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Recent Entries

In the Air: United, V Australia, Jazeera
Wee-Fi: Topless Meetings; Projects-Fi; Boston Launch; Rural-Fi; Chrysler-Fi; Wi-Fi Chip-Fi
Alternative to VPN: IronKey's Secure Network
Toronto Columnists: City Owned Exclusive Broadband a Good Deal
Ricochet, at Long Last, Dead
iPass Launches Individual US, Global Plan for Hotspots, US Plan for 3G
Minneapolis Gets a Workout
Odd Coincidence of Newspapers Pleading for City Wi-Fi
Mobile Post: Up in the Air, Senior Birdpeople
Fly-Fi: AirCell's Network Done; Free-Fi in BA Lounges

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March 2008 Archives

March 31, 2008

In the Air: United, V Australia, Jazeera

By Glenn Fleishman

United Airlines switches its lounge Wi-Fi to an amenity: Service in the airline's 27 Red Carpet Clubs and 5 International First Class lounges is now free, still provided by T-Mobile. They join another long-time T-Mobile customer, American Airlines, in going free to lounge members and most other qualified lounge users; it's $50 for a one-time club pass, which includes free Wi-Fi.

Virgin Blue's V Australia airline will offer mobile calling, texting with factory-installed system: Boeing will install the Panasonic/Aeromobile system offered under the Panasonic brand eXPhone. All 777-300ERs in the long-haul fleet will feature the option, although some regulatory issues still need to be settled. V Australia service will launch in December between Sydney and Los Angeles.

Jazeera Airways adds OnAir mobile calling, texting: The Kuwait/Dubai airline will upgrade its six Airbus A320 planes; 34 more A320s are on order, which will have the gear installed during manufacture. Service will launch later this year. This article notes a detail I've seen elsewhere: up to 12 voice calls can be carried at the same time. That's using the older Inmarsat system that was supposed to be superceded a couple of years ago by one with eight times the bandwidth. That's now slated for 2009.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:09 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

Wee-Fi: Topless Meetings; Projects-Fi; Boston Launch; Rural-Fi; Chrysler-Fi; Wi-Fi Chip-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

No laptops allowed: So-called topless (nice sexy term for "laptop-less") meetings are coming into vogue? It's hard to tell if it's a trend, but to judge by conferences I've attended, no one pays attention to anything any more. Banning laptops might be an advantage to promoting shorter meetings--people will be jonesing so hard for their 'top that they'll cut to the chase.

Internet Archive offers fiber-based service to public housing project: Forget Wi-Fi. How about 100 Mbps to each apartment in a 260-unit project (Valencia Gardens)? That's Brewster Kahle, Internet pioneer and all-around good guy, written large. His efforts intend to put high-speed service into 2,500 units, mostly by the end of the year. The project ties into city-owned fiber, and is routed through the archive's high-speed NOC. With this project and the Meraki Free the Net mesh effort, San Francisco could move out of the status of a developing nation in terms of widespread broadband access.

Boston Wi-Fi project launches: The first pilot project under the direction of Openairboston launched today, with a square mile in Roxbury and Dorchester, passing about 8,000 homes. Service is free for 30 days, then $10 per month thereafter.

Open Range Communications gets $267m loan for rural broadband: The funds are intended to push service into an extraordinary 518 rural areas across 17 states. They've raised $100m privately, too, GigaOm reports. They won't deploy just one set of technology, but will sublet spectrum and use a satellite range for ground service, Om Malik writes.

Chrysler will put Wi-Fi into cars: Bloomberg News reports that Chrysler intends later this year to offer dealer-installed cellular Internet links in cars. The Chrysler chief for this effort misuses the term Wi-Fi, though, as it's cell data with car drivers required to obtain a cell subscription. The service will move to factory-installed after 2008. There's not much detail on what drivers and passengers will be able to use the service for in this brief article.

Wi-Fi chip shipments dectupled in five years; revenue quintupled: ABI Research notes that 440m Wi-Fi chipsets will ship in 2008, 10 times greater than in 2003. However, revenue is just 5 times higher, which shows how even with more advanced chips in the mix, the race to the bottom continues. Broadcom was the leading vendor in ABI's analysis.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:53 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

Alternative to VPN: IronKey's Secure Network

By Glenn Fleishman

TechRepublic notes some interesting features in IronKey's secure USB drive: The IronKey is a seriously secure device, designed with a variety of physical, hardware, and software elements that make it as unhackable as possible: it's got its own hardware encryption chip built in, uses robust flash memory, and can sense physical intrusion. But it's got one more element that Selena Frye highlighted in a recent column: secure browsing.

IronKey runs its own network of secure, anonymous servers that mask your identity. You can choose to change your exit point with a click, and keep track of throughput in case a given link is slowing you down. The IronKey plug-in for Firefox, invoked with a click, also stores all settings and caches on the flash drive.

Like Frye, I have long wanted to recommend an option for people who already use SSL/TLS protection for their email service, and don't need a VPN. IronKey appears to be the right recommendation.

IronKey works right now just with Windows XP and Vista, but their FAQ states they are are working on Mac and Linux components. IronKey comes in 1 GB, 2 GB, and 4GB configurations for $79, $109, and $149, respectively, including a year of "Internet protection," which covers secure browsing and a few other features. There's no information on the cost of the subscription fee after the first year, a notable omission.

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

Toronto Columnists: City Owned Exclusive Broadband a Good Deal

By Glenn Fleishman

Scary idea to force Torontonians to implement universal broadband, even to those with broadband: I'll admit I don't understand Canada as well as I should, but this column in the Toronto Star advocates public ownership of broadband in the city that would supplant all privately supplied broadband to homes. I'm not kidding. Toronto Hydro is considering selling its telecom division, which includes its well-engineered but limited One Zone service (6 sq km of downtown).

This op-ed recommends that the city buy the division, and have it build service, which they estimate at about $100 per household, which could save $300 to $400 per household per year for those with broadband. But that means that they prefer any market for broadband to be destroyed in favor of a publicly owned and operated network. Which, frankly, would scare me if such a thing were proposed in my city.

It's not so much that any given broadband firm is so marvelous that I wouldn't prefer another. (I am surprisingly happy with my DSL from incumbent Qwest, including their fantastically improved technical support.) But, rather, that cities seem to do best in ensuring that missing pieces of all kinds are provided to those least able to advocate for themselves. This, in my mind, extends to cities providing incentives for supermarkets to be built in disadvantaged areas. (There's always an irony that people least able to afford food must travel the furthest to obtain food at prices below that offered in their neighborhood, typically through convenience stores. That's changing.)

One prominent argument that I found myself agreeing with when the discussion of municipal Wi-Fi was in its infancy was the problem of building a broadband network that used taxpayer dollars to improve the lot of some citizens, often those who could afford a variety of broadband options. Plans that used city budgets to reduce costs for telecom or provide municipal services are more egalitarian, and seem to have won the day.

In this case, the op-ed writers are suggesting a course that would eliminate all competition. Can anyone trust their city well enough that they support starting a bureaucracy that would completely de facto (not de jure) prevent any better service from being installed? Or that would require you to pay as part of your taxes for service that you wouldn't use?

The columnists do more sagely suggest that a "city-wide fibre/wireless network could be an important boost to city departments and other civic services that have growing needs for networking, such as education, libraries, police and emergency health services."

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:50 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

Ricochet, at Long Last, Dead

By Glenn Fleishman

The Ricochet network had continued to operate in Denver, passing through multiple hands, until its death March 28: I feel like playing taps. The Ricochet network, started up by Metricom, which spent billions and sold some assets for pennies on the dollar, was closed by Civitas, a company formed by the president of then-owner Terabeam's Ricochet division. The Ricochet site notes service halted on March 28.

The company claimed 6,000 users as of last August, but it seemed like a hard row to hoe competing as it was essentially against 2G/2.5G cellular data service that can be had for a pittance through embedded devices and cards. I tried to reach the company, and while its phones still work, the Civitas voice tree hangs up when you try to reach a real person, and Ricochet's tells you the network is shut down, and directs you to their Web site.

When I wrote about the sale in August 2007, I noted that Civitas was claiming "a decade of experience operating large-scale wireless deployments," which was specious. I noted, "That’s only true if you count some of the equipment mounted in Denver as continuous employees of the company."

Goodbye, Ricochet, an idea first way ahead of its time, and then way, way behind it.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:05 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Unique | 3 Comments

iPass Launches Individual US, Global Plan for Hotspots, US Plan for 3G

By Glenn Fleishman

iPass is best known for its corporate connectivity software and remote office hardware, but today enters the individual traveler business: Boingo Wireless can't exist in a vacuum. The service they're offering to individuals and through private-label rebranding is obviously cash-rich enough to attract the interest of iPass, a long-time provider of business connectivity that currently has 3,500 companies as customers, including 417 Fortune 2000 firms.

Their new service, iPassConnect Mobility Service, is an attempt to appeal to regular business travelers and individuals. With plans that start at $30 per month, the offerings are comparable in many ways to Boingo, but have a couple of interesting twists that may appeal to a different set of travelers. Notably, all plans include dial-up service, and two of four plans include unlimited 3G (US only, over EVDO).

No one offers a combination of service that's comparable in scope or price to iPass's new offering. While Boingo Wireless is cheaper ($22 per month for North America, $39 for global) with a similar Wi-Fi footprint, travelers that need 3G for its ubiquity and dial-up for its use as a backstop have no better choice than iPass.

iPass currently claims a network of 95,000 "active" Wi-Fi locations, which is a subtle dig at Boingo, which often lists their total of signed locations, which expands in count before all new locations are integrated into the footprint. iPass uniquely includes current Starbucks locations run by T-Mobile; Boingo and other aggregators will start to include Starbucks as AT&T takes over the network.

The four plans iPass will offer are paired as two North American plans, and two "global" plans. Their North American Wi-Fi offering at $30 per month includes their entire US and Canada Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and dial-up footprint. Piero DePaoli, iPass's director of global product marketing, said that dial-up remains useful for travelers in more remote areas where Wi-Fi isn't an option. The service currently requires Windows XP, 2000, or Vista.

A global Wi-Fi plan that rolls up all 95,000 Wi-Fi locations and worldwide dial-up service will cost $45 per month. For "that business traveler that definitely leaves the country on a semi regular basis, this is going to be a service that is going to be very attractive," said DePaoli.

Adding cell service to each plan takes the service up to a total of $70 per month for North American Wi-Fi plus US 3G, and $85 per month for global Wi-Fi plus US 3G. At a $40-per-month incremental cost, this is a much better 3G deal than any of the cell operators.

iPass requires the purchase of a $125 PC Card EVDO modem (includes shipping and handling), and a 1-year commitment with a $100 early cancellation penalty. The company will consider adding other form factors, like ExpressCard, as demand warrants.

For enterprise users, iPass aggregates dial-up, Ethernet (mostly US hotel), Wi-Fi hotspot, and 3G service into a single login that's integrated with corporate networks to preserve one user, one password, end-point security (VPN, anti-virus, firewall), consistent billing, and cross-corporate averaging of services.

For now, businesses with multiple employees that are below the threshold of needing iPass's full-bore plan (which is available through value-added resellers, too) will need to sign up for individual accounts under this new individual service.

This new offering is part of what seems to be a trend in both resale and aggreation of hotspots. Starbucks chose AT&T as its new Wi-Fi operator in part for the ways in which AT&T would promote usage, including offering free service to a large swath of existing AT&T customers. Likewise, iPass's entry shows that there's a market for flat-rate services for predictable expectations that spans beyond plain Wi-Fi. 3G never looked this cheap before.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:00 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Aggregators

March 29, 2008

Minneapolis Gets a Workout

By Glenn Fleishman

My pal Julio Ojeda-Zapata walks around Minneapolis, and is relatively pleased with its network: Julio writes for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the twin city to Minneapolis, and one that hasn't yet engaged in what was an explosion of requests for Wi-Fi networks by cities. He had a rocky start, unable to even get a splash screen, but ultimately was able to pay for a 24-hour pass ($10), and had consistent service on a laptop, albeit at half the 1 Mbps rate he was paying for. He couldn't get an iPod touch (Apple's iPhone without the phone Wi-Fi iPod) to work well on the network indoors, but had better luck outside.

The same day Julio's article appeared, his colleague Leslie Brooks Suzukamo filed an article about the challenges of leaves, something that's a big issue in Minneapolis, covered with the leafy menaces: 200,000 of the suckers that Gipper said caused pollution (as an allergy sufferer, I agree with him). Trees leaf out and reduce signal propagation, and that's something that US Internet Wireless has had to deal with. They upped their density of nodes from 26 to 42, which appears to be about the norm for both starting and ending points in muni netwrk planning.

This article goes into a little more depth about the problems with dead areas due to absent or problematic utility poles (it's always about the poles). USIW plans to install some of its own poles to fill in those areas.

Nearby, Steve Alexander notes a pioneering wireless network at the University of Minnesota has become obsolete. The U of M is replacing its 7-year-old 802.11b network with an 802.11n system. As is true in most older networks, they've got a melange of gear that's a headache to keep running and in sync. They'll spend $3.5m to cover about 40 percent of the campus with N, replacing a current similar coverage area. They may expand the network and add VoIP in the future.

The university and USIW are discussing interconnecting their networks for roaming.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:19 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

Odd Coincidence of Newspapers Pleading for City Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, Houston Chronicle call for city-wide Wi-Fi (in different ways): It's a very odd set of circumstances that led columnists and editorial writers in three major metropolitan newspapers to come up with the idea to write about this independent of one another.

The New York Times is least informed. It suggests that Internet access is "a basic part of the infrastructure of education and democracy." That conclusion is poorly drawn, however, due to several factual errors in their exegesis. They wrote: "...many American cities, caught up in a tide of technological and fiscal optimism, promised to try to make Internet coverage available to all by making it citywide, wireless and low-cost or even free." True! But they leave that statement hanging there as if that's how proposals were written.

As I have extensively documented over nearly four years, Philadelphia and San Francisco quickly dropped the "free" part, not requiring it in their proposals. Of all major cities in which plans were made, only Portland, Ore., had a free (ad-supported) option for a baseline service. (Google's offer for SF as part of EarthLink's plan called for 300 Kbps service.)

In discussing EarthLink, they take a recent specific statement about the future without backtracking it to last summer: "EarthLink is calling it a change in strategic direction. What that phrase means, simply, is where’s the profit?" No, it means: How, as a company, does EarthLink survive? By pour hundreds of millions of dollars it can't afford into projects that can't produce a return?

"The neighborhoods that most need low-cost, public wireless service now find themselves largely dependent on Internet access through public libraries." Right, and that doesn't require a 95-percent coverage commercial buildout. We'll get to that in a moment in Houston.

"Philadelphia gave EarthLink free access to utility poles for mounting wireless routers." Uh, no, editorial page of the New York Times, it did not. EarthLink and Wireless Philadelphia have a complicated arrangements with the local utility over placement and electricity. It wasn't free to either EarthLink or WP, the actual operator (ignored in this editorial entirely, by the way).

"The costs of building a network turned out to be higher than expected — at a time when prices for private Internet service were dropping. It also hurt, in Philadelphia’s case, that there was a major change at EarthLink, which went from being an advocate of municipal Wi-Fi to a company determined to cut costs." Again, some specious use of facts. "Higher than expected" is a gross understatement. Prices dropping, when they were cut in some markets by incumbents by a third, at least for 1 or even 2 year promotional rates, is "plummeting." And, finally, the "major change at EarthLink" was the clear realization that their Wi-Fi approach was disastrous (paying for everything with no municipal commitment) while Helio was also poised to bleed them dry.

"EarthLink should fulfill the commitments it made." Excuse me, bah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's columnist Chris Satullo has a short set of pithy advice: Don't let the goals of Wireless Philadelphia die. The mayor's office should hop on finding private partners, and make a significant commitment of its own. Save the partly built network, and make the economics work to preserve its potential benefit for the city. (WP continues to get high marks for it efforts in getting computers, training, and access to low-income folks in Phila., although Joshua Bretibart continues to question how some of the bills were paid and deferred by WP related to electricity, among other topics.)

Now, I'm biased on this last one, in the Houston Chronicle, as I spoke to the editorial writer, who solicited my views (among many others) on whether Houston's "bubbles" of access plan, which will involve about $3.5m of their $5m late fee from EarthLink, made sense versus an all-at-once strategy. As the Chronicle writes, and I agree with, working with the most needy neighborhoods, were computer ownership and literacy are lacking, to provide access along with systems and training, is a brilliant approach.

Why? For a few related reasons. First, bringing computers, training, and Internet in all at once could rapidly allow people to gain the skills necessary to pull themselves up slowly out of poverty or the edge of poverty. You need computer skills for better jobs, period. Kids who grow up in homes without computers aren't prepared for the demands of white collar jobs, medical jobs, and increasingly categories of blue-collar jobs.

Likewise, by building only in "bubbles" with specific disadvantages, Houston could become a place of experimentation by firms that want to donate gear or bandwidth, that want a tax write-off, or by local companies that want to fund such efforts further. Building a whole city is tough and, I'd argue at this particular technology junction, misguided. Building well-covered hotzones with a particular purposes plays into the ability to test ideas before shooting the whole wad of bills.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:07 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

March 27, 2008

Mobile Post: Up in the Air, Senior Birdpeople

By Glenn Fleishman

The tap, tap, tap next to you will be accompanied by a woo-hoo! In-flight broadband is approaching, as I discuss in this audio mobile post.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:21 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

Fly-Fi: AirCell's Network Done; Free-Fi in BA Lounges

By Glenn Fleishman

Aircell's network of ground stations for in-flight broadband are operational: Now it's just a matter of flipping switches on the right planes in American Airlines and Virgin America's fleets. All Virgin American planes and 15 AA planes will have in-flight broadband. Neither firm has set a launch date. Aircell is calling its network "gogo."

British Airways signs deal with BT for free lounge Wi-Fi: Starting 1-Apr-2008, all 25 British Airways' lounges will sport free BT Wi-Fi. This isn't exactly a trend, but more and more premium club areas in airports are just folding in free Wi-Fi as part of the membership fee. Continental fought a long battle with Boston-Logan airport about this (and won); American Airlines started providing free Wi-Fi for its lounge members last December.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:15 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

March 26, 2008

Wee-Fi: Cell Phone Hotspot, Greyhound Bus-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

TapRoot offers Windows Mobile, Symbian Series 60 option for sharing cell data over Wi-Fi: TapRoot's software lets you turn a cell phone with a data connection into a Wi-Fi hotspot. The free demo version allows a single user to connect at a time over Wi-Fi; a full-feature version is in the works that they'd resell to carriers (they hope). No consumer plans are sold. This is the second phone-as-hotspot package to appear this year. JoikuSpot was released last month, but works just with Nokia Symbian phones.

Greyhound offers Wi-Fi on northeastern corridor buses: The aging bus company gets modern with its BoltBus service, which launches March 26 between Manhattan and Washington, D.C., with promotional $1 tickets each way (purchased online, in advance). The buses will have a little more legroom along with the free cellular-network-backed Wi-Fi. The bus company told Wi-Fi Planet that the Internet access wouldn't be perfect--"may be very slow or spotty"--an admirable bit of truthfulness, but there are 110-volt outlets on board that makes for entertaining diversions (like watching DVDs) between good connectivity.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:06 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi | 1 Comment

Metro Round-Up: Minneapolis Bright Spot; Pasadena's Dream Dies

By Glenn Fleishman

MPR radio feature on municipal Wi-Fi notes Minneapolis is different: As noted here and elsewhere, Minneapolis agreed to pay US Internet Wireless a yearly fee, and isn't relying solely on subscriber revenue. That doesn't mean they have a walk in the park, but it does allow them to afford to build the network out.

Pasadena acknowledges Wi-Fi network won't be built: Their local paper picks up on the fact that while EarthLink won the bid to build the network in March 2007, it's not going to happen.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:00 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

UK Regulator Approves In-Flight Mobile Use

By Glenn Fleishman

Ofcom, Britain's communications regulator, allows use of phones in the air: Ofcom, in conjunction with other EU nations, will allow the use of mobile phones on UK-registered aircraft. The use of the phones over various airspaces is separately regulated by Britain's Civil Aviation Authority, the European Aviation Safety Agency, and a variety of national aviation agencies. They will separately issue airworthiness approval. The Ofcom portion of this deals with whether the mobile phones and on-board picocells would interfere with other uses of spectrum. The agency will extend existing airline licenses for 2G purposes, with 3G possible in the future.

Air rage is mentioned in the executive summary of the approval; the issue of passengers getting angry about other people talking (or texting) on phones is left to airlines to manage. The regulator already "requires that airlines have appropriate procedures to deal with disruptive passenger events and further requires that such events are notified through the formal reporting system." Ofcom is also concerned about the fees charged and that "consumers will receive unexpectedly high bills." Steps will be taken to make sure callers are informed of the high tariffs, which are expected to run about US$2.50 a minute--but that was in 2007 US dollars.

OnAir, the in-flight operator that's been waiting for years for this and other rulings, issued a statement that they'll be proceeding with all due haste to obtain licenses. Their equipment is already EU certified as airworthy.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:18 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Cellular, International

March 24, 2008

Houston Reboots City Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Mayor Bill White says $3.5m of EarthLink's $5m default payment for failing to build Wi-Fi network goes to bubbles of service: 10 low-income parts of Houston will gain Wi-Fi service to bring Internet access where it's otherwise unavailable. They'll start with what he calls bubbles--actually, that's a nicer term than "hotzones," which sounds like an unpleasant bodily sensation--and hope to link those together. Gulton in southwest Houston comes first.

Tropos is donating gear for this first bubble. They lost out fairly big-time when EarthLink bumped the Houston contract, which was estimated at $50m to fulfill. Tropos would have seen thousands of their nodes deployed in Houston. This is a good way for them to generate good will and keep their name in front of future providers.

Houston Chronicle tech journalist Dwight Silverman wonders if this could help reignite citywide Wi-Fi, and notes that Houston issued an RFI (request for information) that looks for a new operator to build service out. My take is that Houston is far too rangy to ask for anything like near-complete coverage (a requirement in the contract EarthLink signed), and these new efforts and the new RFI might reflect a better sense of financial and technical reality.

As EarthLink's CEO Rolla Huff said in an interview with me last summer about contracts such as Houston's, "We were providing coverage to cattle. It didn't make good business sense."

This effort dovetails with an RFI issued by a coalition in Broward County, Flor., to built out 1,000 sq mi of service. It's not naive, unlike a lot of earlier proposals (viz., Miami-Dade's failed effort). The OneBroward effort links the county, colleges and universities, the school district, two health-care providers, and the county sheriff. They're now actively soliciting private-sector partners. This is a coalition, not a network by executive fiat that fails to materialize. (The blog I link to is written by Lev Gonick, who was a big force beyond Cleveland's OneCommunity effort that radiated out from his employer, Case University.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:53 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal | 1 Comment

Sebastopol, Calif., Looks Gift Wi-Fi in Mouth, Declares Harm

By Glenn Fleishman

The northern peninsula town of Sebastopol gave up free Wi-Fi in favor of fear mongering: Local citizens petitioned their city council to turn down an offer by to put free Wi-Fi in the city. I respect the council's decision in the sense that the vociferousness enough of the opposition was met by a reaction that the council had doubts placed in their mind. The council shouldn't be expected to be fully briefed on every possible ill (real or not) that their decisions could cause. One might think that they would thought to gather more info; rather, they rescinded an agreement already underway.

The article notes, "But critics said good studies exist that show ill effects to both adults and children from such signals." Unfortunately, those same critics consistently point to a handful of old studies, studies that aren't peer-reviewed, and information (not studies) provided by groups that either have a set agenda and ignore all new information, or have a vested financial interest in selling equipment to people who believe they are subject to woes based on electromagnetic radiation.

As the blog notes, Wi-Fi is already extensively deployed around Sebastopol, and their new network would be high up off the ground, reducing the strength of the signals far more than many access points that people would be walking by on a daily basis.

CEO Dane Jasper offers this incredibly cogent paragraph about the current state of clinical research around electrosensitivity; it appears to be based partly on the exhaustive work done in a University of Essex led study that presented results last year:

"The studies show that self-identified electrosensitive individuals DO exhibit real symptoms, including headache, skin rashes and anxiety. But, double blind studies show that the symptoms are unrelated to exposure to the radio signals. In other words, electrosensitive individuals placed in a shielded room and not exposed to radio signals do exhibit symptoms. They exhibit more symptoms if they believe the transmitter is turned on, and their manifestation of symptoms is not apparently related to the on/off status of the radio equipment."

This backs up my contention, now supported by many studies, that the folks who believe themselves to be victims of EMF are victims of something. It may be partially psychosomatosis, or quite likely, an array of other health issues that can't be easily categorized and treated, akin to multiple chemical sensitivity disorder and, the double-blind studies show, having no relationship to EMF whatsoever. But, an important but, requiring treatment and consideration.

Dale Dougherty, the editor and publisher of MAKE (one of the coolest magazines to come into being at any point in the last decade), writes about this issue, since he's based in Sebastopol, the headquarters of O'Reilly Media, his employer. The comments on his blog entry are tremendously interesting, too.

Update: There's a strong local angle, with a master (physics professor) and apprentice (engineering grad). The master thought there might be harm from EMFs given off by electric blankets, hired the apprentice, and decided there wasn't an effect. The apprentice took the other path, and now sells EMF mitigation services that range from hundreds of dollars to $25,000.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:09 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Health | 2 Comments

March 22, 2008

NY Times Gets around to Muni-Fi's Failures, Slowed Pace

By Glenn Fleishman

The New York Times runs this story somewhat later than one might expect: I wrote a similar story that appeared last August in the Economist. This Times piece focused a bit more on digital divide issues without, of course, providing any substantiation that putting computers in people's homes makes a difference in their lives. Sure, they have a great anecdote here that a student with a computer and Wi-Fi service doesn't have to take a bus in a dangerous neighborhood at night to get to a library; but that hardly equates to information that kids and adults see benefits in their lives, like higher income, less drug use, higher entry into education, and less unemployment.

The article notes, "Philadelphia officials say service will not be disconnected." This is highly uncertain. They may get some cancellation penalties from EarthLink, and the $4m estimated to complete the network is both specious (the last part of a network is always more expensive to build; it's not linear to get to completion), and doesn't talk about the millions in annual operating cost. No private operator would take this except under contract.

Philadelphia's current CIO is noted as saying that "[m]arketing was also slow to begin, so paid subscribers did not sign up in the numbers that providers initially hoped." Also specious. Without a network that worked well, EarthLink wasn't inclined to market heavily. The same is true in most early big-city networks. Service wasn't good; why advertise for users?

The article makes the good point that the cost of broadband has dropped (at least at entry-level points) over the last three years, making cheap Wi-Fi less of a draw than it was in late 2004.

One major error in this piece, not uncommon: "Unlike most other cities where municipal wireless was going to be offered in free hotspots and at a reduced price for residential service, San Francisco planned to offer citywide wireless free in a three-way deal with EarthLink, which was to build the grid, and Google, which would have paid to advertise through the network." No. Google was going to subsidize a slower service, and EarthLink was offering a paid faster service. Google's service might not have featured any advertising, either. Further, MetroFi's model, in operation in several cities, offers free, ad-supported service, too. They're only mentioned in passing and not by name.

Sascha Meinrath is also quoted in this article using old numbers (Sept. 2006) about St. Cloud, Florida's network, a free service built at city expense. Those numbers are now 18 months old, weren't provided by the city, and the mayor who inherited the already-built system disputed some of the statistics and was vocal about various problems with the network.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:33 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Mainstream Media, Municipal

Wee-Fi: Wi-Freeloading, Penn Station-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Las Vegas student provokes discussion of Wi-Fi mooching: Highly unbalanced Las Vegas Sun story on a student who claims he was booted from a cafe that offers free Wi-Fi despite regular purchases fails to quote cafe's owner. The owner posts his version in the comments (guy rarely bought anything). Hard to know truth, but owner's version makes plain sense. Comments are especially interesting. Follow-up on story backs owner's version.

Penn Station in New York gets free Wi-Fi in Long Island Railroad waiting area: Penn Station, a blight on the face of travel since its previous incarnation was destroyed, now at least has this free service. Craig Plunkett notes that both A and G networks appear present under different SSIDs.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:15 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

March 21, 2008

Whisher Reformulates As Free, Paid Connection Tool

By Glenn Fleishman

Whisher has relaunched itself with both free and metered fee options for connecting: Whisher is a network. No, it's a buddy list. No, it's a hotspot aggregator. Okay, it's all three in one, now. The company launched as a way to pull together buddies and free locations into a single connection package for Mac and Windows that would prevent people from having to remember or distribute passwords to join. The first software release included a standalone client that had instant messaging and file transfer built in.

Whisher's new release, a few weeks old, strips down the client, embedding it into the Wireless Networks manager in Windows and into the AirPort menu under Mac OS X. Under Windows, account details are embedded into the Wireless Network window; in Mac OS X, Whisher uses a lightweight System Preferences pane to handle account information. The IM and file transfer features are missing, but company head Ferran Moreno said the options may return in the future when people are more accustomed to the basic functionality of their client.

The biggest change beyond form factor, however, is the addition of WiFi Out, a name that sounds patterned after Skype's SkypeOut. WiFi Out is a per-minute roaming service that uses the WeRoam aggregation footprint as well as separate agreements with major European hotspot providers. They're claiming about 60,000 hotspots across 400 networks.

WiFi Out works differently from most of the other aggregators out there today, which have mostly switched to flat monthly pricing for unlimited access. That includes Boingo Wireless, iPass, and Trustive, among others.

Whisher, instead, requires a minimum prepaid deposit of either $10 or €10 via credit card or PayPal. Metered service runs about US 10 cents per minute, although it varies widely among providers; a given hotspot's price is shown in the network selection interface.

In my current experience, there is no provider offering a combination of prepaid metered rates and broad access. There might be a niche for this for the occasional traveler. Boingo charges $39 or €29 per month for global, which would translate in Whisher's pricing system to about 6 1/2 hours of service at 10 cents a minute. That's a reasonable benchmark for figuring out whether an aggregator with unlimited access makes more sense to you (since Boingo's footprint encompasses all of Whisher's) than a pay-as-you-go service.

The company continues to list tens of thousands of free locations identified by their users, and free access shared by their users from their own locations.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:29 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Aggregators, Roaming

Environmental-Fi: Rain Forest Sensor, Solar Monitor

By Glenn Fleishman

Two from the ecological files today: In Costa Rica, a UCLA group is using Wi-Fi and fiber optic to provide canopy-level monitoring of microclimates that are typically hard to track. The top of the rain-forest canopy--in the La Selva Biological Station in this case--has a very different set of conditions than at the base. One measurement particularly of interest is the rate of CO2 leakage from the rain forest to see how the gas is passed in different areas, especially where there gaps due to tree falls.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., solar-gear maker Xantrex has added a Wi-Fi-based gateway to relay information about solar-panel performance in home installations. An embedded Web server provides information, or it can be retrieved and logged on a networked PC. It seems like the power draw from this device shouldn't be very high, but it's not noted.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:55 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unique

In-Flight Calling Launches on Emirates

By Glenn Fleishman

Emirates airline says they're the first commercial airline to allow in-flight calls: An A340 in Emirates fleet is hooked up with Aeromobile's technology--an on-board picocell--that places calls via satellite backhaul at a hefty rate. The estimate was $2.50 to $3.50 per minute last year, although it depends on the carrier used. Carriers set the ultimate rate; Aeromobile, just the wholesale rate. Text messaging is supported. As with all such systems, flight crew can pull a switch to disable mobile use; and there will be quiet periods, typically at night. Emirates uniquely had existing demand for seat-back phones-Arab News says 7,000 calls per month are made--which makes sense given their demographic. They'll add GPRS data later in the year.

The BBC article describes Aeromobile's satellite and picocell kit as "a system which stops mobiles from interfering with a plane's electronics," which is mistaken. Rather, a picocell ensures that any potential, not yet seen possibility of out-of-band emissions from mobile devices causing interference would be mitigated, because the picocell allows a cell phone to use the lowest possible signal power.

The system will cost $27m to deploy across the fleet. A second plane, this one a Boeing 777-300, is already retrofitted and will be up and running soon.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:47 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Cellular

March 20, 2008

Mobile Post: The Future of Open with Verizon Winning Auction

By Glenn Fleishman

Verizon is the big winner in the 700 MHz auction: But does Verizon's notion of open conform with the rest of ours? Open is as open does. More in this audio mobile post.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:36 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Future, Spectrum

Verizon Wins Big 700 MHz Auction Block

By Glenn Fleishman

Verizon is the big winner in the 700 MHz auction, gaining the 20-odd MHz C Block set of national licenses: The FCC has announced the provisionally winning bidders in the nearly $20b auction that ended a few days ago with over 1,000 licenses at stake. Verizon spent $9.6b overall ($4.7b of that for the C Block licenses) in the auctions, while AT&T spent $6.6b, Echostar $711m, and Qualcomm $1b. The variety of other licenses obtain gives Echostar nearly national coverage, while Qualcomm is likely filling out its needs for MediaFLO, a national media broadcast network aimed at cell phones and mobile devices.

FCC Chair Kevin Martin has asked the FCC's inspector general to investigate what wrong with the D Block auction, which failed to receive its reserve bid. This was a mixed public safety/commercial band that Harold Feld, among others, alleges had its auction sabotaged through a set of vague requirements that could have led a winning bidder to forfeit its bid receipts while acting in a manner that conformed to the auction requirements.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:26 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Politics, Spectrum | 1 Comment

March 18, 2008

Wee-Fi: Wi-Spy Chanalyzer 3.0 Identifies; BelAir Lauded; Intel Stretches

By Glenn Fleishman

Metageek offers wireless signatures in update to spectrum analyzer software: Metageek's Chanalyzer 3.0 software for their $399 Wi-Spy 2.4x spectrum analyzer in a USB dongle adds signatures in a sidebar: patterns that let you match what you're seeing in the graph to common interferers like microwave ovens and cordless phones. You can upload snapshots to get input from other users, or add to their Signatures Library. The Windows-only tool also provides greater control over recording, annotating, playing back, and slicing data. This software doesn't work with their original Wi-Spy model (now dubbed "v1"), which continues to be sold and supported.

BelAir cited as revenue market leader worldwide for wireless mesh: This doesn't surprise me. BelAir is the name I'm consistently hearing associated with most of the large-scale muni projects, such as Minneapolis and Toronto, which skews revenue up because so many nodes are needed for these projects. Can anyone tell me if Tropos, SkyPilot, or Strix has any large-scale metro projects that are being deployed? Or have three companies refocused their efforts? The revenue estimates for node shipments, by the way, come from Dell'Oro Group, a firm that's been tracking the wireless industry for many years. Update: I got some good pushback on this by vendors. Tropos noted that it was the 2007 overall revenue leader in the study; BelAir for the second half of 2007; Tropos also led in nodes shipped. Both Tropos and Firetide also pointed out that with the rising interest in public safety networks and large-scale logistics networks, focusing on big-city Wi-Fi isn't really where the market has led to.

Intel modifies shrinkwrapped hardware to span 60 miles with standard Wi-Fi: It's not a great trick to set up antennas and receive Wi-Fi signals dozens of miles away. The hard part is keeping a consistent link over time and dealing with latency and environmental factors. Intel says they've got a device that they'll sell initially in India at what should be below $500 per node (although a pair is required for links). They expect most links will span about 30 miles, with one node on the edge of a city. An Intel manager says in this Technology Review article, "If you take standard Wi-Fi and focus, you can't get past a few kilometers." That is to laugh, as I imagine all you community networkers are now doing reading these words. It's relatively easy to run Wi-Fi that far; you just have to know what parameters to tune. In fact, they're not using Wi-Fi, but a protocol that's Wi-Fi like, which employs a form of half-duplex TDMA (time division multiple access).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:05 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi | 2 Comments

700 MHz Auction Comes to Close; Winners Not Yet Announced

By Glenn Fleishman

The FCC's auction for prime 700 MHz territory nationwide is over: The auction took in nearly $20b before discounts for small businesses and other credits, but the FCC didn't disclose the winners. 1,099 licenses were at stake, with the 6 C Block licenses ($4.74b winning bid) were the ones most watched. The others shouldn't be ignored, even though taken one at a time, most of them are quite limited in geographic coverage. With that spectrum, regional operators will be able to build interesting networks that could compete with national players.

The big failure in the auction was the D Block, a national chunk of shared public/private spectrum that a winning bidder would operate in a manner that gave priority to emergency uses. The minimum bid was far from met: $1.4b was the reserve price, and bids never topped $500m. Rules for the block will have to be redesigned and rebid.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:59 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Regulation, Spectrum | 2 Comments

Apple's AirPort Express Offers N at $99

By Glenn Fleishman

Apple isn't the only firm to offer inexpensive 802.11n, but their revised AirPort Express has a few extras: You can buy Draft N from other companies for under $100, but I'd point out that the new AirPort Express compact base station differs from those items. The new model, announced yesterday, is nearly identical to the one that Apple's been selling since 2004. Unlike other inexpensive N base stations, it has a USB port to share one printer (Windows/Mac OS X), an audio output port for streaming from iTunes or via Rogue Amoeba's AirFoil (Mac/Windows, analog/digital optical), and is dual band, supporting 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11a, b, g, and n.

airportexpress2.jpgThe base station is compact, small enough for travel, with an integral 2-prong plug that can be directly hung from a wall socket, or removed to replace with a several-foot-long 3-prong cord; the extension cord is part of a $39 audio extension kit, and not sold separately from that kit.

While Linksys, D-Link, and others have sub-$100 802.11n base stations, there are differences. The main one is a detriment to the AirPort Express: it has just a single 10/100 Mbps Ethernet jack. That means it's appropriate to directly connect to a larger network via Ethernet, where addresses are assigned out by another part of the network, or it can be plugged directly into a broadband modem and assign addresses out via DHCP and NAT (or a pool of routable addresses).

The Linksys WRT100 (about $80) isn't Wi-Fi certified (yet) for Draft N, while the D-Link DIR-615 (about $60) is, as is the AirPort Express (although the Express isn't yet listed in the Wi-Fi Alliance's database). Both the Linksys and D-Link units have 4-port 10/100 Mbps Ethernet switches along with a 10/100 Mbps WAN Ethernet port. Both are single-band (2.4 GHz), omit USB sharing, and have no audio streaming. (If you know of better sub-$100 models to compare the AirPort Express to, drop a note in the comments.)

It's worth calling out Airfoil, mentioned above, a package from Rogue Amoeba for Mac OS X and Windows that lets you manage where audio goes over your network. Using Airfoil and its included Airfoil Speakers software, you can choose to play audio on one computer and target it to other computers on your network, as well as AirPort Express base stations and the Apple TV media adapter (using Apple's AirTunes streaming protocol). Without Airfoil, you're limited to iTunes streaming under Mac OS X and Windows to an AirPort Express or Apple TV.

I've written a book about 802.11n and Apple's AirPort networking, Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Extreme Network, that covers all the issues in setting up secure networks using both Macs and Windows XP/Vista. You can buy the title with at a 30-percent discount ($7 instead of $10) by following the link or using coupon code CPN71005WNN at checkout.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:52 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: 802.11n, Home, Road Warrior | 2 Comments

March 14, 2008

Mobile Post: MyLoki and My Location

By Glenn Fleishman

MyLoki offers your precise or inexact location: But how many people do you want to know where you are? I discuss granularity, social networking, and location in this audio post.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:58 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Location

Long Island Network: No Commitments, No Pilots to Date

By Glenn Fleishman

Long Island Business News reports that E-Path's efforts to build a Wi-Fi network in Suffolk, Nausau counties so far for naught: As yours obedient has been reporting for months, the E-Path proposal accepted by the county executives of those two Long Island entities was long on minimizing political fallout, short on providing the kind of baseline financial commitment that has turned out to be essential in getting a wireless network built. The only networks being built or completed in the country right now have municipal service commitments--anchor tenancy--or were fully funded by municipalities for public safety and governmental purposes.

As the reporter notes, E-Path hadn't previously completed any network, and its in-progress networks are rather small. The company hasn't been able to secure any commitments from any municipalities for service, and, you guessed it, utility poles are a sticking point: E-Path hasn't gotten an agreement from the Long Island Power Authority to use its poles. The two pilot projects were supposed to be installed last December, but this article reports no progress.

Without anchor tenants, it's hard to raise money. It's hard to get anchor tenants if you don't have money raised to build out at this point; that wasn't true earlier. This is the same situation in all startup cycles. Early startups get optimistic customers who hope to be ahead of the curve, and are willing to be guinea pigs. With the inability of large-scale Wi-Fi networks to be completed--in some cases, even started--there's less interest in being the exceptional case.

Long Island's Suffolk and Nausau county executives have well insulated themselves from any problems with this network not being built, because they didn't invest in it. Which makes it fairly likely that the network will never be built.

Wi-Fi Networking News friend Craig Plunkett is quoted in the article; he runs a variety of hotspots and networks around the island, but didn't bid on this network. He uses an argument I'm fond of: "Any kind of dashboard diner or mobile worker is more inclined to go to a Starbucks than they are to use an outdoor location, unless their work specifically requires them to connect outdoors. So that further erodes the available market for E-Path."

epath ie comparison.tifThis is my backside-utility thesis. If you're doing more than making a phone call or looking up some data while mobile (in a cab, on public transportation, as a passenger in a car, or while walking), then you need a place to sit down and work. Most places you sit down and work already have Wi-Fi. If you need more than that today, you buy a data subscription for your smartphone (or already have one) for $20 to $60 per month, or buy a laptop card with 3G data for $60 to $80 per month. If you don't want to spend that much money, you don't really need the data while out and about.

E-Path also has the disturbing property of having borrowed the Microsoft Internet Explorer logo used before version 8 was released as the fundamental basis of their corporate identity (IE left, E-Path logo right). They added another ring. Given IE's reputation for security, reliability, and standards, it might have been the wrong graphic to choose, trademark issues aside.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:37 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Municipal | 1 Comment

March 12, 2008

Wee-Fi: Find Me (Too Easily?), Phila.'s Cost of No-Cost Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

MyLoki lets you tell your friends perhaps too much about where you are right now: Skyhook Wireless's Loki service and developer's kit allows embedded JavaScript in Web pages to extract your current location based on the Wi-Fi environment around you with your permission. A new offering from the firm called MyLoki lets you publish your location via a public Web page, a Facebook application, RSS, and a Web page. I'm not ecstatic about the granularity offered. The public page lets you publish your exact location, but nothing less exact, and no "buddy" privileges. You can publish your current city through the other means, but nothing more granular. A map badge for your Web site can show country, state, city, postal code, or exact location. Further refinement is clearly needed, as different people I know need to know where I am (or not at all) at varying levels of exactness.

Phila. pays $200,000 for Wi-Fi management: The Wireless Philadelphia non-profit that manages the incomplete Phila. network gets help from an outside consulting firm which works with the city's chief information officer. The $200,000 cost in the current fiscal year is booked to the city, and the numbers weren't hidden, it certainly wasn't transparent that these costs accrued to the "no-cost to the city" project. The future of the network is uncertain given EarthLink's stated intent to sell it; the city may buy it and contract with another firm for completion.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:43 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

March 11, 2008

Aircell Names In-Flight Service, Targets Spring

By Glenn Fleishman

Om Malik reports straight from the CEO's mouth that Aircell's in-flight broadband service will be called gogo: Their Web site is live, but watch out for the audio in the Flash intro--I thought someone was pounding on my door. CEO Jack Blumenstein told Malik of GigaOm that service will cost $12.95 for cross-country flights and $9.95 for flights of three hours' duration or less, commensurate with earlier reports. They're working with aggregators and corporate resellers, as well as lower-rate plans for handhelds like the iPhone, and frequent flyer flat-rate plans. I expect given their costs and the advantages of loyalty, Aircell could charge as little as $100 per month for unlimited use, and all involved would be happy about this. I would expect real price sensitivity above $100 per month.

Malik gets a few previously unknown technical details out of Blumenstein: the system's capacity is intended to be 250,000 broadband users; it's currently operational even though not in use; and they plan to increase their current number of 92 antennas to 500 when fully deployed.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:42 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

Mobile Post: Future of Hotspots, Backhaul of Cellular

By Glenn Fleishman

Some thoughts about backhaul, cell networks, and the future of hotspots: Do hotspots whither and die when everyone has mobile broadband? Only if everyone--not just teenagers--is writing email while walking down the street, driving with one hand and watching movies with another, and conducting all phone calls in motion. Fixed locations can provide higher bandwidth to a small number with lower costs.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:18 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Hot Spot

Latest iPass Usage Stats Show Trends in Business Usage

By Glenn Fleishman

iPass has released its latest semi-annual statistics: The company is looking for a little attention, of course, but they provide a relatively huge amount of data (relative to everyone else in the industry) that helps highlight trends in Wi-Fi hotspot and, new this time around, 3G usage worldwide. Their user base is largely corporations that integrate iPass into their networks to allow worldwide roaming at set or metered rates on Wi-Fi, mobile broadband (via laptop), and dial-up with a single corporate login and end-point policy enforcement. This gives them numbers that reflect usage among the mainstream corporate business traveler.

The company found that European usage is accelerating, with Europe now accounting for 40 percent of their sessions worldwide in the second half of 2007, up from 31 percent in the second half of 2006. (All contemporary numbers are from 2007's second half.) North American usage dropped from 60 to 51 percent during that period as a percentage of the whole. As an increase, European usage jumped almost 150 percent while North American usage doubled: iPass saw nearly 2m sessions worldwide at Wi-Fi hotspots, up from just over 1m in the same period a year ago. Worldwide growth in total sessions year over year was 89 percent.

Rick Bilodeau, vice president of corporate and channel marketing, said that growth in Wi-Fi usage represented in part frustration with high 3G roaming costs in Europe. He said that European regulation has already forced a price drop for 3G roaming, however. It's "coming down from the stratosphere; they're going to drop into the 50,000-foot range. These drops still don't make 3G roaming affordable. Your break-even is now 5 emails instead of 2," he said, referring to the potential for emails to carry megabytes of attachments and 3G plans charging per-megabyte roaming fees.

European Wi-Fi prices still outpace North America's, and Bilodeau said a drop in 3G roaming might "start to apply pressure to European Wi-Fi prices."

iPass found big jumps in usage at venues outside of hotels (29 percent) and airport (45 percent): cafes, restaurants, transit, and other categories. Cafe usage grew modestly, from roughly 175,000 sessions to nearly 250,000 sessions, but restaurant usage jumped from 25,000 to about 80,000 sessions. "The restaurant growth is really driven by McDonald's around the world," Bilodeau said. The fast-food giant started marketing their Wi-Fi service more broadly in 2007. The service has been in place in some restaurants for three or more years in the U.S. iPass includes not just domestic McDonald's stores, but has a total of 10,000 outlets worldwide in their roaming network.

London tops city usage, and experienced 156 percent year-over-year usage growth exclusive of London hotels and airports. Only 8 countries saw more usage than the metropolis of London.

With 2.5G and 3G usage, the company tracks just laptop users which have roaming and service agreements handled by iPass. The firm found that as users become more accustomed to mobile broadband, they start using more data, with established users (those with accounts before 2007) using significantly more data than users who started service in 2007. Both categories of users increased their monthly average usage by about 25 percent across the year, which comes in part from larger, more compelling downloadable content. (Read: YouTube.)

A stat that jumped out at me from their report was the breakdown of exclusive 2.5G, exclusive 3G, and mixed 2.5G/3G usage within a given month by their customers. Only 3 percent of users only used 2.5G, which isn't unusual, as iPass is selling 3G service. But just 38 percent used 3G exclusively; 59 percent used a combination of 2.5G and 3G.

What interested me was that there was a group that was able to use just 3G--that's tricky even in excellent coverage areas, as even a minor hiccup could downshift a user to a slower network offering. Bilodeau said that users adapt to where bandwidth is best, and that many users are "bumblebees," an industry term referring to those who roam, but with predictable pattern.

"Where I work may be dictated by where I get a 2.5G or 3G connection," he said. "You adapt your habits to fit your technology."

iPass also found that just a tiny percentage of its 3G users were extremely heavy downloaders: just 0.5 percent topped 2 GB in a month, while 32 percent used 50 MB or less per month. Their 3G users are also regulars: more than 90 percent of 3G subscribers used the service in any given month. This makes sense, as the cost of 3G remains high enough that there's little point in subscribing if you're not making use of it; and using it justifies continuing to subscribe.

iPass makes available a variety of tables of this data on their Web site.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:00 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, Road Warrior

March 10, 2008

Wi-Fi Hotspot Irrelevance: Give Me Whatever Ericsson's CMO Is Smoking

By Glenn Fleishman

The chief marketing office of Ericsson, a handset maker, says that Wi-Fi hotspots will be increasingly irrelevant: This story has some legs because it's so outrageous. But let's examine what John Bergendahl means.

From a handset perspective, the increasing availability of 3G, its ever-faster speeds, the roadmap for 3G's evolution and 4G services, the capabilities of handsets, and the services that people actually want on handsets (viewing movies, streaming video from YouTube, taking and sending high-quality photos) are all factors that make Wi-Fi less relevant.

In Europe, Asia, and America, there's enough capacity and enough advanced devices to do interesting things now, but usage hasn't grown fast enough--partly due to excessive pricing--to drive aggregate speeds down for users except in the most congested areas. I've heard scattered reports of people seeing 3G slowdowns at conferences and so forth. The 2.5G EDGE network basically failed at Macworld Expo last January because of the thousands of iPhones all trying to grab a slice of limited spectrum in San Francisco.

Bergendahl sees the challenges as coverage, availability, and price. That's all true, and in Europe more so than in the U.S. Europe has better coverage and availability, but the price for roaming outside one's home country or network is extraordinarily high. Some voluntary efforts to drop roaming prices are underway to forestall 3G data price regulation by the European Commission, such as went into effect 25-June-2007 for voice roaming.

The problem is that he is thinking as a handset maker: he's thinking about capabilities, selling more handsets, and overall revenue from value-added services that he can make sure his devices deliver. This is fine. But it's not how carriers think. There's a growing disconnect between capabilities built into handsets and those offered by carriers. Nokia's insistence on building somewhat open-platform phones with Wi-Fi and video capabilities have hardly been leapt on by European carriers, and those devices aren't sold at all in the U.S.

Really, Wi-Fi is a heat-sink, a complement to 3G. It's a way to inject bandwidth into a network at fixed locations where someone might sit to watch a video or carry out some task that involves being static. You can make phone calls in motion, but you're rarely jogging or driving while watching a video or composing email. (Okay, studies show lots of emails written by drivers. Still.)

Wi-Fi can be fed through direct wired network connections, allowing carriers to offload bandwidth-intensive tasks without disallowing them. Apple, for instance, only allows its iTunes Store to be used over Wi-Fi on an iPhone or iPod touch--as the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store--rather than stress the EDGE network's low capacity.

You can see how T-Mobile and BT are pairing Wi-Fi and voice, and building networks that allow them to compete for the best cellular customers, letting those customers talk longer but use a much cheaper medium over which calls are placed. AT&T hasn't gotten the religion yet about pairing Wi-Fi and cellular plans, but that's clearly coming, and with a 17,000-plus hotspot U.S. market, we're going to see some new ideas from them, too.

Really, 3G doesn't compete against Wi-Fi because the same operators that run 3G networks can benefit directly from Wi-Fi networks. Until 4G networks are built, Wi-Fi's local network speed and its typical backhaul speed will far outpace what cellular can deliver, and occupying cellular frequencies with big downloads is a poor use of scarce frequency over which other revenue can be better extracted.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:48 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Hot Spot | 2 Comments

March 6, 2008

Airport Operations Relying on WEP, AirTight Finds

By Glenn Fleishman

The latest news from Wi-Fi security vendor AirTight is that airports leak data: The folks at AirTight regularly suit up, carry Wi-Fi monitoring gear around, and report on how bad people are at securing networks--laughably, often at Wi-Fi and security conferences. Their latest bit of PR has a lot of bad news in it, worth reporting. They found that in testing across 14 U.S., Canadian, and Asian airports, that they found unsecured and WEP-protected networks on 80 percent of the visible non-public networks. They believe that some of those networks are used for logistics and operations. (They wisely didn't probe too far; they could have wound up in the pokey in some states and countries.) They scanned 478 access points.

They also found that 10 percent of the laptops they scanned--out of a total of 585 Wi-Fi clients--had an ad-hoc network in place. That's the "Free Wi-Fi" network you see whenever you're in public, which is spread by people connecting to the network, which is then advertised to other people. While the network itself may just be an artifact of Windows XP's damaged ideas about how to advertise network availability, connecting to another laptop via an ad hoc method creates the potential that any viruses you or they have will be shared.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:14 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Security

Apple Opens iPhone to Developers, Enterprises

By Glenn Fleishman

Apple adds enterprise features to the iPhone, including 802.1X, and opens it to developers: Today's announcement from Steve Jobs was full of surprises, including the fact that Apple licensed Microsoft's ActiveSync for full Exchange support, and the level at which developers will have access to iPhone hardware and information.

The 2.0 software, free to all current owners of iPhone, will be available in June, which kind of tips the hand as to when we'll see a 3G iPhone, too, I imagine. iPod touch owners will pay a "nominal" upgrade fee, as Apple books iPhone revenue over 24 months and iPod revenue as units are sold.

Apple will pile in all the stuff that enterprises demanded from Research in Motion in the Blackberry platform--and that RIM built in--including support for 802.1X (including WPA2 Enterprise) for authenticated Wi-Fi login, two-factor authentication, certificates, and additional VPN types. They're also adding "remote bricking," a critical feature that allows a stolen or misused phone to be remotely and securely wiped.

On the developer side, Apple is opening up the whole puppy in a way that I didn't expect. I assumed the firm would put limits on whether the cell data connection could be used by apps, but not restrict the Wi-Fi side. The announcement puts nothing off limits except VoIP over cell data, although there's a list of characteristics that software can't contain, such as being malicious or a bandwidth hog. All software is distributed and installed via App Store, available on an iPhone or in iTunes for synchronization. This includes free software. Apple will therefore vet, and ostensibly be able to halt use of programs that exhibit behavior they deem bad. Jobs said, "We can turn off the spigot if we need to." Every app will be signed by a developer certificate.

Developers can have access to location information provided by Google (cell towers) and Skyhook (Wi-Fi) for use in their programs. No mention was made of privacy settings for such. Skyhook's Loki toolbar requires that you grant permission to Web sites that want to obtain your location details; I expect a system-wide approach to that, too.

No mention was made today of a few particular problems with iPhone security, such as the ability to tunnel and traverse a VPN across multiple network media, such as using an iPhone for a secure connection while you travel from work, across the EDGE network, and to hotspots. This likely could be built on top of the enterprise features. You'd also need policy management, such as disallowing certain kinds of connections without a VPN being active or over non-trusted Wi-Fi networks.

Certainly, this is a big step forward for corporate users, mobile applications, and consumer ease on the iPhone platform. The beta is available today to developers; you can become a developer for $99. Amazingly, Apple's developer site crashed and is still unavailable two hours after the press conference ended.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:05 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Enterprise, Future, Hot Spot, Location, Security

Mobile Post: Entertainment Drives Transportation-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

In this mobile post, I explain my theory about Internet access in transport being driven by entertainment: Trains, planes, shuttles, buses, and ferries all have Wi-Fi, and more is on the way. Delivering movies may be the killer app.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:38 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Media, Streaming, Transportation and Lodging

March 5, 2008

Wee-Fi: Denver Plays Nanny-Fi; Mariah Carey-Fi; Free Service Ups Usage on UK Rail Line

By Glenn Fleishman

Denver plays nanny with Wi-Fi: The Denver airport will give you free Wi-Fi, but they filter it to avoid, they say, unintentionally offending "angry parents whose children walked by a screen showing pornography." In other words, people with laptops act stupidly in public, and we have to protect you from those people (and nudity). The reporter on this piece notes that Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue ("bare-breasted" this month; had to go check that was true), Penthouse, and Hustler are all on display and for sale at the airport newsstands. A person foolish enough to view Web pages containing adult content unsuitable for tiny eyes might also purchase a magazine, or view stored content on their own computer or on a DVD. This story brings together two huge pop culture icons: David Byrne and BoingBoing. The former discovered the filtering while passing through the airport and trying to read BoingBoing; the latter has waged a campaign against stupid filtering since being entirely blocked due to a limited number of images and topics. BoingBoing has a page on defeating what they call censorware.

Touch My Network: Did she say what I think she said at 4 minutes, 6 seconds into this video? Yes. She did. And she got it right, even. (She must have a fiber-optic link.)

UK sees increase in Internet use on East Coast Main Line: The new operator, National Express, made the on-board, Wi-Fi-delivered Internet service free to all classes in December; they saw a jump from 30,000 to 100,000 users per month. Formerly, couch riders paid £4.95 per hour, while first class paid nothing. The line carries 17.4m passengers per year, which makes me think that usage number measures "sessions" rather than, as the article states, "people." (The 17.4m figure is trips, not people, meaning tens of thousands of people ride the line each day.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:41 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

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