February 7, 2005
By Galen Gruman, editorial director, IT Wireless
A free newsletter to all IT Wireless subscribers.


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As wireless LANs gain popularity, analysts expect the scourge of viruses, worms, and Trojan Horses that bedevil the Internet to come to the 802.11 networks. As a demonstration of that looming issue, Evil Twin has damaged some Wi-Fi users accessing hot spots on college campuses and public premises. Similar to phishing applications that use fake emails to trick users into providing personal data, attacks like AirSnarf and Evil Twin pose as legitimate hot spots but in reality are unauthorized access points. Hackers set up "evil twins" to overpower real hot spots, in hopes of capturing valuable personal information. Consumers are more vulnerable because they typically use the minimum default security settings. Several companies, including AirDefense and AirMagnet, can prevent Wi-Fi phishing in their enterprise wireless security products. AirDefense offers a free download of its AirDefense Personal to monitor for malicious or accidental wireless activities and wireless misconfigurations that may cause security exposures or policy violations.

The WiMax Forum expects to begin certifying compatibility for wide-area wireless networks based on the 802.16d standard, known as WiMax, in July. The WiMax label will be reserved for products that pass the interoperability testing, much as the Wi-Fi label indicates interoperability for 802.11 wireless hardware as validated by the Wi-Fi Alliance. (See related story below.)

Product News

Trapeze Networks has upgraded its RingMaster wireless LAN management software. The new version includes real-time change management features that automatically detect and alert RingMaster users to any configuration changes that occur in Mobility Exchange switches and Mobility Points by any administrator, anywhere in the network. Network administrators also gain a monitoring window that provides simple navigation through a wireless network to obtain detailed performance and fault information. To promote scaling, resiliency and non stop, 24-x-7 operation, RingMaster was also migrated to a client server architecture with distributed monitor servers. Also, information about network topology, fault and performance data, the RF environment, and client activity is collected and stored by the monitor servers so that extremely large networks consisting of thousands of mobile devices can now be effectively monitored. Finally, RingMaster now lets IT staff view and track mobile users' performance and signal strength as they roam from access point to access point.

Similarly, Bluesocket has upgraded its BlueSecure Intrusion Protection System. Version 3.1 provides active containment of rogue devices, advanced RF spectrum analysis, and enhanced reporting that meets government and Defense Dept. deployment requirements for wireless LANs. Additionally, with a new client-server architecture, the system now offers enterprise-class scalability for larger, multisite deployments.

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Got a great product or technology tip? Send it to news@it-wireless.com.


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Ovum and ABI: No Huge Concerns over WiMax Delays

Recent news in InformationWeek that the interoperability certification effort for 802.16d wide-area wireless LAN certification, known as WiMax, would be delayed six months resulted in muted reactions from analysts. The first version of the standard, 802.16 2004, which is primarily aimed at fixed broadband access services, was approved last year. Initially, certification testing including standard compliance test and interoperability testing between different suppliers were to start early this year, with first products launched from mid-2005. Now certification will start in July.

ABI Research analyst Phil Solis says published reports have blown matters out of proportion. Operators are continuing to buy pre-standard equipment anyway, he says. Plus, "I have been assured by Mo Shakouri [the vice president of marketing] of the WiMax Forum that their interoperability testing is on target to commence in July. Chipsets have already been released from small and nimble companies such as Wavesat. Others such as Sequans, and larger producers like Intel and Fujitsu Microelectronics America, will most likely start shipping during the second quarter. So deployments of certified products are probably not going to be held up to a dangerous degree."

No great harm will result from the delay, Solis argues, noting that the delay is said to be caused not by any tardiness in establishing interoperability certification testing but by later than anticipated deliveries of compliant chipsets."These things take time," says Solis. "WiMax's arrival was heavily hyped for early to mid-2005, but experienced observers aren't surprised by the holdup: we have seen similar situations often in other segments of the industry."

Ovum senior consultant Vincent Poulbere notes, "2005 was thought to be the year of the WiMax launch. Unfortunately, it will now mostly be the year of pre-WiMax. Vendors will continue to sell pre-standard products to the few operators having already made a decision to deploy early, but operators waiting for standardized equipment will have to wait, and this will slow the market as a whole."

However, he notes that continued delays will cause real concern. "A six-month delay has a limited impact on 802.16d, but further delay would certainly cast much doubt on the technology. It mostly pushes further away in time the benefits expected from the standard: low-cost equipment due to economies of scale and interoperability between different vendors' products. More worrying perhaps, is that the delay raises questions over the timeframe for the 802.16e WiMax standard, which is supposed to support mobility. First commercial products are announced for 2006, and more importantly first laptops integrating a WiMax chipset from Intel are expected in 2007. If 802.16e also gets delayed, it will leave more time for other mobile broadband technologies to gain market share and acceptance.

ABI Research: Location-Based Services: Still Not Here

Location-based services (LBS) that enable pinpointing of a mobile phone's position may be showing up in North America before too long. But with rare exceptions, they're not here just yet. "I'd like to say that 2005 would be the year of LBS," says Ken Hyers, principal analyst in the wireless group at ABI Research, "but most operators have continued to lag. We now see some offerings from Nextel. Sprint and Verizon are potentially ready in many markets. But I don't think you're going to see any commercialized services in the U.S. before 2006, apart from Nextel and a handful of others. It's early days yet."

Why that lag? "The operators have a lot on their plates," Hyers notes, "and location technology is not a priority for them. There are technical issues to be overcome, and privacy issues as well."

In Asia, things are different. LBS exist in both Japan and Korea. It will, says Hyers, take another year or so for the technology to get a foothold in North America, although when it does, "the ability to link LBS to other commercial services means that we will start to see a number of actual money-making opportunities."


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