Happy 2010!

You can catch the Times Square New Year festivities at home with Hulu. The coverage will include views of Times Square and the crystal ball, plus ambient sounds from the “crossroads of the world.”

EarthCam will webcast the annual New Year’s Eve Times Square celebration live from New York City.

The 2009 Times Square event will feature more than 25 live cameras. Additional cameras in New York include views from Midtown and Columbus Circle. Cameras in other locations include London, Moscow and Prague, along with Las Vegas, Seattle and Chicago, among other cities.

The first countries to celebrate New Year are from the South Pacific. A dazzling fireworks display was all over the Auckland’s Sky Tower in New Zealand. At the same time a massive and sophisticated fireworks display has taken place in Sydney, Australia at the famous harbour bridge.

Japan’s capital Tokyo greeted the world with their New Year traditional style of bells rung in temples at midnight. The city’s Sensoji Temple has been draped with banners wishing visitors a happy new year.

In just few hours from now, the Eiffel Tower will have a colored-light spectacle and celebrations around the London Eye wheel on the River Thames.

Best Wishes for 2010!

Mobile Outlook: Good

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the number of mobile subscriptions per 100 people stood at 12.1% globally in 2000. By the end of 2009, it had risen to an estimated 67%, representing around 4.6 billion total mobile subscriptions.

Over the past 5 years, the total number of fixed broadband subscribers has grown more than threefold, from about 150 million in 2004, to almost 500 million by the end of 2009.

ITU estimates that three quarters of households now own a television set and over a quarter of people globally – some 1.9bn – now have access to a computer at home.

The ITU says this demonstrates the huge market potential for converged devices, as the mobile, television and Internet worlds collide.

Users of the iPhone and Android phones use their devices similarly, according to eMarketer.com, a marketing intelligence firm.

ComScore found that 37 percent of U.S. mobile users had heard of Android in November 2009, up from 22 percent in August, “likely due to the Verizon Droid ad campaign.” Some 17 percent of mobile users in the market for a new smartphone in the next three months planned to buy an Android phone, compared with 20 percent who would pick up an iPhone.

The data also showed that usage patterns for Android and iPhone owners were very similar, but e-mail oddly tracked behind on Android devices. This is likely due to the immaturity of the mail application that ships with Android and not a change in use patterns, says eMarketer.

Worldwide, paid social network advertising is expected to reach $2.2 billion in 2009 and $2.5 billion in 2010, a 14% increase.

Marketers will continue to make social networks a priority for 2010, but a significant portion of their spending will go toward building and maintaining a social network presence, says eMarketer.

The cost of phone service will stop the globalization of the mobile web. Perhaps upstarts offering Mobile WiMAX with voice and video – and no legacy to protect – will offer the best shot at delivering a truly connected world.

Top 10 of the 2000s

Social Web visionary John McCrea has an interesting take on Silicon Valley: Top 10 of the 2000s:

  1. The Dot Com Bubble Collapse.
  2. We entered the new decade and the new century drunk with optimism that recessions were a thing of the past, with a firm belief that the Internet’s transformational power had created an unprecedented “long boom”. And then, in March of 2000, the Bubble burst, sending Silicon Valley into a multi-year “nuclear winter.”

  3. Broadband and Wi-Fi.
  4. Broadband access crossed over from early adopter to mainstream, and Wi-Fi hotspots spread like wildfire. Ten years ago, most of us sipped the Web through dial-up straws; now we expect high-speed access everywhere, all-the-time.

  5. Google IPO.
  6. In the first half of the 2000s, one company defied the pessimism and came to symbolize the hope of a return of the good old days. Google reminded us that the Bubble was less about the true Silicon Valley and more about the madness of irrational investment behavior on Wall Street. Indeed, for most of the 2000s, Google was the undisputed hottest company of Silicon Valley.

  7. Blogging.
  8. Though blogging started in the ’90’s, it would take until the middle of the 2000s for it to become a powerful mainstream force. By decade’s end, sites like TechCrunch, Mashable, Techmeme, CNET, GigaOm, ReadWriteWeb, and VentureBeat, among many others, had totally transformed how we discover, consume, and create tech news.

  9. YouTube.
  10. The video sharing site blasted off from the emerging “Web 2.0? scene in early 2005, rocketed to mainstream impact, and got acquired for $1.6 billion by Google — all in less than two years! The Web 2.0 revolution was in full force, with hundreds of new companies with funny names popping up all over, embracing user-generated content and social virality.

  11. Facebook.
  12. Mark Zuckerberg and team did not invent social networking, but they apparently internalized all of the right lessons from those that had come before, including Plaxo, Friendster, and MySpace. Facebook exploded out of Mark’s dorm room, riding a potent exponential growth curve that continues to this day — and finally giving Google a run for the money in the “hottest company in Silicon Valley” category.

  13. Twitter.
  14. Twitter, a darling of the early adopter set, launched at the cool geek confab, SXSW, in 2006, and remained decidedly niche for so long, that many thought it might be remembered primarily for its “fail whale”.

  15. Ereaders.
  16. As the 2000s are coming to a close, “ereaders” are revolutionizing the concept of a book, turning it from a physical object to a digital item pulled from the clouds. In the coming decade, the impact will be enormous.

  17. Apple, iPod, and iPhone.
  18. For a company that almost died in the ’90s, the 2000s have been a truly remarkable decade for Apple. Silicon Valley sees “Big Waves” only once every 15 years on average, but we’re ending the 2000s, riding two distinct and reinforcing Mavericks, and one of them is embodied by the iPhone. The iPhone has given birth to a new ecosystem, much the same way the personal computer did in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Of course, the other really Big Wave is the emergence of…

  19. The Social Web.
  20. If real identity and real relationships could be combined with network effect and Internet-style interoperability, they said, something really big would happen. We exit the 2000s seeing proof-points all around of the emergence of an open and interoperable Social Web. It’s becoming increasingly common to visit a new website and be able to use an online identity you’ve established at Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a growing list of other identity providers, and get a new account without having to repeat the dreadful process of choosing a new password and re-friending the same long list. Look to the coming decade to bring us an amazing array of new startups native to this new Social Web.

Top Ten Personal Area Net Stories of the Decade

Welcome to The Top Ten Bluetooth/UWB/Zigbee/RFID stories of the decade.

Dailywireless.org, has recorded achievements in broadband wireless for the last 8 years (since March 2002).

We are making a Top Ten of the Decade list in 10 categories.

  1. Cellular
  2. Wi-Fi
  3. Municipal Wireless
  4. Wimax & LTE
  5. Bluetooth/UWB/Zigbee
  6. Digital Broadcasting
  7. Satellites
  8. Infrastructure
  9. Regulations
  10. Devices and Applications

Here are the

Top Ten Personal Area Net Stories of the Decade.

Exchanging data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices, creates personal area networks (PANs). Bluetooth has become the Lingua franca for personal area networks. It allows multiple devices to communicate cheaply and easily.

UltraWideBand and Wireless USB, which looked so promising in the mid decade, were delayed by fractious in-fighting and largely supplanted by Wireless HDMI and high throughput WiFi.

Meanwhile, Zigbee carved out new markets in ultra low power with a simplified mesh networking approach while Radio Frequency Identification moved from a 1984 curiosity promoted by the military and Walmart to become an embedded reality in drivers licenses, passports, and millions of consumer products.

1. Bluetooth Defined (1999-2009):
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group was established by Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Toshiba, and Nokia on May 20, 1998 but the first products didn’t appear commercially until the year 2000. It is geared towards voice and data applications, mostly on mobile phones. Today the Bluetooth SIG has a membership of over 11,000 companies worldwide and there are nearly three billion Bluetooth devices throughout the world.

Bluetooth connects mobile phones to headsets, laptops to keyboards and printers, links GPS antennas to receivers and car navigation systems and streams music from MP3 players to headsets.

Bluetooth uses frequency-hopping radios, which chops up the data being sent and transmits chunks of it on up to 79 frequencies in the 2.4 GHz band. Bluetooth specifications have continuously evolved over the decade:

  • Versions 1.0 and 1.0B had many problems, including interoperably between different vendors.
  • Bluetooth 1.1, ratified as IEEE Standard 802.15.1-2002, fixed many of the errors found in the 1.0B specifications.
  • Bluetooth 1.2, backward compatible with 1.1, featured faster connection and higher practical transmission speeds, up to 721 kbit/s, and proved popular. It improved voice quality of audio links by allowing retransmissions of corrupted packets and was ratified as IEEE Standard 802.15.1-2005.
  • Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR was released on November 10, 2004 and boosted speed with an Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) with up to 3 megabits per second, although the practical data transfer rate is 2.1 megabits per second.
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR was adopted by the Bluetooth SIG on July 26, 2007. It supports theoretical data transfer speeds of up to 3 Mbit/s and reduced power consumption on mouse and keyboard devices, increasing their battery life by a factor of 3 to 10.
  • The 3.0 + HS specification was adopted by the Bluetooth SIG on April 21, 2009. It supports theoretical data transfer speeds of up to 24 Mbit/s. Its main new feature is the addition of 802.11 as a high speed transport. Two technologies had been anticipated: 802.11 and UWB, but UWB is missing from the specification.
    The A2DP spec describes how stereo audio can be streamed.
  • Bluetooth low energy wireless technology, the hallmark feature of the v4.0 Bluetooth Core Specification, features Ultra-low power consumption with the ability to run for years on standard coin-cell batteries.

By 2011 over 70% of all handsets will be Bluetooth-enabled. Now, with 802.11 protocols integrated into Bluetooth, uses of Bluetooth are expected to grow significantly.

2. UltraWideBand and Wireless USB developed (2004-2008):
The goal of UltraWideBand was to combine the low power, short range features of Bluetooth, with 1 Gbps speeds for HDTV networking. Camcorders and Blueray players could connect wirelessly through “Wireless USB“, based on UltraWideBand.

UWB operates in the noise floor of traditional wireless applications. Instead of modulating a carrier, it sends out a pulse stream. The low power signal can share the spectrum with other services without interference by combining their signals. A February 14, 2002 FCC Report and Order authorized the unlicensed use of UWB in the range of 3.1 to 10.6 GHz.

The IEEE 802.15.3a task force was organized to bring different UWB standards together. Two incompatible UWB schemes appeared; DS (direct sequence) and OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing). Supporters of each approach—the UWB Forum and Freescale Semiconductor for DS-UWB and the WiMedia Alliance for OFDM-UWB tried to get their own standard adopted by the IEEE 802.15 TG3a, rather than working together.

Freescale Semiconductor, one of the originators of the UWB approach tried to dominate the IEEE 802.15.3a standards process. After that process stalled, competitor WiMedia lobbied for the global acceptance of their standard. As a USB cable replacement, the expectation was that a standard would be defined and speeds would reach 480 Mbps in a first version, and higher speeds would follow.

Meanwhile, chipmakers Alereon, Wisair, Staccato and others came up with various approaches to UWB.

But UltraWideBand had issues. With no progress in UWB standards, high cost of initial implementations and poor performance, the benefit of UWB began to wane.

After years of deadlock, the IEEE 802.15.3a task group was dissolved in 2006 with no agreement between battling factions and no standard for UWB. The “standards” were then freed to let the marketplace decide, rather the IEEE.

The marketplace was underwhelmed.

The first generation wireless USB chips (using UWB), were criticized for delivering far less than 50 Mbits/s, having non-native implementations, and high overhead. UWB was still not approved for use in all geographies, and some areas use different spectrum bands for UWB, limiting the global market.

“Wireless USB” using UltraWideBand as a cable replacement was a great concept, but it never got off the ground. Several UWB vendors ceased operations during 2008 and 2009.

Today, UltraWideBand is all but dead in the consumer marketplace although Staccato and Alereon, still manufacture ultrawideband chips.

3. Bluetooth incorporates UWB – then dumps it (2008-2009):
On March 16, 2009, the WiMedia Alliance, a main standard bearer for UWB, gave up. They transferred all the current and future specifications to Bluetooth. Once the hand-off was completed, the WiMedia Alliance, which acted as the WiFi Alliance for the OFDM-UWB approach, effectively ceased operations. UltraWideBand then came under the umbrella of Bluetooth.

Meanwhile chipmaker Amimon, formed the WHDI Special Interest Group, which has been joined by Hitachi, Motorola, Sharp, Samsung and Sony. Amimon hopes to replace HDMI cables with their 5 GHz system, surplanting “wireless USB cables“.

UltraWideBand is now up against large consumer electronics companies who have dumped the UWB approach. Wireless HD and the WiGig Alliance (at 60 Ghz) and variations of 802.11n (at 5 Mhz) including Wireless Home Digital Interface and Quantenna are now the new thing in high speed cable replacements. They don’t use the UWB protocol.

Now the Bluetooth SIG has shelved any plans to use the Ultrawideband at all. The Bluetooth SIG is now backing 60 GHz technology for a future high-rate Bluetooth — not UltraWideBand.

Once seen as the leading path to high data rate wireless links, UWB is now Effectively Dead in consumer and computer markets.

4. Wireless Home Networking (2008-2009):
UltraWideBand never developed a consensus for a single standard or achieved close to its speed goals. But science hates a vacuum and at least five major wireless standards are competing for Gigabit home networking.

The WiGig Alliance completed WiGig 1.0, paving the way for tri-band Wi-Fi routers as early as 2010. The spec extends the 802.11 Medium Access Control (MAC) layer to 60 GHz, with a fallback to 5 GHz WiFi. If WiGig adopts both IEEE 802.11ad (in the 60 GHz band) and IEEE 802.11n or even IEEE 802.11ac (in the 5 GHz band), it could be a major force for consolidating high throughput home networking standards. WirelessHD, originally proposed by chipmaker SiBeam, can use the same 7GHz of continuous bandwidth at 60 GHz to send uncompressed HD video but does not fall back to 5 GHz.

The Wireless Home Digital Interface (at 5GHz) rolled out Version 1.0 and claims speeds that are “equivalent” up to 3 Gbit/s (including 1080p/60Hz), using a 40MHz channel in the 5GHz unlicensed band. What “equivalent” means is anyone’s guess. WHDI’s secret sauce prioritizes the most visually significant bits of a video stream with error correction. Quantenna (at 5 GHz) uses the Wi-Fi protocol 802.11n in the 5 GHz band and multiple antennas to transfer video. Quantenna combines 4×4 MIMO, transmit beamforming, vector mesh routing, and two or four concurrent bands for link rates up to 1 Gbps.

5. Zigbee (2000-2009):
While the IEEE 802.15.3a task force failed to bring different UWB standards together, the IEEE 802.15.4 standard was more successful in developing a low-power, low-speed standard primarily for short range data communications with an embedded mesh architecture, called ZigBee.

The specification is intended to be simpler and less expensive than WiFi or Bluetooth. The ZigBee Alliance is similar to that of the Wi-Fi Alliance, overseeing compatibility of the IEEE specification.

ZigBee-style networks began to be conceived about 1998, when many installers saw a need for self-organizing ad-hoc digital radio networks. The IEEE 802.15.4 standard was completed in May 2003 and ratified on 14 December 2004.

The ZigBee Alliance, an association of more about 300 companies, works together to drive the networking software standard for such applications. The relationship between IEEE 802.15.4 and ZigBee is similar to that between IEEE 802.11 and the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The IEEE 802.15.4 standard defines physical layer operation on both the 915 MHz (at 40 kbps) and 2.4 GHz (at 250 kbps) on the unlicensed bands. ZigBee allows either mesh or “star” architecture, so a weak link might be resolved by rerouting. ZigBee is intended to address the sorts of pedestrian short range machine-to-machine (M2M) data connections for which even Wi-Fi networks would be gross overkill, such as lamp switches, television remotes or smart meters.

The first stack release is now called ZigBee 2004. The second stack release is called ZigBee 2006. ZigBee 2007, now the current release, contains two profiles, 1 (simply called ZigBee), for home and light commercial use, and profile 2 (called ZigBee Pro), with more features, such as multi-casting, many-to-one routing and high security.

On March 3, 2009 the RF4CE (Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics) Consortium agreed to work with the ZigBee Alliance to jointly deliver a standardized specification for radio frequency-based remote controls. ZigBee RF4CE can be used for TVs and set-top boxes with enhanced features, interoperability, and no line-of-sight barrier. Zigbee’s RF4CE spec increases the remote control range to over 1,000 feet compared to about 50 feet for IR and Bluetooth.

RF4CE chip makers like Freescale Semiconductor claim that Bluetooth is overkill for command-and-control applications traditionally handled by IR remotes. Wibree is a digital radio technology designed for ultra low power consumption (button cell batteries) within a short range (10 meters / 30 ft). As of June, 2007 Wibree became known as Bluetooth ultra low power, and in 2008 was renamed Bluetooth low energy.

ZigBee radios may become the major devices in the Smart Grid environment. These radios characteristics, their extremely low power consumption and ability to work adaptively with various sensors make ZigBee/IEEE 802.15.4 technology an excellent candidate for Smart Grid communications applications.

In 2008, the ZigBee Alliance and the HomePlug Powerline Alliance began collaborating to implement the ZigBee Smart Energy public application profile on HomePlug power line networks. It has certified more than 20 devices implementing that profile and saw ZigBee Smart Energy adopted by leading utilities in California, Michigan and Texas in Smart Grid programs.

The Google Power Meter uses the TED device which comes with a display unit, and connects to appliances via Zigbee. It has also partnered with AlertMe, which uses ZigBee instead of Wi-Fi for home devices to communicate with a central hub and smart meter.

7. Z-Wave Alliance (2005):
Zensys, founder of the Z-Wave Alliance, says the ZigBee Alliance mesh standard is too expensive for home or smart metering. Z-Wave solutions can be installed for well under $100. The Z-Wave Alliance has over 70 members, all of whom are working on bringing Z-Wave based products to market. This Alliance includes a number of former and current ZigBee members who have chosen to base their residential control systems on Z-Wave.

The Z-Wave Alliance was established in early 2005 by a group of home control product manufacturers. It operates at the 900mHz band with about 350 devices from 170 manufacturers now supporting Z-Wave. It allows home devices such as lighting, appliances, entertainment centers and security systems to interoperate. Its ability to operate as a mesh network (i.e. with no central controller) is one of Z-Waves greatest advantages. Z-Wave is able to get around obstacles by routing commands through other devices in the network when required. A single Z-wave network supports up to 232 devices. Multiple Z-wave networks can be combined via gateways.

8. The Smart Grid (2000-2009):
The smart grid buildout could be one of the largest creators of wealth in the decade, according to Pike Research. The installation of more than 250 million smart meters — electricity meters that provide real-time information about energy consumption and enable two-way communication between a utility and a consumer — will grow to a $3.9 billion global market by 2015, says the research firm.

To connect those smart meters, utilities are using their own licensed frequencies, cellular networks and WiMAX, explains Earth2Tech — and that network is tied to Electric Vehicles to even out electrical demand.

The vast majority of utility wireless smart grid networks are built on proprietary wireless technology. But the trend from smart grid network companies, like Silver Spring Networks, Cisco and SmartNet, use network gear based on IP. Florida Light is deploying hundreds of thousands of smart meters in people’s homes throughout Florida using Silver Spring Networks IP-based networking infrastructure.

Grid Net, formed a collaboration with GE Energy and Intel, focusing solely on WiMAX for their last mile connectivity. Motorola, General Electric and Grid Net are part of a group of companies installing smart meters in almost 700,000 households and businesses in Australia by 2013. Grid Net and GE Energy also appear to be positioned to rollout initiatives in U.S. WiMAX cities.

The IEEE has formed a new 802.16 study group to investigate Smart Grid, public safety, avionics, airport surface communication, and surveillance applications. The new “GRIDMAN” Study Group hopes to develop a project authorization request (PAR) and supporting material for approval by IEEE 802 at the March 2010 IEEE 802 session.

Governments and utilities are expected to ramp up their investments in the electrical smart grid, spending a total of $200 billion worldwide from 2008 through 2015, according to Pike Research.

9. Machine 2 Machine (2000-2009):
Machine-to-machine (M2M) wireless communications is become a big deal, says Zacks Equity Research. Mobile M2M messaging system link devices to a computer for transmitting data. M2M is commonly used in utility meters, vending machines and cars.

According to market researchers like ABI, M2M is expected to reach more than 85 million connections globally by 2012, and more than 200 million globally by 2014, with a total market valuation of approximately $57 billion.

Zacks reviews some of the M2M developments with cellular operators:

  • In 2007, AT&T and Jasper Wireless entered into an agreement to provide mobile M2M connections. It will support a variety of emerging consumer electronic and business devices on AT&T’s nationwide wireless network.
  • Last July, Verizon Wireless and Qualcomm formed a joint venture to provide M2M wireless communications and smart services offerings across several market segments including healthcare, manufacturing, utilities, distribution and consumer products segments.
  • Last September, T-Mobile and Sierra Wireless signed a Memorandum of Understanding to form a joint venture to provide M2M wireless communications for fleet, automotive, navigation, utility, and security markets.
  • Recently, Sprint Nextel and DataSmart have partnered for M2M solutions.

According to a Gartner survey, Cinterion Wireless Modules has a 34 percent share of the global wireless modules business for M2M applications.

KORE Telematics, an M2M hardware and software firm, estimates that there are 60 million to 70 million machine connections to wide-area networks (WANs) now.

Open M2M Protocols include BITXML and M2MXML.

10. RFID (2000-2009):
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) uses a passive circuit incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification and tracking. Radio waves are bounced off the circuit which bounces back a unique identity number. The chips, which are available in both passive and active forms keep getting cheaper and smaller.

In January 2003 Gillette announced that it ordered 500 million tags from Alien Technology for “well under ten cents” per tag. The Japanese HIBIKI initiative aims to reduce the price to 5 Yen (4 eurocents). In January 2009 Envego announced a 5.9 cent tag. Researchers at Bristol University successfully have glued RFID microtransponders to live ants in order to study their behavior.

Avery Dennison (the largest label maker) and Alien Technology embeded RF-ID into the Electronic Product Code (ePC) so every pop can and every box of laundry detergent can be tracked and read – along with your Safeway card — from inside the grocery cart.

Applied Digital Solutions and Digital Angel created the VeriChip, the world s first implantable radio frequency identification (RFID) microchip for human use, which has been cleared by the U.S. FDA for medical uses in the United States.

The United States heads the list of RFID projects, including a $428 million contract issued by the U.S. Army for the RFID III program. Currently, RFID tags are attached to approximately 125,000 shipments of U.S. military supplies each week.

Another major contract was Transcore’s $63 million deal with Florida for an electronic toll system. In other significant RFID deals, CSC and IBM landed an order for $570 million to upgrade the United Kingdom’s e-passport applications and enrollment system.

India plans to issue each of its 1.2 billion citizens with biometric identity cards. A computer chip in each card will contain personal data and proof of identity, such as fingerprint or iris scans. Criminal records and credit histories may also be included. Compulsory national identity cards are used in about 100 countries including Germany, France, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain.

Global sales of RFID technology are expected to grow 5 percent to $5.56 billion in 2009, according to IDTechEx, the surge in sales will be accomplished despite the world’s largest RFID project — the $6 billion China National ID card scheme — being completed a year earlier.

Wireless Sensor Networks are the so-called third generation active RFID. Otherwise known as Ubiquitous Sensor Networks, they will be used to automatically monitor building occupancy and climate control, oil and gas pumping, forest fires, avalanches and other uses over wide areas in the coming years using technology like ZigBee to relay data.

Top Ten Wireless Developments of the Decade:

  1. Cellular
  2. Wi-Fi
  3. Municipal Wireless
  4. Wimax & LTE
  5. Bluetooth/UWB/Zigbee
  6. Digital Broadcasting
  7. Satellites
  8. Infrastructure
  9. Regulations
  10. Devices and Applications

Cheaper Prepaid Data Plans

DataJack, launching next month at CES, is a dongle with a difference — it offers 3G high speed cellular data for just $39.99 a month, without any contract commitments.

DataJack promises no early termination fees, no deposits, no credit check, and their USB modem costs just $99 at signup. The modem has a micro-SD slot so that you can use it as a USB storage dongle as well.

Whether their “unlimited” data plan doesn’t have the standard 5GB a month limit that Sprint, T-mobile, Verizon and AT&T all maintain on their wireless broadband plans, remains to be seen.

If you stay connected to the service for 12 consecutive months, DataJack will also offer subscribers one month free.

DataJack operates over a GSM network and operates on “850/1900/2100/AWS” with upload up to 5.76Mbps and downloads up to 7.2Mbps.

Once installed, the DataJack USB automatically connects to the 3G network. You will notice a 3G indicator on your Connection manager screen. If 3G is not available then you will still be in service with Edge or 2.5G service. If the Edge network is not available, the DataJack will search for local Wi-Fi networks.

Of course what DataJack defines as “unlimited” needs clarification.

Sprint’s dual mode U301 USB modem (left) supports both WiMAX and EV-DO. Sprint’s 3G/4G Mobile Broadband Plan costs $69/month (on a 2 year contract), but includes both 3G and 4G data access. It works on both Macs and PCs.

DataJack is not the only prepaid data service:

Perhaps Sprint’s WiMAX phone, expected to be announced next week at CES, might also work as a tethered modem. While a $300 MiFi mobile router or $200 Clear Spot can be handy for small groups, a 4G phone tethered to a computer might also provide 3G phone service most anywhere.

Tagging HD Radio Songs

Soon, if you like a song that you hear on your HD Radio in a Ford, you’ll be able to “tag” it so that you’ll know the artist and title in case you want to buy it later on, notes USA Today.

Among the new features in the 2010 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is a handsfree Sync system, including this one with an Apple iPod plugged in.

Pushing the “Tag” button on the receiver records information on the selection. The automaker says it will be the world’s first implementation of iTunes tagging in a factory-installed HD Radio when it arrives next year on select Ford vehicles. The next time you sync your iPod to your computer, your tagged songs will show up in a playlist called “Tagged”. So you can click, download and buy the songs you want directly from the Apple® iTunes Music Store.

Up to 100 tags can be stored on the Ford Sync connectivity system in your car until an Apple iPod is connected to receive the download of the memorized data. When the iPod is connected to Apple’s iTunes, a playlist of “tagged” songs will appear. Customers then can preview and, if desired, purchase and download tagged songs from the iTunes Store.

All HD Radio-enabled receivers in Ford vehicles also will provide “program service data” –- information that appears on the radio screen and includes song title, artist name and more. The Radio Data System, or RDS, is a communications protocol standard for embedding small amounts of digital information in conventional FM radio broadcasts. According to iBiquity’s website the “HD” is simply a brand name and has no meaning.