Nortel Gets Wi-Fi Religion

The ability to roam around an office while continuously connected to a wireless LAN will be extended across whole buildings and campuses with a set of products Nortel Networks announced Monday.

Their network switch can handle as many as 500 secure wireless LAN connections across multiple access points. The platform will be at the heart of a broad set of wireless LAN offerings called the Nortel Networks WLAN 2200 line, designed for carrier hotspot deployments as well as enterprises.

The switch can carry 200M bps (bits per second) of encrypted traffic and can handle 500 users at a time. For more users, enterprises can set up multiple 2250 switches, and those switches can balance the load among them. It can be used with any vendor’s standard wireless LAN. It will ship June 30 with a list price between US$6,000 and $7,000.

The company’s Access Point 2220 is a dual-band device that also can be upgraded to the upcoming 802.11g standard. It can also be equipped with dual software images, one active and one for backup, so technicians don’t have to rush out to restart a failed access point. The access point will ship May 30 for a list price of $899 and a dual-band client card, that fits into a CardBus slot, will be priced at $259.

A software client, the WLAN – Mobile Voice Client i2050, can be loaded on PCs or PDAs (personal digital assistants) equipped with telephony components and make them work as IP phones. This lets enterprises give each employee a single extension that travels around the site and lets them bypass cell phone service costs. It will cost about $100.

Nortel, like virtually every other large telecommunications firm, understands the obvious; wires are dying. Desktop computers are moving to laptops and laptops will have Wi-Fi built-in. Cell phones will have PDA functionality and Wi-Fi, too.

About 19% of laptop computers sold last year came with built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, a number expected to grow to 91% by 2005, according to market-research firm International Data Corp.

Linksys + Ricochet

Linksys, a leading global manufacturer of broadband, wireless and networking hardware, has teamed with high-speed Internet service provider Ricochet Networks, to produce the Linksys Ricochet Router. The new router allows Ricochet to deliver affordable ($44.95 per month) high-speed, wire-free Internet access to network users in the home and small office.

Ricochet, which went belly up a few years ago was bought by Aerie Networks, a privately held, broadband services company based in Denver, Colorado. It uses the unlicensed 2.4 Ghz band for node to node connections and the unlicensed 900 Mhz band for end-user connections.

Users can attach an 802.11 access point, to the Linksys Ricochet Router or they can hook as many as four computers through four 10/100M bps ports in the router. The maximum speed of Ricochet is about 176 Kbps.

Ricochet’s wireless Internet service allows subscribers to surf the Web or access LAN files from anywhere in Ricochet service areas. It also serves as a high-speed alternative to dial-up connections for computer users who do not have access to cable or DSL service. The Ricochet network operates at speeds four times faster than dial-up Internet over its own proprietary Micro Cellular Data Network, which uses Virtual Private Network (VPN) capability to offer premier network security.

Ricochet is currently offering the router for $119.95 to customers in Denver and San Diego. It is sold online at or from the Ricochet retailers.

Regional Fiber Backbones

Northwest Open Access Network Oregon (NoaNet Oregon) is deploying Riverstone’s family of RS routers to bring video on demand, IP telephony and other advanced services to rural communities in Oregon.

NoaNet Oregon interconnects schools, hospitals, judicial systems, libraries and emergency services. NoaNet Oregon’s members and wholesale customers operate communication systems within their own service areas, connecting to the NoaNet Oregon backbone to provide Internet access, data services and access to the Public Switched Telephone Network.

Riverstone’s RS 8000 and 8600 routers more efficiently groom and shape traffic, guaranteeing multiple levels of service to its wholesale, utility and rural customers while Riverstone’s rate limiting technology enables NoaNet to more effectively provision bandwidth.

NoaNet Oregon is a private nonprofit cooperative affiliated with the publicly-owned NoaNet Washington. Together they operate a regional transport network of over 2,400 miles of fiber optic cable in the Pacific Northwest, leased primarily from the Bonneville Power Administration. The overall NoaNet network is being built with the future of the converging telecommunications for rural communities.

Other municipalities are developing their own networks. CommunityFiber.blogspot keeps tabs on new regional & community networks.

So far 18 Utah cities, excluding Salt Lake City, are involved in the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA), which will eventually provide $400 million worth of high-speed fiber-optic connectivity among its member cities.

Once the network is complete, the agency plans to open up the network to private companies, encouraging competition among phone, television, cable and internet providers by wholesaling access to the network. You can read more about Utopia at, The Salt Lake Tribune, or the project’s website.

Communities are using regional fiber backbones in a variety of ways:

The Benton Public Utility District (P.U.D.), based in Kennewick, Wash., is installing an outdoor fiber-to-wireless system. The Seattle PI reports, it allows users of laptops or Tablet PCs to roam securely while using fiber for the backbone. Chameleon Technology provided the wireless interface to the Bonneville fiber.

Charter Communications’ Kennewick, Wash. system illustrates the benefits of deploying GigE transport technology.

The master headend is located in Kennewick and includes two primary hubs in Yakima and Walla Walla. nCUBE and Foundry Networks equipment (right) are used in the master headend. The digital cable infrastructure includes:

  • Cable viewers use Motorola’s DCT-2000 set top box for VOD
  • An OM-1000 Modulators and RPD-2000 Return Path Demodulators are distributed at all three sites
  • A NC-1500 Network Controller is located in Kennewick
  • A DAC-6000 digital controller is located 200 miles away, in Vancouver, Wash.

TV Guide Interactive provides the program guide client, which is integrated with nCUBE’s On Demand Application (nODA) client software to support VOD on the Motorola’s DCT-2000 set top box.

The nCUBE VOD system uses standard HTTP, RTSP and XML formats and is located at a central facility at the Kennewick master headend.

Billing and provisioning is handled by a contractor. TVN, the leading provider of on-demand content, management and delivery services, provides PPV satellite delivered content like “Event TV“, a 24 hour Pay-Per-View (PPV) network with events like WWE wrestling, major boxing events from HBO PPV and Showtime Event Television. The satellite feed goes into a docking station in the Kennewick master headend. CableLabs specifications are used for transport of data.

How does it work?

  • With GigE, it is standard practice to provision 900 Mbps of MPEG-2 Transport Stream payload over a link. At a transport stream bit rate of 3.75 Mbps, 900 Mbps equates to 240 streams.
  • Up to 40 wavelengths can be multiplexed via DWDM onto a fiber, yielding a single fiber transport capacity of 80 GigE links.
  • The nCube video server interfaces via bi-directional GigE link to the DWDM interfacing gear. tAn economical 1000base-TX copper interface to connects the video server to the switch, and the switch interfaces optically to the DWDM gear.
  • The Foundry BigIron switch GigE ports feeds clusters in Kennewick, Yakima and Walla Walla.

The Grant County IPTV network (above) delivers an IPTV solution for Grant County. It uses 40, Minerva MPEG-2 IP encoders and 60 digital video broadcasting (DVB)-to-IP demultiplexers to feed the Zipp network. This equipment creates a fully redundant IP television headend for access to more than 200 channels of live television and on-demand programming.

Other equipment includes IP video servers for the delivery of VoD and pause/rewind capability, Ethernet-based set-top boxes, IP multicast-enabled network equipment, and dedicated bandwidths exceeding 5 Mbits/ sec to each home.

Grant County’s PUD is installing fiber along its existing power lines and then creating community hubs that each can service up to 280 homes or businesses. The PUD installs fiber directly to the home or business from its SONET network. The Zipp Network provides access to Internet Protocol (IP) telephone, digital video and high-speed Internet from a variety of ISPs.

“Customer premises equipment, such as fiber network termination gear and IP-based set-top boxes, were very expensive,” says Reed Majors, vice president of business development at Minerva. “Over the last 18 months, set-top-box prices have dropped dramatically and should continue to do so until they reach the $200 range. Likewise, 18 months ago, the FTTH residential gateways were priced in the $2,000-per-home range – today, they are closer to $1,500, and in another year, we should see prices in the $600 range.”

Grant County, which serves Spokane, Washington, has high tech roots. The region is home to World Wide Packets and is the birthplace of Vivato.

Cisco’s new Catalyst 6500 switches combine Power Over Ethernet with GigE connectivity. The upgrade also includes beefed up wireless capabilites to support a growing number of devices and services such as Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Network Address Translation (NAT).

That could be handy for pole-mounted Vivato outdoor Wi-Fi switches.

C/Net explains;

Switches are at the core of any digital network, from the Internet itself to an office phone system. Switches and routers work in tandem to ferry digital information from one place to the next. For instance, a phone call to an office usually first encounters a router, which attaches instructions to direct it to the right place. The switch finishes the job.

Using IP to transport everything is gaining popularity. SONET’s ring architecture is expensive, while gigabit Ethernet lacks redundancy and QOS. Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS & FAQ) uses label based switching. Routers forward packets based on the contents of a simple label, rather than by performing a complex route lookup based on destination IP address.

Resilient Packet Ring (RPR Alliance) ring technology takes it one step further by creating a redundant ring (like SONET) while keeping the simplicity of IP networks. It’s being standardized by the IEEE 802.17 working group and provides full quality-of-service functions and rapid equipment failure recovery. It may provide inexpensive, fast 100Mbps to the home with audio and video over IP. Only hubs that require a multicast service need to bother with the overhead and only a single copy of the traffic need be transported around the ring.

Riverstone’s Resilient Packet Ring Packet Ring could run rings around Portland. The Riverstone RS product family combines DOCSIS 1.1 cable modems with MPLS, packet ring, routing and legacy WAN interfaces in a single high-performance chassis. Riverstone’s Metro Routers may deliver carrier-class reliability with Resilient Packet Ring for 1/10th the cost of traditional ATM or Sonet favored by legacy carriers.

A single Internet protocol (IP) backbone can carry increasingly heavy traffic loads across cable or fiber plants. Resilient Packet Ring (RPR) may be the enabling technology.

“As far as municipal involvement in this, the genie is out of the bottle in my opinion,” says Paul Morris, UTOPIA’s executive director

Ted Turner

On March 18th, Ted Turner, the founder of Cable News Network and Turner Network Television, spoke to the New Yorker writer Ken Auletta at a forum sponsored by the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

Here’s a transcript of their conversation.

The Cable Center has historical data and interviews with pioneers like Ed Parsons.

Ed invents cable, invites neighbors over
Cable television has come a long way since Ed Parsons invented it on Thanksgiving Day, 1948. That’s when he gathered the family around a TV set in Astoria, Oregon and watched a Seattle broadcast using an antenna amplifier of his own design. It worked! Others wanted it too, so he began wiring people up and selling TV sets from his radio shop. The FCC, surprised that television could travel so far, issued a “UHF freeze” to avoid “interference” in other communities. A plaque on the Astoria Column commemorates his achievement. Parson’s wrapped up his career installing satellite terminals for the Alaska telecommunications system.

Satellite pioneer Roy Bliss may have been the original “War Flyer”:

“Billings, Montana, came on the air–one station–and Worland, the town where we were down in the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming, was about 125 airline miles from Billings, 165 miles by road. And so a friend of mine with some test equipment and a dipole antenna took off in my Cessna airplane to look for the Billings signal even though it was that far away and there were mountains in between. I had to climb up to 8,000 feet before we could even get a weak signal.

So we more or less gave it up. But he left the equipment on. They were drilling an oil well–a wildcat–west of town so I said, “Well, we’ll just go down by that oil well.” So we went down and we were buzzing along this ridge just about 25 feet off the ground and all at once he said, “I’ve got a signal.” (Laughter)

Brian Lamb explains how the satellite monopoly nearly killed cable television.

“…Tom Whitehead is almost single-handedly responsible, as an individual, for reversing the Federal Communications Commission policy that they were headed toward, of having a single entity [AT&T] control the satellite system. It became an open skies policy, and that’s why you have the flowering of all kinds of communications today…”

In 1972, Chuck Dolan and Gerry Levin of Sterling Manhattan Cable launched the nations first pay-TV-network with “The Thrilla from Manilla” on Home Box Office over two cable systems.

Bill Bresnan built a motorized camera to pan across a thermometer and other instruments for the first weather channel and trained a camera on a Teletype machine for the first all-news channel. A news junkie, Bresnan later helped Brian Lamb and Ted Turner get C-SPAN and CNN, respectively, off the ground.

Ted Turner beamed up WTCG on RCA’s Satcom F1 satellite on December, 1978. He launched Cable News Network on June 1st 1980 amid much snickering.

Collaborative Wi-Fi School

I’m researching the feasibility of “unwiring” our community center in North Portland. The wireless proposal would tie students and teachers together. The school is just 4 blocks away and the neighborhood is tightly knit and has many low income families.

In order to lower costs, I was looking at cheap Wireless Bridges for client devices and stock 200 mW, 802.11b (which also provides hand-held compatibility in the neighborhood).

Anyway, I was thinking these products might work:

  1. Two, 200 mW outdoor Engenius Access Points ($795) feeding 2, +14 dB gain antennas ($119) on the mast would cost about $2500.
  2. Fifteen students and 5 teachers or advisors get a Wireless Ethernet Bridge ($90) with a +13 dB gain antenna ($35). With 20 of these units, the total cost would be about $125/each or $2500.

Some combination of end-user device would also be provided in each of 20 homes. I’m looking at D-Link’s DVC-1000 i2eye VideoPhone ($300), a $199 Playstation or X-Box, $199 Walmart PC running Lindows OS, $299 CD/RW Lindows machine or a $299 XP computer. Lots of slower Pentiums may also be used (at little or no cost) through Free Geek.

What kind of range can we get from a Linksys-type Bridge? It depends. A 200 mW, SMC Bridge with a +13dB panel might blast through trees and bounce around corners.

A Community LAN might supply 4 watts EIRP. The mast-mounted Senao 200mW SL-2011CD (+23 dBm) has a sensitivity of (-90dBm) at 5.5 Mbps and feed two, +14dB sector antennas. One points south (towards the school) and one points north (towards the housing). That should hit the majority of our clients. At the client-side, a +13dB flat panel or +16dB panel on the window-mounted, Bridge, might do the trick. I averaged the sensitivity (-86 dB) and power (+21dB) of the two radios to streamline the calculations and took off (-1.5dB) for cable losses on both sides (-3dB). Michael Young recommends a minimum of +10 dB to +20 dB “fade margin”. So let’s run the numbers on YDI’s calculator:

  1. Range = .25 miles with +38.8 dB Fade Margin.
  2. Range = .5 miles with +32.8 dB Fade Margin.
  3. Range = 1 miles with +26.8 dB Fade Margin.
  4. Range = 2 miles with +20.8 dB Fade Margin.
  5. Range = 4 miles with +14.8 dB Fade Margin.
  6. Range = 6 miles with +11.2 dB Fade Margin.

Twenty users might share a single $100/month DSL line. That’s $5/month. The wireless CPE including a flat panel, mount, pigtails, and a Linksys Bridge totals $200. Then add $300 for the computer or video game console. How long until a wireless PocketPC costs $150? About a year, I figure. So kids will have them. That’s why stock 802.11b for the “first mile” might be more useful than gear like Tsunami’s MP-11. With stock 802.11b, you can also flood the school yard and provide education-specific content. It’s cheaper, too.

Any high-school student can tell you; Wi-Fi is chump-change, cost/effective and cool. It could easily scale to 500 or more students. Add three, Vivato outdoor antennas and pull in those brain-dead home schoolers.

But what about software?

I’ve been reading about Microsoft’s new Office 2003 which has collaborative powers. An administrator can create a password-protected site that allows for file sharing and discussions and is navigable through any browser. Users can save to a SharePoint site directly from their Office XP applications. Here’s how to use SharePoint, a set of Web extensions that build the Office 2000 Server Extensions. But it’s way too expensive and far more complex than what we need.

So I looked though Open Source groupware for alternatives. They could include:

  • Open Office, the Microsoft Office “clone” is free (or nearly so). OpenOffice 1.1 beta features new import/export formats such as PDF, Macromedia Flash, DocBook, several PDA Office file formats, flat XML and XHTML, Support for Complex Text Layout (CTL) and languages such as Thai, Hindi, Arabic, Hebrew.
  • phpGroupWare is a multi-user groupware suite written in PHP. Its provides a Web-based calendar, todo-list, addressbook, email, news headlines, and a file manager.
  • OpenWiki is a web based application offering a quick and easy way to post your thoughts to the web from anywhere and retrievable from anywhere. It can be collaboratively edited, by anyone or a selected few, using a web browser.
  • Wikipedia is a multilingual project to create a complete and accurate open content encyclopedia. Started on January 15, 2001 they are already working on 112176 articles in the English version.
  • The Collaborative Virtual Workspace is a software environment that provides a “virtual building” where teams can communicate, collaborate, and share information, regardless of their geographic location. For documentation, see the “Home Page” link above.
  • Electronic Laboratory Notebook – (ELN) – a collaborative, web-based analog of the paper notebook. The ELN can be used to share and record text, images, 3-D molecular structures, live graphs, etc. and can be extended to support additional data types.
  • Virtual Access Foundation VA is a well-established win32 mail news and collaborative conferencing tool, currently being converted to Open Source.
  • LearnLoop is a web based GroupWare for collaborative learning with Forums, calendars, webmail, quiz, peer-review, etc.
  • The Collaborative School Community Project is a system for collaboration and communication between the faculty and student body at K-12 school. Project elements include a homework submission and lookup database, class scheduler, and a web-based management interface.

Collaborative groupware and wireless are made for each other. Schools and students might be at the vanguard. Open source software could make it happen.

The Economist explains the latest in anti-plagerism software:

With a few clicks of a mouse, a student can outsource any academic chore to “research” sites such as or the Evil House of Cheat.

One market opportunity, however, frequently creates another. …The subscriber base of Turnitin, a leading anti-plagiarism software house based in Oakland, California, has risen by 25% since the beginning of the year. Around 150,000 students in America alone are under its beady electronic eye.

Turnitin’s software chops each paper submitted for scrutiny into small pieces of text. The resulting “digital fingerprint” is compared, using statistical techniques originally designed to analyse brain waves (John Barrie, the firm’s founder, was previously a biophysicist), to more than a billion documents that have been fingerprinted in a similar fashion. These include the contents of online paper mills, the classics of literature and the firm’s own archive of all submitted term papers, as well as a snapshot of the current contents of the World Wide Web.

According the Economist story, “…good universities, such as Duke, Rutgers and Cornell, employ it. Those that like to think of themselves as top-notch, such as Princeton, Yale and Stanford, do not. According to Dr Barrie, ‘You apply our technology at Harvard and it would be like a nuclear bomb going off.'”

Pocket Flash 6

Macromedia Flash Player 6 is now available for Pocket PC 2002 (downloads & FAQ). It enables developers to incorporate video and other content using Macromedia Flash MX.

The Flash 6 player allows richer Internet applications than were possible with previous versions. The Flash Communications Server can seamlessly integrate audio and video applications directly into your web site with instant-on availability, (showcase and demo).

Macromedia Flash content and applications can play – full-screen – outside of the usual Pocket Internet Explorer browser. Developers can also license a standalone Flash Player 6 for the Pocket PC 2002 ($499), for creating projectors. Handy for “hot spot” or Kiosk distribution, for example.

PocketPC is the Macromedia Flash development resource for the PocketPC platform. Flash Enabled Mobile Apps are going to be tough competition to cellular-supplied Hello Kitty eye candy.