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Nomadix: Expanding the WiFi Market

As far as WiFi goes, Nomadix is a pioneer: it has been in the wireless Internet business since 2000, when it received a patent for a "nomadic translator or router" that allowed mobile users to connect to the Internet regardless of the configuration of the laptop or computer. The device was called the Universal Subscriber Gateway, and it's still a cornerstone of the company.

At the 80211 Planet Conference & Expo, where Nomadix is co-provider of the show's 802.11 broadband wireless network along with Proxim, Nomadix announced that its software upgrade will be available on its access gateways (including the HotSpot Gateway and the Universal Subscriber Gateway II) by the end of July.

The conference is expecting thousands of visitors to its show floor, and Nomadix is prepared: Its Universal Subscriber Gateway II can handle 2,000 simultaneous users.

"We're basically a software company," said John DiGiovanni, Nomadix director of marketing. "We design our Network Service Engine and sell it on a gateway platform. We can spec it in different sizes so that we can sell products to massive network providers and to local providers, such as cafes." In fact, Nomadix software powers over 5,000 points of presence around the world.

According to DiGiovanni, large network providers are getting interested in hotspots, so equipment manufacturers foresee a rosy future. While some are expecting to generate profits from hotspots, there are other viable reasons for deploying. McDonald's in New York City, which is offering an hour's WiFi access with every Value Meal, is also able to use the wireless network to keep its staff connected wirelessly.

Network providers such as Deutsche Telekom in Germany and Verizon in the United States are looking at hotspots as a feature they can offer for free to DSL subscribers to reduce churn. While backhaul may be a problem for anyone who has not built their own network, the phone companies of the world will not have any problem getting their own access points provisioned.

South Korea leads the way. Its incumbent, Korea Telecom, and its CLEC, Hanaro, are deploying hotspots to increase customer loyalty in the world's most competitive broadband market. "South Korea has at least 10,000 hotspots," DiGiovanni said.

The upgraded Network Service Engine announced by Nomadix is designed to cash in on the expected deployments. The software is designed to make it easier to sell wholesale access from a particular hotspot, so that users can gain access to the Internet through a variety of ISPs from a single location. Security enhancements include MAC filtering and passive DoS attack prevention.

A new failover feature allows a gateway to hand over to a secondary device if the primary one fails, a feature of particular important to enterprises. Billing improvements now allow duration-based billing and, for the hotel industry, the posting of bills to a specific user. Finally, a new provisioning architecture should make it easier to deploy hotspots. "We're talking to providers expecting to deploy thousands of hotspots," DiGiovanni said, "and we want to make that easier."

The possibilities for deployment seem endless. DiGiovanni said network providers are finding rich, demanding broadband wireless customers at marinas and RV parks. Nomadix software is deployed at several airports, including Tokyo's Narita, and Sydney airport in Australia. The company hopes to be a part of a growing market for in-plane business broadband, although that will require approval from both the FAA and the FCC.

Meanwhile, the company is researching more technologies it can patent. The latest patent pending problem solves the hotspot VPN problem. "If two business users connect to a corporate LAN from the same hotspot," explains DiGiovanni, "the corporate server sees two VPN tunnels from one IP address, and suspects it's being attacked. It cuts off one or both of them. Our technology spoofs an IP address so the corporate server sees two different IPs."

Whether the wireless future lies in massive carrier deployments or in increasing what DiGiovanni calls "our warchest of intellectual property," Nomadix plans to be a part of the wireless revolution, as it has been from the beginning.

Nomadix CTO and senior vice president Joel Short will present a keynote speech at the 80211 Planet Conference & Expo on Friday.