RealTime IT News

Wi-Fi from the Desert

By some reports, this year's Comdex Fall in Las Vegas, NV, is the smallest in memory, and could even be the last of it's kind if some rumors are to be believed. But even if Comdex isn't what it used to be, it's still the hotspot for pre-holiday product announcements in the tech industry. And wireless LAN vendors are no exception. Here's a look at announcements for new 802.11-based products coming out of the desert (and elsewhere, because even those who don't go to Comdex take advantage of the hype machine).


The latest Palm PDAs might stand a chance of going online wirelessly, now that SyChip has finally introduced -- at least in a test phase -- the 6060 SDIO (secure digital input/output) card. This 802.11b NIC client is the smallest yet, able to fit into the chewing-gum sized slot found in many modern PDAs. The card will come with drivers for Windows 2000/XP/CE, Pocket PC and PalmOS 4.x and up. SyChip has already announced that the embedded version of the card, the WLAN6060EB, will be built into the new Cyberbank POZ, a PDA to be released in early 2003 from Korea's Cyberbank Corp. that will also incorporate CMDA services.

SMC Networks announced its new EZ Connect 2.4GHz/5GHz Universal Wireless PCI Card (SMC2302W), a $159.99 802.11a/b compliant upgrade for desktop systems. It joins the dual-band CardBus PC Card the company brought out in September.


Netgear's Cable/DSL ProSafe Wireless VPN Security Firewall with 8-port 10/100 Mbps switch (FVM318) is more than just the standard combination of router, firewall, switch, and access point in one product. Kevin Allan, product line manager for business Internet access product at Netgear says "it addresses some of the direct concerns associated with WLANs -- It'll do VPN over wireless."

On the wireless LAN side, the FVM318 lets up to 32 users create virtual private network (VPN) tunnels directly from their client systems to the router. On the WAN side, up to 70 external users can connect. The $799 product comes with a version of SafeNet's IPSec-based SoftRemoteBasic client for Windows 2000/XP for creating the wireless VPN tunnels. Clients can use any available 802.11b card.

AirDefense has two products to promote this week: the self-titled AirDefense 2.0, its Stateful monitoring and intrusion detection system for WLANs using SNMP management tools, and the new ActiveDefense appliance that, according to Greg Thomas, VP of Sales Support at AirDefence, "takes an intruder and isolates and quarantines them in an area where they can do no harm. We can keep them there until their no longer a threat." AirDefense looks at not just single frames from the network but entire series of frames to get the "context of the conversation" on the network, which reduces false positives and provides constant monitoring of the network's health.


Toshiba's Computer Systems Group is continuing to make a big push into Wi-Fi. It's already announced hotspot products and chipsets, and now the company has added an end-user wireless router to its portfolio. The WRC-1000 multi-functional wireless Cable/DSL router has the usual firewall and WEP support, but also adds 802.1X authentication for extra protection. The $179 product is available now.

Buffalo Technology has a new $189 802.11b AirStation Broadband Router/Access Point (WBR-B11) which it says supports up to 40Mbps speed, via its own firmware tweaks. It did this in Japan first to support the faster speeds available there for broadband -- DSL lines are about 12Mbps downstream. The unit supports VPN pass-through, intrusion detection with pop-up and e-mail alerts, and prevents private information from being transmitted out. The company plans to announce a similar "intelligent access point" soon that will be upgradeable to either 802.11a or 11g via a miniPCI card swap or PC Card insert.

Routers usually work with a separate broadband modem, but that model may be going away soon. Conexant Systems is the latest to put the broadband adapter in the router, with the announcement of the CX82340, a product that works concurrently as an asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) router and 802.11bWLAN access point. It also includes USB and Ethernet connections. It won't be available directly from Conexant, but will be available to OEMs.

Asante Technologies has release a new series of FriendlyNET Routers. The FR1004 series includes Stateful Packet Inspection firewall and the wireless version, the $129 FR1004AL, also includes a parallel port print server. The wired version is only $99.


Intellinet Technologies has announced EAP (Enhanced Authentication Protocol) Server, the latest solution to hopefully bring together the worlds of 802.11 hotspots and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) services so end users only have to get one bill while roaming between the two types of networks. According to Siva Tripuraneni, Marketing Director of Intellinet Technologies, "everyone will soon have a SIM card" as part of their online handsets, PDAs, or computers. The use of the card with a product like EAP Server, which sits between the hotspot's IP gateway and the carrier's Home Location Register (HLR) database, will let Wi-Fi users be authenticated on the cellular network. The EAP Server is currently in field tries, but Tripuraneni expects it to be available in the spring of 2003.

Boingo Wireless has expanded its network again by entering a deal with Canadian hotspot provider FatPort. All Boingo members can use their Boingo-sniffer software to get access to the Internet through FatPort supported hotspots without paying extra fees. FatPort locations are powered by the company's own FatPoint products, which venue owners can purchase for setup anywhere they have a broadband connection.

Perhaps a the most unlikely hotspot announcement yet: 50 Conoco/Phillip's Circle K convenience stores in the Phoenix and Tucson, AZ, area will become Wi-Fi hotspots in the beginning of 2003. Yes, you can get your e-mail while you pump gas or grab a bag of Cheese Doodles. Eventually this could run into over 17,000 locations owned or franchised by Conoco/Philips. The wireless router and service infrastructure will be from Toshiba's Computer Systems Group; the hotspots will be run by WorkingWild of Scottsdale, AZ, under the ZapLane brand.


Toshiba's Computer Systems Group continues to integrate Wi-Fi throughout its products. The latest announcement from the company is that the Satellite Pro 6100 Series due in December will be the first laptops to integrate dual 802.11a/b radio modules

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

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