October 25, 2004
By Galen Gruman, editorial director, IT Wireless
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Sprint will provide Wi-Fi public hot-spot service at the new Juan Valdez Café chain, which is opening 25 stores in New York and Washington, D.C., in the next two years.

SBC Communications announced that by 2006 customers' phones will be automatically switched between SBC public Wi-Fi access points and Cingular's network.

By the end of the year, T-Mobile USA says it will have become the first U.S. wireless carrier to provide 802.1x authentication at all of its public hot spots.

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Meta Group: Wireless Deployments to Hit 65% in 2007

By 2007, 65% of companies will deploy at least one wireless application, according to research released today by the Meta Group. Messaging will top the most-wanted application list, with 50% of organizations enabling wireless e-mail within three years and 75% within four years. However, Meta Group projects that e-mail will serve merely as a starting gate for the enterprise wireless movement, not the finish line. "As users grow increasingly comfortable with wireless e-mail, they will demand more sophisticated technology," says Jack Gold, vice president at Meta Group. "Companies will respond by deploying mission-critical wireless applications that address asset management, logistics, delivery, and a host of other enterprise needs. Moreover, as the types of applications increase, so too will the size of the deployments."

Meta Group expects that within two years companies with wireless pilot initiatives will slowly expand the scope of deployment from a limited number of seats to installations totaling thousands of users. Further, organizations will move toward large-scale departmental or corporate deployments. However, despite the trend toward increased scale, the average wireless deployment will remain limited to 100 to 200 users and cost corporations roughly $250,000 to $500,000.

Due to the significant expense related to installations, Meta Group urges CIOs to address the numerous wireless challenges before moving forward with deployment. Specifically, companies planning their wireless strategy will be faced with six critical issues to resolve:

  • Device Selection: CIOs must choose the most appropriate device for their specific application. In selecting devices, CIOs must think about whether a single device can solve all user needs, who should own the device (the organization or the user), how the devices will be managed, and how costs will be allocated.
  • Security: CIOs must identify how wireless applications fit into corporate security standards. They must also address end-user issues as they relate to security: Can users be trusted to retain data securely? How will the enterprise handle lost or stolen devices?
  • Connectivity: The network issue should be top-of-mind for any CIO considering a wireless deployment. CIOs must identify the most appropriate type of network and justify the cost of that network. Equally important, the CIO must consider multiple connection capabilities and service provider alternatives.
  • Applications: The issue of applications opens a Pandora's box of questions that the CIO must resolve prior to committing to a wireless strategy: Should the organization deploy a thick or thin client? Should applications be synchronized in real time? Does the platform vendor provide mobile enhancements?
  • Management: CIOs must deal with the upkeep of devices with respect to repair and replacement. They must also have a strategy in place for upgrading antiquated technologies.

Finally, and perhaps more important, a CIO must understand and resolve the fundamental questions of cost and return on investment: How will ROI be measured? What will be the cost/benefit to the organization?

Yankee Group: Wireless Mesh Makes a Stronger Case for Mobile Metropolitan Networks

Although an IEEE standard for wireless mesh networking, 802.11s, is still at least two years away, several start-up vendors are already building metro-scale networks incorporating mesh technology, which meshes access points together using Wi-Fi transport and other advanced transmission technologies. These networks will enable municipalities and service providers to launch wireless broadband access in public spaces, retail shops and local businesses with reduced backhaul costs, argues the Yankee Group in a recent report.

The technology increases reliability because data packets have multiple paths and can be dynamically transparently rerouted around failed nodes or interference. In addition, new nodes can be more easily added to the mesh.

Among the larger players, Cisco Systems has introduced a mobile metropolitan network solution and is building an ecosystem of partners. Nortel Networks has partnered with PacketHop in the homeland security market.

There are about 30 metro mobile mesh networks. Some are for government usage; others provide public access and are sponsored by local retailers and nonprofit organizations to stimulate economic development and community service. However, mixed-use networks that support both public access together with public safety and municipal government applications, with secure partitioning, are emerging.

The largest public safety network (in New York City), is currently out for bid and will involve a combination of wireless broadband technologies and multiple vendors, service providers and integrators. Although "carrier grade" technology will predominate, Wi-Fi will play a complementary role in this network.

There is evidence of a change in direction in many areas. T-Mobile is building an outdoor "hot zone" with Comcast in downtown Philadelphia for public usage. SBC is looking at deploying in large public venues such as sports arenas. BellSouth is testing a Wi-Fi network of 100 hot spots for business and consumer usage, concentrated in the center of Charlotte, N.C.

Several converging trends are driving deployment of mobile metropolitan networks: the prevalence of broadband internet access in the home and office, the increasing availability of Wi-Fi capable laptops and PDAs, and supporting hot spots for public access. Meanwhile, towns are looking to wireless networking for improved public safety and other municipal applications. Towns with existing CDPD based networks need to migrate to another solution as carrier support is withdrawn.

The impact on cellular will be complementary rather than competitive. Wi-Fi will never have the ubiquitous nationwide coverage of cellular. However, carriers can use Wi-Fi mesh backhaul to lower delivery costs for local traffic and in urban canyons to avoid the obstruction of large buildings. Wi-Fi can also work in conjunction with cellular pico cells to build metropolitan or enterprise campus networks; dual cellular/Wi-Fi radios are already in development or available.

Public venues such as airports and train stations also provide target opportunities for Wi-Fi mesh network service. Cellular carriers can partner with Wi-Fi mesh vendors to win contracts for network deployment and revenue sharing. After losing pay-phone revenue to cellular, airports are willing to negotiate for a share of the revenue.

WiMax will complement Wi-Fi in metro networks. After 2007, with 802.16e certification, WiMax will be incorporated into metropolitan networks Wi-Fi and WiMax radios can coexist or be changed out without overhauling the entire network.


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