March 3, 2003
By Galen Gruman, editorial director, IT Wireless
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CGE&Y on Wireless Deployment

This is one of an occasional series of reports based on interviews with consultants and system integrators.

The easiest place for enterprise IT staff to experiment with wireless deployment is in the conference room, says Marv Chartoff, vice president of the Critical Techniques Group at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, which often helps clients develop their wireless architecture. The conference room is a natural extension of the existing wired networks and typically has an Ethernet jack in which to connect an access point, he notes. Plus, conference rooms are often away from public locations, so there's little worry about signal leakage that unauthorized users might take advantage of.

Once IT is comfortable with these contained environments, Chartoff says it becomes easier to gain buy-in for larger deployments. But his experience is that the willingness to deploy wireless networks broadly tracks most strongly to those that "already have a laptop mentality" -- the more that IT provides notebooks as primary PCs to employees, the more that mobility, and thus wireless, is supported. "Wireless doesn't make sense if your users are all desktop users unless they're in a totally new facility where youy save on the wiring costs."

When businesses add wireless, the first step should be to set a standard technology base, even if that means throwing out wireless hardware and software that may already be in use by "departments that have gotten ahead," he says. For example, although there is a movement among vendors to 54Mbps 802.11a and 802.11g technology, enterprises are usually fine implementing the 11MBps rates of cheaper 802.11b products. While 802.11b doesn't support video applications well, "it works well for email and office productivity applications."

"We've seen a lot of companies struggle looking for the perfect solution. But wireless doesn't have a one-size-fits-all solution," Chartoff says. "You need to nail down the compelling benefit for considering wireless and keep to the best available solutions for it. Look for a reasonable set of solutions -- get past analysis paralysis." He advises IT to determine just who will benefit -- "it's not a ubiquitous solution"-- and focus on their needs.

Charoff says it's fine to buy consumer-grade client hardware from established companies like Cisco Systems, but he says enterprises should stick with enterprise-class access points and routers to gain the needed security, access-point roaming capabilities, and network manageability that IT requires for any significant deployment.

In addition to the technology base, IT should pay attention to the user density and building layout, "so you don't have too many users trying to get onto an access point." Also, it's important to do a site survey that accounts not just for access point positioning to avoid gaps and interference, but also to account for possible interference from other devices such as cordless phones that 802.11b vendors' interference-avoidance technology may not consider.

Chartoff recommends that the wireless network be managed with a management platform such as Hewlett-Packard's OpenView rather than be managed separately. "It's just another element of your network to be managed," he says.

Security has become a lesser concern, since "people are realizing that there alternative solutions" for enterprise security needs, Chartoff says. He's found that most enterprises can satisfy their wireless security needs through 802.1x authentication and virtual private networks (VPNs). Chartoff also recommends segmenting guest access into virtual LANs so they are firewalled from the rest of the network.

Got deployment experience and lessons to share? Let us know at

From our editors


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The Latest in Wireless Products and Tech

IBM is working to increase its presence in wireless. Companies like Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel have been visible on the product side, while IBM has tended to treat wireless as a component of its broad Pervasive Computing effort. But IBM has now announced an effort to develop a standardized wireless platform for the enterprise. The new IBM Wireless Enterprise Delivery Environment creates a framework for the interconnection of wireless networks and enterprise systems and details the horizontal infrastructure required to provide a common development and deployment platform that helps companies to cost-effectively and rapidly support new applications -- such as mobile sales and field force automation, email access, asset monitoring, supply chain management, and mobile commerce -- as well as new devices and networks. IBM plans to support the platform with the establishment of two Wireless Enterprise Labs, one in Raleigh, N.C., and one in LaGaude, France, that will implement the Wireless Enterprise Delivery Environment using IBM and third-party software and hardware components. The labs will be open to IBM business partners as a testbed to integrate components into wireless solutions based on the Wireless Enterprise Delivery Environment.

We've written several times about IPWireless's 3Mbps cellular data technology, which uses the data-only cellular standard known as UMTS-TDD. But IPWireless is not alone in trying to deliver high-speed connections over cellular. Navini Networks offers its own technology, which delivers connections as fast as 1.5Mbps, comparable to landline DSL service. BellSouth is testing the technology in Daytona, Fla. Trial participants use a small desktop wireless unit, connected to either an Ethernet or USB port on their PC, which provides a high-speed, wireless link between a BellSouth transmission tower and users' computers. The trial uses the 2.3GHz WCS band, for which BellSouth holds FCC licenses throughout the Southeast U.S. The trial includes multiple base stations covering about 150 square miles and up to 100 participants. Navini's technology also operates in the unlicensed 2.4GHz ISM spectrum, and Navini has announced it will have PC Card versions of its modems available by July. InterDigital Communications is also working on UMTS-TDD technology, though its effort focuses on combining data-oriented UMS-TDD with the voice-oriented UMTS-FDD technologies so carriers can roll out both voice and data services on third-generation (3G) cellular networks.

For a couple years now, Intel and Texas Instruments have been battling each other over their wireless chip sets and processors. Intel has garnered greater support from cellular phone makers, but TI has gained significant adoption of its OMAP technology as well. The latest development: CardSoft, a developer of interoperable software on fixed and wireless mobile-commerce devices, is porting its Stip and Finread platforms to the TI OMAP processors. This will help create secure Java environments for Pocket PC and Symbian developers. The CardSoft application development environment is used to create handheld-based applications for retail and financial services.

Other recent developments of note:

  • Intermec Technologies has announced that the company's MobileLAN wireless access points now feature an embedded authentication server based on the Radius standard widely used in commercial-grade wireless networks. Intermec says the access points are the first to incorporate Radius authentication, making the security system more easily available to small to mid-size businesses and remote independent sites.
  • Proxim has released Tsunami MP.11, a new family of economical wireless outdoor point-to-multipoint solutions enabling campus connectivity, security and surveillance, and residential last-mile access. The Tsunami MP.11 product family includes two subscriber units -- the Enterprise Subscriber Unit for businesses and the Residential Subscriber Unit for homes. The product family also includes the Tsunami MP.11 Base Station Unit, which can connect up to 100 subscriber units of either type.
  • Cirronet has released "802.11b-friendly" transmission products using frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) technology. Cirronet's products deliver long-range wireless connections, typically in industrial environments, but they have suffered from interference issues with 802.11b networks' direct spread spectrum (DSS) technology. The new products eliminate the FHSS/DSS interference.
  • PCTel has released the Dual-Mode Segue software that allows roaming between 802.11b and GPRS and CDMA2000 1XRTT cellular networks.
  • Nortel Networks has released Voice-over-IP switches and related hardware for carriers that includes support for wireless delivery.

Got a great product or technology tip? Send it to


The Latest in the Wireless Marketplace

As cellular phones become more tricked out with data features, such as digital cameras, Java capability, and downloadable ringtones, cellular carriers are paying renewed attention to cellular data services. But a recent survey by In-Stat/MDR shows that economics still don't make sense, at least not for one segment: location-based services. Location-based services deliver services or applications to a wireless device, such as a mobile phone, that rely on location information gathered from a carrier's wireless network or via the Global Positioning System. Applications can include emergency response services and finder applications that let mobile phone users locate friends or family, businesses, or landmarks. They can also deliver maps, directions, or traffic reports.

A recent survey by In-Stat/MDR of its 591-member wireless user panel does show moderate interest in location-based. Users are most interested in emergency response services (called E911), followed by directions services and maps. Mobile advertising services were viewed as far less appealing, and those surveyed were very concerned about getting spam and other unsolicited marketing from such mobile ad services.

But that interest diminishes once fees come into play. Of those respondents who were willing to pay for these services, most were not willing to pay more than $10, per service, monthly. With infrastructure costs that will run in the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not $1 billion, per carrier, it will take many years for service providers to recoup their investments from location-based services, In-Stat/MDR says -- a tough sell in today's battered telecom industry. Another inhibitor is the lack of installed base of mobile phones that are location-enabled.

This issue's sponsor: Extended Systems
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