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The Wireless World of Sports

The City of Houston played the Wi-Fi wireless card recently in its bid to win the 2012 Olympic Games. We're thinking it may not be enough.

As part of a dog-and-pony show for the United States Olympic Committee's (USOC) Site Evaluation Team (SET), the City of Houston unveiled the Concierge 2012, a prototype wireless PDA it proposes distributing to every athlete, coach and sponsor at the Games.

"We are committed to making Houston's the most high-tech Games ever staged," says Lee Zieben, director of Houston 2012 Foundation's Technology Initiative and Chief Executive Officer of Houston-based Voyagen Inc., a sales force automation ASP. "With these devices, Texas once again pushes the frontier."

Ah, sorry Lee, not quite.

Wi-Fi WLANs were in use at the Japan/Korea World Cup in June and later at the 102nd U.S. Open. The NBA is reportedly considering their use to support media at its arenas. In fact, we're guessing that by the time 2012 rolls around, it will be a rare sporting event or venue that doesn't have a WLAN.

The Concierge 2012, based on a Compaq iPaq Pocket PC, would give users at the 2012 Games up-to-date, personalized scheduling, real-time results and transportation information as well as Internet access, information about Houston and entertainment offerings.

The devices will communicate in any chosen language and will include Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to ensure ease of transportation and allow users to track real-time distances, maps and travel time while moving from venue to venue. Phone technology may also be included in 2012 to allow users to reach each other while in Houston.

Some of the prototypes distributed to USOC team members during the site visit included a GPS "jacket"an iPaq hardware option that adds functionalitywhich allowed them to track their progress as they toured the Houston venue plan and navigate Houston during various parts of their stay.

Someonly some?!!included an 802.11 wireless Internet jacket that hooked team members to a Houston 2012 network in venues, giving them access to venue-specific information and features, as well as a live Webcam shot of themselves.

Oh, yes. In compliance with the ethics guidelines for all U.S. Bid cities, the iPAQ units will remain with Houston 2012 after the site visit.

Meanwhile, at the U.S. Open, volunteers used wireless handhelds to record every shot taken at the tournament and instantly post it to a central database over a Wi-Fi WLAN that covered the whole 7,214-yard Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York.

Development of the scoring application and the integration work were done by long-time U.S. Open sponsor Unisys Corp. The handhelds and Wi-Fi network were supplied by Intermec Technologies Corp.

Within seconds of each shot, results were posted by Unisys on the leader board and available to the gallery, Web surfers, officials, TV networks and other media.

At the, FIFA set up Wi-Fi WLANs at the press centers in downtown Seoul and Tokyo. Every one of the 2,000-plus seats for journalists in the centers had high-speed access to the Internet.

At the stadiums in Japan (but not Korea) WLANs near the playing fields allowed photo journalists to upload the pictures they were taking on digital cameras directly to the Internet or to their newspaper office.


Motorola Spreads U-NII Band Canopy

Motorola recently announced a fixed wireless access system it says can provide residential and small business customers affordable access to the Internet at wireless speeds where service was previously unavailable.

Motorola's new Canopy system uses the unlicensed 5GHz (U-NII) spectrum and small, wireless components specifically designed for small cell configurations, making it ideal for geographic areas where cable and DSL services are unavailable or system deployment is not feasible because of infrastructure cost, the company says.

By operating in unlicensed spectrum, the Canopy technology allows new service providers to bypass infrastructure investments and spectrum licenses, significantly reducing the provider's start-up costs and the number of subscribers required to reach profitability.

The Canopy system has been field-proven since 2001 with more than 3,000 units currently deployed in nearly 40 commercial customer sites across North America.

Says Brian Magnuson, president and CEO of Oregon-based WISP Cascade Networks, "I have tested and deployed virtually every 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz Fixed Wireless Access product in the industry, and I think the Canopy technology provides the best point-to-multipoint solution. It has the right combination of functionality, speed and price."

The Canopy portfolio includes an independent community-sized Access Point with integrated antennas. Each Access Point has approximately a two-mile reach, although the range can be extended up to 10 miles with the Canopy reflector kit. The Canopy components are small, unobtrusive, easy to install and can serve a wide-range of network purposes.

The Canopy solution can be deployed as a stand-alone system, or it can be used to extend the reach of wired IP distribution systems such as cable and DSL. It can also serve as a redundant IP backhaul for enterprises and service providers further reducing investment costs.

The complete Canopy portfolio is now available through Motorola's Advanced Business Technology group.


The Perils and Pitfalls of Public Hotspots

A recent report on hotspots from ARC Group of London, England may appear at first glance to be another example of a research company stating the obvious in rigorous detail.

"Hotspots," the British firm trumpets, "are hot." Well, thank you, we didn't know that.

The report goes on to note that the public hotspot market is attracting considerable interest, particularly from mobile operators.

"However, operators should be aware that the business case for such hotspots is still unproven, leaving considerable room for experimentation but at the risk of potential pitfalls," says ARC Group analyst, Tammy Parker, the report's author.

Parker goes even further. ISPs, mobile network operators and others are likely to be keenly disappointed if their primary objective in entering the WISP business is to dramatically increase their short term revenue streams, she says.

"WLAN hotspots should be considered as marketing tools rather than profit centers" Parker contends.

Mobile network operators are exploring entry into the public hotspot business by either becoming or entering into partnerships with wireless Internet service providers (WISPs). There are a number of reasons why they might do this, including:

  • Public WLANs will give operators a platform to test 3G applications and services, creating demand for these products in advance of their introduction over mobile phone networks.
  • Heavy indoor data traffic can be moved to a WLAN, relieving potential congestion on a mobile phone network and providing less costly data services to users.
  • WISP usage could be used to promote lagging GPRS adoption by showcasing relevant applications.

But even if joint mobile phone/WLAN offerings are technologically feasible, that may not mean they are financially viable, the report warns.

Mobile operators will need to operate WISP businesses in parallel with their mobile phone network because the licensing, equipment and deployment issues are quite different, meaning cost structures are totally unrelated.

Integrated with 2.5G and 3G offerings as value-added communications access points rather than actual profit centers, WLAN hotspots could become crucial marketing tools that are a key to expanding a mobile operator's presence and overall branding.

If this is true, we'd like to know, if Wi-Fi hotspots can't be profitable on their own, where does that leave Boingo, HereUAre, Joltage, WiFi Metro, among other hotspot startups? Reprinted from ISP-Planet.