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WiFi – Update No. 3

There is so much going on in the WiFi arena that it is hard to keep up — even if you are more than a little interested. I am using these updates as a way to share what I have been able to learn with some opinions and observations thrown in at no extra charge! This update will report on five areas.

  • New Startup called CloudX holds a "Wireless Summit" in Tahoe
  • T-Mobile Expands Their HotSpot Network to more airlines
  • AirRunner Prepares Broadband Wireless Equipment for Market
  • The Public Internet Project
  • Agere develops new WiFi technology that exceeds 150 million bits per second

New Startup called CloudX holds a “Wireless Summit” in Tahoe

A new startup, CloudX Communications, is aiming to become a “next generation” wireless telecommunications provider based on WiFi technologies. Company founders Bob Scott and Jon Delee outlined their business plan last week at a “Wireless Summit” that included more than two dozen representatives from Intel, WorldCom, IBM and other technology firms who met at the Granlibakken Conference Center Resort near Lake Tahoe. “The cloud concept has two meanings,” Delee said. “It means a cloud of coverage and a cloud of services.”
CloudX already has a wireless network up and runnng for some resident on the northern shore of the lake. The WiFi hub is connected to the Internet through a residential Pacific Bell T1 line. r devices. The CloudX system relies on technology that allows customers to connect to the network if they have a line of sight either to an antenna sending out the data or to another customer who does. Lake Tahoe On Line, a local Internet Service Provider and partner with CloudX, already has nearly 70 customers using WiFi. Assuming things continue to go well, CloudX is looking at a potential national rollout.Not including the cost of installation, CloudX offers service starting at $50 a month for homes near north Lake Tahoe, and $95 a month for businesses. Considering the pent up demand in places with no current broadband choices, these seem like reasonable rates.
WiFi does present some challenges when sending and receiving wireless signals around a lake with mountains and trees. In fact, Lake Tahoe may be the perfect testing ground for the technology. Delee says. “If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere. We have seen enough of wireless to know where the pitfalls are.”
A key questions is what the existing traditional telecommunications companies will do. Will they lead, follow, or just watch? These companies are used to operating in a regulated environment. WiFi operates on unregulated spectrum — uncharted waters. Will they lobby to try to get WiFi regulated or even stop it? I think we will get some clues over the next six months or so. Another key question is whether or not venture capitalists will be willing to invest in such an uncertain space. CloudX is searching for investors to fund more than $1 million in infrastructure which is what it estimates will be required to meet its goal of 5,000 fixed wireless accounts, 3,000 mobile accounts and 1,000 business accounts, according to company documents. With the plethora of new WiFi technology coming on the scene and with Intel and all the PC makers putting WiFi into everything they do, it seems like the ecosystem will be there to support CloudX’s business plan.
I am enthusiastic as is Bob scott who says, “We want to change the face of telecommunications in the world. The change isn’t going to be in five years, it is going to be in two or three months.” Intel must be enthusiastic too. They recently announced that they plan to invest $150 million in companies developing WiFi technology. Put all these activities together and it looks very much like what we saw nearly ten years ago with the development of the Internet. WiFi is doing to access what the Net did for communication. Always On.

T-Mobile Expands Their HotSpot Network to more airlines

At the end of October (2002), T-Mobile (the mobile telecommunications subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom) and the top three U.S.-based airlines (American, Delta, and United) announced an agreement to provide WiFi with broadband Internet access in each airline’s clubs and lounges across the country. For those of us who travel a lot, this is really great news. T-Mobile plans to add HotSpotSM to approximately 100 of the most frequented American, Delta and United clubs and lounges over the next year. Additionally, coverage may be extended to airline gates as airport approvals are secured.I have been spoiled using WiFi at Admirals Clubs for the past year or so and now to hear that the other airlines are getting it — well it is about time. T-Mobile says that this will bring their total number of WiFi locations to 1,991. T-Mobile says they currently provide coverage in 24 Admirals Clubs, 5 airports, 8 gate-hold areas in airports, and Starbucks in the following cities: San Francisco Bay area (including San Jose), New York City Metro, including northern New Jersey, New York State and part of Connecticut, Seattle/Tacoma area, Dallas Metroplex, Portland (Oregon), Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Atlanta, Denver, Southern California, Rochester/Buffalo area. Beginning in 2003, they plan to deploy at 400 Borders Books locations, United Red Carpet Clubs, and Delta Crown Rooms. Click here for information on T-Mobile’s service plans.
According to Yankee Group 2002 Corporate Wireless Survey, almost 25 percent of all enterprise workers are considered mobile, spending more than 20 percent of their time away from their workspace. This equates to 40 million mobile professionals in the U.S. who still want and need access to the Internet or their corporate intranet and e-mail servers.

AirRunner Prepares Broadband Wireless Equipment for Market

Another development out in Lake Tahoe, Nevada is coming from AirRunner Technologies. They announced last week that after three years of intense research and development they are ready to launch next generation wireless mesh networking technology that will support delivery of voice and high speed data services to business and residential customers. AirRunner in conjunction with local Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP), Cloud X, selected the Lake Tahoe basin to test the performance of the equipment. “Lake Tahoe presents an adverse RF environment, with mountains, lots of trees, a large lake, and of course heavy precipitation. These environmental constraints place enormous demands on a wireless network” said Greg Phillips, CEO of AirRunner during the recent Wireless Summit held at Granlibakken Conference Center Resort on Lake Tahoe. The AirRunner technology is not just another wireless access point. Their products allows high speed connections from home to home or building to building, thereby creating a “mesh” of WiFi. This will enable WiFi to become widespread much more rapidly.

The Public Internet Project

The Public Internet Project is dedicated to the evolution and development of close range wireless technologies in urban environments — WiFi. Their mission is to “gain understanding into the evolution of consumer adoption of close proximity wireless technologies such as 802.11b, and to promote free public 802.11 hot spots, like the Bryant Park wireless network in midtown Manhattan, for the economically disadvantaged.”
It appears that The Public Internet Project is a for-profit firm which is conducting proprietary research into wireless technology adoption and then selling its reports to businesses. They have just completed a study of WiFi hotspots in Manhattan and on their web site they have a map that shows GPS locations of more than 12,000 WiFi locations. To do this they drove every street in the borough of Manhattan (approx. 98%) with the exception of areas that were closed to vehicle traffic due to police or construction (WTC and Wall Street). That is impressive determination.
The Public Internet Project says that Manhattan was selected as the research area because it contains a significant distribution of socioeconomic stratifications of modern society and represents the earliest of all adopters. The research reflects the adoption of 802.11b wireless usage across a wide variety of zoning districts and economically diverse populations.

Agere develops new WiFi technology that exceeds 150 million bits per second

Agere Systems Inc. today claimed a breakthrough in wireless data technology with its demonstration of chips transmitting wireless data at 162Mbit/sec. in the 5GHz frequency band, which is known as 802.11a. This is another flavor of WiFi of which even more will be coming. The new Agere technology operates nearly 15 times faster than today’s 802.11b WiFi, and rivals the speed of wired networks. The higher speeds will make multimedia applications become much more practical. An example would be using it to deliver full screen high definition video (HDTV) throughout a home or campus.