RealTime IT News

Wi-Fi Product Watch: May 2006

Texas Instruments has announced version 2.0 of its Consumer Electronics WLAN Developer Kit (CE WLAN DK) for allowing vendors to add Wi-Fi to any battery-powered device. Version 1.0 had only covered CE devices that didn’t move. Both are built on OMAP processors using TI’s DaVinci technology, and TI is promising “50 percent greater throughput and twice the range of competing solutions.” The complete chipset is only 11mm by 11mm, and includes the MAC, baseband, radio, power amplifier and SDIO interface.

The Linksys Wireless-G Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) Internet Camera with Audio (model WVC200) is for businesses looking to do a little light Web-based surveillance. Like any network node, it has its own  IP address when connected, so users can connect to it directly over the network  (most so-called Web cams use the IP of the computer they connect to). The IP address is shown right on an LCD screen on the front, so you don’t have to look it up, but it can be password-protected to allow only authorized users -- up to 10 at a time -- to have access to the 640x480 video stream in MPEG-4 format. It can zoom up to twice the image size, and has motion detection to activate feeding or recording video. It will sell for between $250 and $300.

WAPI is back (okay, it never really went away). The WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure developed by the Chinese was passed over by the Organization for Standardization (ISO) in Geneva, and now the Standardization Administration of China says it was a conspiracy, according to the PRC’s Xinhua News Agency. They're still trying to get the ISO to accept WAPI over the IEEE 802.11i standard for data encryption and authentication. CNET says China still refuses to let out details about WAPI technology, so ISO passed because it was unable to confirm there isn’t a backdoor method for using WAPI to get to data.

AirTight Networks has new products to add to its intrusion prevention system. SpectraGuard Managed Network Console (MNC) release 1.0 handles centralized management and reporting on the SpectraGuard Enterprise release 5.0 and the new high-capacity Enterprise hardware appliance, which can handle “tens of thousands of SpectraGuard SAFE clients,” according to the company. SAFE (Security Agent For Endpoints), which handles security policies on Windows XP devices, moves up to version 2.0. A personal edition of SAFE costs $10; base price of MNC is $20,000. Look for all the products to be available in June.

Skyhook Wireless says its Wi-Fi Positioning System, which uses a database of existing access points in big cities to create a GPS-like service on Wi-Fi devices, is now available in 100 major cities in the United States. They say this covers 45 percent of the US population, and they’re on track to cover 75 percent of the population by year’s end. Right now, the system powers Loki, a browser toolbar Skyhook makes available for free, to enable positioning features in your Web browser, and is used by CyberAngel Security Solutions for stolen or lost laptop recovery.

Cisco Systems remains the king of selling Wi-Fi products. This week, the company added another feather to that cap, reporting that it has sold in excess of 3 million enterprise-class access points since 1999, when it bought Aironet, the brand still used on most of its APs. The majority of its APs are the 1200 series, which can be configured as intelligent standalone units or run by a Cisco switch.

Speaking of Cisco, its Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) program for client systems, which makes it easier for devices to connect to a Cisco Wi-Fi infrastructure, is ready for handsets from Ascom Wireless Solutions. In fact, after recent testing, the Ascom i75 handset is now one of the first VoWi-Fi phones with CCX inside.

Do you get a headache when you sit next to a Wi-Fi access point? Maybe you’re not alone. Mobile Tech Today reports -- anecdotally -- that there is an “increasing body of evidence to suggest certain people are hypersensitive to the emissions from wireless access points and other electromagnetic devices.” Studies say it could be one person in 10,000, or one person in 30, who are sensitive. Mobile phone base stations/towers are still considered the bigger concern, but the chairman of independent watchdog group Powerwatch recommends against installing a WLAN, or at the very least moving personnel away from APs until there are more studies done.

May 23, 2006

Windows Vista will feature new technology called Windows Rally meant to help set up wireless networks. It's also going to be in future media player products from Buffalo Technology, using software from Mediabolic. It could be a mix of Windows Zero Config, currently used to get laptops connected to WLANs, and technology like Buffalo's own AOSS for setting up instant encryption -- but no details are available, outside of the fact that it uses a PIN code instead of a one-button setup. (Such technology is also under development with the Wi-Fi Alliance under the name Simple Config.) Buffalo is demonstrating its media player with Windows Rally at the WinHEC 2006 conference in Seattle.

Wireless intrusion prevention company AirTight Networks says its SpectraGuard Enterprise product will tell you when a pre-standard 802.11n (usually called Draft N) access point is on your network. SpectraGuard will identify a number of them with various chips and manufacturers and prevent network users from talking with the interloper. SpectraGuard is also the latest to become a part of the CWNP instructor-led training courses for wireless network administration.

Strix Systems has a new piece of indoor equipment to extend their outdoor mesh networks. The Edge Wireless System (EWS) 100 is a small customer premises unit (CPE) with two radios (5GHz 802.11a and 2.4GHz 802.11b/g) that service providers can configure as desired — Strix said they built it based on service provider requests. The $179 hardware can work in conjunction with an existing router (like any broadband modem) or without, since it can supply the client wireless connections to the Internet. Strix revealed this week that its mesh equipment is powering the wireless network in Dunedin, Florida that's already one-quarter deployed.

Air Broadband Communications makes equipment for both WiMax/802.16 and Wi-Fi/802.11. Today, the company said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted it U.S. Patent No. 7,016,682, Hybrid Wireless Access Bridge and Mobile Access Router System and Method, which spells out how it uses Soft-Roaming, a way to seamlessly hand off from Wi-Fi network to WiMax network and vice versa (and covers roaming to other types of radio networks, like CDMA, as well). The company has six other patents in with the USPTO.

The Card Access High Security Wireless Bridge now works with the Columbitech Wireless VPN, so retailers can turn wired point-of-sale (POS) systems into wireless POS. Using a VPN instead of WEP (or no wireless) protects data like credit card info, as required by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards.

Despite the fact that 802.11n may be even further delayed due to infighting, the vendors are still cranking out the Draft N products. Netgear said this week that it will ship the first DSL broadband modem with Draft N support built in. The RangeMax NEXT Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Router (model DG834N) has the DSL modem, router, 10/100 switch, and of course the draft-based 802.11n access point inside. It will sell for $299.

May 19, 2006

Nomadix is entering the fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) fray. The WLAN infrastructure equipment maker announced earlier this week that its Nomadix Service Engine (NSE) Wi-Fi gateway, in use by 26,000 carriers, service providers and other customers, would support the Seamless Access Wireless Local Area Network (SA-WLAN) project spearheaded by the GSM Association. This endeavor gives mobile phone providers a leg up in giving customers access to Wi-Fi networks. Nomadix has already demonstrated the ability with fellow SA-WLAN member Intel at CTIA 2006 and at the Intel Developers Forum in China. The NSE not only sports Wi-Fi Alliance certification, but also supports ETSI standards for Seamless Access.

Toshiba's Strata CIX IP business phone system now supports two new wireless handsets. The Toshiba WIP-5000 Wireless Telephone is based on the SIP-based phone from Hitachi Cable USA. It runs 802.11b. SpectraLink's Link 6020 Wireless Telephone handset isn't Wi-Fi (it runs in 900MHz FHSS), but has been added to the Strata list. Both are for sale through Toshiba resellers.

May 18, 2006

Linksys WIP330Can we talk? Linksys has new IP phones out for use on 802.11g networks: the WIP300 and WIP330 Wireless-G IP Phones both need a SIP-based VoIP service to work. The $370 WIP330 is for travelers, with  a bigger screen (2.2 inch color LCD) and QoS support, and phone features like 3-way calls, hold and resume and CID. It uses Broadcom's SecureEasySetup to do fast security hookups to a Linksys router — it even has built in 802.1X authentication capability. The $220 WIP300 is a good one for at home, with a 1.8-inch screen (but bigger buttons) and a Wi-Fi site survey tool.

Colubris is selling a fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) platform for companies looking to mix Wi-Fi with cellular using both Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) standards. The company, which just joined the MobileIGNITE consortium pushing this kind of thing, says the centrally managed Colubris Intelligent MultiService System (CIMS) now has carrier features that can be used in enterprise settings getting wireless service from carriers. It's made up of the Colubris InCharge Network Management System (NMS) and RF Manager used to run and troubleshoot the WLAN, and the InMotion MultiService Controllers (MSC), which in turn run the InReach MultiService access points (MAP) set up at the enterprise locations.

Intel has its own Centrino chips to do Wi-Fi, and now it looks like AMD might have... Airgo. AMD's Turion 64 X2 mobile technology will be paired with Airgo Networks's 3rd Generation True MIMO chips for reference designs being sent to laptop makers.

D-Link has a new wireless RangeBooster G Multifunction Printer Server featuring four USB ports for plugging in printers and scanners. It also doubles as a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, so any Ethernet product like network attached storage or a full computer can go wireless. D-Link says it has been tested with 100 different printers. The unit (model DPR-1260) sells for $120 and has a one year warranty.

Ruckus Wireless continues to move its technology into homes for pushing around multimedia content for IPTV providers. Finish company Maxistat is using its MediaFlex system, as are a number of local providers in the United States. The list now includes Ayersville Telephone (Ohio), Monroe Telephone (Oregon), Wilkes Telecommunications (North Carolina), Panhandle Telephone Cooperative (Oklahoma) and CC Communications (Nevada), all in an attempt to stop truck rolls for installing wires in homes.

May 12, 2006

Maybe the Wi-Fi-based Nokia 770 tablet hasn't taken off as the primo way to get on the Internet in most homes, but Google might change that. The Wall Street Journal says the search giant will apparently announce a deal with Nokia next week to sell a $390 version loaded with GoogleTalk.

Telabria Networks is working with IPWireless to make an in-vehicle Wi-Fi product set. It would put hotspots on trains, buses and other public transport — even in cabs and limos — using UMTS TD-CDMA for backhaul. The Telabria MobilAP product would be powered by the vehicle or by battery, have an antenna on the roof or in a window to connect to the TD-CDMA network, and provide not only Wi-Fi for client connections but also Ethernet to connect to telematic or other systems. Customers would be able to set up the systems to allow free access or pay-per-use.

May 10, 2006

The future of noisy people on cell phones (and those quietly using Wi-Fi) in airplanes is at stake this week as the Federal Communications Commission auctions off 800MHz air-to-ground radiotelephone service spectrum. So far, the bids from the nine qualifying companies in the running are just over $3 million, but they've got time to get into double digits yet. Bidders you've probably heard of include Verizon Airphone and JetBlue's LiveTV. One company, AirCell, has already been knocked out of bidding due to a procedural mistake that made them miss a deadline with what the FCC saw as a "new" application. Connexion by Boeing decided not to participate.

Strategy Analytics' Connected Home Devices service did a survey of 2000 people in Europe and the United States, and found that 7 percent use Wi-Fi to share their Internet connection, which goes up to 20 percent if you count only those with broadband. Highest average was in the U.S., where it's 8.4 percent. "Wi-Fi has become the preferred networking technology for affluent early adopters," said Principal Analyst David Mercer in the firm's press release.

Socket Communications says 100,000 copies of its Wi-Fi Companion software have been downloaded in the last year. The software runs on Windows Mobile-based Pocket PC PDAs using 802.11, either natively or with a Socket WLAN card. The graphical interface replaces the one built into Windows Mobile, and helps manage Wi-Fi power settings to save battery life. The software costs $25.

Alienware (soon to be owned by Dell) is the latest laptop maker to turn to Airgo Networks for embedded Wi-Fi. The company will build in the 3rd Generation True MIMO (but don't call it 802.11n!) chipset from Airgo, specifically in the Aurora m9700 with 17-inch screen and the Aurora mALX with 19-inch widescreen. Yes, on a laptop. That's not only fast wireless (240Mbps) -- that's a big honking laptop. Look for them for sale in June for $2,000 and $4,500, respectively.

silex technology america says it has a biometric device for controlling Wi-Fi access. The Bio-NetGuard is a fingerprint reader that it says can be required by IT managers to keep out users. It's actually made using a Fujitsu MBF200 fingerprint sensor coupled with software for authenticating with a WPA-supporting access point, including some from Netgear, Linksys, D-Link and Cisco. Windows XP or 2000 only. No price is final, but Bio-NetGuard is likely to go for $500.

As mentioned when it announced a benchmarking suite of software, VeriWave has followed up with a repeatable WLAN Roaming Test application to see how well a network can handle clients moving from one AP to another. It's part of the company's WaveApps series that uses the WaveTest 90 traffic generator, which creates hundreds of virtual mobile clients to simulate a real gaggle of network users. The roaming test will cost $6,000.

May 5, 2006

At Interop this week in Las Vegas, SpectraLink was showing off the ability for third-party dual-mode handsets (with Wi-Fi and cellular service) to take advantage of SpectraLink's NetLink Telephony Gateway/IP-PBX services. They offer a softphone using the SpectraLink Radio Protocol (SRP) suitable for PDAs and smartphones.

Motorola says its LANPlanner and EnterprisePlanner software not only have the ability to plan networks, but also can plan wireless intrusion prevention and detection systems. The functionality is apparently so good that IDS/IPS company AirDefense is going to license the Motorola LANPlanner and Infielder software to sell to its customers.

Aruba Networks' WLAN infrastructure equipment will soon offer support for the Research in Motion (RIM) Blackberry using 802.11b Wi-Fi, the 7270, by integrating the BlackBerry Enterprise Server with the Aruba Mobility Controller and access points.

In June, Ixia will release new station (client) emulator hardware, the IxWLAN SED, for testing 802.11a/b/g networks by creating up to 64 virtual client systems to simultaneously pound on the network for access, authentication, roaming, security and more. The SED can expand to add new radios for testing. It runs IxWLAN software version 6.0 or later.

May 1, 2006

Belkin is in the ranks of companies issuing Draft N products (based on the early draft of the 802.11n specification). The line is called N1 Wireless, and should ship in June with chips from Atheros. The lineup will include a router (model F5D8231-4) for  $150,  notebook card (F5D8011) for $100, a  desktop PCI card (F5D8001) for  $120, and later this year they'll make a  USB adapter card. The products support security up to WPA2. The big differentiator versus the others may be the front panel display, which uses LEDs to give users a better indicator of their network and Internet connection status.

Airmagnet is going to be offering the Vo-Fi Analyzer, which, as the name implies, is analysis software for wireless LANs dedicated to voice over IP. It checks calls from end to end, from the handset back to the call manager/PBX. It will show R-Values, MOS scores and more, even pushing priority on products that don't support 802.11e for Quality of Service. The company knows many phone vendors didn't adopt 11e, going instead with their own QoS priority technology. While the new Analyzer doesn't integrate those proprietary techs, it does use hooks into 11e to keep voice traffic moving. The software will cost $15,000 to start, and more for multiple seats per deployment.

Foundry Networks has a new line of voice-ready wireless access points and controllers, the IronPoint Mobility Series, which is coupled with a new IronPoint Wireless Location Manager (WLM) management application for security (it does intrusion detection and prevention on rogue APs and clients). IronPoint APs sell for $695, and can handle up to 30 VoIP phone calls per unit, supporting protocols from Vocera and SpectraLink, as well as SIP and H.323. A $2,795 IronPoint Mobility Controller can operate up to 150 APs. The WLM will ship in July for $7,995.

Trapeze Networks has added new features to its WLAN Mobility System software. GuestTunneling lets guests to your Trapeze network get access to the Internet, while preventing them from getting on the corporate net.  The company is also integrating the Symantec On-Demand Protection solution (which used to come from Sygate), to provide a new form of end-point assurance that guests are not infected with malware such as worms or viruses. Guest have to log in at a specific page and are made to download some software that inspects the system — they can't log on until the check is run. You can set different levels of trust in different guests, assigning different kinds of agent software to inspect their systems. The features are part of version 4.2 of the Mobility System Software, which is a free upgrade for existing customers.

Airgo Networks and ASUSTek Computer are calling the new ASUS A6T a "faster-than-wired" laptop, since it uses the Airgo True Gen 3rd Generation MIMO 802.11a/b/g chipset. The speed claim of 120Mbps in real-world throughput may hold true if you pair the computer with a router using the same chipset — such as the ASUS model WL566gM. The laptop is powered by an AMD Turion 64 X2 CPU.

Ortonics says its Wi-Jack Duo is the smallest dual-band (802.11a/b/g), two-radio AP in the world. It fits into a standard electrical box with a face plate, only extending a half-inch from the wall.

Netgear's Wi-Fi phone with built-in Skype interface and service is available for pre-order now (it's been on Amazon for a while, actually) with a price of $250 direct from Skype and Netgear. That's down $50 from the MSRP.  If you pre-order, you get 30 minutes of SkypeOut (outbound calling) and 30 days of voicemail for free. They don't expect to ship the handset until the end of June.

SOHOware's new AeroExtend line is meant for use by WISPs to help get services into resorts, hotels and apartment buildings. The products are dual-band, using 5.8GHz for backhaul and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi for client access outdoors. First is the AP/bridge (model WLG2502), which comes with a slew of antennas for both frequency bands, with full support for 802.11i/WPA2.