RealTime IT News

Wi-Fi Product Watch: November 2005

Last week, Ecutel Systems launched a new endpoint security technology called EASi, the Endpoint Automated Security Initiative, a module for its Viatores Mobile IP VPN suite. Company president Tom Matthews says it lets "administrators create and enforce policies so they can meet security standards on devices" in remote offices, in the field, or on the home network. EASi will push full remediation as well, updating client systems as needed to get permission to log on. The price is $59 per client, plus the price of the Viatores NxG 5.0 Suite.

Ubicom says that its StreamEngine technology for prioritizing traffic such as VoIP, gaming and video on wireless is in use by two D-Link products, the D-Link Wireless 108G MIMO Router (model DI-634M, $99 MSRP) for homes, and the D-Link Wireless QoS Office Router (DI-724U, $129) for small businesses. They say that in tests with voice equipment, StreamEngine improves call quality by 300 percent (though they don't say if the tests were done with these particular routers).

Hot on the heels of Netgear announcing its RangeMax 240 line of wireless products, Linksys says it is "first to ship" the next generation of MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) products, the Wireless-G Broadband Router with SRX400 (model WRT54GX4, $150) and the Wireless-G PC Card with SRX400 (WPC54GX4, $100) — though both companies are using the third generation of TRUE MIMO chips from Airgo Networks. Online shopping source Froogle.com shows both product lines on sale, with the less expensive Linksys router only showing up on Amazon.com for now. The Netgear RangeMax 240 router is available from several other online retailers.

Converged Access is joining the Wi-Fi party, adding 802.11b/g support to its "all-in-one" Converged Access Point (CAP) product which combines a VoIP Gateway, firewall, VPN for up to 25 tunnels, and traffic manager for small and remote office networks. Prices start at $995 with wireless, or $850 without.

November 22, 2005

AirMagnet's Laptop Analyzer product has been upgraded to version 6.0, and now will run on computers with Intel's Centrino chips — no need to stick in a card with another vendor's Wi-Fi support. Also new is a "remote visibility" feature that lets two laptops running the software, even in different locations, connect to each other for long-distance analysis of gathered data. There are also new regulatory requirements met with this version, such as the PCI-DSS security standard for retailers that do credit card transactions. They've already got reports to support Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, GLBA and other rules. Also new is support for Internet protocols like FTP, SMTP, Telnet, HTTP and POP; new alarms that can be sent via e-mail or text message; and better support for extended 802.11a channels used in Japan. The software costs $3,500, but current users can upgrade for free.

If you're using the Verizon Wireless (VW) BroadbandAccess EV-DO network but are tired of carrying around that bulky laptop, the company has good news. Along with Research in Motion, they're making available the BlackBerry 7130e phone for e-mail and data surfing while out and about. The unit can even be used as an EV-DO modem for connecting from your laptop. Unlimited service is available at the original BroadbandAccess price of $80 per month if you do that, or you can pay $30 per month for data only to the BlackBerry. It also works on VW's NationalAccess 1xRTT network. The 7130e will cost $300 with a two-year commitment when it goes on sale at VW stores.

RIM's not the only one with a new EV-DO phone. Alltel will be offering a new phone from UTStarcom Personal Communications (formerly Audiovox, before it was bought by UTStarcom) which is based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform. The PPC 6700 supports both EV-DO and Wi-Fi. The sliding QWERTY keyboard lets it be used as a full PDA for working on MS Office documents, and it supports audio formats like MP3 for playback. It will sell for $480. Alltel launched EV-DO service under the name Axcess Broadband back in March in Tampa, Cleveland, and Akron, Ohio. It's now available in Norfolk, Virginia; Lansing, Michigan; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Oklahoma City. The price for service is $70 per month for unlimited connections.

Airspan Networks says its AS.MAX line of WiMax products is now "generally available" for customers after beta testing, though it's still in interoperability testing with the WiMax Forum's lab of choice, Cetecom. The AS.MAX line consists of both Macro and Micro base stations, as well as CPEs for both indoors and out. The company says the CPEs was able to handle sustained video streaming at speeds of over 7Mbps during the recent WiMax Forum Plugfest. Airspan also will sell an outdoor CPE called ProST-WiFi that includes integrated 802.11b/g for client connections, suitable for hotzone creation.

News.com reports that a company named American Biophysics, makers of the Mosquito Magnet which attracts and kills the little bloodsuckers, is working on a "smart" version with software controls that would be monitored over an 802.11-based network. Picture the magnet becoming high-tech enough to protect your local golf course from the bugs, and you've got the idea.

November 17, 2005

ABI Research has forecasts on two Wi-Fi fronts. First, in the wake of Cisco announcing its intentions to compete in the municipal wireless networking space with mesh equipment, ABI says the wireless mesh market will probably "achieve a stellar growth rate by the end of the decade." Plus, ABI says that growth is going to come not from the incumbent telcos and ISPs, but from the municipalities themselves and from alternative ISPs not usually in the wireless business (oh, like, say, Google or EarthLink). Campus roll-outs and temporary networks for special events will also fare well. That's great if you're on the ground, but what if you fly? Another study by ABI says in-flight mobile phone and Wi-Fi data services are creating a whole new market, especially because of pico-cell technology that will help keep GSM and CDMA phones from causing interference by trying to connect to the ground towers. There are still a lot of regulatory hurdles for Wi-Fi to jump through in the short to medium term, but they say that after 2007, more in-flight communications should be available starting in Europe, then in Asia, and finally in North America.

Dublin, Ireland-based Cicero Networks has released its new VoIP platform for mobile phones. The software, called CiceroPhone, runs on smartphones  and allows calls on all types of networks, cellular CDMA and GSM up to Wi-Fi with the same interface. It runs on Windows Mobile 5.0. They've also introduced a Call Continuity server for the Cicero Controller that carriers use to deliver roaming between cellular and Wi-Fi connections.

TRENDnet wasn't satisfied with bringing us a USB 2.0 unit that included an 802.11a/b/g adapter and a signal locator with LCD readout. Now, the new HotFlash (model TEW-428UF, which unfortunately won't ship until January) does almost all of that and throws in 512MB of Flash Memory. All it lacks is 802.11a detection/connection. It'll sell for $100 or less when it debuts.

Before we've even got any ZigBee products to play with at home, Ember is already shipping a second-generation protocol stack for the wireless technology. They say EmberZNet 2.0 (the company's fifth generation of mesh networking software) will support application profiles for home controls, and a new Ember transport layer will make it more reliable and help customers port applications to ZigBee. The stack comes bundled on the Ember EM250 ZigBee system-on-a-chip and the EM260 network processor. Existing EmberNet customers can upgrade to EmberZNet 2.0 for free.

November 15, 2005

Texas Instruments has announced new software for its chips destined for access points and consumer devices. TI  says the software, called G++ (and, obviously, destined for 802.11g APs and consumer devices), can provide twice the range and 50 percent better throughput. G++ makes sure the hardware uses higher power output, improves sensitivity, and avoids interference from items like cordless phones and microwaves on the same frequency. TI says the bulk of its customers will end up using G++, but most are service providers who provide gateways, so don't expect to see this on the shelf at Best Buy.

Atheros has a new chip, the AR5007AP-G, which it calls a "design breakthrough," since it puts the entire 802.11b/g access point on one system-on-a-chip — that means MAC, baseband, radio, and network processor all in one, minus only the antenna. The company says this is 40 percent fewer components than even the AR5006AP-G. The new chip also supports full 802.11i/WPA2, 802.11e for Quality of Service, and the Atheros performance enhancements like eXtended Range (XR) and JumpStart (for fast security setup). The chips are in production, and will probably be in smaller products than exist today by early next year.

SMC Networks is getting into the MIMO product biz. Using chips from Ralink Technology, SMC will start shipping its new Barricade/EZ Connect family in December. Products include a $140 broadband router, $60 CardBus adapter, and $60 PCI adapter for desktops. The company states that with MIMO-to-MIMO connections, speeds will be "up to 20 times faster than old 802.11b," while retaining backwards compatibility. They'll announce other compatible products in early 2006.

Who is Wibiki? The company is doing pre-release trials of a "client for trusted Wi-Fi services" with a select group, a subset of the users who they say "depend on Wi-Fi for 24/7 connectivity." The goal is some kind of community-based, universal Wi-Fi access, but the hows or whys of this "wireless ubiquity" (that's what Wibiki" comes from) are still unstated. Wibiki is a subsidiary of Speedus Corp.

Synergy Research Group has announced the third quarter 2005 (Q3 '05, for the hip) numbers for WLANs... and the numbers are good. Consumer equipment sales went up 3 percent (still led, as ever, by Linksys, D-Link, Netgear, and Buffalo), while enterprise equipment sales were up 5 percent. Cisco and Symbol retain their top spots, but Aruba jumped into the #3 position with a 20 percent gain all to itself.

November 10, 2005

Those interested in installing mesh networks will soon have a new supplier: D-Link is getting into the act soon with Meshed Wireless Local Area Network (MWLAN) products targeting businesses, via its AirPremier line of products. The hardware will use 802.11a for backhaul (the mesh connections) and 802.11g for client connections. The products will have four modes: AP, Wireless Distribution System (WDS), AP with WDS, and also an auto-configuration to create a topology on the fly. Each will support 802.3af Power over Ethernet (PoE), and will have high gain antennas, up to 16 virtual SSIDs, VLAN support, client load balancing and disabling of SSID broadcasts. Security support will go up to enterprise-class WPA2. No word on cost or when the MWLAN equipment will be available.

Amsterdam's Makayama Interactive has released software for Windows XP called Easy WiFi Radar to make it easier for the average person to connect to hotspots and other WLANs, as long as the access points are open and unencrypted. The software costs $20 US/$18 EUR, but has a free 10-day trial good for up to 20 successful Internet connections.

WiMax equipment maker Airspan Networks has purchased Finland's hotzone provider Radionet Oy for $1.75 million plus stock transactions. This gives Airspan control of Radionet's products and the MageIP technology used for seamless roaming from AP to AP  within a hotzone. Airspan is looking toward a future with a mix of WiMax and Wi-Fi in metropolitan deployments.

InnerWireless says its in-building RF location system using the open 802.15.4 specification (used in everything from ZigBee to warehouse wireless sensor networks) in tags and infrastructure equipment will save healthcare verticals tons o' money — 1/3  over using existing 802.11 wireless in a hospital for the same tracking, it claims — but will still co-exist with 802.11/Wi-Fi. 802.15.4 chips are cheaper than Wi-Fi chips, too. The company's usual in-building systems can support all types of radios, from Wi-Fi to cellular.

Engadget has had the scoop on a few new Wi-Fi handsets of late. Skype's agreement with Taiwan-based Accton Technology heralds the coming of the WiFi SkyFone WM1185-T for making Skype calls at hotspots. It should arrive next year for around $150. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) site, always a good place to find un-announced products, showed pictures of the Linksys WIP330 handset, which will use SIP v2 over 802.11b/g, and will probably sell for over $200. Finally, the Sandgate VP from Sophia Systems of Japan is a potential VoIP smartphone running Windows Mobile 5, but it's shaped like a phone, not a PDA.

November 8, 2005

This isn't so much product news as just good to know, but hold on to your hats for the earth-shattering news: Wi-Fi doesn't stand for anything. Mega-blog BoingBoing got this "debate" rolling last week by saying that the phrase "wireless fidelity" — used in news stories all the time by reporters who can't wrap their heads around a term like Wi-Fi, which isn't an acronym or truncation or initialization or whatever  — has no meaning, and that Wi-Fi isn't short for anything. No one is arguing it. Way back when the Wi-Fi Alliance was called the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA), it realized no one was calling the technology "wireless Ethernet," and they didn't want to call it "IEEE 802.11b." So the alliance picked Wi-Fi as a trademark. After that, WECA started using the tag line of "The Standard for Wireless Fidelity." So Wi-Fi came first, but the Alliance board felt at the time that Wi-Fi, by itself, as nothing more than a pun for "Hi-Fi," was not enough. Phil Belanger, currently with BelAir Networks, was one of the founders of WECA and he confirmed for BoingBoing that the term Wi-Fi has no meaning. He also mentions that it was picked from about ten names suggested by  the same branding company that came up with the names for companies and products like Compaq, Vivato, and Prozac, to mention just a few. Belanger concludes, "We were dumb to confuse and water down their efforts by adding the meaningless tag line. Please help reinforce the good work that we did and forget the tag line."

Actiontec said today it will eventually be selling a router (model MI424-WR) that supports the new Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) networking standard. It uses coaxial cable to send multimedia all over the home, though Ethernet and 802.11g with WPA are built in as well.  It will let a telco assign priorities to the bandwidth needed for incoming video and voice over IP traffic. It won't be generally available for a few weeks, and no pricing was announced.

Netgear is the first vendor to announce a product that will ship with the third generation of Airgo Networks' TRUE MIMO chips. The RangeMax 240 family — named for the 240Mbps data rate they claim to provide — will include a router, PC Card adapter and USB 2.0 adapter. The new TRUE MIMO silicon automatically selects channels and uses Adaptive Channel Expansion (ACE) to make 20MHz channels into wider 40MHz if available on both ends of the connection. (The original Netgear RangeMax line used so-called MIMO from Ruckus Wireless; last week, Netgear said they would still support that company's BeamFlex technology in a new RangeMax ADSL Modem Wireless Router unit.) Supposedly, all of the above will interoperate, but you can bet they won't do it at the top speeds.

Senforce Technologies has upgraded its Endpoint Security Suite (Senforce ESS) to version 3.1. The software enforces endpoint security policies on client systems no matter where they are in the world, even if they're signing on from across the globe to the corporate net.

Network Chemistry says its new RFprotect Survey product "uses actual measurements for WLAN deployment planning," specifically in laying out sensors for a wireless intrusion detection/prevention system. Survey is a laptop software product that determines where sensors and access points should be placed. Customers who hire Network Chemistry to do a site survey by March 31, 2006 will get a free copy of the software. Pricing wasn't announced. Once in place, Survey can be upgraded to RFprotect Mobile, which includes walk-around security audits.

Where has all the 802.11a gone? Strategy Analytics says in its Connect Home Devices research that 802.11b/g is dominant, while 11a "has so far gained little traction" in home networks. 11n will start driving the next wave in 2006. As it is, wireless has become integral to nearly two thirds of all the network devices available for homes today.

November 4, 2005

TRENDnet  has a new wireless camera that can pan and tilt via remote control. The Wireless Advanced Pan & Tilt Internet Camera Server (model TV-IP400W, which also comes in a wired version) has its own integrated Web server  for control via a browser. It uses 802.11g, and supports only WEP; the image format is 640x480 at 20 frames per second, and can be zoomed in up to 4x.

November 2, 2005

Last week, Motorola and Intel announced their plans to collaborate heavily within the WiMax Forum "to ensure that network and device interoperability issues are addressed adequately" — specifically for 802.16e, also known as mobile WiMax. They want to make sure that systems running at the speed of a car can easily hand off from base station to base station without losing a wireless broadband connection. Motorola won't even make any WiMax products using the current 802.16-2004 spec, which doesn't support mobility. The two types of WiMax, fixed and mobile, won't interoperate.

As of the end of the day on November 4, YDI is no more... now it will be all Terabeam, all the time. The company not only is making the name change official, but is changing its NASDAQ ticker symbol to TRBM . Previously, YDI only used Terabeam Wireless as a business name. They also own equipment provider Proxim Wireless Corp. and wireless ISP Ricochet Networks.

Helium Networks makes a WLAN site survey and audit system, and it's now offering a series of training courses to go with the system. The first session, "WLAN Site Surveys Using Wireless Recon," will be held next week in Pittsburgh and run by Wi-Fi Planet's own Jim Geier. Plunk down your $1,500 for Wireless Recon and sign up now... the day-and-a-half class is free if you own the product.

Wi-Fi chipmaker Broadcom says its SecureEasySetup software for activating fast encrypted wireless connections between Wi-Fi nodes is now installed in several new retail products. Linksys has it in its Wireless-G and Wireless-G with SpeedBooster products from the routers down to the access cards; HP has built it into two printers, the Photosmart 3310 All-in-One and OfficeJet Pro K550dtwn; Gateway's new notebooks for the holiday season will use it; and Brother has it in the MFC-640cw 7-in-1 Color Inkjet Multi-Function Center.

802.11a admins can look to the Beetle from Berkeley Varitronics Systems (BVS) for help with installation. The passive handheld testing unit measures spectrum from 5.150 to 5.9 GHz, and measures and demodulates packets from access points using OFDM modulation within the 802.11a standard. Stats include packet error rate, encryption status, the SSID and MAC, and the signal strength of the AP. The unit will start selling before the end of the year for $1,400.

Testing isn't limited to current types of Wi-Fi networks any more. Azimuth Systems has the first MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) channel emulator available, which it says "reproduces 4 x 4 multipath environments with channel correlation." The Azimuth Channel Emulator (ACE) 400NB emulates usually unpredictable multipath signals in a controlled manner. The platform also works on SISO (single-input-single-output) systems like current 802.11a/b/g. Azimuth says the order lead time to get the 400NB is 12 weeks.