September 27, 2004
By Galen Gruman, editorial director, IT Wireless
A free newsletter to all IT Wireless subscribers.



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The Latest in Wireless Products and Tech

Technology News

Intel has begun shipping samples of its first WiMax chip, called Rosedale, and the first network trials based on the IEEE 802.16 wide-area wireless network technology will start next year. Fujitsu has announced similar plans.

Concourse Communications Group is testing wireless voice-over-IP service at three New York-area airports. The service would let customers use PDAs, notebooks, or other devices that have special software installed place calls over a landline carrier's network rather than use the cellular network.

Via Technologies, a developer of silicon chip technologies and PC platform hardware, has added to LocustWorld's MeshAP-Pro support for hardware-based VIA PadLock Advanced Cryptography Engine, allowing it to encrypt and decrypt data traveling through the mesh at very high speeds. This technology is used by wireless carriers for last-mile connections, and Via hopes technology such as its will enable high-speed wireless broadband to be more broadly deployed by supporting more users per connection.

Product News

3Com has announced new 802.11g-based building-to-building wireless bridges that let customers connect two or more buildings through secure, high-speed wireless connections. The reach is as much as 10 miles. 3Com offers two types of wireless bridges: a fixed, self-enclosed outdoor bridge and an indoor bridge with a variety of antenna options.

Adesso Systems has released a new version of its Instant Mobility platform that features major enhancements in several areas, including the ability to develop and deploy applications that can automatically provision themselves to address evolving business processes on the edge of the enterprise; access to and integration of legacy back-office application data into mobile business activities; new business-process–based application frameworks to enable the fast delivery of field force solutions; and support for new mobile devices and advanced technologies including smart phones, rich media, Bluetooth, and radiofrequency identification (RFID).

Tritton Technologies, a provider of networking, storage, and computer peripheral products, has announced a wireless network attached storage (NAS) servers. The WiFi NAS offers 120GB or 200GB of secure, shared storage and doubles as a wireless access point with Wireless Equivalency Protocol (WEP) encryption. The WiFi NAS supports both standard 802.11g and 802.11b protocols.

In other product news:

Hot-Spot News

Boingo Wireless has released updated Wi-Fi connection software that includes key new security, reliability and ease-of-use features as well as Windows XP Service Pack 2 compatibility. The new software also opens up more than 3,500 new hot spot locations in Europe, doubling the number of live hot spots in the Boingo Roaming System.

The city of Philadelphia has announced its plans to invest in a new wireless mesh network based on the 802.11b standard. By deploying Wi-Fi antennas on street lights and other traffic-control devices, city officials hope they can turn all 135 square miles of Philadelphia into the world's largest wireless Internet hot spot. The city expects to have a plan in place by 2005 and take bids from providers early that year. The cost is estimated at between $7 million and $10 million.

The South Bend, Ind., airport now offers Wi-Fi access, provided by Opti-Fi, for $2.95 for 15 minutes (and 25 cents per additional minute), $3.95 per hour, or $9.95 per day.

SBC and the State of Michigan have teamed up to bring Wi-Fi access to Michigan state parks, rest areas and welcome centers. MiWiFi, delivered through SBC's FreedomLink Wi-Fi service, is now available at Holland State Park and Grand Haven State Park, the first two parks in the nation to provide wireless Internet access at state campgrounds. The state's MiWiFi project will make SBC FreedomLink Wi-Fi service available to 10 state recreational areas for Michigan residents and travelers.

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The Latest in the Wireless Marketplace

ABI Research: Machine-to-Machine Wireless Costs Drop

According to ABI Research, the costs of wireless modules and sensor-driven solutions in distributed sensor networks are now falling to a point at which many more organizations can justify them for monitoring and control of assets or people. The payoff, says analyst Erik Michielsen, is in an immediate ROI from real-time information across enterprises. These machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions span several technologies, each of which is optimized for particular types of use:

In the latest phase of M2M's development, large companies such as IBM, Siemens, Microsoft, and Oracle are investing heavily (or considering investment) in this market, and are teaming with third-party application developers and integrators to continue this process of distributing them around the network.

Yankee Group: Coordinated Wireless Services Are Years Away

According to the Yankee Group, it will take many years and a lot of coordinated effort among carriers and vendors before seamless continuity of service is realized across multiple personal communications appliances — including fixed phones, cell phones, laptops, and PDAs — and from cellular to personal area networks (such as Bluetooth) to wireless LANs to wired networks.

Meanwhile, substitution is rapidly preempting the awaited converged solutions. Distinctly unconverged platforms such as cell phones, SMS, BlackBerries, and Qualcomm Brew clients provide the anywhere, anytime connectivity people want right now.

North American wireless annual revenue is approximately $100 billion and will likely surpass wireline revenue by the end of the decade through communications market expansion and cannibalization of wireline, Yankee predicts. Companies are achieving much of this growth by substantially stealing U.S. consumer long-distance minutes. U.S. mobile users spend more time on their cell phones than their home phones and 4% of them no longer have a landline. Wireless is also chiseling away at the business voice market, particularly in small and medium businesses.

Similarly, when available nationally in the next year or two, multimegabit CDMA2000 1XEVDO and HSDPA data services will substitute for wireless LAN hot-spot use. This technology will then displace home DSL or cable modem access for people who insist on wide-area mobility but want to minimize costs.

Fixed-mobile network convergence is a demanding objective. Here are some of the requirements for ubiquity in convergence:

1. Stand-alone service integrity: Would-be convergent services must first work adequately on an intranetwork basis and then be extended to multiple networks and devices. For example, one technology vendor's measurements show that more than 15% of all MMS messages composed don't even leave the handset because of incorrect device configuration and the absence of any automatic or easy means of fixing it. Voice telephony and e-mail services span fixed and mobile networks, but devices tend to be network specific. Notebook computers are the best example of convergence — they access multiple networks, but the onus is on the user to adjust to and put up with the idiosyncrasies of each. Many PC applications will work over cellular, but many do not work well or at all.

2. Standards alignment: Each network has its own history and standards,but conformity across networks and carriers is needed for service delivery as well as in transport. Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) compliance lets email messages be sent and received over various networks. However, content-based charging is almost impossible to implement except on an intranetwork basis. Monetization of content is most readily achieved with SMS, MMS, and Brew, but these standards are almost exclusively in the mobile domain. Presence and location are key enablers for next-generation mobile services, so they must also be integral to convergent services. IP transport, soft switching and open architectures, such as the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), hold the key to creating a converged transport and service delivery system. Broad-based standardization initiatives, such as Intel's MCP/ATCA modularity initiatives, will provide the common denominator for unified hardware platforms in convergent network and device architectures.

3. Organizational unity: Carriers are still divided, with wireline, unlicensed wireless, and cellular under separate ownership or management. High-level service continuity will only be possible when a single CTO organization conceives and deploys converged network architectures. This does not require all carriers to be facilities based. The mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) principle may be pursued for wireline, wireless or both networks. (An MVNO essentially rents bandwidth from a carrier and resells it under its own name, as Virgin Mobile does.) However, carriers must have unity of purpose and action to ensure coherence.

The convergence point for multiple networks and devices will continue to be largely human. The notebook computer is an example of modest network convergence achieved through the terminal device. Access to multiple networks is facilitated through modularity in hardware and software, but the experience is far from seamless. For enterprises and consumers who don't have all the devices and don't want to pay for them, substitution will continue to be an attractive way stay in touch. Enterprises and consumers must make trade offs between coverage, speed, cost, and convenience.

It makes sense to start by offering services on a limited, but most reliable basis. Once a provider achieves service success on one device or network, it can extend those capabilities incrementally to other devices and networks with increased confidence that it's worthwhile, while managing the increased complexities.

Research Tidbits

Consumer packaged goods manufacturers, which will spend an average of $6.9 million each this year on radiofrequency identification (RFID) efforts, according to the Yankee Group. "RFID deployed within a company's internal supply-chain operations provides a wealth of information about inventory dwell time and movement. Enterprises need to identify what they can improve and how RFID can help them streamline processes and improve material flow within and between their facilities," says Michael Dominy, Yankee Group's director of enterprise services. "Most companies focus only on the cost to incorporate RFID technology into their supply chains. It takes much more effort to identify how RFID can drive business benefits. Supply-chain professionals must be creative and do the hard work required to understand how to drive inventories down further and streamline processes and inventory flow using RFID within their internal and extended supply chains." The Yankee Group recommends those enterprises still debating the merits of the technology start using it, but do so with a manageable project limited in scope and complexity, not the company's biggest or most difficult supply-chain problem. The initial project should represent a supply-chain issue within the enterprise's internal operations that can be solved without substantial systems integration.

An Evans Data report notes that 40% of developers already use mobile Java while another 24% are considering it, Overall, the report charts a 33% increase in mobile Java development over the last six months.

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