RealTime IT News

Wi-FI Product Watch: June 2006

Cisco Systems has issued a security advisory called "Multiple Vulnerabilities in Wireless Control System" which covers, uh, multiple vulnerabilities in their WCS (versions for Linux and Windows). They can let remote users get to AP configuration info, read and write files, log into WCS with an admin password, execute scripts using a Web browser, and get to directories with sensitive WPS configuration info. There are workarounds for some of the problems, but not all. Find out what you can do at their Web site.

You don't have to install your own WLAN infrastructure -- Verizon Business will do it for you. Its new managed service is for large enterprises and government customers, and features installation and management of the entire suite of products from Aruba Networks. Speaking of which, Aruba also claimed this week that it is now the only WLAN equipment provider that "is delivering the only Wireless LAN (WLAN) system that meets all requirements of the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) recent mandate [directive 8100.2] on secure wireless access and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)."

London-based Visiongain says that mobile operators face a threat to their roaming revenue when it comes to VoIP and Wi-Fi... but if they add Wi-Fi themselves, they can get in on the market. European Union carriers will probably keep roaming prices down to avoid government regulation, which will drive use, but not enough. VoWi-Fi price costs they found were typically $.02 per minute, compared to $1.25 per minute while roaming on a mobile phone.

Novatel's first ExpressCard/34 (the new tech PC Card for laptops) that supports HSDPA is now shipping will ship in the third quarter of 2007 [corrected July 7, 2006] in North America and Europe. It's called the Merlin XU870, and supports HSDPA/UMTS and EDGE/GPRS. HSDPA speed is 3.6Mbps for data, but software will upgrade it to 7.2Mbps when providers upgrade their networks to the latest tech. Novatel also has an EV-DO ExpressCard, which Dell is reselling in the U.S. as the Wireless 5700 Mobile Broadband ExpressCard for $179. It will come with a 30-day trial of Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess EV-DO service.

June 27, 2006

On June 30, 2005, just over one year ago, Broadcom said it had sold 50 million Wi-Fi chips. Today, it proclaimed double that number, with the sale of 100 million 54g chips. Broadcom was first out of the gate years ago with 802.11g chips, and continues to sell silicon to names like Belkin, Linksys, Buffalo, Netgear and USRobotics. Its closest rival, Atheros, claimed 50 million chips back in February. Both companies recently said they'd determined their new Draft-N 802.11n chips would work together, even though third-party tests have indicated the early 11n chips were not playing nice at all.

Speaking of chips, Marvell is going to buy out Intel's communications and application processor business for $600 million cash, with an option for some common Marvell stock. That includes the XScale chips used to run many handhelds. It does not include Intel's Centrino Wi-Fi or WiMax broadband tech. They'll close the deal over the next four or five months after review by the usual powers that be.

SpectraLink's Link Wireless Telephone System (Link WTS) 6020 model is now shipping. The $700 enterprise handsets were announced in April. The new phone adds speakerphone capability and eight hours of talk time using Lithium-Ion batteries. It has IP 53 standard resistance to water and dust, and features a smaller size but bigger display screen than previous WTS handsets.

June 26, 2006

Last week at its Cisco Networkers 2006 conference, the networking goliath announced new mobility services for the Cisco Services Oriented Network Architecture (SONA) framework. It's got a new integrated wireless LAN controller, the Catalyst 3750G enterprise switch, with 24 PoE ports and 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports. The $20,500 controller runs up to 25 APs (or 50 APs for $500 more) using the Cisco Unified Wireless Network Software Release 4.0.  The new software includes remote-edge AP control, an intrusion detection/prevention system using the Cisco IPS 4200 sensors, and full FIPS 140-2 Level 2 certification to make it worthy of government use.

Fon tries to be more fun... or at least more lucrative — by offering anyone who signs up to offer its service for 12 months a router for only $5. Fon's goal is to get anyone and everyone to upgrade their routers with software that turns the unit into a hotspot run by Fon. Users who stumble upon a Fonero's "social router" pay $3 a day to get access (they're called "Aliens"). Other Foneros get free access. The company claims it has 54,000 Foneros offering service worldwide. Fon is coming out with its own router in September.

GoTrusted.com is the latest hosted service designed to protect you or your mobile employees while they use the Internet at remote locations like hotspots. They've got individual plans ($10 a month), SMB plans (down to $8 a month for 25 users) and full enterprise plans that even enforce company security policy. All it requires to log in is Internet Explorer 6 (it only works on Windows 2000/XP, but they say Mac support is in the works).

The University of New Hampshire's InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL), which two years ago was proclaimed an "authorized pre-certification program" tester for the Wi-Fi Alliance, is now a full member of the Wi-Fi Alliance. As such, it "will be more directly involved in the implementation of wireless interoperability standards and the creation of compatible products for the consumer market," according to a statement. They'll give the Alliance feedback on current test standards, and help them with future interoperability tests on new requirements for Wi-Fi such as voice and security.

The Wi-Fi Alliance says that Wi-Fi is making great gains in the world's biggest market, China. There's a 45% annual growth rate expected over the next three years, according to a report from the Alliance and Chinese research firm Analysys International. They say the country has 10,000 hotspots, and that enterprise adoption of Wi-Fi is outpacing even consumer use. The total Wi-Fi market in 2008 in China is expected to hit RMB 10.3 billion. (The country is still mad about people not wanting to accept its proprietary WAPI security scheme as a standard, though.)

The site WRTrouters now lists steps for owners of the Linksys WRT54G/WRT54GS routers versions 5 and 6 — the ones that come with VxWorks for an operating system, instead of Linux as in previous versions — to hack the routers with new firmware to give it new features. It involves removing the VxWorks bootloader so you can flash it with actual Linux firmware. Warning, as they state on the site: this can "brick" your router, as in, make it about useful to your network as a standard brick.

There's a new security risk, which some call the Wi-Fi drive by. We won't know the full details of how it works until August 2, when researchers present it at the Black Hat USA 2006 conference. What it entails, according to InfoWorld, is hackers taking advantage of buggy device driver code with a fuzzing attack (throwing wireless packets at a laptop with a Wi-Fi card) using the LORCON (Loss of Radio Connectivity) hacking software. If done right, it leads to ability to take over the laptop under attack. They claim it's not just found in Wi-Fi, but also in connections like Bluetooth, EV-DO and HSDPA.

NetMotion's Mobility XE mobile VPN software has achieved Certified for Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone status through Microsoft's Mobile2Market program.

Fujitsu is now going to resell any and all BelAir Networks Wi-Fi mesh equipment as part of an end-to-end solution for carriers and cable operators looking to install broadband service. Capella Telecommunications, a Canadian VAR, will also be selling BelAir equipment.

June 20, 2006

Not everyone can stay away from Draft-N (like ZyXEL, which is sticking with the plain ol' regular MIMO products it had before 802.11n made it to Draft 1.0). The latest vendor on the bandwagon: TRENDnet. Its Wireless N-Draft Family will use Atheros XSPAN chips to power a router (model TEW-631BRP for $130) and PC Card (TEW-621PC for $100), which should ship in July. They'll be followed up by a $150 access point and a $100 PCI card for desktop computers. TRENDnet says to expect 150 to 180Mbps of real-world throughput.

Speaking of ZyXEL, it will be offering NetNearU's TrackOS software with its own ZyAIR G-4100 hotspot gateway to provide full management for public access across multiple locations. Support for TrackOS is in the 4100 firmware.

ICOA's TollBooth platform for handling back-end billing for Internet access at hotspots and more is getting an upgrade. The newest feature is Time-Based Billing Plans, letting locations charge (or deactivate service) only during certain hours (such as the lunch rush), or providing limited-time free service, such as the first 30 minutes free. Improvements in reporting and user tracking are also included.

SpectraLink says both iBAHN and StayOnline — broadband providers specific to the hospitality industry — are going to start reselling SpectraLink Wi-Fi telephones. With 35,000 hotels worldwide expecting to use Wi-Fi by 2008 (according to SpectraLink), that's potentially a lot of phones. StayOnline currently has 600 U.S. hotel installations; iBAHN has 2,100 worldwide.

June 16, 2006

Ekahau's third generation Wi-Fi active asset tracking tag was announced this week, and the T301-A is not only smaller by about 20 percent (1.8 x 2.2 x 0.7 inches), lighter (2 ounces) and comes with longer battery life (five years compared just one year) than previous versions, it's also ready for some two-way communication. Tags can be programmed remotely; signals can be sent to the tag to show a blinking LED or even play a ring-tone chime to help people find specific items. Push-buttons on the tag can be configured ahead to help with workflow tracking — say, push button A when something is broken, and then button B when it's fixed and ready to go. The price went down with the size, as the tags are now $50 each in volume orders. The chip inside was created just for Wi-Fi positioning by G2 Microsystems.

June 14, 2006

musicgremlin.jpgMusicGremlin, the black iPod-esque MP3 player with Wi-Fi built in for getting songs (MP3 and WMA files only) sans a PC is now available. The four-ounce hardware costs $300, and the service is $15 a month to subscribe until the 8GBs are full (or pay $.99 per song). Tracks come from the MusicGremlin online music store, which claims to have 2 million songs available. Files can be swapped between Gremlins in an ad hoc mode. It only supports WEP for security, not WPA, and can connect to a Windows XP computer via USB if you want, so you can back up song files. You'll find it for sale at Amazon.

For every new company, one must die... even if that's not true, it has truthiness when you consider:  as MusicGremlin comes online, Prismiq is shutting down. The company the first networked media player to support 802.11g to the TV set. It also sold a tiny wireless router with corresponding 802.11b/g PC Card and USB adapter. They're selling out back stock, and if you hurry, you can get a router for $25 and the client adapters for $10 each.  

Omisys has one of the first new DVD players with built in Wi-Fi to come out in a while. On the DVD side, the new PN-210V supports high definition 1080p with outputs from DVI (not HDMI) to Composite, S-video and Component connectors. It even has USB 2.0 ports. On the network, it runs 802.11b/g, and has built-in Ethernet. It supports playback of digital video with a variety of codecs, including DivX, XviD, MPEG 1,2, and 4 and WMV9.

AirDefense says its Wireless Intrusion Protection System (WIPS) is the only such product "fully compliant with the new Department of Defense (DoD) policy on the use of commercial wireless LAN devices, systems and technologies in the DoD Global Information Grid (GIG)" issued on June 2. It makes an intrusion detection system (IDS) required for all DOD networks, wired or wireless with 24/7 scanning and positioning functions to find threats. Earlier in the week, the company said the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) gave it another new patent (number 7,058,796), which it says is the "broadest patent awarded" in IDS yet, as it covers all of the ways an IDS would actively defend a network. In the ongoing war of words with similarly patent-happy competitor AirTight, this announcement got AirTight looking for cross-over and infringement possibilities, since AirDefense also mentioned several bullet point principles of the patent, which AirTight will no doubt dispute. (AirTight said yesterday that the MTA, the New York City transit department running subways and buses, has installed its SpectraGuard Enterprise product to enforce wireless network security policies.)

Colubris says independent testing by the Wi-Fi experts of the University of New Hampshire’s InterOperability Lab (UNH-IOL) "validate" the design of their TriPlane distributed architecture in the Colubris Intelligent Multiservice System (CIMS), which puts control and management in one place, with everything else — including the routing intelligence — distributed. The test, they say, verified that less than 1 percent of network traffic goes to the central controller under TriPlane, even with QoS and security considerations. This is especially good for those considering an embrace of fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) of Wi-Fi and cellular. The test was done with two Colubris InMotion MultiService Controllers and four InReach access points.  

AeroScout is working with Mine Site Technologies (MST) of Australia (with offices in North America) to provide Wi-Fi based tracking and communications for underground miners using active RFID tags. MST's own ImPact WLAN is 802.11 based. The tags will be embedded into cap lamps — yep, caps with lamps on them, just like you see in the movies — to track the positions of personnel as they move around. Locations are logged and viewed in real time on a browser.

VARS and providers of in-building wireless may want to check out the new omni-directional UltraSphere CAF 94895 low profile antenna  — it's only 1.7 mm thick — from Laird Technologies. It works with GSM, UMTS, Wi-Fi and other technologies all at once, as it supports 800MHz to 2.4GHz radio frequencies. Peak gain range is 3.6 dBi, and samples are available now for $35 per antenna in quantities of 500.

A cool idea unseen before now: the Knockbox from Ardell-Martin Industries is a Wi-Fi  appliance for realtors or anyone selling a house. Just place it inside a home that's for sale. It has data storage options, where sellers can put info about the house, even photographs for a tour — all the details a buyer would want. Plug it in, and then anyone who comes by the house with a Wi-Fi equipped laptop or PDA can log on to Knockbox for a tour without having to wait around for the open house. Agents for SellSmart Real Estate are the first to get the units.

June 9, 2006

SiroccoSondigo's Sirocco Wireless Audio Bridge (with Wi-Sonic tech from C-Media Electronics) streams audio from your PC over the 802.11b/g network in your home. It connects to the PC via an Ethernet cable, then you run the software, and then you disconnect it. Then you connect the configured unit to your audio equipment using analog or optical digital cables and let the music stream, no matter what audio is playing on the PC, no matter how DRMed it may be -- even just audio from your games or Web surfing (unlike Apple Airport Express, which only streams audio from iTunes). The $140 unit supports 5.1 channels of audio with Dolby Digital.

VNUNet.com reports that Intel researchers may have found a way to limit interference to WLANs from other devices using the same radio frequencies. They demonstrated this Spectrum Sensing technology at Intel HQ, where 802.11b/g devices boosted signals to overcome the interference when a phone, baby monitor or microwave also using the 2.4GHz band kicked in. For now, it remains an experiment, though, and may never lead to an actual product, let alone a standards body.

ASRDLet your feet tell you where the Wi-Fi is. A Step in the Right Direction (ASRD) is a project to incorporate a Wi-Fi signal detector into a pair of sneakers (the Nike Dunk). The detector is hidden under a a flap on the left shoe that shows three LEDs that light up when in the presence of 802.11 signals as far away as 50 meters. No word on when or if this will be available to the public; it's being done by designer MSTRPLN in collaboration with the UBIQ boutique in Philadelphia.

Finland-based Meshcom is going to license its MeshDriver software to access point vendors that want to build mesh networking into their equipment. It incorporates the soon-to-be-ratified 802.11s standard for mesh, with options to push performance. They'll license the binary code or source code.

Mitel has new VoIP phones. You can get them with support for Gigabit Ethernet (via the $250 Mitel GigE Stand), or get the $180 Mitel Wireless Phone Stand. The stand can serve as either a client in a standard WLAN, or an access point to create its own WLAN environment to serve multiple Mitel IP phones.

ProtectStar is offering Mobile Firewall for Windows Mobile devices to keep those with Wi-Fi from getting too "promiscuous" as they try to connect to any and all 802.11 signals they find (it also works for UMTS, GPRS, Bluetooth and even USB connections). All inbound and outbound traffic is controlled, though VPNs can pass through as needed. A profile manager means you can make sure you only connect to allowed networks. Software costs $36.

June 7, 2006

Nomadix has another patent to add to its ever-growing pile of intellectual property. The latest (Patent No. 7,020,082) is for network usage monitoring via a module, which Nomadix uses on its Wi-Fi gateway appliances. The module filters data captured about all packet requests and responses from all aggregation points on the network, sucks out the data needed, and builds a database to show how well the network is doing. Other Nomadix patents cover redirecting users to a Web-based portal page, and doing bandwidth throttling without quality of service (QoS).

Remember Pepper Pad? We barely do either, but the third generation of this 2.1-pound handheld tablet replete with Wi-Fi, Web cam, better battery, seven-inch touchscreen LCD and software to do all you want on the Internet is apparently on the way. The $700 unit will be made by Hanbit out of South Korea; Pepper Computer makes the reference design for others to build. Consider it competition for the Nokia 770 pad and the "Origami" ultramobile PCs currently trickling into the market.

June 5, 2006

Sirius, the satellite radio company, will be the first to sell a branded Zing player. The player is a handheld media unit with speakers and a microphone built in, plus 8GB of storage for your music. Unlike an iPod, it also supports Wi-Fi. That's how you'll get your music from the Zing online music service, by connecting to hotspots or your local WLAN for downloads, with no PC needed. It'll even stream music from Sirius — though not actually via satellite, only via the Wi-Fi connection (it will also support Bluetooth). Even without the satellite receiver, it has all the makings of being a communication device as well as a Wi-Fi MP3 player. CNET says to look for it later this year.

Buffalo's new LinkTheater Wireless-A&G Media Player (model PC-P4LWAG) will be one of the first wireless units to support Intel Viiv. Inside, it has a Philips Nexperia media processor, and the software is from Mediabolic, all to get your content streaming from a Viiv PC to other parts of the house; video support includes MPEG and WMV, as well as audio in MP3, WMA, AAC, and LPCM formats. The LinkTheater has AOSS one-touch security built in for setting up encrypted wireless connections (802.11a, b or g), but it also has integrated Ethernet. It hooks to a TV via S-video or D4 digital (with an adapter to do component video out). The player supports UPnP and Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standards, with digital rights management from Intel and Microsoft Windows Media. Look for it in late June in the U.S. for $250.

Westell says it has  developed a new wireless gateway for DSL connections (look for it from your local DSL provider). The VersaLink ADSL2+ uses SmartBeam technology Westell has patented that "typically doubles signal strength over traditional antenna solutions while minimizing interference between other wireless devices," according to the company. SmartBeam's virtual antennas change the signal direction as needed to maximize the performance, rather than just giving the same input and output in the same direction. The company says it has earned the Wi-Fi Alliance certification for Quality of Service to make sure video and audio get where they have to go without hassle.

Conexant Systems is releasing its third generation of Wi-Fi chips for handhelds. The CX53121 fits in 68 square millimeters for a smaller footprint. It has both SDI and serial interfaces, and will run concurrently with onboard Bluetooth and cellular technologies. The radio can get a signal out at 19.5dBm for higher performance. Software support includes Linux and Windows Mobile & CE. It will ship in volume in the last quarter of this year.

Iogear has announced an Ultrawideband Hub & Adapter kit that will be out in the third quarter. The hub will have four USB 2.0 ports where you can plug in peripherals, then put the adapter on the PC or Laptop to get a Wireless USB connection. It will use WiMedia-flavored MB-OFDM UWB (though they don't say whose chip). They also don't know yet how much it will cost.  

UWB-based Wireless USB hubs are going to soon be commonplace. Wisair is already releasing a second generation design for one using its own chips. The hubs will still have four physical USB ports, but come in at a smaller size (38 x 93 millimeters) and even support a shorter dongle adapter for plugging into the PC. The new design has dual antennas, rate adaptation and radio channel changes on the fly, and LEDs to indicate power, signal association and data transfer activity.

June 2, 2006

The financial services analysts at TowerGroup have a new report out called "Wi-Fi Security: The Threats are Ruthless, the Solutions are Available, Are YOU Protected?" and as you can imagine, it doesn't say Wi-Fi networks are well-protected in financial institutions. They say as data theft continues to escalate in that industry, that "Wi-Fi, if not properly managed, will emerge as a channel of significant threat to reputation and customer trust." They blame the problem primarily on bad IT strategy, like thinking you're immune just because you have a no-wireless policy, since innocent employees can install rogue APs. Such institutions need an intrusion detection/prevention system. In a separate chart, TowerGroup lists AirTight Networks' SpectraGuard Enterprise as the most user-friendly system.

The wireless LAN market went up 8 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to Infonetics Research of London. Enterprise equipment sales were up 11 percent from the end of 2005, mostly due to sales of switches and controllers. Analyst Richard Webb said in a statement that enterprises are moving to homogenous platforms with "mobility... a key part of enterprise networking strategy, which is driving wireless LAN switch and controller sales in particular." Residential Wi-Fi revenue is also up 9 percent, but service provider revenue is down. Cisco is still the enterprise equipment sales leader, followed by Symbol, Aruba, 3Com and Trapeze; North America is responsible for 47 percent of the first quarter revenue, followed by Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) (29 percent), Asia-Pacific (20 percent) and Central/Latin America (3 percent).

June 1, 2006

Earlier this week, Freescale Semiconductor announced the release of its BeeKit tool kit, designed to help speed up creation of applications and products using the ZigBee/802.15.4 wireless control technology. Key to the BeeKit is the BeeStack, a protocol stack specific to the ZigBee specification and based on an HCS08 8-bit microcontroller unit (MCU). The company promises that the stack is fully compliant with the ZigBee Alliance's home control profiles. Later this year, they expect to announce a ZigBee System-on-a-chip (SoC) as they move ZigBee from 8-bit controllers to 32-bit to expand functionality.

Sierra Wireless' latest AirCard will be the 875, for running on all types of  GSM networks -- including HSDPA/UMTS and EDGE/GPRS in various frequency bands -- for what the company calls "truly global connectivity." The Type II PC Card has a fixed antenna that can get speeds of 3.6Mbps (bursts up to 7.2) on HSDPA networks. It can do data, and can also be used as a phone if the user connects to the laptop with a headset. Look for it in the third quarter of 2006. Pricing was not announced.

Option N.V. also has a new GSM card, the GlobeTrotter G.T. Max "7.2 Ready." It's designed to get 7.2Mbps of speed out of HSDPA networks, while still working with slower (384Kbps) networks like GPRS. It has a Zero-Install technology that Option has patented, which requires no drivers to be installed or even a software application. Again, no price, and it will be out in the third quarter.