RealTime IT News

Tokyo Goes Dual-Mode in Public

NTT Communications, which has been running public WLAN access trials in Tokyo since last July, announced today that on May 15th it will officially launch the first commercial WLAN that is compatible with both 802.11a and 802.11b multi-vendor equipment. NTT Com, which calls the new service Hotspot, stated that it will be available in connection speeds of up to 36 Mbps for 802.11a and 11 Mbps for 802.11b.

The trial, which is called Hi-FIBE, is expected to end on May 12. NTT Com said that users can still register as monitors at the Hi-Fibe site (Japanese only) until May 7, but monitors must still apply separately to use Hotspot.

Hotspot will begin with approximately 200 locations, or public hotspots, and NTT Com stated that it plans to expand that number to 1,000 by the end of 2002. The company also stated that while 802.11a access will be limited initially, it will expand to all Hotspot locations by this summer.

Hotspot locations include cafes, hotels, and other public areas in Tokyo. Usage fees will include a 1,500 yen ($11.73) application charge and 1,600 yen ($12.51) per month for access.

The NTT Com network uses dual-band 802.11a/b access points, incorporating a chipset developed by NTT Access Network Service Systems Laboratories. Sony, NEC, TDK, and Atheros Communications were also involved in testing and verifying compatibility between multi-vendor 802.11a equipment. Currently, Sony will provide the 802.11a PC cards, with TDK expected to add to the selection in the near future.

The NTT WLAN makes use of the extended service set identifier and WEP security features. The network will also accept what NTT calls 'IC cards' (integrated circuit), more commonly known as smart cards, as a means of ID verification for accessing corporate networks from a public access node. Hotspot will be combined with NTT Com's Safety Pass Business (authentication and settlement platform) for IPsec-based, highly secure intranet access. It will also be combined with OCN Business Network (Open Computer Network) to offer leased VPN equipment and OCN network access, and Share Stage (ASP) online.

Beginning May 8, interested users can sign up for Hotspot at www.hotspot.ne.jp (Japanese only). The company is waiving the application fee from May 15th to the end of the month.