Netgear + Linksys USB-2 “G” Clients

Netgearā€™s 54 Mbps Wireless USB 2.0 Adapter ($79 retail, $61 street), features a USB 2.0 interface that is up to 40 times faster than USB 1.1 allowing you to realize full 54 Mbps speed. A 5-ft USB cable lets you locate the adapter where signals are strongest.

The WG121 works with desktop or notebook PCs and uses a new antenna technology to deliver greater range although external antennas cannot be added. Setup is now made quick and easy with a new Smart Wizard install assistant. It includes WEP encryption although other details were not immediately apparent.

Netgear’s WGT624 ($120) is an Atheros-based wireless router with 4 10/100 Ethernet ports. Netgear’s FWG114P ProSafe 802.11g Wireless Firewall, by contrast, is an Intersil-based 802.11g router. It includes both a USB Print Server and serial port for dialup or ISDN-based Internet access.

The Linksys 54 Mbps Wireless USB 2.0 Adapter incorporates USB 2.0 and Wireless-G — the Adapter delivers data rates up to 54Mbps. Price is estimated about $64 by Pricegrabber, but no availability yet.

Buffalo Tech’s WLI-USB-G54 based on Broadcom’s AirForce 54g chipset and NET2280 – USB 2.0 technology by NetChip. It allows external antennas to be plugged in for an estimated street pricing around $99.

Wi-Lan Gets FCC Approval

Iconoclastic “last mile” pioneer Wi-Lan today announced its LIBRA 5800 product series has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission for use in the 5.8 GHz frequency band in the United States.

The LIBRA 5800 uses Wi-LAN’s patented W-OFDM (Wide-Band Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) technology to achieve high-capacity NLOS (non-line-of-sight) network performance.

“This is our first commercial W-OFDM product available for sale in the United States,” said Dr. Sayed-Amr El-Hamamsy, president and chief operating officer, Wi-LAN Inc. “The US is our largest product market and the 5.8 GHz frequency has proven to be very popular there. We expect the high-speed capacity, enhanced features, and non-line-of sight capabilities of the LIBRA 5800 series will significantly grow our sales in the US.”

“LIBRA 5800’s use of W-OFDM technology makes it well suited to dense urban environments, where its high capacity and robust non-line-of-sight capabilities enable much better subscriber coverage than spread-spectrum systems or conventional single-carrier systems. This significantly improves the business model of urban broadband wireless service providers.”

LIBRA 5800 uses similar 256 carrier OFDM technology that has been approved as the mainstream physical layer in the IEEE 802.16a (WiMax).

Just how Wi-Lan differs from the 802.16a standard is a little unclear.

Channel spacing appears to be different. Wi-Lan uses a 10 Mhz channel on the LIBRA 5800 instead of a typical 5-6 Mhz for 802.16a at MMDS frequencies. The common Wi-Fi standard, IEEE 802.11g/a uses 20 Mhz-wide channels (for 54 Mbps). Three air-interfaces are defined in the 802.16a spec; (1) SC2: single carrier modulation, (2) OFDM with Time Division Multiple Access and (3) OFDM with OFDMA (Multiple Access). In the unlicensed 5.8 GHz band, 4 watts EIRP is allowed in a point to multi-point network but clients (point-to-point) can (with a big enough antenna) push a 1 watt radio to 200 watts EIRP.

Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing

IEEE Standard Frequency (GHz) Speed (MB/s) Distance Network Type
802.15.3a (MultibandOFDM) 2.4 480 mbps 30 feet Personal Area Network (PAN)
802.11a (OFDM) 5.15-5.85 54 mbps 150 feet Local Area Network (LAN)
802.11b (CCK) 2.4 11 mbps 300 feet Local Area Network (LAN)
802.11g (OFDM, CCK, PBCC) 2.4 54 mbps 150 feet Local Area Network (LAN)
802.16a (WidebandOFDM) 2.0 to 11.0 70 mbps 31 miles Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
802.20 (FlashOFDM) 1 mbps 9 miles Wide Area Network (WAN)

Wi-Max (802.16a) gets its range by using more carriers (256) for more immunity to interference, uses narrower channels (typically 6Mhz) and provides Quality of Service allowing each station to have pre-determined data rates. Wi-Fi, by contrast uses simpler architecture and is optimized for close range (100-1000 feet).

LIBRA 5800 delivers up to 32 megabits per second (Mbps) data rate in 10 MHz channels with a range up to 66 kilometres (41 miles) in a point-to-point line-of-sight, or a radius of up to 35 kilometres (22 miles) in a point-to-multipoint line-of-sight configuration.

Wi-Lan provides the wireless backbone for Wireless Calgary and has been working with Fujitsu on a 802.16a chip for more than a year.

Wi-Fi Media Gateways

SMC Networks began shipping its EZ-Stream wireless home entertainment device this week. The $249.99 EZ-Stream Wireless Multimedia Receiver (SMCWMR-AG), distributes multi-media entertainment throughout the home via WiFi.

The networked entertainment receiver streams, plays and shares audio (including MP3 and Internet radio), pictures and video from the networked PC to the Home Entertainment Center. Music, photos and videos are stored on a computer’s hard drive – it links them to televisions and stereo receivers, via standard A/V connectors. It uses 802.11a/g chips from Atheros.

The EZ Installation Wizard that makes loading its software on the PC “a breeze”. Additional high-performance Universal Wireless 802.11a/g products will join the EZ-Stream Universal Wireless Multimedia Receiver over the next several weeks, to optimize connections between the server and computing, gaming or other network-capable devices.

The Linksys Wireless-B Media Adapter (WMA11B) is a similar device. The $199 Wireless-B Media Adapter sits by the television and stereo and connects to them using standard A/V or S-Video cables. Then it connects to your home network by Wireless-B (802.11b) wireless networking. It allows users to enjoy digital music and pictures stored on their PC to view and play on their TV and stereo system. A Wireless-G Media Adapter is, no doubt, on the way.

[Is it only me or does this seem like a product category only a geek could love. Set up and operation may be too complicated for the average person (me). How about a TiVo-like settop with Network Attached Storage? That would be easier to use and understand. Plug and play].

On the other hand…

CinemaNow, an IP-based video-on-demand service, supports Microsoft’s Media Center 2004. Users can browse, purchase and watch movies on-demand by using their remote control and television set or PC display. Of course it’s really meant for more advanced nations – the United States has the lowest broadband penetration of any industrialized nation and is stuck with slow-as-molasses duopoly DSL and cable service.

Media Center PCs, with built-in tv tuners, are available from Dell, H-P, Gateway and Toshiba. Toshiba’s Satellite P25 laptop comes with Media Center 2004, 1GB ram, a DVD burner, 17″ screen and NVIDIA graphics. How many karaoke plasma screens could that drive? How many archived videoconferences? Individualized instruction – for a coffee shop/computer clubhouse – is a click away. Five bucks an hour.

Access television is so twentieth century. Burn it.

Unintended applications might include NW-Radio in 31 flavors like the Boom Box Bass Station or sensor triggered video art. Imagine speech-triggered, real-time visuals – graphic synonyms, really. As you talk, the screen shows different photos or graphics related to each word you utter. Put that on a 4 Gig CF card and smoke it.

Or wait ’til 802.11n.

Cheap Hotspot Management

Nancy Gohring says Surf and Sip and Airpath Wireless have announced Wi-Fi support packages for businesses that want to set up Wi-Fi service.

Surf and Sip provides a $300, one-piece Soekris box and charges a flat $50 a month to handle ongoing network monitoring and support. Cafes can charge or provide the service free. The system blocks spam and lists the location on Surf and Sip’s Web site.

Surf and Sip’s Service Plans provide a standard fee of $5/day, $20/week and $40/month per customer. If a business charges, then Surf and Sip gets 25% of online sales plus the $50/month service charge.

Surf and Sip is targeting the service to cafes that may want to offer free Wi-Fi but don’t want to support it. To offer free access, Surf and Sip figures a cafe should generate at least $100 in new business monthly. That’s because the support fee will cost $50/month and a DSL line will cost $50/month.

Airpath Wireless (FAQ), has a similar offering that costs hot spot locations $25 a month with no setup fee. If more than 50 unique customers use the network in a month, the price goes up. Sprint’s Wi-Fi Access is supported by Airpath’s WiBOSS Hosted Public Access Management Platform. Airpath’s WiBOSS Lite, based on the carrier-class WiBOSS hosted platform, offers an organization an easy way to deploy a managed “free Wi-Fi” access location.

Airpath offers a variety of RADIUS-based public access gateways for their WiBOSS and WiBOSS Lite service. They feature configurable redirect pages to your splash page with advertising and (walled garden) locations where end-users can visit free.

Airpath’s hardware gateways include:

Airpath also supports other gateway devices. Airpath supports heavy duty hardware that provides additional security and capacity.

Small Net Builder reviewed other one-piece boxes that might be useful for small cafes including the ZyXEL Hot Spot Gateway ($649) which includes a small receipt printer. The one-piece device works with a timer. You can buy an hour, get a receipt and be on the net without hassles. It’s for basic Internet sharing.

ADC and Colubris are integrating the CN300 and CN3000 Wi-Fi gateways with a DSL modem. It draws power from the phone line which makes placement easier and cleaner. You might hide the AP behind wall-mounted art.

Another idea: buy old laptops for $100, install Linux, and integrate the flat screen into contemporary artwork. Sell it as an object d’art and charge $500. Advertising sponsored screensavers might generate $200/mo revenue ($20/page x 10 pages). Supply hot spot management free – in exchange for 5 advertising pages. Everyone wins. Old laptops are cheap.

Other turnkey systems include:

Aperto Unwires Mexico City

MVS Comunicaciones will use Aperto Networks to deliver broadband wireless access with guaranteed Quality of Service to Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey this year and will market these services to six additional cities by the end of 2004.

MVS, a leading radio/television programming and carrier services company in Mexico and Latin America, holds MMDS (2.5 – 2.686 GHz) licenses capable of addressing 95% of Mexico’s businesses. Aperto’s PacketWave will deliver business-grade high speed wireless access in the three largest urban areas of Mexico and beyond.

“Mexico City is the second-largest metro area in the world, but with 20 million inhabitants and thousands of demanding businesses in just 1,800 square kilometers and heavy vegetation throughout the urban area, it has the highest density of population and greatest environmental challenges of any wireless market in the world,” declared Ernesto Vargas, President of MVS Television.

“After rigorous tests with multiple suppliers and platforms, we selected Aperto’s powerful PacketWave systems due to their proven superiority in the areas we consider critical to our markets -guaranteed QoS for high-speed business services.

Aperto’s base stations and subscriber units enable both licensed and unlicensed frequency broadband wireless access for business-grade users. Providers use PacketWave systems to deliver wireless E1 and Fractional E1 speeds, wireless VPNs and VLANs, disaster recovery and Hot Spot backhaul, as well as VoIP and streaming media. Through 2004, MVS will deploy broadband wireless access via Aperto Networks systems to Puebla, Veracruz, Mexicali, Tijuana, Le n and Toluca, in addition to the above-mentioned cities.

Aperto Networks has been a pioneer in establishing the 802.16a standard and is committed to delivering systems for WiMAX certification.

Aperto’s Medium Access Control (MAC) is based on an advanced form of Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA). TDMA is superior to other MAC technologies such as Polling and CSMA/CA, which are used by some of the other vendors in this space. Even among TDMA technologies, there are wide variations, and one such variation called DOCSIS is widely used in the Cable Modem space. However DOCSIS is not the most appropriate protocol for Broadband Wireless Access.

Aperto’s implementation is closest to the TDMA technology that was recently ratified by the IEEE 802.16a Working Group.

College WiFi Van

Tech Dirt flags a story on a satellite-powered WiFi van.

Students at the North Carolina, Community College, routinely drove up to 100 miles round trip to get to night classes. Now the school has a van with a satellite dish and 20 Wi-Fi-enabled laptop computers to bring the Internet to students.

“We have people who would have to take a ferry from the other side of the river,” Brinn said. “Now this van goes to them.”

The white Dodge Ram parks outside a designated building — most likely a local high school or community center — and sets up a classroom there.

Chris Craddock, the technician, simply presses a button, and the dish unfurls and turns back and forth until it locks in with the correct signal. It then takes him an hour to unload the laptops and the data projector and set them up in the classroom. Using Wi-Fi, a wireless networking technology, the laptops are set up to operate over the WiFi network.

The goal was to be able to have the entire class access the Internet and computer applications in facilities that didn’t offer any online connection. To get the van up and running, the group spent a little less than two-thirds of the one-time grant. Once the grant runs out, the college will take over recurring expenses such as salaries and maintenance costs. e-NC funded the satellite van project with a $265,000 grant.

Beaufort County Community College represents four counties — Beaufort, Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington — and an estimated 69,000 residents. The area is so vast and contains so many rivers that home Internet coverage is spotty. Offering courses only through the Internet so that people could stay home for class wouldn’t work. That’s where the mobile van comes in.

There are students taking classes that would not otherwise take them if it were not for this mobile van,” said Dawn Pinkham, an instructor at the college. “The amazing thing about this van is that we can bring it to the population. We can bring it to the people.”

MotoSAT, has reduced the price on its mobile high-speed satellite system dubbed “DataStorm”, from $6,295 to $3,995. Brewster Kahle put one on his van and created a bookmobile “with 1,000,000 books inside. Putting 802.16a on Vans and Buses might also have advantages – with live teleconferencing and remote webcasts.

Don Bradner put a 2-way Datastorm on his RV and established a Datastorm Users Group. Check out Don and Joy’s Adventures.

MIT’s free online course ware is available now. Some 500 classes in 33 fields can be accessed around the globe.