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802.11-Planet News Briefs

Wi-Fi-Enabled Notebooks To Go

MobileStar Network Corp., a provider of broadband wireless Internet access in public locations, recently announced an agreement with Hewlett-Packard to provide customers with access in its coverage areas across the U.S.

Wi-Fi-enabled—IEEE 802.11b—HP Omnibook and HP Pavilion notebook PC users will now have the option of wireless access at MobileStar's more than 400 public access locations (PALs) throughout the United States including hotels, airports, conference centers, coffee houses and restaurants.

The agreement includes co-marketing and cross-promotional activities, giving buyers of HP Omnibook and HP Pavilion notebook PCs the opportunity to activate MobileStar service at the time of purchase or any time thereafter.

New users of the HP Wi-Fi-enabled notebooks will have the option to subscribe to MobileStar and choose from an array of monthly service packages, ranging from a metered Internet use to unlimited monthly access.

HP and MobileStar are addressing an important need in the increasingly mobile business world," said Amy Helland, an industry analyst with Cahners In-Stat.

"As more businesses move operations online, their knowledge workers need access to documents, presentations, e-mail and the Internet. Agreements like this provide end-users with a hassle-free option to purchase wireless capabilities and services."

MobileStar utilizes the 802.11b wireless LAN standard to give mobile professionals wireless access to the Internet or their corporate Intranet at T-1 speeds in more than 400 locations across the country. The company plans to expand its footprint across the country.

Multi-Port Sets Getting Ready To Go

Laptop computers with built-in wireless LAN capabilities are sure to drive adoption of public access and campus WLANs. Compaq Computer Corp. is leading the way with its innovative MultiPort solution, first announced last December.

The latest news on the wireless MultiPort is that Compaq is using Prism WLAN chip technology from market leader Intersil Corp. to power the forthcoming IEEE 802.11b module.

The MultiPort interface is an embedded, fully compliant plug-and-play USB port located in the back of a notebook display. The first Compaq laptops with the MultiPort started shipping earlier this year. Compaq says the wireless modules are coming soon.

Initially, 802.11b and Bluetooth modules will be available, but Compaq plans to introduce other modules so the MultiPort can grow and adapt to future wireless standards. Users will be able to hot swap between any wireless or non-wireless module.

MultiPort wireless modules combine both antenna and radio transceiver in a single card that fits into the notebooks panel. Omni-directional signal reception provides maximum signal strength and receive sensitivity while keeping PC Card and Mini-PCI slots free so MultiPort users do not have to trade-off other functionality to get a wireless-enabled notebook.

Combining the radio transceiver and antenna solves many of the RF integration issues facing the notebook industry, and eliminates the need for RF connectors and coaxial cabling which can induce noise and cause signal loss.

Prism, according to Intersil, is the most highly integrated WLAN chip set on the market today, delivering wireless Ethernet networking with compliance to the IEEEs 802.11b global standard.

Optimized for high data rate (11 Mbps) performance, Prism-based systems are feature-rich and provide fast, reliable performance in all types of networking environments. The company says advanced design and process technologies reduce power consumption, design complexity and total system cost.

"The MultiPort module will support advanced roaming capabilities, allowing mobile workers to freely move throughout a building while maintaining a consistent network or Internet connection through a series of access points," said Ken Willett, Compaqs director of desktop and portable business.

"Intersils Prism WLAN technology enables MultiPort to transfer data at speeds up to 11 megabits per second (Mbps). Additionally, MultiPort will also provide ample bandwidth for video streaming, file transfers, voice over IP (Internet Protocol) or other demanding applications used in e-business transactions."

Intersil was an integral member of the Compaq-led team that developed the module, which it claims is the worlds first single-sided WLAN adapter card with a USB interface. The card was specifically designed to fit into the MultiPort bay on Compaq notebooks and is the result of collaboration between Intersil, Intel, Celestica and Compaq.

IEEE 802.11b Still Going Strong

The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) announced recently that it has certified over 100 Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b) products from 43 companies since launching its program a little over a year ago.

WECA is a nonprofit organization formed in 1999 to certify interoperability of Wi-Fi products and promote Wi-Fi as the global, wireless LAN standard across all market segments.

The organization instituted a test suite that defines how member products are tested to certify that they are interoperable with other Wi-Fi-certified products. An independent test lab, Agilent's Silicon Valley Networking Lab Inc., conducts the testing.

When a product successfully passes the test, the company will be granted the Wi-Fi seal of interoperability and may display the Wi-Fi logo on that product and its corresponding collateral material.

The testing assures that products bearing the Wi-Fi logo will work with each other.

WECA says that 112 products have now passed the rigorous certification testing -- making Wi-Fi the undisputed wireless LAN standard for the home, enterprise and public spaces.

"At this point, there are no credible competing wireless LAN technologies in the 2.4 GHz band left to challenge Wi-Fi," said WECA's acting marketing chairman, David Cohen.

"Passing the 100-product mark in one year goes far beyond validation. Wi-Fi has truly become an international technological phenomenon. Although we had high hopes for Wi-Fi initially, we never anticipated this level of growth in such a short time," Cohen added.

Companies with WECA-certified Wi-Fi products include Compaq, Cisco, 3Com, Lucent ORiNOCO, Acer, Dell, Fujitsu, IBM and Intel.