Wi-Fi Product Watch: December 2005
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December 23, 2005
Want to see just how your microwave, phone or Bluetooth devices are impacting your home wireless network? Wi-Spy is a new $99 spectrum analyzer tool from MetaGeek that combines a simple USB adapter with a software interface that handles the data analysis, even recording data so you can compare old and new readings via video playback. The software is available for download for free; it runs on Windows XP or 2000 if you have the .NET 1.1 framework installed.
December 20, 2005
3Com's wireless switch products are now granting guest access privileges with ease. This feature allows personnel like receptionists to set up temporary accounts for visitors -- anyone who only needs limited access to the WLAN. Guests get a log-in username and password for access while being kept separate from the company's main network, though various levels of access will be allowed as needed, with authorization limitations such as time of day, day of the week, encryption type, and physical location being just a few. The lobby staffer can set up the account using a Java-based interface customizable to each company.
Actiontec has a new wireless network attached storage product (as well as a wired version) called, get this, Wireless Network Attached Storage. Each comes in models with 160GB drive for $299, 250GB drive for $360, or empty (at $185) so you can stick in any 3.5-inch IDE hard drive you want the wired versions are all about $30 cheaper. The wireless version has 802.11g built in, with only WEP encryption for protection. They support UPnP, and can connect to a PC using a USB 2.0 port. They should be out by January.
Netgear is offering a new ProSafe access point, the plenum-rated and Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) supporting Dual-Band model WAG102 for businesses. As the name implies, it supports both 5GHz 802.11a and 2.4GHz 802.11g, up to 108Mbps in both, supporting as many as 128 users through detachable 5 dBi antennas. It also supports WPA2-Enterprise for security, and is certified for Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) support by the Wi-Fi Alliance. It can go into bridge/repeater mode using the Wireless Distribution System (WDS). It will sell for $279 and is available now.
5G Wireless has a new wireless broadband "cellular-style" base station supporting 802.11b/g. The G-Force 850 can cover a range of up to 2 km (about 1.5 miles) and can be set up to support security from WEP up to WPA2. Orders made until January 31 get the product at the old 802.11b-only base station price (which the company doesn't publicize).
The Calypso Wireless C1250i Wi-Fi/GSM/GPRS VoIP smartphone is closer to coming to market, as the company said today it has finalized the purchase of Sleipner, a Milan-based company developing software that will help the product, which uses Calypso's patented ASNAP technology for seamless switching between cellular and Wi-Fi networks. The phone runs on Intel PXA chips, and uses Microsoft's WinCE 5.0 operating system.
SMC Networks' new $100 EZ Connect g 2.4GHz 54Mbps Wireless USB 2.0 Print Server (model SMCWPS-G) will hook up any USB-based printer to the WLAN (or via Ethernet), and supports print jobs coming in over the Internet, even by e-mail, using the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) Server capability. The wireless connection supports WEP to WPA2 security. It's available now.
The latest joiner to the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC) group, which plans to take over and accelerate the development of the 802.11n high-speed wireless standard in the IEEE, is STMicroelectronics. The company cites the importance of enhanced battery life and improved communication range as the reasons. ST is working on Wi-Fi/cellular convergence chipsets. The company was a member of the WWiSE coalition of companies, but apparently left them behind, saying that the group's "technical submissions to TGn [Task Group n] have now largely been absorbed into the EWC draft specification alongside those of other industry groups including TGn Sync."
It's not officially released yet, but TRENDnet has an 802.11g Wireless & Bluetooth Combo USB Adapter on the way. The product (model TBW-103UB) is the size of a regular USB thumb drive (just under four inches long including the USB plug) and supports 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 1.2. It has an external antenna that can be adjusted to improve signal strength.
Conexant still make 802.11 chips, if you forgot. This week, they announced a new low-power portfolio for embedded use in phones, cameras, printers and other smaller non-computer items. They say they've specifically designed the line to support "a path to zero-host loading for wireless functionality," which means no more need for re-engineering of CPUs by the manufacturer of a wireless product the power-sensitive chips have full MAC software and interface with USB, SDIO, SPI, CF and PCI as needed.
December 16, 2005
3Com is the latest company to go through the testing for SpectraLink's Voice Interoperability for Enterprise Wireless (VIEW) Certification Program. The company's WX4400, WX1200, WXR100 Switches and 3Com Managed Access Point 3750 can now be mixed and matched with SpectraLink NetLink VoWi-Fi phones as needed. Earlier this week, Symbol announced it was now VIEW-approved, too.
December 14, 2005
MusicGremlin is coming to CES in January. The New York-based company's digital audio player doesn't need a PC, but connects directly to its MusicGremlin Direct online music content service with legal downloads from the four major labels and 25,000 independents when you're on a Wi-Fi network. You can set up downloads when offline, and receive them when you log in. The company already announced deals with HarborLink Network and Less Networks Wireless. As for who will make and resell the handhelds needed for this to work, that's unannounced, as is pricing.
Hawking Technologies is making a name for itself with products that extend the range of Wi-Fi, and its latest USB adapter, in the shape of a satellite dish, is no different. The Hi-Gain USB Wireless-G Dish Adapter (model HWU8DD) really is shaped like a mini satellite dish that sits on the desk next to your Windows computer. It provides an 8dBi gain to get you 300 percent farther away from your access point. The company says it "has the aesthetic appeal that the general market can understand and can associate to longer range." While the aesthetic appeal might be debatable, it does have nice features to go with that long distance, like full security up to WPA2, and Hawking's own Signal Strength LED Indicator (SSLI), which uses five LED lights to tell you the best placement of the dish to get the best signal.
AeroScout is putting its Wi-Fi-based Active RFID tags in everything. Last week, they announced the use of it in prisons, and now they're using them to track Japanese schoolchildren. The kids get the T2 Tag with Call Button, so the tag can be used for more than just tracking where kids are on the route to school they also can use them to call for help. They're in use in a trial in Yokohama City until March, which the company is doing with Nissan Motors (drivers can get alerts to kids in the road), NTT DATA Corp., and others.
Worried that the 802.11n specification will be hopelessly delayed now that Intel, Atheros, Broadcom and Marvell launched the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC) as a third alternative for high-speed wireless? After all, the other two, WWiSE and TGn Sync, were starting to get along so nicely. ABI Research says not to be concerned. They call the idea that EWC will hijack the IEEE process to get a final 802.11n standard "farfetched." Even if the standard doesn't get any tracking with future meetings, ABI says to expect 11n or "pre-11n" chips out by the end of 2006. EWC now has 36 member companies, including the latest joiner, SiBEAM, which calls itself "a developer of gigabit wireless technology."
Proxim Wireless, a subsidiary of Terabeam, says that a provider (Enterprise Digital Architects of Italy) has completed successful trials of its first WiMax-compliant system, the Tsunami MP.16 3500, which runs in the 3.4 to 3.6GHz radio frequency bands using time-division duplexing (TDD).
Decemeber 13, 2005
The days of Wi-Fi switch vendors having to create all the software needed to run a network are ending. Companies like NextHop Technologies and and Flextronics Software Systems are bringing software to market to run unified wired and wireless networks via boxes built by third party OEMs. NextHop's UNS 4.0 comes out later this month, and the company is trumpeting its major scalability, with the ability to run up to 48 access points per switch, controlling up to 14,000 MAC addresses as well as all the major Wi-Fi encryption standards. They also have a deal with Wireless Valley for doing RF management. Flextronics said today that its software in the same vein is part of an OEM-ready line of WLAN switching solutions. Expect Taiwanese companies to start cranking out low-cost switches once these packages are in the mainstream.
The Wi-Fi Alliance announced results from a 1,000-person survey it did in the final week of November. First, 70 percent said they would be "more likely to take their notebook computer when traveling on vacation" because Wi-Fi hotspots are so prevalent. Respondents also think Wi-Fi at home makes them more productive and helps them stay in touch, and 74 percent with home offices say the presence of hotspots helps them escape more often. 60 percent said that seeing the Wi-Fi Certified logo on a package "instills confidence," and they would buy that product over a non-certified device.
Speaking of the Wi-Fi Alliance, Azimuth Systems will probably sell more Wi-Fi testing products now that the Alliance is going to use a specialized Azimuth box called ADEPT-WFA as part of its interoperability testing. It won't replace the testbed of actual Wi-Fi products used, but it will provide extras like traffic generation, emulation of clients, and even attacks for testing WPA/WPA2, much of which the labs used to do manually. Azimuth will have a suite of scripts that automatically run the Alliance tests for security, multimedia Quality of Service (QoS), and more perfect for vendors who want to ensure their products are interoperable before they go off to the Alliance labs. Azimuth also now has automated equipment in use by Keylabs, which does the testing for Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX), the program that ensures that client systems will work without hassle on Cisco infrastructure equipment. Again, CCX partners can use the equipment to make sure they're compatible before the official testing starts anything to avoid retesting and delays.
Last week, Sputnik introduced a $2,700 rack-mounted server that can control up to ten remote access points over the Internet using the Sputnik Control Center software. They're also selling two new access points, one with a 285 milliwatt transceiver for $279, and one with two such transceivers for $399. The extra power covers more distance as much as two miles for point-to-point links according to the company. Also, the new Linksys WRT54GL router, which is specifically shipping with Linux as an operating system, can be flashed with Sputnik firmware, just like the older Linux-based Linksys products. Sputnik sells the WRT54GL for $99 already flashed.
Japan's Corega K.K. will be making routers and PC Cards using Airgo Networks' TRUE MIMO chipsets, which will sell in Asia and Europe.
It's been a year since the ZigBee specification for home automation and monitoring was finalized. The ZigBee Alliance says since that time it has doubled its membership to go beyond 200 companies in 24 countries. 30 percent of members are now makers of end user products. The Alliance plance to have a big presence this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas from January 5-8 with their own pavilion.
Netgear, working with IP Wireless, is going to release the UMTS TD-CDMA Mobile Broadband Router. Operators can sell this to users who want that 3G technology to serve as backhaul to Wi-Fi or Ethernet based clients. It has four Ethernet ports and 802.11g with the usual firewall, plus an intrusion detection system. No word on cost or when it will be available.
Symbol Technologies wireless hardware specifically the WS5000 and WS5100 Wireless Switch, and the AP300 Access Port has passed testing with SpectraLink's Voice Interoperability for Enterprise Wireless (VIEW) Certification Program, an interesting move since the two compete in the VoWi-Fi space. But now companies can safely mix and match the two companies' equipment, knowing it will work together.
Cognio has changed the name of its Intelligent Spectrum Management System (ISMS) mobile spectrum analyzer software for Windows laptops to Spectrum Expert for WiFi as it hits version 2.0 (and it's only been out since June). The $3,995 product is free to upgrade for existing customers. The company also has a new $4,995 product called Spectrum Expert for RFID for testing the air for signals that could cause interference and power transmission problems for RFID systems.
December 7, 2005
Rumors of Qualcomm feeling the Wi-Fi love go back years, and there's no doubt they wanted to play a heavy hand in the development of high-speed 802.11n (they lost out on votes early on). But it was always tempered by the company asserting that hotspots were inferior to cellular-based services like EV-DO. This week, however, Qualcomm took the final plunge and became a member of the Wi-Fi Alliance in an effort to "be directly involved with ensuring the compatibility of Wi-Fi technology with the company's Mobile Station Modem (MSM) chipsets," which support technology like CDMA2000 and WCDMA. Qualcomm also recently bought Flarion, giving it a quick entrance into the wireless broadband market that many expect to belong to the WiMax vendors.
Speaking of the Wi-Fi Alliance, the industry consortium that tests and certifies Wi-Fi products for interoperability has added a new optional test for battery life in client devices, for both infrastructure and client products. A white paper on the topic states that, for there to be any power saving at all, both the client device and the access point have to be certified. It's part of the Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) program that tests for Quality of Service, which is itself a subset of what's available in the 802.11e specification finalized this year by the IEEE. The first products certified for WMM Power Save are almost all reference designs from chipmakers (Atheros, Broadcom, Conexant, Marvell and Ralink) as well as Cisco and WinBond; all the products are now part of the Alliance's Power Save testbed.
Fortress Technologies has a new wireless security controller, the FC-X. It handles throughput up to 1.5GB, and it's the first Fortress product to incorporate the "advanced security processing technologies" it bought when Legra Systems went belly-up. It will support Wi-Fi, WiMax/802.16 and even Free Space Optics (FSO) connections.
December 2, 2005
A while back, Wi-LAN of Calgary, Canada sued Cisco over some patents. That suit has been settled. Cisco bought the patents (it's good to have the money), and is letting Wi-LAN license them back. Wi-LAN is keeping control of its W-OFDM portfolio of patents, however, which Cisco will license for use. Everyone else is still fair game for the lawyers.
For those who like to hack their Linksys routers running Linux, the news that the company was moving to VxWorks might have been worrisome. But worry no longer. Linksys will be shipping a new version of the router, called WRT54GL, specifically to cater to the Linux-heads among us. The hardware is identical to the WRT54G series 4 model out there running Linux. The move to VxWorks let them create a version (WRT54G series 5) that would require less memory (Flash and RAM), and thus cost even less, although the Linux version already sells for about $70. Go forth and hot-rod.
Berkeley Varitronics Systems (BVS) has upgraded the software for its BumbleBee handheld spectrum analyzer to version 2.0. The HP iPAQ-based unit, running Windows Pocket PC 2003 software, can now show screens with histogram, persistence and spectrogram measurement. It will ID the waveforms of units like microwaves or phones which use the same 2.4GHz frequency as a Wi-Fi network, and it will filter out any data you want using the included Chameleon BumbleBee edition PC utility. The BumbleBee is available to measure 900MHz, 2.4GHz and 5GHz (with new WiMax), as well as the new 4.9 GHz Public Safety Band.
December 1, 2005
AirLink101 is introducing new MIMO products using chips from Ralink Technology. All are part of the MIMO XR 802.11g line, and include a router (model AR525W), PC Card for laptops (AWLC5025) and a PCI adapter for desktops (AWLH5025). The company says they'll work at a range of 2,550 feet in open space, or around 600 percent better than average 11g. All the products are backward-compatible with 11b/g products. They're also certified with Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) up to version 3.
If you've got those old-fashioned Wi-Fi access points around and you want to trade up to a Xirrus array, here's some good news. The Trade-Up to Xirrus program will run through March 2006. The program will offer rebates of up to $100 toward purchasing an array when you trade in third-party APs. One array unit includes 16 access points built in, offering full coverage of an entire floor of a building, for example, with just the one piece of hardware.