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New York isn't happy with M/A-Com, a Tyco Electronics subsidiary building a state-wide wireless communications network: The idea was simple at its heart: get all public-safety officials and staff in the state using common equipment and frequencies. A $2b contract was awarded to M/A-Com, which bid $1b less than Motorola. (Of course, Motorola had its own failure in 2007 with a New York Transit wireless system that didn't work, according to The New York Times.)
Update on 1/15: New York canceled the contract.
M/A-Com disputes the problems, and has sent a lawyer letter threatening to sue. The New York Times account of the timetable, difficulties, and performance make it sound like a fairly one-sided problem. And lawsuits don't help when you're not delivering the goods. There's likely much more to be heard about this, since the Times seems to have state officials as its main source. M/A-Com clearly missed deadlines; the rest could wind up in prolonged litigation. [link via Klaus Ernst]
(On a totally unrelated front, M/A-Com long ago purchased Ohio Scientific Inc, or OSI, one of the first makers of non-hobbyist personal computers. My first computer was an OSI Challenger 1P with a whopping 8K of ROM and 8K of RAM.)
Minneapolis city, citizens leaned on Wi-Fi network for information, telecom after tragedy: This interesting story from Computerworld demonstrates the best aspects of currently deployed city-spanning Wi-Fi networks: outdoor access in emergencies. The operator, US Internet, couldn't reach the city, so opened the network for free for 24 hours. Nice move. Usage climbed from 1,000 users to 6,000 users. The city used the network to relay information from the field, including detailed maps and large files. US Internet was able to add nodes near the bridge the day after its collapse.
While US Internet's CEO thought people with Wi-Fi phones could switch from the overloaded cell network to his Wi-Fi network, it's unclear how many people have such phones. US carriers don't directly support any such models, except T-Mobile, which can't authenticate to any network that requires a Web page interaction.
PacketHop has pushed out version 2.0 of their software: This release of video streaming, whiteboarding, and messaging software combines with peer-to-peer meshing and cellular backhaul support for public safety use in the 4.9 GHz band. For more on this release, see our new Public Safety news site.
Welcome the latest addition to the Wi-Fi Networking News set of sites: You might notice a small change in the list of six sites at the top of this page--WNN Europe has been replaced with Public Safety (Wireless) News. The new site will be devoted to the rapidly emerging category of gear and networks that are used for first responders: fire, police, rescue, and specialized responders. Many municipal wireless networks are already in use that operate exclusively for public safety purposes; public access doesn't exist or is a distant second item. More networks will have the dual purpose, with public safety having priority.
WNN Europe is gone but not forgotten. The archives will remain active. In the time that site has been launched, we've posted under 200 items, and it's been increasingly clear in recent months that there are few Europe-only stories, but rather stories that span other categories.
The 4.9 GHz public safety band is getting a workout: The band is allocated for first-responder government use, and many devices now support this 50 MHz-wide spectrum band. The Motorola WDE100, part of its Motomesh product line, offers both 2.4 GHz and 4.9 GHz in a single PC Card form factor. The card can work to extend an existing network to other peers--the word "mesh" is in Motomesh's name, after all--or establish peer-to-peer networks.
The Motomesh division seems to be the only company in the metro-scale/municipal space that's focusing on multimodal public safety equipment. Other mesh vendors have 4.9 GHz access points, but aren't in the adapter business. Motomesh appears determined to marry public standards with public safety and proprietary encoding, too. For instance, their four-radio access point uses their original proprietary standard on both 2.4 GHz and 4.9 GHz (one radio each) but then uses standard Wi-Fi on 2.4 GHz and adapted for 4.9 GHz. This allows one device to offer service to the public, municipal employees, and public safety workers. The new adapter neatly pairs with that idea.
This relatively new swath of spectrum is only legal for use by governments or government-authorized NGOs to "protect the safety of life, health, or property." Despite being allocated in 2003, it took some time to migrate existing government users off the band, and for manufacturers to develop a public safety market that asked for equipment in this range.
The 4.9 GHz band requires jurisdictional licenses, in which the jurisdiction over which a public safety entity has sway defines where they may operate, but it also requires that each overlapping authority in that region coordinate spectrum use.
Great AP rundown of how good samaritans used cutting-edge tech to bring voice and data to areas hit by Katrina: Of course, FEMA got in the way, even of groups connected with the military. Government and emergency coordination seems practically non-existent, as most other reports have confirmed, so these on-the-ground volunteers just went out and did what was needed to bring communications to hospitals and evacuation centers. Companies opened their warehouses--I'd heard this from other sources, too--and sent whatever was needed.
The efforts included pre-WiMax, self-healing mesh, VoIP, and satellite uplinks mostly combined with Wi-Fi on the local link. Of course, smaller groups are fleeter than bureaucracies, but there's something a little ridiculous in how quickly and easily these connections were set up. NASA apparently decided that small missions could achieve more discrete goals more readily; perhaps emergency response needs to organize into big and small cells to allow more discrete tasks to happen with less overhead.
Software aggregates up to 1,000 nodes; 4.9 GHz gear for public safety and first responders: Any time you start assembling networks with many identical pieces, these pieces need aggregated management. It happened by 2002 in the WLAN space, with several companies offering (and still offering) tools to configure up to thousands of WLAN APs at once.
Firetide now offers their HotView Pro mesh management software for up to 1,000 of their nodes. The software coordinates tasks, like load balancing across different routes, and can treat multiple meshes as a seamless entity for managing data flows.
The 4.9 GHz space in the U.S. has become very active lately, with many companies deciding that the public safety sector interest in wireless needs to be acted upon using existing equipment rejiggered to handle the licensed spectrum. Firetide's HotPort 4.9 GHz equipment will be part of the enormous Rio Rancho, N.M., deployment.
Using the 4.9 GHz public safety band ensures that first responders and public safety officers and workers will have access to unfettered bandwidth--no worries about local Wi-Fi networks or hotzone congestion.
Telecommunications' firms are stepping up to the plate to help: I know there are many more stories about free cell phones and other offers of help, but I've only heard two about Wi-Fi. SBC will install Wi-Fi service in the Astrodome to aid public safety workers and media. (They're also making 1,000 phones available.)
T-Mobile HotSpot has extended its free usage to Sept. 9 in areas affected in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi that still have power and other services. SBC is also offering free FreedomLink usage in affected areas.
The Feds want EZSubpoena, technical changes to airplane broadband: When terrorists are using Connexion, Tenzing, or other in-flight Internet services, federal authorities don't want to wait for operators to tap into data streams when presented with a subpoena. They asked last Tuesday, according to Wired News, for the FCC to make sure that in-flight Internet is as easy to tap as telephone lines. Of course, any smart person of any stripe is using encryption to protect their data, but sometimes the destination of packets--not just their content--is enough to provide useful clues.
The Justice Department wants several difficult technical details to be handled. Cutting off access to specific users or the whole plane without affecting the control cabin isn't a problem, but asking for Wi-Fi-connected users to be identified by seat number is awfully tricky. It might require a change to the login procedure or the addition of new software, if it would work at all in an area with such high reflection. Finally, Justice wants cargo areas to be shielded from Wi-Fi.
RoamAD tested VoIP at 130 kph in Arizona: RoamAD worked with Wi-VOD in Arizona using a Homeland Security grant to test whether multi-party VoIP calls could work at speeds up to 130 km/hour (about 80 mph): I'll save you the suspense. They did work just fine. The test bed is an 8-km stretch that placed RoamAD nodes less than 2 km apart. They'll build out 54 km (32 miles) by May.