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Recent Entries

Looking Back at 2008 and Forward to the Years Ahead
Wee-Fi: Bullet Train-Fi, Curve-Fi (No 3G), Minneapolis Delays
Embargoes Still Honored Here--As Appropriate
Comments Back
He's No John Dvorak, But He's a Wi-Fi Hater
SMS on Planes
Stephen Fry, Five Miles High
Delta Launches In-Flight Internet Next Week
Metro Bits: Ok. Network Applications Emerge; Harvard Solar-Fi
Delta Hasn't Changed Plans for Planes

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December 2008 Archives

December 30, 2008

Looking Back at 2008 and Forward to the Years Ahead

By Glenn Fleishman

Let's look back and forward: It's traditional to wrap up the year, during a quiet news period, by looking at what just went by. This is the one time of year that I also prognosticate, and I got lucky: My forecast for 2008 made a year ago turns out to be weirdly accurate. I don't mean to take too much credit, though: I was expecting big news from things in 2008 that were much quieter affairs.

In-flight Internet (over Wi-Fi). It took almost until the end of the year, but this expectation finally became fulfilled not quite in the form or extent I envisioned. Several companies are separately pursuing offering in-flight Internet, but only Aircell managed to put the service into planes. American Airlines, Virgin America, and Delta Airlines all lofted flights in 2008 with broadband on board.

Of course, the expectation was that between 300 and 500 planes would be equipped with one vendor or another's flavor of in-flight Internet in 2008. Instead, the total is about 25 to 30 across those three airlines. Ryan Air's multi-year promise to put OnAir service on its European routes hasn't yet gone into public trials. Southwest and Alaska's promised tests of Wi-Fi appear to be invisible.

Still, Alaska and JetBlue both told me that there's work ahead in 2009, and Delta said it would equip over 300 planes in 2009 in its fleet, and start equipping its merger partner Northwestern Airlines with Internet service in 2009 as well.

We can count 2008 as the year in-flight Internet taxied down the runway; 2009 will likely be the year that it takes off. Whether it's financially viable is a different story; but it appears that service will be available on perhaps 20 to 30 percent of wide-body jetsfor routes within the U.S. in 2009.

Wi-Fi in every smartphone. Here, I feel I nailed it. It wasn't too much to call this, but Research in Motion and other established phone makers still seemed to have a slight resistence to including Wi-Fi. Now, it's de rigeur. The iPhone 3G and first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1, shipped in 2009 with Wi-Fi along with Bluetooth, 2G and 3G radios, and GPS. Wireless all around. The BlackBerry Storm was widely criticized for being an iPhone me-too without the quality, but also because it lacked Wi-Fi; most other new BlackBerrys are fully Wi-Fi'd.

Tens of millions of smartphones now have Wi-Fi built in--about 10 million of those are iPhones alone. I'm not sure if the industry tracks this, but the mark of 100 million Wi-Fi equipped smartphones will certainly hit in the first quarter of 2009.

The new trend I call for 2009 is the inclusion of Wi-Fi in so-called feature phones, the inexpensive phones that offer far more limited capabilities than smartphones. Talking to chipmakers and handset makers in 2008 made it clear that Wi-Fi chips will be available in early 2009 with low-enough power at an inexpensive price with better integration for multiple wireless standards. This makes it affordable and keeps batteries from being drained.

Carriers want Wi-Fi as a way to offload usage from celluar networks, especially in people's home, and putting Wi-Fi into feature phones gives carriers an advantage in stretching scarce spectrum even further.

Wi-Fi everywhere. With municipal Wi-Fi in its 2004-2006 form dead in 2007 and buried in the first half of 2008, we've seen a resurgence in efforts to put a plan in place first (why do we need Wi-Fi or some other wireless technology?) and then build a network.

In a round-up for Ars Technica six weeks ago, I highlighted several cities that have working large-scale networks all built for slightly different purposes. These networks are all successful in the sense that they have been built and appear to be working for the purpose for which they were intended. Only time will tell--another year or even two--as to whether the long-term benefits or sustainability are there.

I also said a year ago that 2008 would be the year of hotspot saturation. I think I was right on that. It's hard to find any venue in North America and Europe that lacks Wi-Fi. Boingo's acquisition of Opti-Fi airports and Parsons's Washington State Ferry operations, along with AT&T's purchase of Wayport demonstrated that consolidation had arrived, too. (Wayport operated Wi-Fi in U.S. McDonald's locations, and managed AT&T's Wi-Fi hotspots.)

Starbucks switching to AT&T and offering loyalty-based free service to customers, as well as AT&T radically expanding free access to its hotspot network, dramatically expanded the ability to get Wi-Fi for nothing.

Years ago, I was somewhat excoriated for saying that Wi-Fi hotspot access will either be free or cost you $20. Some people insisted Wi-Fi would trend to zero--some even cite Starbucks 2-hours-a-day loyalty reward as proof, even though you need to make a regular purchase to get the "free" service. Others insisted that you would need several subscriptions, each at $20 to $40 per month, to have a national or international personal footprint.

I wasn't too far off, in the end. If you want, there are now extensive networks in the U.S. and Europe of free hotspots and AT&T gives free Wi-Fi to about 15 to 20 million customers. The Fon network, however you count it, seemingly offers reciprocal free Wi-Fi to as many as hundreds of thousands of its Foneros.

If you want a larger pool of access at premium venues, especially airports and hotels, you can pay a bit more than $20 per month--maybe I should give myself the benefit of inflation, since I've been saying $20 for a few years? Boingo offers unlimited Wi-Fi for North America for $21.95 per month; iPass includes dial-up and Ethernet service as well for $29.95 per month. (Internationally, aggregators meter service because of the exceedingly high cost in some markets. You can get a few thousand minutes a month for about $45 with iPass or $60 with Boingo.)

WiMax arrives. Again, slipping in towards the 11th hour, my prediction that WiMax would be deployed widely enough to see whether it works wasn't precisely what happened. WiMax is commercially available in one market--Baltimore--although reports from reviewers and residents seem to all be positive.

The new Clearwire, a product of the old Clearwire firm and the WiMax division and spectrum portfolio of Sprint Nextel, will launch its first market under the Clear product name in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 6 (badly timed before CES and Macworld Expo). Then they'll start rolling out cities on a regular basis.

Gadget-Fi a go-go. I'm now going on about 3 years of saying that next year, Wi-Fi will be in everything. It's getting there. I'm still waiting for a good implementation of Wi-Fi in a camera, but at least the Eye-Fi adapter--which debuted in 2007 and expanded options in 2008--provides a good substitute.

Apple apparently shipped a jillion iPod touch players; they don't reveal specific model unit shipments, but it's possible that several million iPod touch models are in people's hands.

What's Coming in 2009?

A real security meltdown for some version of WPA. I hate to say this, because it sounds like fear mongering, but after the clever but not significant WPA exploit revealed a few weeks ago, it's clear to me that worse is to come. We will likely see the death of the TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) flavor of 802.11i (supported in WAP and WPA2), at least in the pre-shared key/Personal flavor in 2009 due to additional weaknesses that relate to backwards compatibility with the long-depreated WEP.

Whatever attack results, it will likely still require a lot of effort on the part of the attacker, but will have a chilling effect, and move more people to the AES-CCMP flavor of encryption available only in WPA2.

LTE. Long Term Evolution, the GSM-evolved fourth-generation (4G) cell data standard, should appear in commercial form in 2010, but we're going to hear a lot about it in 2009. We may even see some test markets. Verizon sounds like they promised at least one production market for regular use.

LTE and WiMax convergence. There's apparently enough interest in converging the mismatched elements of LTE and WiMax that we may see a full-fledged convergence effort in 2009. This would mean that nearly all 4G efforts worldwide could come together around two intercompatible standards.

Train Fi. Yes, I've been writing about Internet access in trains for a few years. It's finally arrived. The faster cellular data speeds, the brief huge spike in oil prices, and lengthy tests that have concluded successfully are finally leading to Wi-Fi-based access being installed on commuter and long-haul trains worldwide. In the U.S., the BART system in the San Francisco Bay Area could wind up being the largest such deployment in 2009. But train-Fi has broken out all over.

SMS Fi. Twitter or a firm like it will move to supplant the ridiculous cost of SMS, especially for smartphone owners with unlimited data plans, by offering an SMS-like service for a pittance with gateway service to existing SMS offerings. Wi-Fi and 3G will be the preferred method. With carriers pursuing predatory pricing on SMS, the only universal messaging format, an alternative will be formed out of the pressure. Coal becomes diamond.

Very high speed Wi-Fi's first steps. In 2008, representatives most from chipmakers worked through the formation of two new 802.11 task groups for Very High Throughput wireless LANs: one, formed late in the year, 802.11ac will cover frequencies below 6 GHz; the other, likely to be 802.11ad, will cover the 60 GHz band, used for millimeter-band radar and with SiBeam's video streaming approach. The goal is for 1 Gbps or faster raw throughput rates. A timeline isn't yet set; given how the group and manufacturers work, it might be 2010 before we see 802.11ac devices and longer for 802.11ad.

What Was Hot in 2008?

The top stories by page views for 2008 were mostly stories from years before. While readers were most interested in T-Mobile losing its Starbucks contract to AT&T (February), they also looked at a pair of 2003 items on WPA passphrase weakness (my introduction and a paper on the topic), perused my outdated 2006 essay on not buying into early Draft N gear, and followed a dead link from an item about installing a free WPA client (no longer available) for Windows 2000.

Also in 2008, readers were equally interested in a third-quarter 2008 review of Linksys's WRT610 router--but more people read the 2007 review of the preceding WRT600 model. And apparently people still aren't changing their WRT54G's admin password, given that it's the No. 4 story for 2008, but published in 2004.

Perversely, a top story in 2008 was a review I wrote in 2004 of an early Wi-Fi signal finder, a category of product that now seems tediously useless. Showing that people are interesting in what Wi-Fi means (literally), a 2005 story on the origins of the choice of the Wi-Fi name still gets a lot of attention.

Of the top 15 or so stories, all but 2 were from before 2008, and three-quarters were about security.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:07 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Future, Industry

December 18, 2008

Wee-Fi: Bullet Train-Fi, Curve-Fi (No 3G), Minneapolis Delays

By Glenn Fleishman

Japanese bullet trains will gain the Internet service originally promised in 2006: The service wasn't delayed, but tied to new trains arriving for the Tokyo to Osaka line. The 270 km/hr line will offer Internet access over Wi-Fi, and will use leaky coax for its backhaul. Leaky coax is a kind of purposely undershielded wiring used to create a linear antenna for train lines and subway lines. WiFi Rail plans to use leaky coax to deliver Wi-Fi directly to passengers on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in California. NTT is handling the bullet-train service, which is expected to offer 2 Mbps downstream for from ¥500 (about US$5.50) for day pass to ¥1,680 (about $19) for monthly access.

AT&T will sell BlackBerry Curve with EDGE, Wi-Fi, no 3G: The Curve 8320's reliance on EDGE (2.5G) allows AT&T to offer a sort of bargain BlackBerry. It's just $150 with a two-year commitment, and the data contracts for EDGE are usually $20 per month (or less with corporate deals) instead of the $30 for 3G. AT&T will bundle its free access to its domestic hotspot footprint, as well.

Minneapolis stuck at 82 percent coverage: The city network that's the poster child for privately owned, anchor tenanted, public access Wi-Fi can't seem to get to its full footprint. The Minn. Star Tribune reports that the city and US Internet, which operates the network, failed to consult the park board about putting transmitters and poles on park grounds. Input is also needed from the state's historic preservation office and local groups about the visual impact.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:44 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

Embargoes Still Honored Here--As Appropriate

By Glenn Fleishman

Michael Arrington is planning to lie to press relations folks: Over at TechCrunch, a site I read in sick fascination, founder Arrington says that he's tired of the inconsistency that's resulted from embargoes, and will no longer honor them. Embargoes, delays in the release of news, are used by firms that want to have go out simultaneously about some new product or service or company change.

Reporters typically are asked if they'll agree to an embargo and not write about a given company topic until a specific date and time. In exchange, we are typically offered briefings (one or more) with product managers and executives, sometimes provided hardware or software to test in advance, and the opportunity to reflect and write something that isn't produced in the heat of the moment after an announcement is made.

Some people break embargoes, usually unintentionally, where a story in a content-management system is timed to go live at a given time, but the system errs or the wrong date and time is entered. I have never knowingly broken an embargo, but I have made an error a couple times in posting a story prematurely.

Arrington points out, pretty accurately, that because some PR folks are becoming a bit desperate, and are often blasting out thousands of emails about embargoed items to reporters and bloggers they don't know, that embargoes are being broken all the time.

He notes, "...when an embargo is broken[, it] means that a news site goes early with the news despite the fact that they’ve promised not to. The benefits are clear - sites like Google News and TechMeme prioritize them first as having broken the story. Traffic and links flow in to whoever breaks an embargo first."

I often receive emails with news that says it's under embargo before I've agreed to hold the news, which isn't kosher. I also hear more from PR folks I don't know at all, and thus don't know whether to trust that they will work to make other reporters and sites hold the news, too.

Frankly, as someone who is more analytical than newsy here--it's pretty hard for me to break news, and I try to take a 35,000-foot view--embargoes aren't quite as critical to me as I might write about a story hours or days after the news comes out.

And if it is a story that I've written in advance and someone else goes live, I don't hesitate to alert the PR person, and go live with my own story. If anyone breaks the embargo, we all get to, because there's no reason for anything to be withheld.

The only problem with Arrington's post is that he says he'll simply lie to press folk. I don't lie. I'll tell someone that they can tell me details and I'll honor the embargo, and I will; or that they can tell me, but I'm not going to agree to the embargo, and they can choose whether or not to tell me.

Honesty is the only policy here.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:09 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Administrative Detail

December 17, 2008

Comments Back

By Glenn Fleishman

I welcome your input, folks: Sorry about the gap here for the last few weeks with comments turned off. I want to hear what you have to say--but the bottomfeeders of the Internet were using robots to attack my comments system. (Long version: Old Movable Type 3 JavaScript library reference bug, long fixed, was still embedded in some of my templates and pages. Short story: I fixed it.)

Sound off! Or, rather, sound on!

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:43 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Administrative Detail

December 15, 2008

He's No John Dvorak, But He's a Wi-Fi Hater

By Glenn Fleishman

Andy Ihnatko, the hat-wearing, glacially intelligent Mac writer, seems to have woken up on the wrong side of his Wi-Fi network: Andy writes in praise of Ethernet cables, including tacking them up around the house. Sounds as if, as he describes it in his regular Chicago Sun-Times column, he has some ugly kind of Wi-Fi environment in which his wireless signals run as sub prime as many mortgages issued in the U.S. in the last few years. Bada bing! I gotta million of them.

Andy is no John Dvorak: he's doesn't use the language of super-hyperbole to provoke reasonable readers and trolls alike into providing some heat and light. Rather, Andy is generally reasonable and extremely funny. All the concerns he raises in this column seem to be better raised about 3 years ago: reliably, range, consistent DHCP assignment, throughput, and so on.

Andy, maybe you need a working 802.11n router and some modern hardware? Or maybe your apartment building is simply being bombarded by untoward RF interference.

Don't get me wrong: I like my copper Ethernet wiring, too, especially when I'm moving big files around my network. But with Draft N, I'm more likely to have a gating factor at my Internet gateway or a particular computer's ability to shoot files over a given protocol than I am by the network's raw speed.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:14 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Mainstream Media

December 14, 2008

SMS on Planes

By Glenn Fleishman

Reporters are conflating text messaging, instant messaging: I keep seeing articles like this one from the Washington Post, in which it states that Aircell's in-flight Internet service won't allow voice calls but will allow a variety of Internet services, like instant messaging (IM), as well as text messaging. That's not quite correct.

SMS messages require a cell network to back them when sent and received using a carrier's system. There are SMS gateways, including a free one built into AOL Instant Messenger, that allows a gateway user to avoid fees for sending or receiving IMs, or to use a fixed-rate plan (depending on the service) via an Internet connection. That includes services like Truphone which allow SMS and VoIP over WiFi, although VoIP will be blocked.

Aircell has no current plans to put picocells on board, that would act as mini cell towers, and that would be required for native SMS. The fact that people can use gateways and workarounds still doesn't allow them to continue to use an understood mechanism while in flight. People will need to change behavior.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:25 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

Stephen Fry, Five Miles High

By Glenn Fleishman

Actor, director, genius Stephen Fry uses American Airlines Internet service: I admit to being an unabashed fan of this British performer, who also happens to write quite well about technology, and who uses Twitter. He filed this tweet from an AA flight taking him from NY to LA, after watching his friend and "m'colleague" Hugh Laurie host Saturday Night Live last night.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:38 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

December 12, 2008

Delta Launches In-Flight Internet Next Week

By Glenn Fleishman

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the newspaper's local airline Delta will put Wi-Fi in planes starting next week: Just six planes will be equipped initially with Aircell Gogo service, which costs $10 for flights of less than 3 hours, and $13 for 3 hours or more. A total of 10 planes will be wired up for wireless this year, as opposed to the 75 that Delta had hoped to have ready to go.

The J-C says that initially, New York-based McDonald-Douglas MD88s and Boeing 757s will have the service. The airline told the newspaper that they were targeting 330 planes during 2009. As I noted a few days ago, reports that Delta had changed its plans were incorrect: they had always intended to put planes in service with Wi-Fi during 2008.

(Coincidentally, my mainstream media piece on in-flight Internet access appears in Saturday's Seattle Times--and Delta announced its news too late to include!)

Because the FAA certifies airworthiness of equipment by its installation on specific models of aircraft, it's worth noting that Delta has the greatest number of any model of planes in those two models: says Delta has 132 757s and 116 MD88s in service. It has a sizable number of 767s (99) and 737s (75), as well. Delta's total in-service count is about 450.

Many of these planes serve international routes, and Aircell's service currently works only over ground and only over the U.S., so 330 may represent the total number of primarily domestic wide-body craft. (Aircell has a satellite add-on via Inmarsat for general (private) aviation, and the company told me a few weeks ago that they're already talking with airlines that fly over water about a hybrid ground/satellite operation.)

Delta's merger with Northwest Airlines adds about 275 more, of which 71 are Boeing 757s, although Airbus craft form the substantial majority of its fleet. Again, it's unclear how many of these planes are used mostly for international or mixed US/international routes.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:52 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

Metro Bits: Ok. Network Applications Emerge; Harvard Solar-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Oklahoma City, home to several hundred sq mi of municipal Wi-Fi, finds another application: Okla. City is working on a $4m plan to reduce the costs and inflexibility of their traffic-light management system. A local news station quotes the city's IT director saying that such a move could cut commuter time on average by 5 percent and stops by 8 percent, as well as allowing dynamic changes for special events. Many cities use outdated and bizarre control channel systems that long predate modern networking; Oklahoma City has none in place at all right now.

I'm channeling one Mr Craig Settles here, but if you have applications for a network before it's built, then you have a purpose to build it, and then more applications emerge that make sense once it's built. Paying $4m to allow remote signal control will likely save residents, commuters, and businesses far more in increasing productivity and reducing gas use, if the numbers the IT director holds up. Beyond that, it likely makes the efficiency of managing intersections far far higher, reducing delays and expense from signals that stop working.

On the other hand, predictions about changes in travel time to improvements in congestion tend to not come true, according to the book Traffic. If you make roads easier to travel, people travel those roads more.

Harvard Square Business Association uses Meraki Solar to extend network: The eagles come home to roost. Meraki was founded by nearby MIT graduate students. The Industry Standard says Harvard Square is officially the first customer for the solar devices. Meraki's founder told me a few weeks ago that in beta testing, they found that solar devices were just as important in the developed world for difficult-to-reach locations: Places where bringing power was so expensive (and involved a recurring bill, in some cases) that solar was more sensible even with the $850 to $1,500 price tag for Meraki Solar.

If you figure that such a device might only burn $50 in power a year, but that bringing power to a rooftop could cost $500 to $2,000, if you're even allowed to hire someone to wire the power correctly), the solar option is perfectly sensible.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:44 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

December 11, 2008

Delta Hasn't Changed Plans for Planes

By Glenn Fleishman

Gizmodo and Engadget are engaged in the usual echo chamber of blogging: Some of us, you know, make a few phone calls to see what's going on--i.e., reporting--instead of regurgitating press releases. Both Engadget and Gizmodo in the last day have seized upon a year's end summary press release from Aircell to say, hey, wait, Delta's launching in 2008 instead of 2009!

Well, no. The press release reiterates what Delta and Aircell have said earlier: Delta still expects to have service launched in 2008, although they did say fall, and they have 10 days left to execute on that. When I called Delta a few days ago, they said they had nothing to add, but might soon, which I take to mean that they're striving to meet their 2008 deadline for having some birds with Gogo Internet service.

Likewise, when I spoke to Aircell a few weeks ago, they had nothing to add about Delta's plans beyond what Delta was saying.

The two gadget sites are under enormous strain to post a million new, previously unseen items every day. The pressure must be getting to them.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:17 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

December 10, 2008

Clarification on Philadelphia's Usage

By Glenn Fleishman

A few days ago, I questioned the Wall Street Journal's statement about 28,000 daily unique users on Philadelphia's network: The Phila. network, operated by NAC, covers more than 75 sq mi of the city, but the Journal said that the areas available for free usage were only the parks. I couldn't reconcile how 28,000 unique people (or devices) were using the network in public areas (parks?) each day.

Turns out the Journal was conflating "public areas" with public access. The Wi-Fi service is available throughout the city, in the same way it was under EarthLink's operation, which means that many people are using it from their homes or businesses. Still, it's a relatively remarkable number.

The folks behind the network said that weekdays see 25,000 to 28,000 unique users based on MAC addresses, which are reasonably good gauges for unique users. Someone with a laptop and an iPhone would be counted twice, of course, but the overall contraction from unique devices to people is probably less than 10 percent. Monthly uniques by MAC are 125,000 (November).

One of the principals behind the current network's owner also noted that 40 percent of network use is from Apple gear, including the iPhone, iPod touch, and computers; PC systems represent 30 percent.

I keep trying to pin down which network has the most usage in the world, and Philadelphia is the likely winner, with San Francisco's Meraki network as No. 2, and Minneapolis (with a claimed 10,000+ subscribers) at No. 3.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:01 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

December 9, 2008

Novatel's MiFi 3G Router Acts as Server, Too

By Glenn Fleishman

Novatel Wireless has introduced a sleek mobile 3G router that's seemingly far more than its competition: The MiFi is a cellular router due out in the first quarter of 2009, with pricing not yet disclosed. While there are several competitors on the market, notably from Junxion, a firm acquired by Sierra Wireless earlier this year, Novatel claims some unique qualities. The MiFi will have an internal battery that can offer 3G to Wi-Fi bridging for up to 4 hours of use and 40 hours of standby.

The slim unit appears to be designed around an integral card that's not removable, which is a departure from most similar designs, which allow interchangeable cards supplied by an integrator or an end-user. Novatel hasn't yet said what technology will be inside, but it's easier to see both EVDO Rev. A and HSPA versions with slots for inserting the necessary authentication card.

Novatel also says it will differentiate the MiFi by allowing third-party applications to run on the system, and supporting external storage with a microSD slot that can handle formats up to 8 GB. That means that the MiFi could act as a caching Web server, a store-and-forward mail server, a VPN end point, and other purposes as well.


Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:16 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 2.5G and 3G, Cellular, Enterprise

December 8, 2008

Wee-Fi: Cities That Work, Boingo iPhone App

By Glenn Fleishman

The Wall Street Journal takes a brief look at four cities for which Wi-Fi is working: I wrote a piece for Ars Technica a few weeks ago that's a superset of the cities mentioned here: Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. But it's good to see the coverage about what's working in a national newspaper. The reporter is on the ball about what's different and useful about the networks that got built and are running. In 2009, we'll see how what we think is working in 2008 proves out. So far, so good. Expectations are lower, but projects planned better, than in 2004 to 2007.

The only nit I'll pick is that for Philadelphia, the reporter says that 28,000 unique users connect to free Wi-Fi in the parks each day, which is entirely impossible. (A typo that's there right now says "28,0000," but I'm assuming the number is 28,000 instead of a plausible but high 2,800.) Could there be 28,000 unique users over a month? Maybe. But just in the parks?

Boingo releases iPhone, iPod touch app: The free application lets you enter your account information once, and then connect by selecting the Wi-Fi network and letting Boingo do the work.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:32 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

December 3, 2008

Buffalo Allowed to Sell Wireless in U.S.

By Glenn Fleishman

Buffalo Technology has had an injunction lifted in its ongoing patent litigation with Australia's CSIRO technology agency: Buffalo was unable to sell Wi-Fi equipment in the U.S. since a permanent injunction was put in place in June 2007 following their 2006 loss in a lawsuit. CSIRO has a patent that they argue covers aspects of OFDM in 802.11a/g. CSIRO sued Buffalo after the Japanese equipment maker declined to pay royalties.

The injunction prevented Buffalo from selling gear that it offers in Japan and elsewhere in the world during the huge expansion of Draft N sales. This likely caused tens of millions of dollars of lost revenue, if not more. Buffalo was formerly mentioned in a single breath with D-Link, Linksys, and NetGear. (Linksys, as a division of Cisco, already pays CSIRO license fees: Cisco agreed to honor CSIRO's patent assertion because of a purchase of an Australian firm a few years ago.)

WZR-AG300NH_front-lg.jpgBuffalo can now sell Wi-Fi gear in the U.S. due to winning a narrow appeal in October that sent the case back to a lower court to resolve an issue. The company could still be liable for damages and other fees if the lower court finds for CSIRO and higher courts agree.

Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing allows a single Wi-Fi channel to be subdivided into a smaller number of channels, improving performance in reflective environments and adding robustness against interference. It's also used in WiMax, LTE, and other standards. This could mean CSIRO would pursue makers of other technology eventually as well.

CSIRO has never given any sign of asking for predatory royalty rates, but several firms have countersued, including Intel, Dell, and Microsoft. Those cases are still in litigation, as far as I can tell.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:32 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 802.11n, Legal

The New Clearwire Taking Orders in Portland, Ore.

By Glenn Fleishman

It's no secret that Portland had WiMax service: It's just that you couldn't buy it. Intel has been WiMax with Clearwire for many months--it may be nearly 18 months now, if I recall correctly. Intel employees have been walking around the city and their campus in Beaverton with WiMax cards in their laptops, and not allowed to talk about it.

Thus, it's no surprise that the first market for Clear, the new brand for the combined Clearwire/Sprint Xohm operations, is Portland. I just qualified an address there of a friend, and find that the service can be ordered for the home with prices from $20/mo for 768 Kbps/128 Kbps to $40/mo for 6 Mbps/512 Kbps. Mobile prices are all rated for 4 Mbps/384 Kbps with monthly data limits: $30/mo for 200 MB, $40/mo for 2 GB, $50/mo for unlimited.

There's also a $35 activation fee, and a modem fee: $175 or $5 per month. This is far higher than Sprint's subsidized $50 modem deal with Xohm. Expect that to be harmonized.

Note that Clearwire suggests you read their Terms of Service for more details. As far as I can tell, unlimited isn't footnoted with a 5 GB or other limit. They will still obviously check for abuse, and the low upstream rates make it both difficult to run services and painfully clear if you are.

The upstream speeds are still far too slow. WiMax can be configured to allow relatively symmetric upstream rates, and I expect we'll see more of that as an option as Clearwire learns usage patterns.

The ordering process doesn't suggest that you have to wait, while Clearwire was saying yesterday that Portland service would be available in 2009. This might be noted when you consummate the order.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:32 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: WiMAX

Actual Numbers on Paid Airport Wi-Fi Usage

By Glenn Fleishman

I've been trying for years to get real numbers about paid airport sessions and usage from Wi-Fi providers: Then the Miami-Dade airport authority just goes and reveals them all. Cool. A local paper reports that the the authority expects to net $700,000 instead of $900,000 as its share of service. The article says that the airport saw 12,500 sessions in September and 14,000 sessions in October, including pay-as-you-go users and roaming customers of Boingo, iPass, and T-Mobile.

The airport adjusted the price for service from $5 per hour and $10 per day to $7 per day and $20 per month during the summer, which accounted for some of the reduction in revenue, along with a drop in air travel.

We can run some numbers here, of course, as I'm having trouble with the math. If the airport is netting $700,000 on perhaps 200,000 sessions for the year (assuming that there was higher usage when travel was heavier, coupled with an increase late in the year), then their take is $3.50 per session net. It's possible the reporter was mistaken, and this is gross revenue.

At $7 per day or $20 per month for half the year, that would mean that the majority of sessions were pay-as-you-go; a $20 per month user could represent 10 or 20 sessions. If you assume an average of $5 per session for pay-as-you-go (by taking into account monthly users and rates across the year), you need about 70 or 80 percent of my estimated sessions count. That would leave 40,000 to 60,000 sessions paid a buck a pop, if that, by Boingo, iPass, and T-Mobile.

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

December 2, 2008

Wee-Fi: Virgin America Formal Launch, Heathrow Coach-Fi, Laptop Recovery

By Glenn Fleishman

Virgin America formally launches: Last week, Virgin America offered free Wi-Fi on its single Internet-equipped aircraft, My Other Ride's a Spaceship. Today, the service goes commercial ($10 for flights 3 hours or shorter; $13 for longer flights), and the rollout to other planes begins. Virgin has a special URL-- takes you to a tracking page showing which flights in progress have Wi-Fi, but they don't yet tell you how to determine whether a given flight you'll be on will offer the service. With 24 planes and a plan to add service one per week, that shouldn't be a problem for long.

Heathrow Airport Coach Link adds Internet service: Icomera, a leading transportation Wi-Fi firm, has added free Wi-Fi to FirstGroup's RailAir coach service that connects Heathrow Airport with Reading in England. RailAir runs every 20 minutes for a 50-minute route. FirstGroup handles 3 million passengers a day across all its routes, which makes it a plum market for future expansion.

Awareness Technologies adds Wi-Fi positioning for laptop recovery: Awareness is the latest firm to partner with Skyhook Wireless to use Wi-Fi positioning to its products, in this case Laptop Cop, software designed to aid in recovery. The software starts at $50 for a 1-year license, with discounts for quantity.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:25 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

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