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Cablevision doubles speed of Wi-Fi network, fires up 100 Mbps DOCSIS 3.0, too: The New York/New Jersey/Connecticut cable systems operator is now promising up to 3 Mbps (instead of 1.5 Mbps) over its Wi-Fi network, which is exclusively available to its broadband customer. The company also wants bragging rights, with a 101 Mbps/15 Mbps top-tier DOCSIS 3.0 broadband service for $100 per month. Verizon, Comcast, and others top out at 50 Mbps downstream (at the moment) for $30 to $60 more; many providers aren't offering rates above 20 or 30 Mbps.
It's rare for any Wi-Fi hotspot operator to disclose actual usage, but AT&T mostly gives its Wi-Fi away: The telecom giant, which acquired infrastructure builder Wayport in late 2008 to bring all its hotspot operations in house and swing a loop around McDonald's service, reported 10.5m Wi-Fi connections in Q1 2009. The firm saw 20m in all of 2008, and just 3.4m in Q1 2008.
AT&T added more free users to its Wi-Fi network as 2008 progressed, even as it built the scale of its network. Several million iPhone subscribers had free Wi-Fi added to their accounts in 2008, for instance, while AT&T allowed even its lowest-tier DSL subscribers to have free access at hotspots, too. The company once charged from nominal ($2/mo.) to low ($10/mo.) to subscribers, but gradually phased out fees in favor of usage and the loyalty that results.
The company gained the contract for Starbucks in Feb. 2008, and very gradually switched service from T-Mobile (which still has roaming rights) to its own brand during the year. That added over 7,000 premium locations with a built-in user base.
Australian tech agency CSIRO cuts deals with all firms it sued, that sued it: An Australian IT publications reports that the long-running patent lawsuits among government tech agency CSIRO, which had a broad patent covering some aspects of the OFDM part of Wi-Fi since 802.11g, have been settled. All the firms involved in litigation have cut licensing deals with CSIRO, the article says, although terms were not revealed.
CSIRO sued and won various judgments against Buffalo Technology, a Japanese-owned firm with worldwide sales, when Buffalo wouldn't agree to pay royalty fees. The case has bounced around a bit, with Buffalo's Wi-Fi products enjoined from the U.S. market for years, then allowed again after Buffalo won part of an appeal. It got rather complicated.
In the end, this apparent settlement with 14 firms, some of which CSIRO had sued and others had preemptively sued CSIRO, doesn't mean too much for anyone. There were certainly issues as to whether CSIRO would be able to survive a full-on patent reexamination, as it was clear that some aspects of its patent could have been open to challenge, but there was no way to know whether any parts of the patent would have been struck down, nor whether those would have affected its overall ability to assert rights.
CSIRO reportedly was never asking for much. As a government agency designed to commercialize and promote national inventions, the scuttlebutt was that they wanted at most a few bucks per qualifying device. The settlement likely involves firms paying something for equipment already sold and agreeing on a fee schedule for future sales.
CSIRO reinvests proceeds of commercialization into research, so in many ways this is a win for everyone (except shareholders of firms in the settlement who will have an extremely diluted "loss") as Australia is on the cutting edge of many interesting technologies funded by this agency. A talk with one researcher about photonic terabit switching blew my mind recently.
With billions of Wi-Fi devices to be sold in the coming few years and likely hundreds of millions, if not over a billion, in the market, CSIRO will see a huge winfall even at extremely modest rates for built-in Wi-Fi adapters, where costs are so low it's likely the agency would get tens of cents instead of dollars.
For consumers, we'll see almost no effect. With products price to end in $9 or $9.95 or $9.99, there's little wiggle room to add a buck or two. More likely, manufacturers will simply absorb the cost and reduce their margin slightly, looking for cost savings elsewhere.
More than a year after Starbucks swapped out T-Mobile for AT&T as its Wi-Fi provider at U.S. locations, the coffee retailer opts for BT in the UK and Ireland: BT will fold about 650 hotspots into its OpenZone footprint, but, even better, it will also fold those locations into its roaming deals with aggregators like iPass and Boingo. All BT broadband customers will gain access as will O2 cell subscribers with iPhones.
At the end of a slow Wi-Fi week, a deal: Delta has over 100 aircraft equipped with Aircell Gogo Internet service. The 126SKY2 coupon code gets you 20 percent off on Gogo on Delta flights until 30 April (conditions apply; follow link for details).
As I noted on 6 April, when Alaska Airlines launched a new Web site that promised Internet service in the sky, it seemed its trial was going well: The company putout a press release today that said the test service (on a single plane) had 2,100 users over the last several weeks. Of those that used the service and filled out a survey, 96 percent would use it again, and 78 percent would be very or extremely likely to recommend it.
Alaska now says it's working on the pricing model. The company has partnered with Row 44 for its satellite-backed Internet service over Wi-Fi.
The latest edition of my co-authored book on Wi-Fi security is out: The title, which I and Adam Engst have been updating for several years, is now up to date on Wi-Fi Protected Setup, the latest issues with WPA/WPA2, and a host of other minor changes. The book is aimed at a general audience, not tech types, who want background on security topics coupled with specific, step-by-step advice for Mac OS X (Tiger and Leopard), Windows XP, and Windows Vista.
Included is details on setting up WPA/WPA2 Personal, troubleshooting network security problems, and how to encrypt and secure specific services like email or the contents of files and messages.
The immediate download book is 106 pages and costs $10. However, readers of Wi-Fi Networking News can follow the link above for a $3 discount (discount appears during checkout); you can also enter coupon code CPN71005WNN during checkout. You can download a sample that contains various parts of the book by following the link as well.
Delta hits 99 airplanes: Today's in-flight Internet announcement that Delta has one shy of one hundred planes equipped with Wi-Fi is brought to you courtesy of the 1983 German hit, 99 Luftballoons. (Luftballoon = balloon; Luftzeuge = aircraft.)
Update:: I'm told I got the term wrong! Flug is "flight" in German and Luft is "air," but Flugzeug is the correct term for an airplane.
The Bluetooth SIG has approved its 3.0 spec with a 21 April launch date: I've written before about Bluetooth 3.0, which pairs the 3 Mbps low-power frequency hopping radio system of 2.1+EDR with high-speed transfers via 802.11 standards. The idea is that a properly integrated Bluetooth 3.0 system will have a bulk-transfer mode that two devices can swap into. (Note that the SIG is referencing 802.11, the generic standard, as it doesn't have a specific program in place with the Wi-Fi Alliance--yet?--for cross-certifiation.)
For instance, if you had one of those ubiquitous BlackBerry or iPhone smartphones with Bluetooth 3.0 and Wi-Fi inside, you could start a sync session with your PC. For normal calendar data and other matter, the sync would use the Bluetooth radio system. To sync a large music or video file, the handset's BT gear would talk with the computer's, agree to switch to 802.11, and then make the bulk transfer. At the end, communication would return to the other radio.
This mode works in a quasi ad-hoc fashion, without requiring that a device join a Wi-Fi network, which is part of why the 802.11 label is being used. With the collapse of UWB as a near-term generic option for personal area networking (PAN)--it may wind up being important, but it's not right now--802.11 standards will likely morph into WLAN/PAN systems. Intel has been working on this for a while, disclosing its Cliffside project a year ago as part of a larger effort to rethink mobile device functions.
Bluetooth 3.0 will get its formal unveiling later this month along with information about which chipmakers have products ready to sample. Because the SIG is a practical group, standards aren't released until there are multiple vendors with interoperable prototype chips and hardware.
Eight years ago, I launched this site: Hard to believe I've been pounding away at wireless data stories this long. It's been quite enjoyable. Despite a severe drop in traffic in the last couple of years, I'm still finding enough to write about on a regular basis, and appreciate the loyal audience out there. I have a hard time believing this site will exist in this form in 2017, but I wouldn't have imagined it would have lasted this long in more or less the same format when I launched it with zero fanfare in 2001.
You can see the first real post from 7 April 2001 (in the current design framing, of course).
Alaska has launched a new marketing campaign, with in-flight Wi-Fi as one of its messages: I guess the company has made an informal decision, giving that its North of Expected ad campaign says that more in-flight Internet is on the way.
Alaska has a single plane wired up with Row 44's satellite-backed Internet service, while Southwest has about four craft with the same offering. Southwest Airlines is updating which routes have Wi-Fi via Twitter on a given day.
Meanwhile, Delta Airlines says it's a few days away from hitting 100 planes with Wi-Fi, which gets the airline more than a quarter of the way to its full mainline fleet deployment, expected for third quarter of this year.
Alaska Airlines will sponsor free Wi-Fi at the Oakland airport: The service will be free from 13 April to 5 July, and seems intended to raise the awareness of Alaska's Wi-Fi trial with Row 44, currently underway.
Alaska seems likely to put Wi-Fi on its planes if it gets a good response from passengers to the in-flight Internet service. Many of Alaska's routes pass over water, and a satellite-backed service is a good fit if passengers are willing to pay for the privilege. It's also a way for the no-extras airline to bring entertainment onboard without installing seatback systems.
Earlier stories reported that Alaska Airlines was also sponsoring free Wi-Fi at the far larger Seattle-Tacoma airport. An Alaska spokesperson just told me that information was in error. The free Wi-Fi underwriting is for Oakland's airport only.
I don't know how I missed this comedian's bit on Conan from 19 February: "I was on an airplane and there was high-speed Internet on the airplane. That's the newest thing that I know exists. And I'm sitting on the plane and they go, open up your laptop, you can go on the Internet.
"And it's fast, and I'm watching YouTube clips. It's amaz--I'm on an airplane! And then it breaks down. And they apologize, the Internet's not working. And the guy next to me goes, 'This is b___s___.' I mean, how quickly does the world owe him something that he knew existed only 10 seconds ago?"
Bit starts at 2 minutes in. [Thanks to John Moe]
Verizon talks about expanding access to broadband in rural areas, wirelessly: Cnet's Marguerite Reardon interviews Verizon Wireless's CTO, who says that his company's plan for LTE will extend far beyond its current CDMA cellular footprint. The missing piece in this interview? The fact that Verizon is obligated to build out a significant footprint in the 700 MHz band about which the CTO is speaking; more on that in a moment.
The 700 MHz band has so much bang for the buck, perhaps offering four times the coverage area with a single base station than an 1700-2500 MHz base station (3G or U.S. WiMax). And that's in urban areas. In rural locations without obstructions and with less dense usage, I would imagine a single base station could cover an enormous area. Backhaul is still an issue, of course, but Verizon has a variety of frequencies it can use for long-distance point-to-point wireless feeds. And while LTE could deliver a pool of 50 Mbps in urban areas with 5 to 10 Mbps or more available per user, rural performance could be lower and still far exceed what's currently available.
Verizon Wireless's CTO speculates that Verizon could offer fixed wireless offerings to homes, much like Clearwire's WiMax. Clearwire can't provide such service across large areas outside of densely populated areas because its bandwidth portfolio is centered in the 2500 MHz (2.5 GHz) band, which is going to be unaffordable to deploy in less-populated areas. Clearwire could cover an entire town with one base station, but it wouldn't make sense for them to cover the area between small towns. In fact, Clearwire's pre-WiMax offerings were originally in lower-tier smaller-city markets that had poor DSL and cable broadband availability.
According to research last year from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 38 percent of rural households in the U.S. have broadband access, and 12 percent of all American households use fixed wireless for access. This shows the great potential for selling service into the rural market in two ways: it's underserved, but those with service are likely paying too much for what they get.
I contacted that report's author a few days ago to ask about the wireless stat, as it seemed incredibly high to me. He explained that it included satellite and all forms of fixed wireless. I found some more recent confirmation of the number from a University of Vermont poll released just two days ago. Vermont has a rural population, but still sees most people in towns and cities. Internet access is Vermont, the poll said, is split out as: dial-up, 18 percent; cable, 24 percent; DSL, 42 percent; satellite, 7 percent; wireless Internet, 6 percent; fiber or other, 3 percent. That 13 percent combined wireless number neatly tracks the Pew's research.
Satellite Markets & Research estimates 731,000 satellite Internet subscribers as of 2008's second quarter. With a bit over 100 million households in the U.S., that's not even one percent of the market, but the Vermont numbers show how that skews in less-populated areas. Pew research puts just 55 percent of households online, with a relatively large number that want broadband. (Some significant number will never want it for reasons of costs or utility, of course.)
As we know, satellite Internet is a kind of marvelous, ugly, and expensive compromise to bring broadband to the hinterland. People who would otherwise be restricted to dial-up service, if they could even get a decent 56K signal, can have far higher rates. But the cost is high, upstream rates low, and satellite services weren't designed to offer pinpoint residential access.
Thus Verizon has a defined market, and it won a large number of licenses covering these rural markets in the 700 MHz sale a year ago; so did AT&T, which also bought up many previously auctioned 700 MHz licenses. Verizon captured the coveted national license, but both firms purchased a patchwork of regional licenses that let them build country-wide 700 MHz networks.
But what Cnet's Reardon doesn't mention, and Verizon's CTO deftly avoids, is that 700 MHz licenseholders are obligated to build out service across the licenses they won. The FCC, tired of awarding licenses that aren't used, attached some modest but significant installation requirements on Auction 73.
While there are several classes of licenses, each class has a 4-year check-in mark for signal coverage. In some classes, that's 35 percent of the geographic area regardless of population, ideal for rural areas; in others, it's 40 percent of the population. If that mark is met, then licenseholders have a full 10 years to build out to 70 percent of the geographic area or 75 percent of the population. Failure to hit a 4-year mark shortens the license term and remaining build out to 8 years. Failure to meet the final target at 8 or 10 years results in the likely loss of the license. Licenses were carved out so that even the cheapest have significant population centers, making it less than optimal for a licenseholder to abandon the coverage area.
Verizon's national licenses (the C Block) require population-based buildouts, which is fair for the scope of the licenses. But some significant spectrum in the A, B, and E blocks require geographic-based deployment. (The public/private D Block didn't have a winning bidder, and is now in limbo after the withdrawal of a significant partner in the public partnership.)
I don't believe Verizon is being disingenuous in pushing the rural message, but the company is also talking up how stimulus money could be used for rural buildouts after the company had, essentially, already agreed to cover 75 percent of the population of the U.S. and 75 percent of the population or area of licenses it purchased.
Australian tech agency CSIRO settles with HP, continues case: CSIRO says that HP has settled on confidential terms over the agency's claims to have a patent that covers some of the fundamental parts of how 802.11a, g, and n Wi-Fi works. CSIRO continues to engage, as the article notes, "Microsoft, Dell, Toshiba, Intel, Nintendo, Netgear, Belkin, D-Link, Asus, Buffalo Technology, 3com, Accton and SMC." Cisco and its Linksys division aren't in the list because Cisco agreed to patent terms when it acquired an Australian network authentication firm a few years ago.
The patent may or may not be found valid. I have trouble with how it was revised to include frequencies not mentioned in the original filing that weren't in common use when the filing was first made. A patent review hasn't yet occurred. If upheld, CSIRO will collect what it has frequently described as a small royalty on all devices containing Wi-Fi.
The article misstates the current state of the Buffalo/CSIRO lawsuit by missing a fine detail. CSIRO claimed to have come out in top last September in an appeals court decision, but both parties got something out of it. In December, Buffalo was allowed to start selling gear again, even as the case was sent back to lower court to deal with a small issue. Now, it's still possible Buffalo will have to pay damages, back royalties, and future royalties, but it's actively selling gear at the moment. CSIRO says it won something in appeals because of this possibility.
Qualcomm opens research labs in video tour to show next-generation distributed tech: Qualcomm engineers have determined an optimal way to use flocking behavior to have mobile aerial femtocells that can expand coverage. There are a few downsides to the technology, which the company is remarkably forthcoming about.
I'm sometimes critical of Qualcomm for its market behavior, but the company has certainly transformed itself lately into a new sort of creature, which this video helps demonstrate.
CradlePoint updates its 3G gateways to handle WiMax, too: CradlePoint was revealed yesterday as the provider for Clearwire's new battery-powered WiMax-to-Wi-Fi gateway, the awkwardly named Clear Spot Personal Hotspot. The company will also offer WiMax support on its business-oriented gateways.
Devices sold starting today will support Clearwire's USB modem; a firmware update for existing router owners will be released 6 April.
BelAir's new cable-mountable Wi-Fi/WiMax access point could be boon for WiMax deployment: BelAir has introduced the BelAir100SX Strand Mounted Dual Mode Wireless Node, a long way of saying that this device can be attached directly to existing cable wiring, powered by cable plant voltage, and drive two kinds of wireless: Wi-Fi and WiMax. (No one apparently ever told BelAir to not introduce a product with the initial SX--say it aloud--on April 1st. But it's real.)
This device is an extension of BelAir's earlier 100S, which feeds out Wi-Fi only, and which is the basis of Cablevision's $300m deployment of many many thousands of nodes across its New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut territory. Backhaul and power come from the cable plant; the device has a built-in DOCSIS 2.0 modem (U.S. and European standards), and can accept a variety of radios.
Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House have all invested in Clearwire, the 51-percent Sprint Nextel owned venture that's rolling WiMax out across the U.S. As investors, the cable operators may be well suited to provide infrastructure for Clearwire, even though that hasn't been discussed publicly and, to my knowledge, no such deals have been made.
Comcast has already said it will resell the Clear-branded WiMax service in Portland, Ore., the only U.S. market deployed with that offering. Comcast needs Clearwire for the fourth element in a quadruple play of voice, video, data, and mobile communications (which can be voice, video, and data as well).
This all neatly dovetails.
Good news/bad news about 802.11b: According to this article, 802.11b expires today, 1-April-2009. That shouldn't be a surprise, but it sort of crept up on me. I suppose it's all for the best: 802.11b slows down networks, fools people into using a broken encryption standard, and keeps the economy from getting back up to speed. Forcing people to buy new adapters is probably a good way to jumpstart purchases.