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Recent Entries

Macedonia-Fi on The World
Putting Municipal Wireless To Use
Orlando Offers Free Wi-Fi at Airport
Easy to Launch Muni-Fi in Big Easy, But Speed Killed in Near Future
Tempe First All-Unwired City?
I Never Met an Airport I Didn't Unwire
Nintendo's Online Move Analyzed
Latest Story on Eastern Oregon Wi-Fi Cloud
NetGear Settles Speed Claims without Admitting Fault
120 Million Wi-Fi Chipsets Shipped in 2005

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November 2005 Archives

November 30, 2005

Macedonia-Fi on The World

By Glenn Fleishman

Cyrus Farivar talks on the public radio program The World's podcast about Macedonia's countrywide network in planning stages (mp3): Cyrus F. interviews Cyrus Irani of Strix, the company working with domestic provider OnNet. It's an interesting 15 minutes near the head of the broadcast. Irani notes that broadband is remarkably expensive where available. The incumbent operator charges €40 per month for a 384 Kbps digital line. The initial plans are 36 to 40 cities over the course of a year with city and surrounding areas having coverage.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:15 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: International, Municipal | 1 Comment

Putting Municipal Wireless To Use

By Glenn Fleishman

Forbes offers an overview of applications that can work on a municipal network: The three examples cited at the outset of the article are all from the briefing book of Motorola's mesh division (developed through the Mesh Networks acquisition). I particularly like the pothole example. Many cities have found that efficient pothole dispatching keeps citizens thinking their government works!

It goes far beyond governmental use, of course, into tracking lost Alzheimer's patients and creating citywide networks for meeting others. The applications of a single, seamless (or nearly so) ubiquitous Wi-Fi network should go far beyond mere Internet access, but this is the first overview of this larger purpose I've read.

Cell companies used to have the handle on this, but their application focus these days seems to be on delivering media in the U.S.; in Europe and Asia, there's much more of a focus on community building to increase phone usage.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:10 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

November 29, 2005

Orlando Offers Free Wi-Fi at Airport

By Glenn Fleishman

The Orlando International Airport turns on an Alcatel-built Wi-Fi network with no-cost service: The system was designed for public access and operational uses. The airport authority's IT director misspeaks, however, when he says such a capability is rare in a ground-up airport Wi-Fi network: "It is uncommon for a network to be designed from the ground up to service both public and private needs."

That's only true of some of the original Wi-Fi networks built in the early part of this century. Newer wireless networks typically encompass support for authority and airline uses as a separate function of the network. It's likely that a minority of deployed airports offer this, but the majority of new and in-progress rollouts consider that a prime goal.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:33 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel | 2 Comments

Easy to Launch Muni-Fi in Big Easy, But Speed Killed in Near Future

By Glenn Fleishman

Gr2005112900048New Orleans has expanded its previous Tropos-based municipal Wi-Fi network, once used exclusively for public safety: The new network was supposed to be announced today, and most equipment was donated. New Orleans will maintain and operate the system which will start with Internet access in the French Quarter and central business district, two of the less damaged areas.

Louisiana has a law that restricts municipal networks to 144 Kbps, but New Orleans is exempt under emergency rules. They'll run at 512 Kpbs until the emergency is declared over. They plan to outsource their operations, which may allow them to divest their municipal limitations.

The reporter notes the appeal of municipal wireless in the city: "For them, moving to a permanent wireless system is a matter of survival for a city whose future remains uncertain." The map at upper right shows phone and DSL availability at the moment in New Orleans (click through to the article for the full-scale version).

This new network should relieve pressure on licensed-band communications. The city had already migrated to VoIP service before Hurricane Katrina.

Tropos had a number of its units in New Orleans prior to the hurricane; they supplied another 100, donating half and Intel paying for the other half.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:30 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

Tempe First All-Unwired City?

By Glenn Fleishman

Everyone wants the title, and Tempe says they can grab it: It's a city, not a town, so I suppose Chaska, Minn., doesn't count with just 18,000 residents and 7,500 households. Tempe has 65,000 households, 1,100 businesses, and 50,000 students, according to this article. The service started operation yesterday with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) sending video greetings. The service will expand over the next three months citywide.

Two interesting points. First, a VP at cable company Cox was at the launch and said wireless was the future. He was apparently not standing there in protest. Second, Sen. McCain is one of the sponsors for a bill countering a bill by Rep. Pete Sessions (D-SBC) that would create a federal ban on most forms of municipal entry into competitive broadband markets.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:24 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

November 28, 2005

I Never Met an Airport I Didn't Unwire

By Glenn Fleishman

Oklahoma City airport cuts cord: The Will Rogers World Airport has given the Wi-Fi contract to Concourse Communications, unwirers of Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and the New York/New Jersey airports. Concourse will bear all expense, and offer one-day passes for $6.95 as well as providing service via aggregator/reseller partners.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:04 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

Nintendo's Online Move Analyzed

By Glenn Fleishman

Nintendo's future may be in handheld players, not consoles: Despite its attempts to compete against juggernaut Sony, which owns about 70 percent of the console market, and Microsoft, with a nearly equal 15 percent share, Nintendo's success has been in handhelds. The latest DS device is the first to feature Internet connectivity, and its Wi-Fi Connection service has so far been a hit through both free hotspot usage (at what are normally for-fee hotspots) and home Wi-Fi connections.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:40 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Gaming | 1 Comment

Latest Story on Eastern Oregon Wi-Fi Cloud

By Glenn Fleishman

The LA Times weighs in with another story on the 700-square-mile Wi-Fi network in Eastern Oregon: The details don't appear much different from the Associated Press's October filing on this subject, although the emphasis on the chemical weapons emergency communications system is emphasized. (Nancy Gohring first noted the cloud and it's chemical weapons connection after receiving a press release back in Feb. 2004 on Wi-Fi Networking News.)

The AP story said that Fred Ziari, founder of EZ Wireless, footed the $5 million bill himself. Sam Howe Verhovek--the former Northwest bureau chief for the New York Times--writes in the LA Times that "The wireless network, which cost about $5 million to set up, is almost entirely paid for from federal, state and local emergency-preparedness funds." Those statements are probably not as inconsistent as they sound: it's the difference between capital expense and operating income.

Onion farmer Bob Hale is a poster child in both articles.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:34 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Mainstream Media, Rural

NetGear Settles Speed Claims without Admitting Fault

By Glenn Fleishman

NetGear has reportedly settled a class-action lawsuit about its claims of speed for some of its gear: The settlement includes an enormous class: every purchaser of NetGear wireless equipment since January 1999. Folks in that category will get a 15-percent discount off a future wireless purchase. These kinds of settlements are often barely exercised, partly because they often rely not on a rebate against a street price but rather a discount off retail which might be only slightly below street price and involve more conditions for fulfillment.

NetGear will also donate $25,000 of equipment to charity and pay $700,000 to the plaintiffs.

The point under dispute seems fairly minor, that NetGear allegedly overstated speeds. Now, the company (and every other firm in the industry) hedges its bets about speed being variable and not achievable under all circumstances. (The cell industry is even more conservative, assuring 3G users that service may just not be available at any given time.)

NetGear reportedly disputes all claims and disclaims liability, deciding to settle to avoid ongoing litigation and associated expenses.

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

120 Million Wi-Fi Chipsets Shipped in 2005

By Glenn Fleishman

This fad may be here to stay: The Wi-Fi Alliance and In-Stat co-released the detail that over 100 million Wi-Fi chipsets were shipped already this year, with an estimate of 120 million by year's end.

Given that the share of laptops sold worldwide for 2005 is estimated at over 100 million units, and that a large majority of those are now sold with Wi-Fi, that accounts for a big hunk of it. Another large hunk are home gateways, selling in the tens of millions each year. The rest? Adapters, chips in handhelds, and newer Wi-Fi appliances.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:15 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial

The Latest Roll-Your-Own-Hotspot: Go-WISP

By Glenn Fleishman

The folks at Go-WISP alerted me to their roll-your-own-hotspot offering: Go-WISP provides modified firmware for Linksys WRT54G gateways that allow them to connect to the Go-WISP back-end for billing and account management while presenting a login screen to hotspot users. Go-WISP charges a flat $50 per month with discounts for longer periods of prepayment to handle the back office. You set pricing and other details through a Web interface.

Sputnik has offered a similar service for a while under the label SputnikNet. But that offering is a bit more focused on managing users. There's a $50 setup fee and rates of $20 or $30 per month for a single AP based on features chosen; more APs reduce the per AP per month cost.

Firms like Airpath, NetNearU, Pronto Networks, and Surf and Sip (among others) offer directly or through resellers managed services for free hotspots and fee-based hotspots, but offerings like Go-WISP and SputnikNet are typically quite a bit simpler and require self-install.

An important note on the Linksys WRT54G: Linksys has apparently changed a number of details in newer versions of the unit. Go-WISP notes the particular releases of the WRT54G that can be flashed with their new firmware. This is under discussion all over the Wi-Fi hacker and development world, because the WRT54G has long been the device of choice between cost and access to the code for changing its firmware.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:04 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot

November 22, 2005


By Glenn Fleishman

MosquitoMosquito catching over Wi-Fi: The story is a little bit more excited than the reality behind it. The leading manufacturing of automated mosquito-catching devices plans to build a smart network that communicates with 802.11b with a central server that can report changing wind conditions, hardware failures, and conditions unfavorable to mosquito sucking. It's a vacuum cleaner that omits odors attractive to mosquitos. A note of sanity is cast in the last paragraphs of the story against the $15 million funding the company developing the technology received: better to kill mosquitoes before they breed!

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:22 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique | 1 Comment

Half of Mario Kart DS Owners Try Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

The folks at Nintendo report 45 percent of owners of this Internet-enabled game have used it over Wi-Fi hotspots: The company struck international deals to allow free usage by Nintendo DS owners of networks like those at McDonald's (U.S.) and run by The Cloud in the UK. They sold 112,000 copies of Mario Kart DS up until last Sunday; 52,000 unique users (who are identified by a code in the DS player) used one of these Wi-Fi Connection locations. Two more games are in the pipe for Dec. 5 and March 20 release.

Correction: The press release was apparently designed to be ambiguous. The term Wi-Fi Connection means the Web site that Nintendo designed, not the locations from which a DS user can freely use Wi-Fi. Thus, the 45-percent figure applies to any Wi-Fi user who went through the Nintendo portal, not that 52,000 users were out in hotspots. Those numbers don't appear available (yet).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:00 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Gaming, Hot Spot

SF Adds More Free Wi-Fi Zones

By Glenn Fleishman

San Francisco is becoming festooned with free Wi-Fi: Google's sponsoring Feeva, AnchorFree is all over town, and now MetroFi has added coverage at Civic Center plaza, Portsmouth Square, and the Ferry Building. They have a bid in, like Google and AnchorFree, for SF's potential municipal broadband wireless network.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:57 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Free, Municipal

November 19, 2005

BART Adds Wireless--the Cellular Kind

By Glenn Fleishman

The story trumpets wireless, but it ain't Wi-Fi: Underground stations through the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system have had cellular capacity added so that calls and data can be sent. San Francisco stations were first to get the enhancement; more of SF along with Oakland and Berkeley stations will follow. The deal will bring hundreds of thousands of dollars of year to BART's pockets, and eventually millions.

It's interesting that Wi-Fi isn't mentioned as part of this: at the moment, the lowest-hanging fruit is certainly cellular reception. Because this is a deal the cell companies want, it was unlikely to feature Wi-Fi. If San Francisco gets a Wi-Fi network built for it, which seems almost certain at this point, you can imagine that that provider would want to cut a deal with BART, and extra-municipal entity that encompasses a huge part of the Bay and out into what were the hinterlands.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:31 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Transportation and Lodging

November 18, 2005

Cisco Acquires Cable Set-Top Box Maker Scientific-Atlanta

By Glenn Fleishman

The acquisition of one of the largest suppliers to the cable industry of set-top receivers allows Cisco even further entrance to home markets: The company bought Linksys a few years to get into the consumer play, and its purchase of WLAN switch maker Airespace was originally perceived as just an enterprise entry.

But the Airespace division was key in pushing out Cisco's mesh product line this week, which is aimed at municipal deployment. Witness BelAir's recent announcement of cable-plant compatible mesh Wi-Fi that eliminate the backhaul problem wherever there's a cable line, and Tropos's announced entry in Sept. into cable/mesh products with Scientific-Atlanta is, one might suspect, no longer on the table.

Cisco's current product portfolio could let them easily integrated voice, Wi-Fi, remote management, security for home networks, and end-point CPEs for municipal networks into a single black-box. Wherever there's cable, they can provide a cable-oriented box; where there's not, Wi-Fi-based CPEs with similar utility could come into play. The bandwidth for streaming video over municipal networks certainly isn't there, but Cisco isn't known for a one- or two-year horizon.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:21 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal

November 17, 2005

Six Guys with Laptops in Search of Wi-Fi at Chicago

By Glenn Fleishman

Ord WaritingMy friend and officemate is in Chicago's O'Hare on route to South Africa to visit relatives: He called me from the airport asking, aren't we in the 21st century? Doesn't ORD have Wi-Fi? No, I laugh at him. Next year, I guffaw. Get a modem, I heckle.

Meanwhile, I'm punching ORD into the JiWire directory, and ask him what terminal he's in. I find him a Delta Crown Room nearby, and shortly thereafter get an instant message: he and five other guys (three pictured) are on the floor with laptops getting a signal through the doorway. Reason enough to get a high-gain Wi-Fi card.

Somebody send this photo to Boston-Logan's CEO!

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:37 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Humor

VIA Rail in Quebec, Ontario Extends Wi-Fi on Trains

By Glenn Fleishman

Phot Serv Clas Renai Via1 1 LargWhile Internet access on rails is burgeoning in the UK, it's limping in North America: But this new agreement by Montreal-based VIA Rail to extend rail-Fi to all VIA 1 (first class) and Comfort (economy class) passengers on the Montreal to Windsor route by Nov. 2006. This includes adding Wi-Fi service to 22 train stations and Panorama lounges by spring. Parsons Corp. provides the service using PointShot's system. (It took a week for PointShot to get any ink on this about themselves, oddly enough.)

The entire system carried nearly four million passengers in 2004, and the annual report openly admits that competition from air carriers has eaten into their business. Adding Wi-Fi is an excellent move for those who would rather have the luxury of working while they travel in comfort.

There's no mention of service in the Sleeper class, but why Wi-Fi while you sleep?

I suspect the timetable reflects a rollout of EVDO and satellite (think: Inmarsat broadband BGAN service) to bring adequate bandwidth along the route. The Montreal Gazette reports that VIA Rail expects 500 Kbps to 3 Mbps performance along the route; their story is behind a subscription firewall.

Two stations, five trains (probably from the long-running test that's been in place), and four Panorama lounges are unwired already.

The brandname for this service, by the way, is Opti-Fi, which is also the name of a U.S. Wi-Fi operator found in airports. Opti-Fi owned by ARINC, Parsons, and Airport Assets, which may explain the extension of the service's name. (ARINC is also behind AeroMobile, which will offer voice and data via Inmarsat satellite in competition with Boeing and OnAir.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:25 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Rails | 1 Comment

November 16, 2005

Kyocera KR1 EVDO Router Review

By Glenn Fleishman

Reviewer finds the EVDO-to-Wi-Fi gateway delivers: No mention in this article that the router's undisputed performance is in violation of Verizon Wireless and other carriers' end-user EVDO contracts. It's all in the details, but I haven't heard of EVDO router users being cut off yet. I expect the carriers are watching carefully. Some will offer these routers themselves when they're ready. [link via Engadget]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:20 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular | 2 Comments

Subsidized Telcos and the US Broadband Lag

By Glenn Fleishman

Jesse Drucker files this column in the Wall Street Journal about the U.S.'s pitiful broadband performance with private capital in charge: In France, $36 per month can buy you 20 Mbps download speeds, 100 channels of TV, and unlimited domestic Internet telephony. Drucker states--in what is sure to provoke an Opinion Page response--that strict rules to allow carriers to open up their lines to competitors is the reason.

Incumbent telcos and cable firms operate 93 percent of the U.S. broadband, which the FCC defines as 200 Kbps or higher in one direction. Ha!

There's no mention of George Gilder, massive telco fraud, and horrible investments in this column, but that might take entire books. The failure of broadband can be tied to the obsession in overbuilding fiber under the assumption that it would carry only slightly more data over time, and the telephone and cable companies terrible, sometimes allegedly illegal decisionmaking processes in the late 90s and early 2000s. They got distracted from their core businesses.

Drucker gives a zinger near the end of this column to anyone who wants to complain about the municipal networks being funded by taxpayer dollars, although few have any taxpayer money going towards buildout or operation: "Phone companies, for example, get billions of dollars in federal and state subsidies for rural service; they also have teams of lobbyists and attorneys to influence policy. As cities try to introduce competing wireless networks, traditional telecom providers lobby to restrict such plans."

Let's not forget those billions which extend far beyond rural service--that's just one piece of it. Folks who believe in not having competition from municipalities with incumbents forget that municipalities are directly and indirectly funding (through subsidies and tax breaks) those very entities.

The removal of tax revenue from entities is the same as spending taxpayer money--it goes to the entities' shareholders instead of into the pockets of local residents.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:06 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Broadband Wireless, Mainstream Media, Municipal | 2 Comments

Who's Hot Today? Burbank (Calif.), Anaheim (Calif.), Lexington (Ky.), Mountain View (Calif.)

By Glenn Fleishman

Burbank provides hybrid muni-Fi: The city used Proxim gear with M-Gravity as the contractor to build a one-square-mile downtown free Wi-Fi zone, a broadband multi-point wireless system to replace expensive (and slower) leased wired infrastructure for city buildings, and free Wi-Fi in those various buildings. This is a very interesting first phase. It takes some money as cost conservation out of a telco's pocket (for 20 T-1 lines they're no longer using), but it also increases specific public access without involving home or business broadband.

Anaheim removes franchise fee: An attendee at last night's Anaheim city council meeting notes that the city will strip a five-percent franchise fee from EarthLink's potential rollout for citywide for-fee municipal broadband. EarthLink won't be paying for exclusive rights to municipal poles, lights, and networks, which is interesting. Another public hearing will be held. The city has its minutes online, but no explicit details on this change.

Downtown Lexington turned on its for-fee Wi-Fi: SkyTel Corp. unveiled its $6 an hour, $10 a day, $25 a month service. It's a one-year pilot.

Mountain View approves Google muni-Fi: A unanimous vote gives Google a five-year property lease to begin to build the network. The proposal will include a secured network for city workers. A Wireless Week story adds that initial coverage will be 80 to 90 percent of the city, and that Mountain View will receive about $12,600 in utility pole fees.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:35 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal | 1 Comment

How Long Is Too Short for WPA Keys?

By Glenn Fleishman

George Ou pointed out a few days ago that a good key could be seven characters long: He argues that there's sufficient entropy with just seven characters with A-Z, a-z, and 0-9--although WPA passphrases must be at least eight characters long. He also omits punctuation, which would add more fuzz into the system for those trying to crack keys.

His approach is fundamentally consistent with Robert Moskowitz's much linked-to paper on key weaknesses in WPA passphrase choice. In that Nov. 2003 paper, Moskowitz notes that dictionary-based short passphrases have a high degree of weakness, but that random values could be as short as 96 bits (which could be represented as 12 hex characters) and still be resistant to brute force attacks.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:24 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security | 1 Comment

November 15, 2005

Voice in the Air Debuts in...2007

By Glenn Fleishman

If you like peace and quiet on planes, count the days: In this article for Mobile Pipeline, I look at the future of voice and data in the air, with a focus on when cellular phones will work in airplanes as they do on the ground. The answer is a little complicated. In the U.S., the best estimate is mid-2007, if regulatory and safety concerns are sorted out. In Europe, mid-to-late 2006 for GSM and GPRS, but not 3G services or pure data.

The spectrum needed for cost-effective U.S. ground-to-air transmissions won't be auctioned until May 2006, by current estimates, and the bidders project a one-year timetable from winning the bid to full-fledged commercial service.

Meanwhile, data may roll out a little faster. OnAir, the Tenzing successor owned by Airbus and SITA, will offer satellite services for voice in late 2006 and data in early 2007. Connexion by Boeing has about 200 equipped planes now and many more to come, though all long-haul and overwater. AirCell and Verizon AirFone are watching the auction closely.

There could be one or two winners from the U.S. spectrum auction. Even with cheaper transport for data and voice in the U.S., costs per minute for cell access will probably rival the most expensive domestic roaming plans; OnAir expects to charge international roaming rates for its service outside the U.S.

But let's not forget VoIP. Connexion says Skype and other VoIP tools are among the most popular uses of its broadband satellite service.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:53 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Future

Cisco Mixes It Up with Mesh

By Glenn Fleishman

Cisco enters the mesh market, meaning it's a competitor in the metro-scale municipal market: With deployments in 2006 clearly involving over $100 million in equipment--and possibly much more--Cisco Systems has jumped into the fray. Their mesh access points have two radios to split front-end access to end-users and backhaul.

Nodes communicate with AES encryption, the default option, and they use Adaptive Wireless Path Protocol, Cisco's name for the technology that finds the most efficient route in the mesh. While they make it sound unique, and it may have unique properties, all mesh systems with intelligence have some form of most-efficient-route methodology. Some hardware that advertises itself as mesh uses just wireless distribution system (WDS), a packet-forwarding technology that was part of the original 802.11b spec, and which has no optimization for routes built in.

There's a single mesh AP model, the Aironet 1500. It's a thin access point that uses the Lightweight Access Point Protocol (LWAPP); the devices self-configure when added to a network. The devices are managed via the Wireless Control System (WCS) which is described as running under Windows and Linux. But Cisco also released a new module type for its large enterprise Catalyst 6500 series of switches: each of the modules can operate handle 300 lightweight APs, or a total of 1,500 per switch that's fully populated with modules devoted to APs.

Cisco has already deployed their new APs in parts of Dayton, Ohio, and Lebanon, Oregon, during testing.

There's coverage all over:, eWeek, Wi-Fi Planet, and Red Herring. Interestingly, several Cisco competitors offered briefings early this week and late last week to reporters, which is why most of these articles have healthy context. Cisco wasn't able to announce in a vacuum, partly due to leaked spec sheets that I saw weeks ago and others, months ago.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:43 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Mesh, Municipal | 1 Comment

November 14, 2005

Atheros Puts Access Point on a Chip

By Glenn Fleishman

Atheros's latest Wi-Fi chip includes all 802.11g access point features in a single piece of silicon: They say it drops the component count 40 percent over its previous chipset. The cheaper ($12.50 each in quantity), smaller, and lower-powered these chips become, the more likely that APs shrink (they're still huge) or are found built-in to more equipment.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:30 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Chips

Who's Hot Today? Sacramento (Calif.), Pretoria (S.A.)

By Glenn Fleishman

Sacramento starts test phase of municipal wireless build-out: The City Hall and Cesar Chavez Plaza will be a testbed for MobilePro Corp., which won a contract to build a test that would--if successful--lead to a 60-square-mile network. The network would serve public safety, municipal worker, and public access purposes. MobilePro will self-fund the project, which is essentially a franchise arrangement that requires two hours of free access per user per day, and 2,000 city accounts. Pete Sessions, the Congressman from SBC/AT&T, is mentioned without the critical fact of his non-blind SBC stock ownership and his wife's job at SBC.

Pretoria plans muni buildout: South Africa will liberate municipalities from the monopoly PTT after the unanimous passage in parliament of The Electronic Communications Bill. The town of Tshwane wants to offer every resident an email address and broadband access by 2010. Very few municipalities are applying for the licenses that would allow them to run telecom/data businesses. Philadelphia is cited as a shining example of public/private partnerships at the end of this piece.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:20 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

Tropos Unveils Software, API, Partner Program, List of Partners

By Glenn Fleishman

The metropolitan mesh equipment vendor Tropos continues its juggernaut-like movement, releasing more ways to bind others into their fold: The company's announcements today are about reaching out to other firms. They announced a software API (application programmer's interface) that allows third-party developers to extend their own software or management interfaces to work down to the level of Tropos equipment. The partner program provides these developers access, and the list of partners is quite extensive.

They also previewed three tools for providing better operator pre-build planning, operation, and monitoring: Insight, Drive, and SignalPro by EDX Wireless with Tropos modules.

Although the press release lists them in reverse order, let's start with SignalPro: the Tropos modules will allow metropolitan-scale radio frequency planning using topographical and other data. It's the software used for planning cellular and other wireless networks today.

Tropos Drive lets an operator test deployments by emulating different hardware clients and correlating that with GPS coordinates while driving. A neighborhood's effective coverage can be measured and changes can be made before end-users are involved.

Tropos Insight "identifies places where the network throughput and capacity can be improved by looking at the backhaul links, the intramesh links, and also the client performance," said vice president of marketing Ellen Kirk said.

The range of what Tropos expects to see its partners integrated is across the board with access, public safety, and government functions. "Everything from video surveillance, municipal automation, indoor equipment to feed the delivery of these solutions: it's not just about offering connectivity any more from Tropos," said Kirk.

The recent addition of Kirk to the Tropos management team reveals its direction: She comes from Qualcomm via SnapTrack, and was at AirTouch before that. Cellular industry know-how might come in handy in metro-scale networking.

The array of partners signing on to the Tropos program is extensive, but Ruckus made a, well, ruckus with their own press release today: they're producing the MetroFlex, a CPE (customer premises equipment) device using beam-forming technology designed for what will probably be a multi-million-unit per year business by 2007. This isn't the full on, multi-stream MIMO, but it is a range-extending technology.

EarthLink, for one, expects that its retail network partners in various cities will need to provide CPEs to customers so that the signal is strong enough within their homes and businesses. (This isn't new, although some anti-muni types have pretended it was. The CPE requirement means that 802.1X authentication can be pre-configured before being shipped to an end user; EarthLink will require this strong authentication for login and network encryption for its networks.)

Because EarthLink has apparently standardized on Tropos as their mesh and end-user connection equipment, the Ruckus CPE will likely be an early choice for the Internet service provider to recommend. With the Tropos API and partner program, a service provider will be able to monitor and respond to problems all the way to the customer edge in the CPE in their home, rather than ending at the access point.

Tropos's MetroMesh Solution Partners, as they term them, includes Motorola (Canopy will be the backhaul in EarthLink networks), a few smart meter firms, and a host of previously partnered OSS/clearinghouse companies that handle back-end user authentication, billing, and roaming, including Boingo Wireless, Airpath Wireless, and Pronto Networks. The list also includes NetMotion Wireless, a firm that uses client and server software to allow seamless transitions across any network medium for enterprise customers--and, I expect, government networks as well. They have a killer demo.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:28 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal | 2 Comments

SF Sunshine Laws on RFP/I for Wireless?

By Glenn Fleishman

An SF resident wants the city to follow its rules for releasing documents: Kimo Crossman has been corresponding with me for several days about his efforts to get the City of San Francisco to release full documents about the request for proposal/information (RFP/I) to build a municipal wireless system. Crossman alleges that the city and state's sunshine laws, which require a fairly unfettered amount of access to public documents, regardless of origin, are being ignored.

Crossman's site documents the process of trying to track down an individual responsible and get them to respond. He maintains that the companies involved in the bidding don't have the right to self-redact documents, and that the amount of omission is far above what the law should require for openness.

We'll see how this plays out. I hope an SF-based reporter or publication takes up this issue. It's not about proprietary information; it's about requiring the same sort of exposure of information from this process as cable franchise boards and telecom regulators require from the incumbents and competitors operating in those spaces. There shouldn't be a lower bar for releasing information from municipal broadband bidders.

Update: Sasha points to an article in this week's Bay Guardian which covers the issue as deep as they can--without getting any substantive answers from the city government on the sunshine issues. It's slanted towards the socially progressive view, but they're wearing this slant on their sleeve.

The Bay Guardian also devoted its lead editorial to excoriating the secrecy.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:55 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal, Municipal, Politics

November 13, 2005

How To Get Faster Municipal Service from Incumbents

By Glenn Fleishman

Lompoc, Calif., may have three options for broadband, accidentally: The city is at the center of this long and fair look at why municipal wireless is becoming a widespread phenomenon, and the reporter covers the warts and fair skin equally. But there's a gem in this article, because it explains how any smaller town could get its service upgraded by incumbents at no expense.

First, the mayor or city manager along with the council announces a surprise plan to offer subsidized or free wireless throughout the town with a private contractor handling cost and risk.

Second, they fight back attacks by the incumbents to scotch the plan in the media or through special elections.

Third, the incumbents commit upgrade resources to serve the town.

Fourth, the town decides not to build, and enjoys its 21st-century broadband upgrades.

Now, Lompoc can't be accused of this strategy, but the incumbents should have egg on their face when they describe the expensive upgrades to cable and DSL installed in the city--only after the city's plan to put in wireless first and fiber later was well underway. The head of the town's wireless project said Comcast promised service upgrades for 10 years--probably from analog to digital cable for starters--and that the work to upgrade the network (which was finished this year) was done only in response to Lompoc's plans. Likewise, Verizon admitted in this article that Lompoc was low on its list for improving DSL service and performance.

This is interesting when you contrast it with the complaint of incumbents that those who "regulate" them will compete against them. Regulation is a funny animal. Most telecom regulation is at a national level; franchise regulation is local. The "regulation" they're talking about is not whether a company has the right to provide service, but rather the rules and fees by which a company can use city facilities, such as light poles, conduits, and so forth.

This form of regulation is really another aspect of a city's right to self-determination. It can be used as a blunt instrument. In fact, Philadelphia reportedly prevented the entrance of a competitive cable company for years, restricting customer choice and favoring an incumbent franchise holder. But should the converse be true--should towns and cities be required to offer free or regulated (that word again) access on a non-discriminatory basis to everyone?

We've seen that: that's the trenching regulation. If you lived in, say, Palo Alto, Calif., during the dotcom boom, you have already seen trucks open up your street, put in cable, close it up, and then another set of trucks come in the next week.

It may be that local bodies "regulate" the incumbent cable and telecom providers, but they apparently have no leverage over them, otherwise Lompoc would have no reason (and no citizen support) for their fiber and wireless buildout.

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

November 12, 2005

Windmills for Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

A University of Texas professor creates tiny windmills to tilt at providing electricity: The prof has developed a system with his group that uses piezoelectric crystals which, when flexed by the small pressures provided by a 10-centimeter windmill running as slow as 17 kilometers per hour, can produce 7.5 milliwatts of electricity. This could be enough to power wireless sensors.

After reading an excellent article on flywheels in Wired back in 2000, I envision a nifty future in which remote wireless transceivers could combine a small windmill, solar cells, and flywheels (instead of batteries) for a long-lived and low-maintenance power trio.

Wi-Fi, of course, drains much more than 7.5 mW, and other technologies would be even higher. But this is an interesting start. If it's cost effective someday to build tiny windmills, it may also be reasonable to build small, but not absolutely tiny ones that meet the downward spiral of wireless network power requirements in the middle.

His paper from last year can be downloaded.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:41 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique

ACE Commuter Train May Extend Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

The Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) was the first train route to add Internet access: The service has been available in just one car along the fairly long commuter route that the train takes from San Jose to Stockton. In historical terms, the line runs from what was all orchards (when I grew up in Fremont, Calif.) to what was all pasture and farmland.

The operator is looking at a switch to a new provider which would allow them to boost speeds, almost certainly by switching to an EVDO network instead of the current slower system (a combination of satellite and cellular, the last time I spoke to the firm that operates ACE's current service), and to fill in some coverage holes.

I wrote about ACE in my planes, ferries, and trains article for the New York Times in summer 2004--the article covered Internet access that was ostensibly arriving for commuters across a variety of transportation methods. The growth in access has been steady, although municipal wireless may accelerate it enormously.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:29 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Rails

Who's Hot Today? Colonial Williamsburg

By Glenn Fleishman

It might be an anachronism, but the recreationist town will have free Wi-Fi courtesy of Cox: The cable company is donating the bandwidth, and city is buying, installing, and maintaining the equipment. No word on whether a butter-churn cam will be added.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:23 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

November 10, 2005

LucidLink Creator Shuts Down

By Glenn Fleishman

I'm nearly three weeks behind the news that Interlink, makers of LucidLink, have shuttered their doors: LucidLink was standalone software that employed 802.1X authentication for small- to medium-sized networks using a custom software client and simple centralized account management designed for an office manager to handle.

The company raised $15.5 million across three rounds of funding, and this business journal report indicates they had $5 million in revenue in 2004. Still, it wasn't enough to continue, although the firm isn't in bankruptcy. A few employees are buying older product lines, while LucidLink may be sold off.

Price competition shouldn't have been a factor in Interlink's failure to take hold, nor platform compatibility, as they supported the major Windows flavors. I wrote a comparison of LucidLink against Corriente Networks's Elektron Server (more expertise need, no per-seat license fees), BoxedWireless (outsourced 802.1X with a generic supplicant), and WSC Guard (proprietary client, acquired by McAfee). It was one of the simplest and among the second cheapest for smaller networks.

I deal with a lot of press, marketing, and engineering folks in my daily role here, and the Interlink folks were among the top, so I hope we'll see them surface again.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:30 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Security | 1 Comment

Can Wi-Fi Beat 3G on Terms of Service?

By Glenn Fleishman

BoingBoing stalwart Xeni Jardin and I have been talking about terms of service for cellular 3G services lately: She's posted some of our exchanges over at the BoingBoing site, notably about Verizon Wireless's incredibly limited permission to use EVDO for Web browsing, email, and intranet applications, and then later, Cingular's very similar language for their UMTS/HSDPA service. I was unable to find the terms of service for Sprint Nextel's EVDO data offering nor T-Mobile's GPRS/EDGE service.

Now, I'm not saying that these 3G terms are wholly unreasonable, just awfully broad--they exclude all host-based services, meaning any application in which a computer has to act as a server, no matter how that figures into a larger function. They also ban VoIP and streaming media as well as sharing among multiple computers. They also have the right (language varies between VZW and Cingular) to cut you off for whatever violation they think you might have caused to happen, including undefined excessive use.

What's so interesting about this isn't, of course, that cell operators have put fine print restrictions on services they advertise as unlimited in big type, and that they have consistently positioned in relation to Wi-Fi. Verizon, particularly, has sounded a long and loud gong about how Wi-Fi only works over a few hundred feet--ignoring enterprise installations like that at EVDO licenser Qualcomm and hotzones and metropolitan deployments--and has all kinds of speed limits on it.

You can't state on the one hand that Wi-Fi is restrictive, non-ubiquitus, and slow while imposing "smart" network penalties on your so-called superior service. 3G is great. I've tested it, I love it, it's an amazingly freeing and fantastic technology. But it's not Wi-Fi, and these kinds of restrictions are more evidence as to the fundamental difference. Wi-Fi is generally run as an Isenbergian stupid network; 3G is smart with all the limitations that imposes. Licensed spectrum is scarce and they have to conserve it; unlicensed spectrum is a commons, and we all tread carefully or lose it together. (In fact, Verizon et al want network neutrality removed so that they can control services on their wired broadband networks, too.)

I'd like to do a taste test and ask readers who subscribe to for-fee hotspots networks or locations that charge fees and have terms of service to send me the applicable paragraphs that refer to what's acceptable for usage. Obviously, tens of thousands of hotspots allied with Boingo Wireless and others think VoIP is fine because they support Skype. And streaming music and video is practically advertised as a reason to use some hotspots. If you work at a hotspot provider, chime in, too. Tell us about how you regulate usage. Post in the comments below or drop me an email.

Let me start with T-Mobile HotSpot. After lengthy looks at several documents, I can't find any list of prohibited activities or services. The most direct statement I can find outside of illegal and unwanted activities (like "no sending unsolicited email") is this: "We may impose credit, usage or Service limits, suspend Service, or block certain kinds of usage in our sole discretion to protect users or our business." It's broad and deep, but sounds like a last resort legal expression instead of a specific policy statement. You can't share a T-Mobile connection or account, either, but that's pretty much the standard line for Internet accounts.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:08 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Hot Spot, Legal | 2 Comments

$600 a Week Wi-Fi?

By Glenn Fleishman

A column at a CPA site noted that a software developer's conference venue told attendees it would cost $600 for Wi-Fi access for the week of the event: The San Diego Convention Center must have been wearing the wrong hat. Convention exhibitors are typically charged exorbitant rates by incumbent third-party contractors who manage hotel and convention center Internet access. A phone line costs a small fortune; a T-1 line a large fortune. Even Wi-Fi is charged at high rates.

I'm guessing that the San Diego folks gave out the wrong price card for attendees at the Sage Software event, and surely Sage had nothing to do with it. They later offered $4.95 per hour access, which is not as awful, but is ridiculous.

Don't these venues understand that 3G is on the way and even being installed in their venues to boost reception? Don't they know that EVDO, even if slower than a Wi-Fi feed, will typically be used by people who pay for unlimited monthly transfers? Everyone I know would take "no additional charge" and 200 to 400 Kbps downstream over "$4.95 per hour" and 500 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps any time. (The key is downstream: If you need the uplink speed, 3G can't cut it.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:33 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cluelessness, Humor

Google Offers to Unwire Mountain View

By Glenn Fleishman

Its headquarters are there as will be a new enormous facility built on NASA property: Google approached the city to build a free network across its 12 square miles of prosperous homes and high-tech businesses. MetroFi has already signed an agreement with the city, but it's clearly non-exclusive, and MetroFi would back down if Google put in a free network.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:27 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

November 9, 2005

Who's Hot Today? Iowa voters; Temecula (Calif.); Northern Ontario (Canada); Pomona (Calif.); San Francisco

By Glenn Fleishman

It's a dogpile of municipal wireless and hotzone news today across North America.

San Francisco moves to RFP stage: The city initially produced a request for information/proposal (RFI/P) which left them the opportunity to accept plans at that stage or request further details. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city notified 26 vendors Tuesday that they will issue an RFP later this month incorporating ideas from the RFI/P.

One San Franciscan has written me a number of times to try to draw interest in the fact that substantial portions of proposals were redacted by the vendors and the city allowed this. This reader has filed a number of formal Sunshine Law requests because he interprets the law as not allowing this amount of redaction nor self-redaction by vendors. I am based in Seattle, unfamiliar with the law, and not a political reporter--but I'm still surprised that no one has picked up on this aspect of this story.

Pomona pilot program: This California town had a unanimous city council vote in favor of create a square-mile test project in downtown with Wi-Fi. It doesn't say the service is free, but implies it.

Temecula, Calif., will put Wi-Fi in its Old Town: Wireless Facilities, Inc. (WFI), a company the name of which is appearing increasingly frequently in association with large-scale Wi-Fi bids and installations, will build out this town's Wi-Fi zone by early 2006. They'll use Tropos gear, and enable public safety functions as well as public access. Again, no mention of the network's end-user cost, if any.

Iowa voters chose whether to allow local municipal broadband: 32 municipalities voted on whether to enable a telecom utility run by a town or city, and 17 approved the option. None are committed to build. Qwest and Mediacom (the cable incumbent) spent $1.5 million in commercial time and cash in opposing the intiatives. Proponents spent a fraction. The Des Moines paper offers more insight into the battle, noting that further voting and action are required to start up such utilities, and that other political considerations affected the vote. Twenty-nine cities in Iowa have some kind of telecom or broadband; 54 have voted since 1994 on forming utilities.

Northern Ontario town is tech showcase: Nortel and Bell Canada are using a distant community to test "cutting-edge" technologies...which are unspecified in the press release. But it includes mesh and bringing broadband to a much wider swath of the Township of Chapleau than have had access before.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:02 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today? | 1 Comment

November 8, 2005

Inmarsat Launches Its Second Broadband Satellite

By Glenn Fleishman

Glance I4-1Inmarsat-4 F2 lifts off: Inmarsat's satellite-based broadband communications system is two-thirds complete. The spring launch of F1 covered Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Indian Ocean. Today's launch from the Sea Launch platform near the equator adds South America, most of North America, the Atlantic Ocean, and parts of the Pacific. That leaves a large unserved overseas swath for Asia-Pacific flights and maritime activities, but it's probably the least dense area for the broadband service Inmarsat will deliver.

The birds require shakedown time, and services will lag launches by many months. The first service to launch will be Broadband Global Area Network or BGAN, offering broadband speeds with a portable terminal anywhere within the coverage range of the satellites. The system uses spot and broader focus beams that can be repointed where capacity requires.

For in-flight purposes, OnAir, the joint venture of Airbus, SITA, and the former Tenzing will deploy using this service late next year to bring roughly 500 Kbps to 2 Mbps of symmetrical, guaranteed-per-plane service. The aeronautical service on the satellites will come online later than terrestrial. And the launch next year of the third satellite means that early service will focus on European overwater routes to the US and overland to Asia and down south to other continents.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:49 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

Wi-Fi Stands for...Nothing (and Everything)

By Glenn Fleishman

A recent post on the hilarious and wonderful road show that is evoked writer Cory Doctorow's rant on "Wi-Fi stands for wireless fidelity": He pointed out, and I backed him up as did Steve Stroh, that Wi-Fi doesn't stand for wireless fidelity because that term doesn't mean anything. Wi-Fi is an arbitrary mark that sounds very nice but has no particular meaning associated. Trademarks aren't allowed to have a specific pre-existing meaning in the realm in which they're registered. Xerox might be derived from xerography, but the term or word Xerox meant nothing at all before it was trademarked.

Nonetheless, most reporters (sometimes including me), write "Wi-Fi stands for wireless fidelity" with frightening regulatory even when we would never write "Starbucks stands for Ahab's crewman" or the like.

Phil Belanger offered up his insight as one of the folks responsible for the term and an early chairman of The Wi-Fi Alliance, then known as WECA (Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance). Phil's name is on the 802.11b spec, as well. He allowed Cory and I to republish his response on this:

"Wi-Fi doesn't stand for anything. It is not an acronym. There is no meaning.

"Wi-Fi and the ying yang style logo were invented by Interbrand. We (the founding members of the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, now called the Wi-Fi Alliance) hired Interbrand to come up with the name and logo that we could use for our interoperability seal and marketing efforts. We needed something that was a little catchier than 'IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence.' Interbrand created Prozac, Compaq, oneworld, Imation and many other brand names that you have heard of. They even created the company name Vivato.

"The only reason that you hear anything about 'Wireless Fidelity' is some of my colleagues in the group were afraid. They didn't understand branding or marketing. They could not imagine using the name 'Wi-Fi' without having some sort of literal explanation. So we compromised and agreed to include the tag line 'The Standard for Wireless Fidelity' along with the name. This was a mistake and only served to confuse people and dilute the brand. For the first year or so (circa 2000), this would appear in all of our communications. I still have a hat and a couple of golf shirts with the tag line. Later, when Wi-Fi was becoming more successful and we got some marketing and business people from larger companies on the board, the alliance dropped the tag-line.

"This tag line was invented after the fact. After we chose the name Wi-Fi from a list of 10 names that Interbrand proposed. The tag line was invented by the initial six member board and it does not mean anything either. If you decompose the tag line, it falls apart very quickly. 'The Standard'? The Wi-Fi Alliance has always been very careful to stay out of inventing standards. The standard of interest is IEEE 802.11. The Wi-Fi Alliance focuses on interoperability certification and branding. It does not invent standards. It does not compete with IEEE. It complements their efforts. So Wi-Fi could never be a standard. And 'Wireless Fidelity' - what does that mean? Nothing. It was a clumsy attempt to come up with two words that matched Wi and Fi. That's it.

"So we were smart to hire Interbrand to come up with the name and logo. We were dumb to confuse and water down their efforts by adding the meaningless tag line. Please help reinforce the good work that we did and forget the tag line.

"Wi-Fi does not mean anything. Wi-Fi is not an acronym. Regardless of what the AP guidelines say - the proper spelling is 'Wi-Fi' with the dash."

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:53 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique | 1 Comment

November 7, 2005

Who's Hot Today? Dayton, Ohio; Aurora, Ill.; Hartford, Conn.

By Glenn Fleishman

Dayton, Ohio, considers expansion of free hotzone: One square mile of downtown has had free Wi-Fi since April; the pilot ends in December. The city is looking at bids to expand citywide public space access to all 55 square miles. The director of Dayton's IT services department believes this will attract business and residents. Meter readers take note! He points to automated meter reading and removing 30 folks from the payroll as potential ways to conserve cash with such a network.

There are some unique aspects to the IT director's plan, including purposely not building a network to extend to indoor spaces to leave the market entirely open to the companies that build the network and existing incumbent and competitive providers. He expects that advertising and service revenue outside the public area will provide revenue to attract bidders.

Aurora had first muni-street lights, now wants muni-Fi: The city of Aurora installed municipal street lights before any other community in the world (oddly, Aurora is the god of dawn, not dusk), and it now wants to be the first city in Illinois with a full-blown municipal network. They estimate the cost at $5 to $6 million to build it out, and would immediately save $96,000 per year in wireless Internet costs they pay.

In this case, the city would build its own network, a fairly unusual proposition these days. They expect to start lighting up the network by early 2006.

Steve Stroh points out over at his BWIA/WiMAX blog that Aurora has an existing wireless ISP. Based on the descriptions on their Web site, they use point-to-multipoint technology versus the Wi-Fi mesh cloud approach that appears to be the dominant method of adding municipal Internet access.

Hartford, Conn., issues RFI (request for information) on free citywide Wi-Fi: The 17-square-mile city with enormous digital divide, urban blight, and rich flight problems has fewer than 33 percent of its residents owning a computer and having Internet access in their homes, the RFI states, according to Muniwireless. Worse, in households with $15,000 per year or less (below the poverty line for household of three of more), just 17 percent have Internet access. Which is fairly remarkable when $10 per month for limited dial-up equals about one percent of your income. The city has a fiber MAN.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:29 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today?

Devicescape Offers Secure Wireless Client to Manufacturers

By Glenn Fleishman

This might seem like an inside-baseball story, with a company releasing an embedded software package for hardware manufacturers: In fact, Devicescape's Secure Wireless Client 1.0 (SWC) software should help enable more robust security on Wi-Fi appliances and portables. The package includes WPA and WPA2 in both personal and enterprise (802.1X) flavors with the full array of EAP methods required for Wi-Fi Alliance certification.

Devicescape sells this software package to manufacturers of Wi-Fi-including equipment that need a security module for allowing users to join wireless networks that doesn't have a big memory footprint. The first generation of Wi-Fi appliances have an erratic track record for security support: some include WPA Personal, some just WEP, and some a full suite.

Glenn Flinchbaugh, Devicescape's VP of marketing, said in an interview, "They don't often have the best security and they're a bit hard to use." He noted that early VoIP over Wi-Fi (VoWLAN) handsets are "kind of cumbersome to get on the network."

Flinchbaugh said that Devicescape's 1.0 product will still require some initial process to enter a security key, but that it will support storing keys for multiple network, something many devices lack. "If you move around and connect to a network you've connected to before, it will remember the security settings and automatically connect," he said.

The company is eager to see a push-button or simplified personal security approach to crystallize and plans to support whatever the Wi-Fi Alliance finalizes around. Flinchbaugh expects a mandatory method that requires the entry of a PIN (an out-of-band confirmation step for key exchange), as well as optional methods that allow push-button initiation with a central gateway.

Devicescape's advantage in the embedded market, Flinchbaugh said, comes from a history in the field that's allowed them to reduce the size of the Wi-Fi software stack to a fairly tiny size. He pointed out that Windows XP's WPA2 client is 70 MB, and that a typical OpenSSL package for SSL/TLS sessions could require 1 MB. The SSL component that Devicescape licenses and integrates is 100 K.

Flinchbaugh pointed out that WPA2 support has lagged in embedded devices because the AES encryption method that's mandatory for certification has a higher toll on processors, requiring more expensive chips. "They can't get the bill of materials cost to where they need it to be with AES encryption," he said. "We're embedded specialists, so we understand all the issues about weird operating systems and weird microprocessors and small amounts of memory."

The appliance market is definitely heating up, as one can tell from a recent spate of product announcements for audio players, handhelds, and cameras. Flinchbaugh said that printers are a very popular category as well.

Devicescape has plans to release even better software that will use existing standards and a proprietary method to make it even simpler to create a secure connection next year, but for now, they're hoping to push this package out to make it easier for consumers and businesses to use the most robust security available.

Pricing starts at $50,000 per project. The software will be integrated into the Wi-Fi Alliance test bed for easier certification. The company has already validated its package against Atheros, Broadcom, and Marvell chips, and can plug right into Windows CE 5.0, Windows Mobile 5.0, and embedded Linux.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:05 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

November 6, 2005

Muni Roundup: Milwaukee, Wisc; St. Paul, Minn.

By Glenn Fleishman

No strings attached, the headline says: Milwaukee's local startup Midwest Fiber Networks wants to unwire the whole town in exchange for selling service. This has been written about in recent weeks, but this article is the first I've seen--although I've heard it elsewhere--that EarthLink would be involved in the project. This is also the first I'm aware of in which a company initiated the project, pitching it to a city. How does that fit into the competition vs. municipal debate? As a fiber operator, they already have backhaul, which makes a cost-effective rollout of high-speed services much simpler.

An analyst is quoted noting: "The basic idea remains unproven, she said, adding that there isn't yet a single big city 'where citywide Wi-Fi has been deployed for public use.' " I agree with that, but I've been finding out in recent weeks that "citywide Wi-Fi" often means to the analysts and critics "citywide mesh Wi-Fi," while the companies bidding on plans will use 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi sparingly, just for end user access, and mesh also sparingly. Backhaul won't contend.

There's a history of the company making the bid later in the article, and a bank has already said they would "strongly consider" a loan to the company to fund the network. The company would install more fiber as part of the project, making it more likely to help them in the long run. In fact, even if the Wi-Fi flops, they may be the best firm from which cell operators and WiMax operators (incumbent, independent, or otherwise) lease their fiber backhaul from.

Dewayne Hendricks of Dandin Group has an excellent zinger at the end of this article: "Even two years ago, if you broached the subject of wireless clouds over the major cities of the U.S., you would have been institutionalized." I recall people talking about hotzones in 2003, before faster and better algorithms were widely used in wireless and before real 3G networks were deployed in the U.S. Even downtown hotzones were seen as slightly ridiculous.

A longer analysis of the idea of municipal Wi-Fi appears in the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.): The article takes off from Minneapolis narrowing its candidates to build a citywide fiber/Wi-Fi network to EarthLink and US Internet. The city of Chaska has had a Wi-Fi network since June 2004, and the writer looks to that town for Wi-Fi writ small. The city has signed up more than 25 percent of residents (2,300 out of 8,000 households). The city had to spend more than expected, but the additional customers have apparently made up the revenue. Even customers getting slower speeds than they thought are paying bills that are small enough they're tolerating the difference assuming it will get better.

I don't quite understand a Qwest spokesperson's characterization of what makes a public subsidy: "Minneapolis says it will let an outside company own and operate the Wi-Fi network, so the city will not be in competition with private enterprise. 'That is a disingenuous argument because the city will serve as the anchor tenant,' Stanoch said. 'That is, under anyone's definition, a public subsidy.' "

A private company being paid fees by a government entity under contract seems like a typical arrangement. I know that Qwest would rather these networks not be built, but subsidy implies unequal compensation--typically higher than market--for work that would otherwise be unfunded. In this case, I would think Qwest would point out that this is a franchise award without the public hearings, protections, and taxes typically associated with franchise agreements.

The article quotes the Institute for Self Reliance, a local group, that thinks Minneapolis isn't owning enough of the network. This group might be my new favorite nonprofit: I don't agree with every position, but their general philosophy of local policy, local action, local results matches my attitude for much of what's being discussed in the municipal wireless realm. (They don't list their donors.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:56 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal | 1 Comment

November 4, 2005

MIT Shows Live Tracking of Usage, Users across Campus

By Glenn Fleishman

Bubbles2You have to opt-in to be shown by name, but anonymous usage is shown by default: MIT uses management information from the 2,800 access points on campus to pinpoint user locations in 3D. (The article says "log files" and "university's ISP," but it's almost certainly SNMP and the IT department.)

The maps are being shown in real time at the MIT Museum. Background information is online at

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:09 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Academia

Nintendo's European Blowout: 15,000 Hotspots and Counting

By Glenn Fleishman

Nintendo's European debut will offer access at 7500 hotspots in the UK, 7,500 elsewhere, on Nov. 25: BT Openzone and The Cloud are both partners with Nintendo, which is providing free access for its DS player and certain Wi-Fi-enabled games. Tony Hawk's American Sk8land debuts Nov. 18 and Mario Kart DS Nov. 25.

The DS player will also work on home Wi-Fi networks and free networks, and Nintendo has built a tech support database with hundreds of router configuration to aid players in punching through to enable gaming access.

TVG has an early review of Mario Kart DS.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:03 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Gaming, Hot Spot, International

Westchester May Legislate Wi-Fi Security

By Glenn Fleishman

Welcome to the Nanny-Fi state!: Westchester County proposes a local law that requires "security" on all private businesses that employ wireless network and store personal information about customers. This could include a "firewall," which seems like an awfully generic term in this context. Public networks would also be covered and have to post a notice of compliance.

Firewalls don't solve Wi-Fi security and privacy issues for private or public networks. I suspect that this uninformed law is superceded by federal protections and authority, too.

The only sensible requirement--if I supported legislated information technology behavior--would be to require businesses to use 802.1X authentication with WPA (WPA Enterprise) and hotspots to use WPA Personal (WPA with a shared key).

There are already federal requirements for how banking, medical, and other information are handled by businesses that would be inclusive of the protections necessary.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:30 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal, Security

November 2, 2005

Intel Documents Its Katrina Relief Efforts

By Glenn Fleishman

A long article at an Intel-produced online magazine explains howIntelbackhaul Intel leapt into action to bring computers and networks to the Katrina-affected areas: Nigel Ballard and Nancy Cox were two key figures, but they were given enormous leeway to take action. Thousands of Intel employees volunteered their efforts; Intel and their employees donated $7 million to the Red Cross, as well.

The company bought, borrowed, and reassigned thousands of laptops to get configured to Red Cross specifications to be used to register evacuees and connect folks. They also put together a huge number of fit-and-forget wireless packages that comprised mesh access points and Canadian-licensed WiMax equipment--the FCC granted a waiver for the use of frequencies currently unavailable here. Intel posted a map showing where they linked up transceivers for backhaul.

It's a good read, as it shows how people with their hearts in the right place can be aided by internal and governmental bureaucracy: key people can sometimes make quick decisions and then projects leap into being with little friction once the way has been paved.

Intel's efforts are just a part of the overall work that was done by volunteers and companies to reconnect people by voice and by the Internet during the aftermath of Katrina and so many other disasters since.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:34 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique

JiWire in the Zone--the Wi-Fi Zone

By Glenn Fleishman

Wi-Fi Alliance picks JiWire to manage Wi-Fi Zone directory: I hadn't heard much in recent months and even years about the Wi-Fi Alliance's continued work to brand Wi-Fi hotspots that meet certain standards with the Wi-Fi Zone moniker. In fact, there are nearly 2,500 locations in the U.S. out of many thousands more that meet those requirements. JiWire will manage their database of locations, found at and also marked within JiWire's own directory.

Is there a qualitative or even quantitative difference between Wi-Fi Zone hotspots and those without? Hard to say without performing one's own taste test. Just as the Intel Centrino Verified hotspot program helped hotspot operators to troubleshoot problems and produce more consistent results for Wi-Fi users, I expect the Wi-Fi Zone program has some similar benefits. Wi-Fi Zones have to use genuine Wi-Fi-certified equipment and have a relationship with the Wi-Fi Alliance to use the trademark.

(JiWire is an ongoing editorial partner with Wi-Fi Networking News, but we don't collaborate on directory partnerships.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:42 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Self-Promotion

Who's Hot Today? Oakland (Calif.), Cook County (Ill.)

By Glenn Fleishman

Oakland's airport: The Oakland, Calif., airport finally has full terminal coverage for its 14 million annual passengers. The airport has long had limited Wi-Fi through a grandfathered agreement with a Laptop Lanes location sold years ago to Wayport. This new network is operated by Sprint.

Cook County, Ill., unwires for public safety: The county will use IBM Global Services to cover the county and 128 municipalities within it. The folks at Wireless Week quote an IBM'er suggesting Cook would be the first county with total coverage, but I believe that Oklahoma and New Mexico might have beaten them--depends on your definition of full coverage across a county. The system will be used by policy and emergency vehicles and will ultimately provide a common service across political entities. The frequencies used aren't mentioned. I hope it's 4.9 GHz, not 2.4 GHz.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:03 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Who's Hot Today? | 1 Comment

November 1, 2005

Cable Firms Sign Deal with Sprint Nextel

By Glenn Fleishman

Reports say that Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner Cable will resell Sprint Nextel cellular service: Bring out the acronyms because the three MSOs (multiple system operators) or cable giants will become MVNOs, too, or mobile virtual network operators. They will, in turn, license or distribute their content over Sprint's network. All three companies have voice, data, and television services.

Let me spin this into another area, too: Wi-Fi hotspot networks. The cable firms have had some limited experience in building, partnering, and reselling access to various Wi-Fi networks, but none of it is comprehensive. Wayport now manages the largest single Wi-Fi footprint: between it and its partner SBC, they have many thousands of national locations which can be resold under various arrangements. Sprint already resells a 20,000+ hotspot network as an aggregator, which includes many of these locations, too.

It's a likely outcome that the cable companies will offer Wi-Fi/cell converged phones that will work over home networks; that's mentioned in this Reuters story. And it's also likely that the cable firms will offer 3G plans for data alongside voice plans.

Thus the cable companies also have every motivation to offer bundled roaming plans for Wi-Fi hotspots using its own and Wayport and SBC's network alongside a 3G data plan. This starts to look a lot like SBC's own convergence plan with Cingular.

The one stumbling block might be that SBC wouldn't allow the cable firms to aggregate SBC's hotspots, but I'm not sure whether SBC has any good motivation to restrict that kind of access.

Update: The deal is done and also includes Advance/Newhouse as a fourth cable partner. Adelphia customers will be included as they become part of Time-Warner and Comcast networks shortly. Charter and Cablevision aren't party to this deal, but it's possible they will join on.

No mention of wireless data in the news story, whether 3G or Wi-Fi.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:49 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Deals, Home

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