PCTEL + Birdstep

PCTEL and Birdstep Technology today announced that they will integrate Birdstep’s Intelligent Mobile IP Client software with PCTEL’s Segue Roaming Client.

Commercially available in Q4, the combined product offers a complete roaming solution for service providers, PC OEMs, device manufacturers and resellers.

“By combining our technology strengths and expertise, this relationship will create the classic win-win situation, especially for our customers,” said Marty Singer, PCTEL chairman and chief executive officer.

PCTEL’s Segue Roaming Client, which works with Windows Mobile 2003, gives mobile users secure, seamless access and roaming capabilities for Wi-Fi networks and Cellular Data Networks in public areas, at the office, and in the home. It features:

  • Consistent look and feel
  • Automatic presentation of user credentials dependent on the network being accessed
  • User prioritization between multiple WLANs and Cellular Networks
  • Network specific profiles for automatically launching VPN clients, or other applications
  • Easy location of WLAN networks utilizing an integrated database

Birdstep’s Intelligent Mobile IP Client (FAQ) enables secure and continuous connectivity of mobile devices through any network — including LAN, WLAN, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular. Birdstep’s Mobile IP client also offers a unique VPN on/off feature that automatically leverages a company’s existing VPN when accessing external, unsecured networks, such as public hot spots or cellular connections.

“Our Mobile IP technology will add flexibility and convenience to PCTEL’s Segue Roaming Client,” said Hans-Arne L’orange, chief executive officer for Birdstep.

Birdstep uses Funk Software’s Steel-Belted Radius for end-to-end security and authentication in their wireless solutions. Their IP Zone software provides enterprises, WISPs and operators the opportunity to offer local infrastructure services like Internet access, printing services, digital maps and other information services to nomadic professionals in public spaces.

These service can be free, or billable through the Birdstep Billing Gateway.

Nextel Scores MMDS

Nextel has agreed to acquire the high-speed Internet wireless assets of bankrupt WorldCom for $144 million in cash, besting a bid by BellSouth, according to a court filing made on Monday.

WorldCom, once the No. 2 U.S. long-distance telephone carrier, paid about $1 billion for the wireless assets at the height of the Internet boom in 1999, through the acquisition of other companies.

BellSouth, a partner in Cingular Wireless with SBC Communications, had offered $65 million but the deal was subject to better offers at an auction held last week. The BellSouth transaction included acquiring WorldCom’s wireless licenses, network equipment and leases, as well as the assumption of contracts and site and tower leases.

One source familiar with the situation said the bidding last week for the airwaves lasted 24 straight hours before Nextel prevailed.

WorldCom acquired MMDS licenses at 2.5 GHz, for deploying high-speed wireless Internet access service in 13 markets, including Minneapolis, Kansas City, Missouri, and other markets in the southeastern United States.

WorldCom filed for bankruptcy in July 2002 after an $11 billion accounting scandal. They hope to emerge from bankruptcy later this year after shedding most of its $41 billion in debt.

In addition to approval from the bankruptcy court, the Federal Communications Commission would have to sign off on the transfer of the licenses to Nextel.

Spint and Worldcom owned about two thirds of the MMDS licenses in the United States, each owning about one third of the total. That leaves the other shoe – Sprint. Sprint, which has money problems of its own, has been keeping its MMDS plans close to its vest.

A 2.5 GHz, MMDS band standard (like 802.16a/e or 802.20) may have several advantages for delivering “wireless DSL”. They include lower equipment cost with “commodity” gear, protected licensed frequencies, higher power, non line of sight without a truck roll, cellular-like range, 1 Mbps speeds and (with 802.16e), mobility with voice and data handoff. The downside of 802.16a is that there are so many flavors to choose from. The market could take a while to gravitate around a few interoperable implementations.

Nextel has trialed Flarion gear. Now, with MMDS licenses in their pocket, and a 802.20 mobile high-speed data standard boring down like a freight train, Nextel COULD get on-board “4G” big time.

Cellular operators (and wire-line carriers) may have missed it “by that much”.

The train just left the station.

Cingular Gets the EDGE

Unstrung reports that Cingular Wireless has today become the first carrier in the U.S. to launch services using enhanced data for GSM environments (EDGE). Previously, it was speculated that rivals AT&T Wireless Services or T-Mobile USA would be first with the high speed (2.5 G) service.

EDGE is the next stepping stone on the path to third-generation cellular services, offering data transfer speeds of 80kbps – 120kbps. Cingular has so far only switched on the service in Indianapolis. But Unstrung reports, Tony Carter, Cingular’s senior PR manager, says the carrier will offer EDGE in a “handful” of markets by the end of this year.

EDGE is an enhancement to Cingular’s GSM networks that increases data transfer rates to a theoretical 384 kbit/s. Cingular is promising its customers initial data transfer rates of 75 kbit/s to 135 kbit/s. “This will be optimized as we get to

Nokia’s 6200 EDGE handset, is used in Cingular’s Indianapolis market. It can download content, applications and browse the Internet at data rates approximately two times that of conventional dial up. The Nokia 6200 supports Java for downloading personalized content and applications such as stock tracking programs and city guides. An optional Nokia Camera lets users capture and share images.

The Nokia 6200 phone is backwards compatible with GPRS and programmed to stay “on network.” If a customer travels from a Cingular EDGE coverage area to a Cingular area that has GPRS, the device will fall back to Cingular’s GPRS coverage, even while in a data session. Roaming fees are also the same for GPRS and EDGE.

Cingular is spending $1.3 billion this year on continuing GSM upgrades with a new GSM overlay with about 10 percent of that capital going towards EDGE updates. Moving to EDGE only requires a software upgrade so it’s relatively quick and cheap compared with a wholesale upgrade to full-blown 3G UMTS.

Ericsson is supplying the infrastructure for the Indianapolis launch. Nortel and Siemens AG also have EDGE contracts with Cingular reports Unstrung.

Cingular operates on two frequency bands in the U.S. — 850 MHz and 1900 MHz — and Indianapolis is one of the markets that straddles both bands. “We wanted somewhere that would allow us to test both,” explains Carter. GSM rival AT&T Wireless says that it does plan to have some EDGE markets up and running by the end of the year while T-Mobile has EDGE contracts but no announced plans for service launches yet.

Poem Spots

Smart Mobs highlights City Poems, a living biography of the city of Leeds in Yorkshire, England.

It comes alive as readers move through the city with their mobile phones. As they travel around Leeds readers will find themselves moving through a network of Poem Points attached to landmark sites. Poem Point sites will range from football grounds to art galleries and from parks and bars to local community centres, corner shops and busy bus stops.

Each Poem Point will have its own keyword, and by sending this keyword as a text message readers will receive a free short SMS text message poem to their mobile phone. The poem will be site specific and relevant to the nature of each Poem Point, so readers might receive a football poem near the football stadium, a nature poem in Roundhay Park or even a grief poem at the cemetery.

Why not Map Oral History? Put 999 markers all over the city, each with a number (1-999) and a phone number or url. Dial up and punch in the sign # to get a 90 second recording.

Solar-powered, tiny servers could replace historic markers because they’re cheaper. Load 256Megs of site-specific audio/visual content and manage via cellular. Dell’s Axim Pocket PC will come with WiFi (802.11g) and cellular (GSM or CDMA) built-in. It’s now possible to run Linux on the Axim.

Dailywireless Tests Vivato

Vivato Road Trip

By Sam Churchill

In its most expansive deployment to date, Vivato, “unwired” the entire downtown core of Spokane, Washington, providing free Wi-Fi for Hoopfest 2003, June 28 and 29, 2003.

Hoopfest is the largest three-on-three basketball tournament in the world. Vivato’s 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi gear provided blanket coverage for the event using their innovative, long-distance, Wi-Fi switch.

Can Vivato provide cost/effective, city-wide, broadband coverage for ordinary Wi-Fi users? I drove up to Spokane from Portland to find out. My impression: it works.

Six Vivato switches were mounted on the rooftops of the KHQ TV station tower, The Spokane Club, the Spokesman-Review newspaper building and Spokane City Hall. Backhaul was provided by 180 Networks.

Free Wi-Fi access was provided throughout the 40-block downtown area for the weekend.

Vivato uses phased array antennas to support simultaneous traffic for up to 150 Wi-Fi users. The Vivato panel connects to the backbone through an Ethernet port, which also provides power-over-Ethernet (PoE). They operate on the unlicensed 2.4 GHz and soon 5 GHz bands.

Vivato’s highly directive, narrow beams lock onto users with their PacketSteering technology, concentrating power like a movable, high-gain directional antenna. Different signals can be sent simultaneously in different directions.

On the top of Spokane’s City Hall (above), you can see the Vivato antenna. It’s angled down about 10 degrees. Vivato used six of its long-range, outdoor Wi-Fi flat panels for Hoopfest. Two were mounted on the roof of City Hall, one pointed North, one East. Five flat panels covered most of the 40 block Hoopfest activities. One Vivato repeater (a newly announced $500 product), was used for a “dead zone” behind a building. A few other “dead zones” were discovered and cellular-based GPRS radios covered them.

The antenna has 3 beams of Wi-Fi that are 7 to 9 degrees horizontal and 12 degrees vertical, which are distributed over 100 degrees of horizontal FOV. There are 128 elements in the phased array antenna. The gain is 25dBi. Input to the antenna is 2 1000BaseT and 2 10/100 BaseT ports. Range for the indoor antenna ($8,000) is 300m and the outdoor unit ($14,000) up to 4,000m. The antenna handles rogue detection and multiple VLAN security using PPTP and IPSEC security protocols.

The two-day amateur basketball event, June 28 and 29, involved nearly 7,000 individual 3-on3 basketball games and 25,000 players thoughout downtown Spokane. Over 6,200 teams played on 400 basketball courts layed out on Spokane city streets. Handheld PocketPCs supplied by Itronix used Wi-Fi supplied by Vivato to keep track of the scoring. Both Vivato and Itronix are home-based in Spokane.

My “test” gear consisted IBM X-22 Thinkpad (with built-in Wi-Fi), Netstumbler, a USB camera and an HP photo printer (I thought I might make a buck on the side).

Here’s my laptop running Net Stumbler, maybe 900 feet from the roof of City Hall (above) under the shade of some trees. I did not perform any detailed measurements or conduct disciplined, scientifically valid tests. Instead I walked around with my laptop and Netstumbler, tried surfing and email at a variety of spots around the 40-block area of downtown Spokane.

The plan was to get an impression on the effectivenes of Vivato’s technology and talk to people who were using it.

I tried a half-dozen different locations and could generally receive signals from 3-6 different channels (all using “hoopfest.org” as the essid). Signal strength was generally very good throughout the coverage area; +20db above noise and 500 Kbps throughput. Antennas seemed to cover 2000 feet or more pretty well.

The above photo was shot near the City Hall antenna facing East. It provided coverage near the clock tower (at the center of the photo). You can’t help but wonder what kind of range you might get with 802.11g or 802.11a. It would be less with 802.11g (at 2.4 GHz) but at 5.8 GHz, more (EIRP) power could theoretically be used. Vivato has said they’ll produce 5 GHz versions but no details are available yet. Vivato’s phased array antenna and switching electronics are integrated into the flat panel.

Phil Belanger, vice president of marketing at Vivato said, “ITU’s endorsement of outdoor use of the 5-GHz WLAN band, provides developing nations with “a cheap way to deliver broadband“.

Here’s some of Vivato’s crew at the tent. In the middle is Martin Gulseth, stategy and business development director for GDE Wireless, a value added reseller for Vivato in the Bay Area. He, and others, were anxious to see how the system performed in real-word tests. On the right, a Vivato engineer is working on Ekahau software which map out coverage intensity of the entire coverage area when used with a GPS receiver.

Itronix sales director, Syed Khusro (left), showed me their Wi-Fi GoBook Q-100, a PocketPC used to relay scores from 30 different locations around the city to a central, secure Web site.

The mobile score collectors used Vivato’s Wi-Fi links for most of their communications. Vivato isn’t a panacea; I was told the Wi-Fi service had problems handing off and couldn’t reach some of the remote corners of the event. For those applications GPRS data cards were substituted for the (standard) 802.11b Wi-Fi card.

Players and fans could register at www.spokanehoopfest.net to receive real-time tournament scores on their mobile phones via SMS. They were enabled by the mobile scorekeepers.

“The role of technology in producing an exciting, high-quality outdoor event the magnitude of Hoopfest is increasingly important,” said Tom Heavey, technology manager for Hoopfest. “Vivato’s Wi-Fi switches allow us to quickly deploy a wireless local area network that covers the whole of downtown Spokane.”

“The range of the Vivato Wi-Fi switch is amazing,” said Joel Hobson, technical services manager for the City of Spokane. “You can get a wireless connection virtually anywhere in downtown Spokane. The City of Spokane and its citizens have benefited greatly from partnerships with local technology firms such as Vivato and look forward to growing these relationships.”

Like 6-foot-8, 245-pound LeBron James, the first pick draft choice this year, Vivato is expected to resuscitate a moribund high-tech sector that is coming alive with wireless. They recently banked another $45 million in venture capital bringing their VC bankroll to a cool $67 million.

If Hoopfest 2003 is any indication, the future looks bright for Vivato and Spokane-native Skip Crilly, who founded Vivato.

I thought maybe I’d make a few bucks, too. I made a sign “Photomail – $2”. I went home empty-handed without so much as a single inquiry – but pumped anyway. Besides, there’s always the Seattle to Portland bike ride!

54G Bridge Roundup

Tim Higgins reports that Netgear has added the WGE101 54 Mbps Wireless Ethernet Bridge to its product line. It allows any device with an Ethernet port to wirelessly connect to an 802.11g or 11b WLAN.

It features a detachable, upgradeable antenna, browser-based administration, 64/128 bit WEP encryption, and the ability to support multiple Ethernet devices (additional switch needed). The product does not yet support Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) enhanced security. The product will be available this month at street pricing around $115.

Netgear also announced the WG311, a 802.11g Wireless PCI Adapter which supports 64 and 128-bit WEP encryption for about $75.

Other 802.11g “bridges” and repeaters include:

  • Linksys’s WET-54 : The 54 Mbps upgrade to the segment leading WET-11. It uses an Intersil Duette chip ($140).

  • Buffalo Technology’s AirStation: The 54Mbps Wireless Bridge/Base Station incorporates a 10/100M 4-port switch and the Wireless Distribution System (WDS) and a Bridge/Repeater mode for point-to-point or point-to-multi-point communication using Broadcom chips ($140).

  • TRENDware’s TEW-410APB AP/Bridge/Repeater: An AP/Bridge/Repeater based on Broadcom chips.

  • D-Link’s DWL-900AP+ is a 22 Mbps bridge/repeater and can operate as a wireless access point, point-to-point bridge with another access point, as a point-to-multi-point wireless bridge, as a wireless client or as a wireless repeater.

  • SMC’s SMC2671W Wireless Ethernet Adapter: A 2.4GHz, 11 Mbps bridge (not “G”) ($99).