Cars Talking WiMAX

Motorola has begun a proof-of-concept trial for its X24 machine-to-machine wireless module that includes mobile WiMAX connectivity. The product will be demoed this week at WiMAX World using real WiMAX infrastructure.

The 802.16e-based X24 module is designed with automotive telemetry in mind, said the company. The product allows low-cost, in-car broadband connectivity over WiMAX networks.

The Vehicle Infrastructure Integration Consortium (VII) seeks the nationwide deployment of a communications infrastructure on roadways and all production vehicles in the United States. It’s in a partnership of automotive OEMs, state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The dedicated 5.9 GHz band is now being tested in a live California toll environment using technology from MARK IV. “A federal 5.9 GHz Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) standard is the best way to achieve nationwide electronic toll collection interoperability,” stated Martin Capper, president of MARK IV IVHS. “We are well on our way to showing that 5.9 GHz DSRC can deliver the same unparalleled 99.99 percent capture rates available with MARK IV’s 915 MHz E-ZPass products.”

MARK IV IVHS supplies the majority of electronic toll collection equipment in the northeastern United States, with more than 17 millions transponders on the road and more than 3,000 lanes equipped, using variantions of their “E-ZPass” system, the largest supplier of its kind in North America.

MARK IV’s OTTO on Board (pdf) uses a digital radio technology to pass information up to 1000 meters between fixed roadside infrastructure and a small DSRC device in the vehicle. The technology builds on popular Wi-Fi standards using IEEE 802.11p, a standard named Wireless Access in a Vehicular Environment (WAVE).

The 5.9 GHz DSRC band is a new communication standard proposed by the U.S. DOT to move information between vehicles and the roadway as well as directly among moving vehicles — for the Intelligent Transportation System. It’s a dedicated wireless network for vehicles.

Potential applications of the Vehicle Infrastructure Integration Consortium include:

  • Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V). When a vehicle breaks suddenly, it can transmit a notice to vehicles behind that enable those vehicles to warn drivers to stop, or automatically apply brakes if a crash is imminent.
  • Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I). A vehicle in an accident could transmit incident data—time of incident, type of crash, severity— through a roadside infrastructure device to system operators who then broadcast regional warning and provide a broad alert to drivers to slow down. Simultaneously, incident data could be transmitted directly to emergency dispatchers for emergency response.
  • Vehicle-to-others (V2D). A car turning right may be able to send an alert to a bicyclist’s cell phone or device on the bike and avoid a potential collision.

DSRC roadside capabilities may be made operational at 150,000 to 250,000 locations throughout the U.S. in order to provide coverage sufficient to motivate motor vehicle manufacturers to produce DSRC-equipped vehicles.

To date, revenue sources have not been determined to fully offset the cost of deployment, operations and maintenance of the intended communications capabilities, or the anticipated applications.

The 15th World Congress on ITS and ITS America’s 2008 Annual Meeting is the largest event in the world for ITS leaders. It will be held in New York, November 16-20, 2008.

GSM Service Mark

The GSM Association plans to spend more than $1 billion promoting a Mobile Broadband service mark to signify that their gear is GSM compatibile, delivering “a compelling alternative to Wi-Fi.”

The GSMA said the Mobile Broadband service mark (right), incorporates HSPA (High Speed Packet Access), HSPA Evolved and LTE (Long Term Evolution). Laptops with the new mark will support speeds of at least 3.6Mbps. The technical specification states that 3.6Mbps is required, and that 7.2Mbps is recommended, but the mark will always look the same.

The branding effort, a take-off on the Wi-Fi service mark (left), is supported by GSM supporters including Microsoft, leading PC providers like ASUS, Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba and cellular companies like 3Group, Ericsson, Gemalto, Orange, Qualcomm, T-Mobile, Telecom Italia, TeliaSonera, and Vodafone.

Apple and Intel are not joining this party. Apple’s iPhone includes Wi-Fi while Intel is a leading proponent of both WiMax and Wi-Fi, often considered competitors to cellular wireless services. Also not part of the program are laptop manufactures such as HP, Apple, Sony, Panasonic, NEC, and Fujitsu.

A GSMA survey found that 88% of consumers planning to purchase notebooks indicated that want Mobile Broadband built in to their notebooks. The association added that its research shows that 57% of the demand for the wireless technologies will come from emerging Asia-Pacific countries. North America represents 15% and Western Europe 11%.

There is a lot of alphabet soup coming around the corner,” says the perfectly named GSMA project director, Ton Brand. “Whether it’s HSPA, evolved HSPA, or LTE, we wanted one single brand that would get consumers’ attention.”

Broadcom Adds Skyhook Location Services

Chipmaker Broadcom, announced today that it will add Wi-Fi positioning to its portfolio of services. Broadcom will integrate, deploy and offer the Wi-Fi Positioning System developed by Skyhook Wireless which determines position by trianglulatng nearby cell towers rather than satellite-based GPS.

Their Assisted-GPS Server tracks satellites and provides GPS position data, eliminating the time to “acquire satellites”. This speeds TTFF (time to first fix) from minutes to seconds, and enables operation in urban & indoor environments where traditional GPS fails. Broadcom says their LBS services business currently supports over 20 million active customers in over 170 countries.

Using GPS alone to determine a location works well in outdoor environments, but buildings, trees can block the signal and satellite signals generally can’t be received indoors. That’s where cell and WiFi triangulation come in.

Broadcom will supplement Assisted GPS with the cellular and WiFi triangulation of Skyhook Wireless and integrate the Skyhook solution into its chipsets and services.

The Skyhook Wireless solution produces accurate location information by detecting Wi-Fi access points and comparing them against a known database of geo-located points. By combining its popular wireless chips with Skyhook’s positioning capabilities, Broadcom says it will enable mobile device and personal navigation device (PND) manufacturers to deploy a single, integrated hybrid positioning solution that better meets the needs and expectations of end users worldwide.

“We’ve made a significant investment in positioning systems such as GPS and AGPS, and in delivering integrated end-to-end platforms that improve the overall performance and user experience on mobile devices,” said Scott Pomerantz, Vice President & General Manager of Broadcom’s GPS line of business. “By integrating Wi-Fi positioning with our GPS, Wi-Fi and integrated combo chipsets, we are able to deliver a truly unique hybrid positioning system as part of a single platform.”

Skyhook’s Wireless hybrid positioning system (XPSTM) requires no new hardware, works indoors and outdoors, provides an instant location and is more accurate than current technologies in congested downtown areas. Loki uses XPS’ Wi-Fi Positioning capabilities to pinpoint physical location for location-based Web content – such as weather, directions, nearby entertainment venues.

Broadcom’s Wi-Fi positioning services may further position the company as a supplier of hosted LBS products and end-to-end solutions.

SkyPilot: New Sounds

SkyPilot Networks, a municipal WiFi vendor, today announced the SkyConnector Mini and the The SkyConnector Pro, a new generation of customer premise equipment for the unlicensed 5 GHz band.

The SkyConnector Mini is designed to minimize per-subscriber costs, but provides features comparable to much more expensive products says the company:

  • Low Cost – a per-unit MSRP as low as US$199
  • Long Range – wireless connectivity up to 7.5 miles/12 km from the base station
  • High Capacity – up to 13 Mbps of throughput
  • Non-Line of Sight – industrial-strength OFDM for connectivity in NLOS environments
  • Synchronous QoS – deterministic latency and jitter guarantees for applications like VoIP
  • Encrypted Security – hardware-base AES encryption
  • Frequency Flexibility – software-configurable access to entire spectrum from 5.250-6.075 GHz
  • Traffic Management – Layer 2 networking with per-subscriber rate limiting and virtual LANs

The SkyConnector Mini is an outdoor CPE designed to install on a structure like a home or business to provide broadband Internet and VoIP services. It integrates a high-power radio (24 dBm) with a high-gain antenna (14 dBi) with enough frequency flexibility to cover the entire spectrum from 5.250-6.075 GHz. Power and local Ethernet connectivity comes from a Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) injector and several mounting options are available to provide flexible deployment options.

The SkyConnector Mini is available from SkyPilot’s community of distributors and resellers. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is US$299 per unit for individual units, US$249 per unit when purchased in a bundle of 20 units, and US$199 per unit when purchased in a bundle of 100 units.

The SkyConnector Pro is designed for business subscribers with increased gain for more reliability. It features:

  • Robust Connectivity – substantial link budget with 26 dBm radio and 22 dBi antenna
  • Low Cost – a per-unit MSRP as low as US$399
  • Long Range – wireless connectivity up to 7.5 miles/12 km from the base station
  • High Capacity – up to 13 Mbps of throughput
  • Non-Line of Sight – industrial-strength OFDM for connectivity in NLOS environments
  • Synchronous QoS – deterministic latency and jitter guarantees for applications like VoIP
  • Encrypted Security – hardware-base AES encryption
  • Frequency Flexibility – software-configurable access to entire spectrum from 5.250-6.075 GHz
  • “Zero-Touch” Configuration – auto-discovery and auto-provisioning for easy deployment
  • Traffic Management – Layer 2 networking with per-subscriber rate limiting and virtual LANs

The SkyConnector Pro complements our announcement of the SkyConnector Mini,” said Brian Jenkins, vice president of marketing at SkyPilot. “While the SkyConnector Mini is designed to drastically lower the cost of residential broadband wireless, the SkyConnector Pro provides a high-end CPE to meet the robustness demands of business subscribers.”

The SkyConnector Pro is an outdoor CPE that integrates a high-power radio (26 dBm) with a high-gain antenna (22 dBi) with enough flexibility to cover the entire frequency range from 5.250-6.075 GHz through software configuration. Power comes through a Power-over-Ethernet connection and several mounting options are available.

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the SkyConnector Pro is US$599 per unit for individual units, US$499 per unit when purchased in a bundle of 5 units, and US$399 per unit when purchased in a bundle of 50 units. It’s available through their resellers.

Both the Mini and Pro work with all other SkyPilot equipment, so there is no hardware changes required to current deployments. The Skypilot Blog explains the company’s synchronous protocol, among other things.

The new products appear to be based on Ubiquiti Networks CPE, the NanoStation5 and PowerStation5. Ubiquiti has a good reputation among WISPs and their radios were used in the original SkyPilot municipal wireless gear.

I asked Randy Frei, CTO of SkyPilot how their Mini and Pro differ from Ubiquiti’s NS5 or PS5. “The Mini and Pro run the SkyPilot protocol”, he said, with features such as:

  • fully synchronous protocol
  • scheduling of all transmissions and receptions (all transmissions are
  • concatenation and fragmentation
  • ranging in order to advance the clocks to compensate for the speed of
    light propagation
  • Qos, traffic shaping, flow control, prioritization, …
  • and of course acting as mesh end-points

“I sometimes think of our system as WiMAX over 802.11 PHY (with meshing). So, basically these are not WiFi products, and the only similarities with WiFi are the PHY layer modulation technique and low-level framing. They only work with the SkyPilot’s infrastructure, such as SkyExtenders and SkyGateways“.

“For instance, from your office you could point a Mini or Pro at the nearest SkyExtender and connect, not to the 2.4 Ghz WiFi interface that you formerly used, but via our 4.9-6.07 GHz synchronous protocol,” explained Frei. “If it’s not currently possible to cover an entire city, including inside homes, using just WiFi – then using a synchronous directional scheduled meshing protocol, built on top of WiFi chips, is the next best thing.”

WiMAX World 2008: Taste Test

WiMAX World 2008, running Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago. This is the big one — where Mobile WiMAX gets launched — both in press releases and in the real world. It is the world’s largest event showcasing WiMAX technology, and is projected to draw 10,000+ attendees from around the world. The WiMAX Forum has additional member news.

The official conference program starts tomorrow, but plenty of special events, exhibitors, sponsors, keynotes, speakers and awards ceremonies, not to mention press releases, are in full swing today.

Here’s a sampling of what’s new today:

Yesterday, Sprint’s Xohm unit, officially launched service in Baltimore. This could be the start of something big — real competition to DSL and cable modems — Wi-Fi speeds with cellular range — Twice the speed of EVDO or HSPA for half the cost. These are good things.

It’s been a long time coming. The Mobile WiMAX standard (802.16e-2005) was approved in late 2005, while Sprint committed to the standard in August, 2006. Most everyone predicted that it would be available in millions of homes by now.

The pudding is finally ready to taste.

Venezuela Orders 1M ClassmatePCs

The government of Venezuela has announced plans to order more than one million Classmate PC laptops from Portugal as part of a broad economic agreement between the two countries. The government of Venezuela aims to boost technical literacy by distributing the computers to schools. The Classmate PC units that will be distributed to schools in Venezuela and Portugal will ship preinstalled with a custom flavor of the Linux operating system.

The Classmate PC is Intel’s low-cost portable computing reference design and it uses the company’s energy-efficient mobile processors. It targets the education market in developing countries. Intel recently secured a deal with the government of Portugal, which will be manufacturing 500,000 of its own Classmate PC units based on Intel’s design. Portugal has now also agreed to produce an additional million units to sell to Venezuela.

This is the single largest Classmate PC order so far, and dwarfs the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project’s total sales. Their innovative XO Laptop, costs $188, but faced strong competition from Intel’s Classmate in several South American countries.

OLPC might be making a comeback, however, and it announced a pilot program with Peru in early September after controversially transitioning the XO Laptop to Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system.