Mobile/Wireless highlights from around the Web

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Maybe they'll call it Sky High WiFi. A group of scientists in the U.K. is planning to test tethered airships sometime in the next year or so to see if they can be used to bring broadband wireless connectivity to rural areas.The platforms would hover as much as 12 miles above the ground, according to this story in the Guardian Unlimited. The Brits aren't alone. Apparently, the U.S. and Japan are experimenting with similar high-flying WiFi solutions.

Tune in, turn on, unplug

With 2004 now upon us, WiFi fans are no doubt wondering which direction wireless technology is headed. Although no one can say for sure, the Christian Science Monitor has a well-rounded look at just how quickly people are beginning to unplug. Take a look at Gregory M. Lamb's story and decide for yourself.

Interplanetary WiFi?

Talk about an out-of-this-world access point! Tropos Networks notes that NASA has been testing its Tropos 5110 WiFi cells at Meteor Crater in Arizona to see how wireless LANs might be used on other planets. According to Tropos: "The purpose was to simulate the area of an interplanetary exploration mission ... and test communications between a base camp server and a mobile test computer running an 802.11b client." The company said NASA was able to connect at reliable speeds "of 1 Mbps at a range of 1.3 miles from the base camp using a simple laptop inside a moving vehicle with no external antenna."

One doubletall shot of wireless to go

With hotspots springing up in all sorts of places now, what can you do to set yours apart from the WiFi crowd? If you're Starbucks, you can start offering your wireless customers free streaming audio and othere wireless tidbits. The move, reported yesterday in The New York Times, is apparently an effort to entice those latte drinkers to fire up their laptops and check out the wireless world while they're sipping coffee.

Portsmouth WiFi

Looking for another of those free hotspot areas? Try Portsmouth, N.H., where has set up a couple of free locations in downtown, and lists other for-fee WiFi areas online. The effort began in June, and according to the backers of the project: "We thought it would be a nice way to contribute to the community while promoting the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the eCoast."

Bridging the digital divide with WiFi

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan thinks wireless networks could help bridge the digital divide in developing nations. With WiFi, countries lacking modern infrastructure could speed their adoption of technology, he said in this BBC story. An Intel official also said his company is indeed seeing a lot of interest in wireless networks by poorer nations.

Server to go

Looking to set up a wireless network in a hurry? Far, far away from a network? That's not a problem, apparently, if you have Micro-Solutions Inc.'s Wireless Workgroup Server, a wireless server especially designed for those hard-to-network places. According to this piece in the L.A. Times, the device can act as a full-fledged portable corporate network server, a secure wireless access point for sharing Internet connections, and it can link together as many as 253 computers.

WiFI Windy City?

Maybe they should call it the "WiFi Windy City. " Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports will be getting beefed up wireless service next year if the city has its way. The Chicago Sun-Times has the story, which explains that the city is seeking proposals through the end of the month for installation of the expanded WiFi service. If all goes as planned, it'll be up and running by late 2004. (Limited service is already available at the airports.)

What makes Sept. 25 so special?

It looks like Thursday is the day to grab your wireless-ready laptop or PDA and plan on a little WiFi surfing for free. In case you missed it, Sept. 25 has been designated "One Unwired Day" by Intel and a host of other companies pushing WiFi access. Their goal: Show people how easy it is to surf wirelessly at thousands of hotspots across the U.S. Interested in finding out more? Check out the details online.

Cometa likes Seattle

If you like surfing wirelessly, you might want to pack your bags for Seattle. According to Gary Weis, the CEO of Cometa Networks, that's where the company expects to target its resources first. In an interview at Wi-Fi Networking news, Weis said Cometa plans to have 100 hot spots in Seattle by the end of the month, and 250 of the wireless public access points in place there by the end of the year. Cometa announced its plans in a statement yesterday.

Easy does it

Faster isn't necessarily better? That's the idea behind an Associated Press story this week that takes a look at whether WiFi bandwidth always needs to be lightening quick. The story, Slow and Stupid Networks Often Win Race, points out that low-power , low-speed networks could be ideal for some uses.


Forget the alphabet soup, now we have the 802.xx soup. Take a look at Vicki Lipset's Insights piece over at for a nice overview of the various wireless standards being brewed up by the IEEE. Okay, so you already know about 802.11a, b and c. But do you know what 802.16e and 802.20 have in store? You'll have to read the column to find out more.

Take the 802.11b train?

This is starting to look like something from that movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Before long you'll be able to surf along wirelessly at modest speeds on some CALTRANS train routes in California, while sitting in a limousine or flying on Scandanavian Airlines. Our own Bob Brewin spells it out in case you missed the story.

How fast is fast?

Remember the big speed increase promised wireless for networks using the new 802.11g standard? Well, it seems that a lot of that speed is illusory, especially for those in a mixed 802.11g/802.11b environment. Matthew Gast over at the O'Reilly Wireless Devcenter takes a look at the speeds offered by various versions of 802.11 in his article When Is 54 Not Equal to 54? A Look at 802.11a, b, and g Throughput. It's worth a look for anyone trying to decide whether to upgrade an existing 802.11b network to the newer standard. Hint: The newer one is faster, but not as fast as you might think.

Study: Hotpots aren't so hot

A new study from Parks Associates on the financial viability of public access WiFi is raising questions about how quickly the technology will spread. Ed Sutherland over at WiFi Planet takes a look the study's findings in his story, Hotspot myths revealed. The upshot is that road warriors, as you might expect, have been early adopters of wireless technology. But more mainstream users seem unlikely to follow anytime soon. Maybe they should call them lukewarmspots.

An executive guide to wireless

If you're looking for better ways to deploy wireless LANs in the workplace, or want to know more about how other companies are doing it, you'll want to check out the Executive's Guide to the Wireless Workforce, by Russ Lambert. The 224-page book offers case studies, step-by-step guidelines for wireless deployment and techniques for measuring ROI on wireless projects. Lambert has been one of Computerworld's Premier 100 honorees in 2002, by the way, and the book was edited by our own Julia King.

Using WiFi against wildfires

You may remember the High-Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN) as the group that late last year set up a 72-mile-long wireless operation in California. (see story). What you may not know is that two weeks ago, after lightning touched off what was dubbed the Coyote fire in northeastern San Diego County, the group swung into action to help firefighters snuff the blaze.

According to a statement from the National Science Foundation, HPWREN was instrumental in setting up a wireless network in the remote location to provide firefighters with weather and other data in real time -- and to allow them to submit incident reports to the state's emergency response agencies. The network also included cameras that could be used to transmit high-resolution photos of the area. Aided by HPWREN, the 19,000-acre fire was finally brought under control on Sunday.

Wal-Mart balks on RFID tags

Wal-Mart announced it is dropping a plan to try out Radio Frequency Identification tags on products consumers can buy and then take out of the store, according to this report in the Washington Times. There has been a lot of protest since Wal-Mart announced the pilot program, which was supposed to start in a Massachusetts store this summer. Privacy advocates were upset because the RFID tags would allow the goods, and therefore the consumers, to be tracked after they left the store.

According to the story, a Wal-Mart spokesman said the public pressure had nothing to do with the giant retailer's decision and that Wal-Mart still intends to use RFIDs to track inventory in its warehouses. Personally, I don't care what reason they give for not using the tags, as long as they are not using them.

Privacy loses in Mexico

Out of fear of theft, fraud and kidnapping, planting ID chips under the skin has become popular in Mexico, according to this Associated Press story in the Las Vegas Sun. The chips, about the size of a grain of rice, have been used by pet owners in the U.S. to identify dogs and cats that run away and are later picked up by animal control officers.

In Mexico, however, hospitals are getting the special readers to help identify people who are brought in for treatment. The idea has privacy experts in the U.S. upset, but people in Mexico are reportedly warming to the idea.

Which brings us back to the ongoing question: Will our own fear become the weapon that kills our privacy? As always, jump into our forums and voice your opinion.

Bad news in the wireless IC market

Evidently the wireless integrated circuit market isn't what it used to be. At least that is the impression I got after reading this story on InternetNews. Chipmaker Intersil gave notice this week that it is getting out of the business. Integrate chipmaker GlobespanVirata is reportedly buying Intersil's business.

Wireless MANs

I heard a lot about Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks (WMANs) in May at Computerworld's Mobile & Wireless World Conference (shameless plug) in Palm Desert, Calif.. Basically, the idea is to create the equivalent of a giant hotspot to provide access for an entire geographic area. Among the reasons to do this is it might be the only economical way to bring high-speed Internet access to a rural area.

AllNetDevices has a short story on the subject.


I am off next week 7/21 – 7/25 so there won't be a blog entry, unless I send one in from the road. But I will be back the following week recharged and ready to go. See you then.

July 10, 2003

Pervasive computing

Wireless News Factor has a story about tests being done with wireless smart sensors and the potential these devices have for making pervasive computing a reality.

The idea behind the sensors is that they will change the way we interact with the world and give all of us greater reach than we currently have. But, in reading between the lines, you get the idea that when you walk down a quiet street you won't be alone and you won't be anonymous either.

Linux powered WLAN

My colleagues always get to add Linux stories to their blogs and get a corresponding jump in traffic when they do. So, when I come across a Linux story like this one on the Wireless News Factor, I am not going to pass up the chance to blog it.

But I also put it in because I thought it was an interesting discussion of one group's attempts to get a Linux server running to power their WLAN.

Tracking trucking

Wireless Developer Network has an interesting story on some how to's of tracking truck fleets. The article has a decidedly European focus and is written by a vendor of the technology, but I think there is enough in it that many of you will find useful.

802.11g gets Wi-Fi Alliance certification

As expected, the Wi-Fi Alliance gave 802.11g products official certification. The details of the move are here in an Internet News story. 802.11g is compatible with 802.11b but not 802.11a. You can also get more from Computerworld's story .

A call a day…

Keeps pests away! I couldn't resist adding this little item to the blog. SK Telecom Co. of South Korea is offering subscribers a downloadable sound wave to their cell phones that keeps mosquitoes away. For about $2.50, subscribers can download the sound wave, which is inaudible to humans but will keep the biting pests away. I can't wait for Catherine Zeta- Jones to start hawking the service over here in the U.S.

July 3, 2003

Nextel gets WorldCom's spectrum

According to this story in RCR Wireless News, Nextel Communications Inc. has scooped up WorldCom Inc.'s "wireless assets" for $144 million. RCR Wireless said it found the details of the transaction in documents WorldCom filed with the bankruptcy court.

More on RFID

RFID tags are coming and while I am leaning more and more toward the belief that I wish they wouldn't come, I am not sure my lone voice will drown out all of its proponents. At any rate, it is an important technology and here is a good piece by Wireless News Factor that gives an overview of how they work, as well as some of the privacy drawbacks connected with them.

June 24, 2003

A quick roundup of billing software

Here is a quick roundup RCR News wrote up of billing software that was showcased at Billing World 2003 in Miami.

Convergys, Amdocs, and Intec Telecom Systems are among the companies covered in the piece.

Bankruptcy court allows NextWave partnership plan

RCR Wireless News reports on the latest chapter in NextWave's battle for survival.

802.11 Planet

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