Wi-Fi Product Watch: January 2005
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Week of January 24-28, 2005
is making available an access point specifically for the cable market, designed for cable broadband operators to start creating their own local hotspot networks. The Nortel WLAN Cable Access Point 6220 comes with an AP unit, plus a corporate services unit (CSU) that can receive signals from the APU using directional or omni-directional antennas—thus serving even customers that can't be reached by traditional cable. However, in hotspot mode, end-users connect directly to the AP as normal.
Linksys, a Ciscocompany, is offering a new $129 (MSRP) Wireless A/G Game Adapter (model WGA54AG), perhaps the first adapter for consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation 2 that supports 5GHz 802.11a along with 2.4GHz 11g. It can also be used as a wireless adapter on Windows Media Center Edition PCs. Using 11a, which gets less interference than 11b/g, Linksys says it won't drop any frames when transferring video. Funk Software has upgraded its RADIUS/AAA server software, Steel Belted Radius, to version 5.0. The software has a brand new administration interface for handling "hundreds or thousands of RADIUS clients," and new reporting on "user authentications, failed authentications, unknown client devices, faulty shared secrets, and temporarily disabled accounts." Running on Windows XP/2000/NT or Solaris, the software costs $5,000 ($1,400 to upgrade) for the Enterprise Edition, or $12,000 ($3,500 to upgrade) for the Global Enterprise version. The parent company of low-power radio-frequency chipmaker Chipcom is buying out Figure 8 Wireless, which provides software and firmware for use in ZigBee-based wireless home and industry controls. Figure 8 will continue to work as a wholly-owned subsidiary. The merger, they say, "will provide a comprehensive end-to-end ZigBee platform." The ZigBee standard was recently ratified, though as yet no products have been tested for interoperability. Wi-Fi chipmaker Broadcom is putting wireless into a new area: wired Ethernet switches. The company's new line of StrataXGS III 500 Series Ethernet switch chips includes a chip that will handle 24 Gigabit Ethernet ports, four 10-Gigabit ports, some security encryption—and wireless LAN switching, including fast-roaming ability as clients go from access point to access point. The chips are sampling now to customers. QuickLogic Corporation is working with chipmaker Renesas Technology to make a reference design for a new 802.11b/g VoWiFi phone. They plan to offer it as a head start to companies looking to make high-tech wireless VoIP handsets. The design will use the Renesas SH7720 32-bit RISC processor with QuickLogic's programmable miniPCI bridge. It will run with Linux as its OS, using either 11b or 11b/g chips.
Week of January 17-21, 2005
Hot on the heels of Belkin, Linksys and Netgear, D-Link this week announced its own line of products that will be using MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) smart antennas. To be called the Super G with MIMO line (appropriately, since they'll be using Atheros chips, which have traditionally used the term Super G as the turbo mode moniker), the products will use "beamforming and receive-combining" to jack up the throughput and range. The initial product line will be 802.11g/b compatible, and will include security such as AES encryption and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). The first products will be a $150 wireless router (model DI-624M) and $100 CardBus PC Card adapter (model DWL-G650M).
For the record, Belkin's "Pre-N" and Linksys's MIMO products use TrueMIMO chips from Airgo; Netgear's announced MIMO product will use technology from Video54. Another chip from Athena/Samsung doesn't yet have any customer wins.
Speaking of MIMO: looks like Qualcomm has dumped its own 802.11n proposal within the IEEE'S 802.11n Task Group to join the TGn Sync group, which is no surprise—the battle for the fate of 11n has long been considered to be between TGn Sync (backed by Atheros, Intel, Cisco, Samsung, and more) and WWiSE (backed by Airgo, Broadcom, Texas Instruments, Conexant, and others.) And speaking of Atheros, the chipmaker is happy to report that the line of laptops coming out of China's Lenovo Group—the computer line recently purchased from IBM—will feature the AR5005G 802.11g single-chip product from Atheros. Deloitte's Security Services Group said this week that it would be offering software and hardware to the Canadian market made by AirMagnet. Deloitte's team will use the products to offer a range of services from site surveys up to network management. A report out this week from Parks Associates says that Wi-Fi is now used more in homes in Europe and North America than Ethernet by a small margin (52% of home networks in the U.S. have Wi-Fi, while 50% use Ethernet— obviously, there is some overlap). In Canada, however, 43% have Ethernet compared to $32% with Wi-Fi—and 26% didn't know what they were using. This week, Adtran released new license-free wireless microwave radio products in the Tracer family, suitable for backhaul connections. The Tracer 6000 Series combines TDM and IP in a single 1U chassis. The units come in both an integrated and split configuration, combining indoor and outdoor enclosures as needed.
Week of January 10-14, 2005
Wi-Fi for infections? Sure, if it's in a video game, at least. The new game called Infected, from Majesco and Planet Moon Studios, will run on the new PSP handheld. It's a "run-and-gun shooter" where players can play against each other over the Wi-Fi connection on the PSP. The game will be "socially communicable" in that player avatars can use the wireless connection to "invade their opponents' PSP systems" when they win a multiplayer match. The theory is that the player's avatar could "spread around the globe." Outdoor mesh provider Telabria has a new product, a ruggedized unit called mNode300, for outdoor wireless coverage. It includes a second radio just to handle backhaul traffic. The company expects to use it specifically in educational deployments, so the product will be listed as part of Telabria's CampusMesh line, which is already deployed around the city of Kent in Britain. Symbol has introduced the MC3000, a new mobile, ruggedized computer running Windows CE .NET and using an Intel XScale processor, for retail and other industries for gathering data, and transmitting it via Wi-Fi. It supports advanced scanning and imaging, and can be managed with the Symbol Mobility Service Platform. The company sees it as a good migration path for companies still using DOS-based applications and hardware. Wavesat says its WiMax chip, the DM256, is now ready for general availability to customers, and is heading into mass production. The company offers a reference kit including baseband, MAC and RF modules, on both the subscriber and base end of the long-range wireless connection. The company is showing its wares at the WCA Symposium in San Jose, Calif., this week. Verizon Wireless' high speed 3G Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) networks are running in 32 U.S. cities now with speeds of 300 to 500Kpbs (and burst as high as 2.4Mbps). Hardware maker Novatel Wireless has released a PC Card for laptops to get computers on the network. The V620 PC Card is dual-band for EV-DO and 1xRTT, and has dual-band diversity to "enhance performance by maximizing data throughput," according to Verizon. The card will come with the VZAccess Manager software. It will cost $200, but there's currently a $100 rebate. The Verizon Wireless EV-DO network (called BroadbandAccess) costs $80 per month for unlimited use. 3Comhas launched an inexpensive access point that supports Power over Ethernet (PoE) as part of its small-to-medium business (SMB) line. The OfficeConnect Wireless 108Mbps 11g AP (model: 3CRGPOE10075) is made to complement the company's 2226-PWR baseline Ethernet switch, which can provide power on all 24 ports. The unit uses Atheros SuperG turbo mode and eXtended Range technology, has full AES and WPA-PSK security support, supports multiple SSIDs and VLANs (up to four each), and comes in a very small size, all for $199. It can also do WDS bridging between networks (point-to-point or point-to-multipoint) and can act as a repeater, or even as a client. The company also has a new 108Mbps OfficeConnect PC Card (model: 3CRXJK10075) with the company's patented retractable XJack antenna, which will sell for $79. BridgeCo said at CES last week that it is making two reference designs for digital media players that will include wireless using Broadcom 54g chips, as well as BridgeCo's own ARM-based media network processors and firmware. The chips from the two companies can "offer all the functionality needed to transform any audio system into a node on a Wi-Fi home network," says the company. The designs will incorporate the latest version of Broadcom's SecureEasySetup one-button security configuration. Each design includes a system board, SDK and the complete bill-of-materials. Motorola's Canopy Advantage wireless broadband products are now available in Europe using the 2.4, 5.4 and 5.7 Gigahertz bands. The proprietary wireless technology—consider it a precursor to WiMax—uses small radios to create a wireless connection between locations in a municipality. The Advantage version is meant to "provide an evolution to support future license-exempt WiMax products," according to the company. WatchGuard Technologies has released a wireless version of its security appliance. The Firebox X Edge Wireless is an access point using 802.11b/g, with built-in WAN connection (and modem connection for failover). It also includes full support for WEP, WPA, and IPsec VPN tunnels for mobile users. The various models support different numbers of users. For example, the $569 X5w supports 17, and the $1,149 X15w supports 30. There are strictly wired versions of each product as well. All are controlled from a centrally-placed Firebox appliance running the company's software.
Week of January 3-7, 2005
Smart ID has its second generation Wi-Fi signal locator out. The WiFi Trekker will auto-alert you to the presence of a Wi-Fi network. Press the button once to find out if there's an 802.11b or 11g network around, and press it twice to go into auto-scanning mode. Once it finds a network, it will tell you with a buzz and flashing LEDs. As announced in July of last year, Atheros is has a MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) chipset, which they began shipping to customers this week. The company will be stressing that its chip, the AR5005VL, will outdo other MIMO chips (from companies like Airgo Networks, which has a head start in the market) by stressing the need for beam-forming and receive combining of a multipath signal.
Airgo and Atheros are both in different camps making proposals for what will eventually become the high-speed 802.11n standard, which will use MIMO. But don't count on any of these chips actually working with real 802.11n products when they come out in a year or three.
Texas Instrumentsalso has a new chip out this week, the TNETW350, a single-chip 802.11a/b/g baseband/MAC. It will integrate with TI's DSL and other communications platforms to build Wi-Fi easily into new products for the home market, and works with TI's extended range radios for high-end equipment, or with its low power radios to work in mobile devices. They'll all be available to customers in the second quarter. ZyXEL has announced the P-334WT Wireless G+ Firewall Router, which it says is seven times faster than 11b (well, duh), but more importantly, features Trend Micro Home Network Security Services and Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) for security—and uses a one touch setup to make a 256-bit WEP or WPA connection with clients. The $120 hardware is available now. Actiontec has more new products at CES: its 54Mbps Wireless Game Adapter works with both the Xbox and PlayStation2 to let them go online over your home WLAN or to do head-to-head wireless gaming. The $130 unit has to be configured for your network by first connecting it to a Windows PC with an Ethernet card. The company also has a $150 wireless 802.11g Multiport Print Server, which works with two USB and one parallel-port based printers at the same time if needed. The user just has to pick the right printer when printing a document. It supports Internet Printing Protocol, but is limited to WEP for security. Kodak is introducing its first digital camera with a Wi-Fi card for picture transfers to your PC or printer. The $600 Kodak EasyShare-One has digital zoom and a 3-inch touchscreen LCD. Anyone buying the camera's Wi-Fi Card (an extra $100) will also get free access (for a while) to the Internet at T-Mobile Hotspots —or they will when the software is available. The hotspots can be used to upload photos to the Kodak EasyShare Gallery Web site (formerly known as Ofoto)— the camera can view the online galleries as well. After the hotspot trial time is over, camera owners will be able to subscribe, again at a price to be determined. The Wi-Fi card will also work with the Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock Plus for fast printing without a PC. Belkin loves all chipset makers: it has announced a line of dual-band 802.11a/g products using chips from Atheros. (Belkin also makes 11g products using Broadcom chips and so-called "pre-11n" MIMO products with silicon from Airgo). The new 11a/g line will include a router, PC Card, USB adapter, and PCI card. They'll support Atheros SuperAG speed boost with a data rate of 108Mbps and the eXtended Range (XR) technology to get more, uh, range. Broadcom'schips are the star in the new line from US Robotics. Branded as MAXg, the line will use Broadcom's BroadRange technology with 802.11g to get 50 percent better distance, according to USR. They do this with a power increase to get a maximum signal of 19dB, compared to the usual 15dB in most Wi-Fi products. The Broadcom chips will also do 125Mbps with Broadcom's speed boosts. The line will premiere with a router, PC Card and PCI adapter (all priced under $70 MSRP). Later, they'll put out an access point and USB adapter—and a business grade MAXg AP will arrive soon after. USR is not using Broadcom's SecureEasySetup technology to set up home WLAN security, however, opting to go instead with its own homebrewed software wizards. USR is also shipping a Power over Ethernet (PoE) kit for its access points, so you can run them with power flowing into the Cat 5 Ethernet—no need for a power outlet by each AP. Each PoE adapter is $40 MSRP. Chipmaker Marvell —which says it has captured 65 to 75 percent of the market for non-PC Wi-Fi products, specifically in phones and consumer electronics (it's in the new PlayStation Portable) —has a new chip out and sampling with customers that might help it even more with CE. This latest single chip design, the 88W8388, not only builds in dual-band 802.11a/g (including the radios, baseband and MAC), but also includes an ARM9 processor and all the Layer 3 TCP networking information. According to the company's chief technology strategist, Paramesh Gopi, it "can go in any unit with no networking" and make it part of the WLAN. The wireless multimedia chips from ViXS Systems are finally getting some traction in the US. The company, which is showing a new low-cost 802.11a/b/g design for video use at CES, has got a license with Funai Electric, a large distributor of A/V products as the parent company of Sylvania and Emerson. Funai will use the ViXS XCode II video processor and Matrix II wireless baseband on the WaveTV reference design (made with Athena Semiconductor) in future products. Motorolahas a new line of Home Network Cameras ready to monitor your dwelling. They can be used remotely and controlled remotely, even by an Internet-capable phone. They'll also record video or stills and send notification of events, such as detecting motion. One model will pan and tilt; the other is still. Both support 802.11g and will be out in the summer. To go with them, Motorola has upgraded its monitoring software, which also runs its entire wireless Home Monitoring System, which includes a wireless siren, video controller, garage door controller, and more. Starter kit with video camera is $280; other kit for same price includes various home controls but no camera. Actiontec also has a new wireless camera. The 802.11g unit records audio as well as video. As with most cameras, it can be hooked to the Internet and viewed from any browser, anywhere, plus can send alerts via e-mail when motion is detected. The company also announced a HomePlug Wireless Kit for extending your wireless network to far parts of the house using HomePlug over 150 feet of your power lines, working as a bridge to the access point. The kit is $170. Archos is upgrading its AV500 portable device for watching and listening to entertainment while on the road. The new product, to be called the Pocket Media Assistant PMA400, has a 30GB hard drive that can store 120 hours of video, a touchscreen for playing back video, a built-in DVR function, and Ethernet and 802.11b wireless connections. Stepping away from Vegas and CES for a moment: Israel's Alvarion said today it will be showing products supporting 802.16e— mobile WiMax—within the year, and will have products ready in 2006. Just in time for a what it calls the "multi-billion" dollar opportunity of true broadband speed for devices that are in motion. Hawking Technologies says it will soon ship an 802.11b/g Hi-Gain Wireless Laptop Card (model: HWC54D) as part of its range-extending line of products which they say can increase distance and throughput up to 200%. It uses a directional 6dBi antenna. MSRP is $90, but they expect it to sell at retail for $60. Sensoria Corp. is entering the mesh networking world, shipping a product called Sensoria EnRoute400 which was codeveloped by Intel. It is specifically targeted toward use by first responders and for homeland security or military applications. It uses Sensoria's WirelessFabric communications software, which is radio-independent and would work with various types of wireless. The EnRoute400 will run IP networks, and can bridge between networks. Video54 Technologies is showing off its new BeamFlex technology at CES this week. The tech, which will be utilized by Netgear for its RangeMax tech, is meant to ensure "picture perfect transmission of video over wireless." Netgear's RangeMax equipment will use seven "smart MIMO antennas" and BeamFlex to adjust the wireless network on the fly to get better range and higher performance. The first RangeMax products will ship in the spring. D-Link's MediaLounge Wireless Media Player (model: DSM-320—the existing unit without the DVD player) now supports playing Internet radio through the site Live365. It's available free for 30 days—after that, users have to subscribe for $3.65 a month. Delphi, which makes an "802.11-enabled rear-seat video system" for vehicles, is working with cable company Comcastto get video content on that system (wirelessly, natch). The two expect to complete something in 6 to 18 months. Tao Consumer Electronics, a brand of Giant International in Atlanta, is showing its Tao WiFi MP3 Player at CES this week. The 20GB hard drive can receive music files over a wireless network or while at a hotspot. It has a built-in FM transmitter so it can be played back over a standard radio, and has dual headphone jacks for sharing tunes with a loved one. The Tao carries a price of $350 MSRP. It's MIMO, but they're not calling it "pre-11n": Linksys is launching a new line of products using Airgo Networks' MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) chips, which they'll use to get a "Speed and Range eXtension" or SRX, the new name for the line. They claim the MIMO will provide three times the range, and eight times the throughput. First to ship will be a Wireless-G Router for $199 MSRP, and a PC Card for $129. Other form factors will come later. The chips are the same Belkin uses in its "Pre-N" product line, so called because MIMO is expected to be a major factor in the future high-speed standard called 802.11n, which won't be finalized for a couple of years. Wisair says its ultrawideband (UWB) high-speed wireless technology will be on display this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Its development kit will be demoed by companies like Asus, D-Link, HP, NEC, TI, and others, in various forms. Wisair will be showing it themselves at the Multi-Band OFDM Alliance (MBOA) pavilion.