of relying on service that's based on the returns in that model, or you (or more likely, your employer) will pay a flat $20 per month for unlimited access across all U.S. networks.

But the key hidden fact in this story is in the last few paragraphs, when Richtel tips that SBC, which has hired Wayport to unwire its The UPS Store partner locations and manage them, will be Wayport's first Wi-Fi World customer, even though Wayport and Wi-Fi World aren't mentioned by name. In the Wi-Fi World model, Wayport is reselling access to McDonald's locations on a fixed rate per month.

The article says SBC will offer unlimited service for $19.95 per month, but will ultimately discount it significantly to existing customers. It's unclear whether that rate includes both SBC-managed locations and McDonald's, but it's likely that it's both.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:37 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot

June 4, 2004

Linksys Posts Beta Firmware to Correct Remote Admin Problem

By Glenn Fleishman

Linksys has posted beta firmware for its WRT54G that closes a potential remote access hole in its security: The initial report indicated that remote administration of the WRT54G was possible out of the box. The consultant who reported the problem checked other WRT54Gs: if firewall protection is turned on (Linksys says this is the default and users confirm), then the remote issue is non-existent. However, some of the units that the consultant purchased to test had firewall service turned off out of the box.

A Linksys spokesperson said that this release is labeled beta because other functionality changes are in progress and not yet finalized. Linksys' official statement reads, "For those rare few that do disable the firewall and turn off remote admin on their WRT54G, Linksys advises those users to download the latest beta firmware which is posted on the Linksys website."

I just purchased a WRT54G to test out its default configuration, and I can confirm that I received a unit with firmware v2.02.2 (which predates the 2.02.7 March 2004 release), and that its firewall service enabled.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:49 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Home, Security | 2 TrackBacks

SoftAP Brings Mac's Simplicity to Windows

By Glenn Fleishman

Apple has offered a software base station feature in its client software for nearly five years; PCTel now brings the same ease to Windows with Segue SoftAP: Under Windows XP, you can set up an ad hoc Wi-Fi network and then link that via Internet sharing to bridge an Ethernet, modem, or other connection to users connecting over Wi-Fi. But it's multiple steps and not really the same thing as creating a full software base station.

Segue SoftAP from PCTel will cost $19.95 when it goes on sale to individuals this month, and offers all of the security and networking features needed for a robust, computer client-based offering. Of course, contrast this offering versus a $30 to $80 dedicated access point, and it might seem like a less desirable offering unless you're a mobile or portable computer user who needs to set up Wi-Fi hotspots on an ad hoc basis. [link via Steve Stroh]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:58 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Software

Franchising Free: SalemOpen.Net Installs a Meme

By Glenn Fleishman

SalemOpen.Net will launch shortly using Michael Oh's model--and support--for establishing commercially supported free Internet access over Wi-Fi: In an interview last week, Michael Oh outlined the new network in Salem, Mass., that will launch in the next few days. The network involves the sponsorship of a local bank and participation by a number of merchants. Oh says that SalemOpen.Net is a proof of concept that the Newbury Street model he developed for putting Wi-Fi access hand in hand with business development can be "franchised."

"It's incredible to actually be on a street and drive around for three hours and find 2,200 access points, and see that only 12 of them are public, free or paid," Oh said. The commercial free networks that Oh has helped build take advantage of the growing necessity of Internet access for people in all walks of life and the built-in nature of Wi-Fi in virtually all new laptops.

SalemOpen.Net's motivation comes in part from the desire of the 40,000-person town to have a year-round economy not based in the run-up to Halloween, and events that recall witch trials over 300 years ago. Oh said that some residents live there because of the mystique--"24 by 7 Goths"--but the community at large "would like to say we're more than just a Halloween tourist attraction or a place to go during the summer to see some interesting witch museums."

Oh said, the network is "a way of trying to attract businesses to Salem Center, to attract more people from the fringes of that area." He noted, "Literally in that area, there's nothing like that." The nearby North Shore Mall has an Apple Store with free Wi-Fi, but he said that's practically the only open access.

In an email follow-up, Oh noted that a small project in nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to offer free Wi-Fi illustrated his point about the attactiveness of wireless access. "Free WiFi can give an entire area an advantage over the 'big city'--cheaper parking, lower rent, and free Wi-Fi," he wrote. "I think that's an important trend--and you could see free Wi-Fi gelling more effectively in small towns first, even though there are more users for it in cities."

This was the logic that drove Monet Mobile to offer high-speed cellular wireless data service in more rural areas unserved or underserved by wired DSL and cable broadband. The company filed for bankruptcy in April after being unable to sign up enough customers. But Monet required a separate PC Card-based cellular modem for access where Wi-Fi is something that tens of millions of computer owners already have built in or added on to their computers, like a plug in search of a socket.

Oh estimated at its outset that $10,000 would be required to build out enough service across the three major downtown streets. Eastern Bank has contributed those funds to support the effort. Oh said the final costs would wind up being practically to the dollar on that original estimate. The Salem Partnership, the City of Salem, and the Salem Main Street Initiative have all participated in planning or approving the project.

"In order for free Wi-Fi to succeed on any level, there has to be a model that is easy to duplicate," Oh wrote. The corporate sponsorship lets the network start "at a higher level--and thus has a higher likelihood of being more sustainable in the end." A project in Savannah, Georgia, of a similar nature was just announced today.

About 10 initial businesses will pay $25 per month for the year, and potentially $50 per month depending on sponsorship in the second year. Oh said that 40 businesses could potentially become part of the effort given proximity.

The system uses the same setup as NewburyOpen.Net: DSL connections that are approve for sharing and Wi-Fi antennas to relay no more than one hop from the DSL modem's origin. The DSL is from Speakeasy Networks, which explicitly allows sharing and resale of its connections, and are rated at 6 Mbps downstream, 1 Mbps upstream, and costs about $120 per month.

The project will use three DSL lines, one for each street. "Because of the layout, Salem has a commercial center with three main streets that all intersect with one another," Oh said, requiring the three lines for simplicity's sake, and high bandwidth availability. The Peabody Essex Museum will receive some Wi-Fi coverage as part of the arrangement.

Oh can already see how the press will cover it: "I can't wait for the press picture of some Goth with a laptop in front of the old town hall." As long as that brings Salem some attention, however, none of the participants will have any problem with it.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:43 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Community Networking, Municipal

NetGear's Back Door

By Glenn Fleishman

A BugTraq report claims that certain WG602 units from NetGear have an unavoidable backdoor password for administration: A few days ago, we linked to news that Linksys's WRT54G had certain firmware releases that left remote administration turned on. Now a report says that it's likely that a username and password that's available on the remote and local network interfaces by default (and which apparently can't be turned off) bedevils the NetGear WG602 in at least one firmware release. [link via The Security Mentor]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:53 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security | 2 TrackBacks

When Zero Equals Many in Windows XP

By Glenn Fleishman

Wired News looks into Windows XP's dropped Wi-Fi connection problem: Daniel Terdiman tries to dig for the bodies in his search for why Windows XP drops Wi-Fi network connections inexplicably and often shows them as still active. Microsoft claims there's no systematic problem, but it's clear from reading any forum in which Wi-Fi is discussed--such as the site--that this is a frequent issue.

My solution, provided to me by a vendor about two years ago, of restarting Wireless Zero Configuration is explained in the article. This has solved 99 percent of my Windows XP Wi-Fi problems, but it's nestled so deeply that it's baffling. I've felt for a while that Microsoft should have a top-level interface to WZC because when it stops running, the user has no idea that anything's afoot until they drill down, down, down, and see that the setting reads "not running."

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:42 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Software | 1 TrackBack

June 3, 2004

London Overground: Wi-Fi Footprint and Future

By Glenn Fleishman

all2Extensively researched paper describes scope of commercial, free, and municipal wireless in London, England: Using maps, warflying, stumbling, and other resources, Julian Priest has released an exhaustive look at the state of wireless in London. He looks at the lead that free networking has had in the city due to bans on commercial deployment until early 2002; still, the commercial footprint is extensive.

Among many interesting facts and discussions in the paper are the necessary geek per square kilometer density necessary to fully cover London on average with free networks (about 1.25 geek activits per sq. km). Priest also review municipal projects, none of which are rousing successes and many of which demonstrate the limits of straitjacketed civic projects.

Priest ends with a call for a wireless festival in London that would celebrate the city's current unwired state, while marketing and educating further to increase density of deployment. [link via James Enck, Daiwa Securities SMBC Europe Ltd]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:35 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal, Unique | 1 TrackBack

NetNearU Fosters Roaming Among Its Resellers

By Glenn Fleishman

nnuTurnkey hotspot system operator allows its resellers to roam freely if they wish: NetNearU is one of several companies that provides turnkey hotspot equipment to single venues or resellers who then equip locations. The network has always allowed roaming with a single login across its entire network for existing users, but settles fees set by each network based on usage. Now, NetNearU is allowing resellers who want to offer free roaming to do so by signing a revised agreement.

In an interview Wednesday with Wi-Fi Networking News, NetNearU's director of marketing David Comer said in this new model, "End users don’t ever have to work about being charged." So far, five reseller networks have signed up, including in Los Angeles, CEDX in the New York metropolitan area, providers in Seattle, Chicago, and Israel.

The initiative was spearheaded by's Ronan Higgins. Comer said, "He really came up with some good business points as to why--as he calls them--the middle-tier operators should provide free roaming to their users to go wherever they can."

Craig Plunkett, CEDX's managing principal, said in an interview, "It gives us the same bilateral roaming that FatPort and Surf and Sip put together." Plunkett noted that previously, a roaming customer would take revenue from his network and settle it on the destination network. With the new agreement, "If that guy is a monthly customer of mine, I don’t have to worry about paying Ronan [of] the entire revenue stream for the month."

Currently, NetNearU resellers have to opt in or out of the agreement, and Comer said that the company is about to start actively marketing the idea to its wider groups of customers. For "each licensee or network operator, it’s their own business to run," Comer said.

"It really helps the smaller licensees to a certain extent to compete against Boingo, or to have some kind of added value or added attractiveness. Because it just makes you as a smaller guy appear larger," Comer said. NetNearU resells service on a per-session basis to Boingo, iPass, and GRIC.

Comer noted that customers of a given network would be able to see which locations they could roam freely onto through a link on the login screen which NetNearU dynamically updates as revised contracts are received.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:00 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Roaming | 1 TrackBack

Sensible Security Advice

By Glenn Fleishman

The Security Mentor provides sensible, well-written advice for keeping your data's nose clean: His advice often includes wireless networking tips, such as this post. The mentor writes in a way that reminds me of Brian Livingston's long-running and now-deceased Windows Manager column in InfoWorld.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:26 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

Why DId You Answer If You Don't Know?

By Glenn Fleishman

Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper has poll on whether readers have used a wireless network or not: The most curious part about the results to date isn't the fact that about half of respondents have used a wireless connection to the Internet--which could include cell data or even a cell phone's Internet features--but that about one percent responded I don't know.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:24 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique

Stop Using WiMax as a Verb

By Glenn Fleishman

untethered11Parks Associates presents a clear chart of WiMax, 802.16, and cell flavors that explain their nature and timetable: Anyone writing about or planning to deploy fixed and mobile wireless data services needs to take a gander at Parks Associates's layout of what WiMax will incorporate and when, including a break-out into the individual standards.

"Using the term WiMAX in a homogeneous fashion has created a lot of hype and confusion in the industry," said one of Parks's senior analysts. Bravo and thank you. [link via Om Malik]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:49 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: WiMAX

WirelessUnleashed Advocates More Unlicensed Low Frequency Spectrum

By Glenn Fleishman

wirelessunleashed.jpgFour admirable spectrum licensing wonks have started an advocacy site on low-frequency unlicensed wireless: Kevin Werbach, Andrew Odlyzko, David Isenberg, and Clay Shirky are a combined powerhouse of intellectual might and regulatory expertise. Their site promotes the notion of unshackling spectrum below one gigahertz from outdated technical notions that restrict innovation. The FCC has become more and more amenable to these ideas, as it toys with rulemaking vastly different than anything that's come before.

The site is funded by Microsoft. I had some back and forth with Werbach about what that means, and he has clarified the issue on their About page. Microsoft is funding their time to devote to the issue, but the editorial voice is independent. I know all of these gentlemen except Odlyzko, and can vouch that you wouldn't see the door hit their backside if there were a conflict of interest or an attempt to change their statements.

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

Hyatt Hotels and Mackinac Get Unwired

By Glenn Fleishman

Hyatt joins the end of the long parade of hotels providing broadband access: Their service will be powered by T-Mobile HotSpot, and installed in their over 200 hotels and resorts by 2005.

Meanwhile, historic Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel, while away from the fray, has full Wi-Fi: The site of many movies and a constant stream of business conferences, the the $300-starting-rate hotel includes Wi-Fi service throughout. Cell phones don't work well on the automobile-free resort, but at least you can check your stock quotes through an underwater cable connection.

Wall Street Journal coverage (paid sub. req.) of the T-Mobile/Hyatt deal quoted Pyramid Research saying that 6,000 hotels worldwide would have Wi-Fi service this year; 14,000 by the end of next year. Former Pyramid analyst John Yunker, now with Byte Level Research, told me via email that domestically, U.S. hotels would number 2,100 for Wi-Fi only (including just lobby coverage) by the end of 2004, but wired and Wi-Fi together would number 5,100.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:52 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Hotels

Linksys Sells Enterprise Security by Subscription

By Glenn Fleishman

Linksys offers WPA Enterprise for $4.95 per month per user: Linksys has partnered with Wireless Security Corporation (WSC) to offer purchasers of its WAP54G access point full enterprise-scale 802.1X authentication using WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) TKIP encryption keys. The deal allows Linksys purchasers to sign up during the WAP54G setup stage. The cost is $4.95 per user per month, or $3.99 per month per user for five or more users, the same rate offered directly through WSC.

Vice president of marketing for WSC, Stu Elefant, said, "When you buy a WAP54G or CompUSA, it’s going to have Linksys Wireless Guard on the box, and a flyer in the box."

The new setup for the WAP54G shows a range of security from weakest to strongest. Weakest is no encryption, followed by WEP, WPA Personal, WPA Enterprise, and Linksys Wireless Guard, their branded name for the resold WSC service. The WAP54G was chosen as the first device, WSC executives said, because it's a no-frills access point typically used on networks with slightly more technical resources in house.

802.1X works over the Internet just as readily as it does over a local network using most consumer-grade access points: the access point allows a pass-through of 802.1X authentication (acting as the "authenticator" in that transaction). WSC maintains the RADIUS equipment as part of their operations.

With 802.1X authentication, each user on a network logs in with a unique user name and password. WSC allows management of these accounts via a secure Web interface to their system. Users cannot access the local network until a back-end authentication server confirms their credentials, notifies the access point, and assigns the user's computer a unique key, which is a WPA TKIP key in this case. The system can also rotate keys regularly to each user, further decreasing the chance of network compromise.

802.1X's method of communication is EAP (Encapsulated Authentication Protocol), which itself is not secured. WSC uses the Protected EAP (PEAP) flavor of embedding EAP inside an encrypted session to keep the authentication process secure from snooping.

The Linksys and WSC system requires use of a custom client--currently available only for Windows XP and 200--for two reasons: first, WSC designed both automatic and manual fallover that switches to a static WPA key in the event of a disruption in Internet access or RADIUS server access, instead of a broken network or no encryption; and second, only Windows XP has a WPA client available as part of the system among all Windows platforms. (Mac OS X supports WPA only in its Mac OS X 10.3 release.)

This client also avoids the complexity of accepting certificates and other details in using 802.1X authentication effectively.

In the case of a fallback, if customers are running software provided by WSC on a local Windows XP or 2000 system--what WSC calls its fallback agent--the network is automatically switched to local static operation whenever the RADIUS server is unavailable. However, a system administrator can also log into the WAP54G and change it manually to a local static configuration as well.

Once a WSC account or a Linksys WAP54G is set up, client software installed on each user's computer automatically manages the connection, including obtaining a fallback WPA key. WSC distributes a free WPA Personal client for Windows 2000, something Microsoft itself does not. The next platforms the company plans to tackle are Windows 98, Windows CE, and Mac OS X, just about in that order based on customer feedback to date.

One of WSC's strengths is Network Address Translation (NAT) traversal, that allows their system to work across interceding levels of port-to-port connections used to create private, non-routable address pools in local networks and at ISPs. The company has a patent pending on their technology. "We've come up with a solution which seems to work with just about all of the equipment that’s out there," said Ulrich Wiedmann, vice president of software development at WSC.

The company is finding interesting niches with its own service. Elefant said, "We didn't expect this, but larger enterprises who have either branch offices or employees who work from home are also taking advantage of our service and our software" to make sure these remote users have secure connections.

Wiedmann noted that virtual private networking and similar security services could be in the offing in the future. "As we're talking with some of our security software folks that we’re working with, we understand a lot of the holes that they're faced with, so we’re being asked to fill a lot of those holes," he said.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:42 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

June 2, 2004

Jitney Rolls on to the Hamptons, Wirelessly

By Glenn Fleishman

The Hampton Jitney gets a cell data uplink to hook its passengers up via Wi-Fi (reg. required): In a short piece by your editor in Thursday's New York Times, I describe the Wi-RAN (Rolling Area Network) developed by CEDX and Best Mobile Computing, and in trials with the Hampton Jitney. The Jitney is the high-class way to commute between your summer home or just plain Long Island residence and Manhattan. Some people commute--and I kid you not--every day, clocking in 3 or 4 hours roundtrip or more.

In that environment, as on trains and planes, people don't have just quiet time to contemplate but empty time that's worth filling. Some of the Jitney coaches also have electrical outlets, meaning that you don't have to worry about discharging your battery, either.

While the service runs today at 100 Kbps, the New York metro area will certainly be one of the first to see higher-speed cell offerings or even other forms of mobile wireless (cue Craig McCaw's entrance) allowing the service to expand its speed over time.

Service runs $8 per trip or $40 per month for unlimited usage.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:25 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 2.5G and 3G, Transportation and Lodging, Unique | 1 TrackBack

McCaw Stays Mum on Clearwire

By Glenn Fleishman

clearwire hardwareThe Wall Street Journal reports Craig McCaw to launch nationwide wireless Internet service on Wednesday -- but he doesn't -- or does he?: As Steve Stroh reported a month ago, McCaw's Clearwire will be an alternative to cell-based data networks and fixed-location or even citywide Wi-Fi offer 1.5 to 2 megabits per second. This is clearly downstream speed; upstream isn't noted. Service will launch this summer in two cities and expand to 20 within a year, the report in the WSJ says.

The service is described as portable, but not mobile, which is a key distinction: portable means it can be used easily in many places; mobile means it can be used while in motion (walking or driving often having a distinct difference). Cellular services are mobile and portable. Wi-Fi is typically neither except in newer cases of hotzones or citywide Wi-Fi in which its certainly portable, and may also be mobile at the right speeds and in the right locations.

According to Stroh's research in April and May, Clearwire will use technology from NextNet, a company acquired by McCaw. The Journal and Stroh both note that this is interim technology that will ultimately transition to WiMax equipment, although Nancy Gohring has reported that U.S.-capable WiMax gear may not be available until as late as 2006.

Stroh covers the news about the news shedding light on statements that are inaccurate, repeated incompletely from other sources, and correct. Stroh notes that McCaw did announce the service (some reports said he did not), and talks a bit about NextNet's technology role. Also critical, as Stroh points out, is that Clearwire will offer voice and data.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:54 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Broadband Wireless, Cellular, WiMAX | 1 TrackBack

Change Your Linksys WRT54G Admin Password Right Now!

By Glenn Fleishman

Tech consultant discovers that Linksys WRT54G allows remote, over-the-Internet administration login even when remote management is turned off: Because all broadband gateway vendors ship their equipment with default passwords like public or admin, this vulnerability is moderately critical according to the Secunia security consultants. An automated attack could scan millions of home broadband network addresses and feed them the WRT54G Web login sequence.

With remote administrative access, the most that could happen is vandalism: the Linksys doesn't provide tools via its Web interface for packet sniffing, but someone could corrupt the setup and lock a user out by changing the password, requiring a hard reset. Also, Linksys' Web form appears to send the WEP or WPA password as hidden password text in a Web form, but that text is unencrypted in the HTML source, which can easily be viewed.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:15 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hardware, Home | 2 TrackBacks

Alvarion Releases "WiMax" Platform

By Glenn Fleishman

BreezeMax 3600Alvarion artfully crafts its BreezeMax press release to use the term WiMax without precisely saying what that means: There's no such thing as WiMax gear yet, but Alvarion wants you to accept that they're releasing the closest thing to it. There's no certification standard and no trademark program from the WiMax Forum, and that might be allowing a little market confusion to creep in.

Look at the hedges in the press release: Based on the IEEE 802.16/ETSI HiperMAN standards and WiMAX Forum profiles -- that's profiles, not standards. With prominent roles in the WiMAX ForumTM...The BreezeMAX platform is designed to support WiMAX certified CPEs, which will incorporate the Intel WiMAX chip set as they become available in the market...these are "products that provide a path for operators to WiMAX standardisation"...

All in all, perhaps they should have said more clearly: We're not selling WiMax equipment, but something we believe we be so close to it that only firmware upgrades are required. Interestingly, while they say futureproofed on one page, they don't mention whether purchasers would receive free hardware upgrades if the WiMax standard as deployed is too different to allow firmware changes to this equipment.

Finally, while the equipment will ship in the 2004 third quarter, BreezeMax 3500 works in the 3.5 GHz band, which is only available in Europe and the Asia Pacific. Daily Wireless has more details about the equipment. Bandwidth and throughput aren't mentioned.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:42 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Broadband Wireless, Hardware, WiMAX

June 1, 2004

Truckers Early Adopters of Tech

By Glenn Fleishman

Solid Washington Post story on truckers' use of Wi-Fi at truck stop hotspots: A few interesting new tidbits include the excellent observation that truckers are always early adopters of technology that has utility to their industry, like GPS and Wi-Fi, and that reports 10,000 subscribers since October with just a few hundred locations. That's at least a few hundred grand a month, and doesn't count the drop-in users.

What the article doesn't mention because it's too speculative is that if you combine a truckers' need of Internet connectivity for business and pleasure with the growing availability of high-speed cell data service, you could find truckers living the multi-modal connectivity life, pulling over at rest stops to use EDGE or 1xEv-DO, and then pulling into truck stops for the applications that need high bandwidth and/or high upload speeds.

A little secret about a year's subscription averages less than $25 per month, but Boingo Wireless has a deal to aggregate their locations in the Boingo network, although I don't see locations live in the network yet. Boingo charges $21.95 for unlimited access for 12 months and then $34.95 per month thereafter; no cancellation penalties. A smart trucker with a Windows laptop should soon be able to use and several thousand other locations. [link via Brian Chin]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:58 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Transportation and Lodging | 1 TrackBack

Krystal Restaurants Get Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Free Wi-Fi in about 10 percent of Krystal's restaurants by the end of June: This is a regional chain with 425 locations; 50 will have Wi-Fi this month, available for free. They'll filter content to avoid objectionable images showing up in a family environment -- just as Schlotzsky's does with their service -- but it's otherwise wide open.

The restaurants are located throughout the south. Early locations include Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, and one in Texas. [link via Jim Sullivan]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:50 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot

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