RealTime IT News

Wireless Access News Briefs

Action Stations
Another small regional company is damning the torpedoes and launching fixed wireless services—this time in upstate New York.

eNvizion Communications Group Ltd. of Rochester, NY announced this month that it had deployed high-speed wireless data networks in Rochester and Syracuse and was launching service in the two cities.

eNvizion already has two buildings connected in each city with close to one million square feet combined. The company is also rolling out in Buffalo and Albany. Ultimately it expects to offer service across the northeast.

eNvizion is deploying a mix of equipment that works in license-free 2.4 GHz bands for last mile delivery and 5.8 GHz spectrum for access to backbone bandwidth—primarily from Enterasys Networks Inc. of Rochester, NH. It is also using free space optical (FSO) technology.

The primary market is business customers looking for more affordable and available high-speed Internet access. But access is just the beginning, said eNvizion Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Randy L. Phillips.

"As exciting as is the deployment of our wireless network in Rochester and, as just announced, Syracuse NY, we are already moving forward with our vision to offer enhanced products and services in order to further enrich the major components of our business strategy," Phillips said.

The company's services will include broadband Internet access, frame relay services for high speed data transmission, T-1 and T-3 dedicated and fractional connections, secure colocation, Web design and hosting services.

eNvizion also plans to offer telecom services—including local and long distance calling and conference calling—as well as e-mail, digital subscriber line access (DSL) and virtual private network connections (VPN).

Phillips stressed the speed of provisioning advantage his wireless-based offering has over wireline alternatives. "eNVIZION's wireless solution can be put into service in days as opposed to the typical month to two months required for the deployment of equivalent wireline solutions," he noted.

In its press release, eNvizion seems almost to be defending its decision to go ahead in the midst of a recession. The release notes that of the estimated 4.8 million commercial office buildings in the U.S., only one percent currently has access to high-speed service, typically because there is no last mile infrastructure in place.

The company also cites market data from the Strategis Group, a Washington-based telecom research and consulting firm, which has estimated that revenues from wireless broadband services will grow at a 418-percent compound annual rate over the next five years, driven by the demand for local telephone service and high-speed Internet access.

Silver Linings
Wi-LAN Inc., a Calgary, Canada-based manufacturer of 2.4-GHz fixed wireless network equipment, is probably in no better shape than many wireless vendors, but it still manufactured something to be happy about this month.

The company released not entirely gloomy financial results and also drew attention to a win for the Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technology it helped pioneer.

Wi-LAN announced unaudited 12-month revenues of $26.5 million for the period ending October 31, 2001—a surprising increase of 66 percent over the same period in 2000. Third-quarter revenues were $7.1 million, an increase of five percent over the same period in 2000.

On the other hand, fourth quarter revenues were down from 3Q01 and only 89 percent of the company's guidance of $8.0 to $10.0 million. Wi-LAN admitted wireless revenue was less than expected, largely, it said, due to the slowing North American economy, a situation that was exacerbated by the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Wi-LAN also took the trouble this month to announce its support for a vote of the the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Task Group G to accept a proposal for a new WLAN standard (IEEE 802.11g) based on OFDM technology. The new standard will allow data rates up to 54 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz frequency band. This was not entirely a gesture of goodwill on Wi-LAN's part.

With sometimes tortured logic, the company explained that its patented Wide-band OFDM technology—otherwise known as W-OFDM technology—had earlier this summer received official certification from the Federal Communications Commission. "This certification officially authorized the sale of Wi-LAN's W-OFDM product for use in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz frequency band, opening the door for two-way high-speed OFDM products in the 2.4 GHz band, thereby paving the way for this IEEE 802.11g standard," the release said.

The announcement went on to note that, "to facilitate the initial proposal of broadband OFDM for the 802.11g [standard], Wi-LAN filed an intellectual property statement with the IEEE, offering to make its patented Wide-band Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (W-OFDM) technology (US patent number 5,282,222 and Canadian patent number 2,064,975) available for licensing on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms."

Not entirely a noble gesture, in other words. In fact, more an exercise in publicly bolstering its intellectual property claims, about which it has been defensive in the past.

"We are pleased that our hard work with W-OFDM technology and FCC certification in the 2.4 GHz played such a key role in advancing the industry," said CEO and president Dr. Hatim Zaghloul, chairman. "The proposed IEEE 802.11g standard enables many new wireless home multimedia applications and we intend to assist in facilitating its implementation."

BIFfed Again—Ouch!
BIFS Technologies Corp. of Sarasota, Florida—a favorite whipping boy of Web investment boards—formed two partnership agreements this month for its latest technology, TV+ Internet.

TV+ Internet, first announced in March, uses broadcast TV signals to carry Internet downlink transmissions.

Local TV stations, distributors of the service, are connected to the Internet backbone over fiber links. They "broadcast" downlink data to subscribers who are equipped with black boxes that separate incoming TV and Internet signals and route them to the appropriate devices.

BIFS, never a company generous with information, has not actually said what kind of bandwidth subscribers will get in the downlink, other than that the service is "high-speed."

As with first-generation satellite services, TV+ Internet is one way only. The uplink channel can be a dial-up modem connection or high-speed fixed wireless link. The idea is that TV+ Internet will reach even the most remote areas not covered by other wireline or wireless service providers.

BIFS announced this month that it has signed an agreement with Good Life International LLC to provide marketing and sales services for BIFS. Good Life's main business appears to be pyramid-like sales of financial and other products. The company later announced a deal with WebNet Inc., a Tampa Bay-based ISP, under which WebNet will become BIFS' "preferred ISP" and manage a network operations center for the first commercial TV+ Internet system installation.

A source contacted at BIFS headquarters, who requested anonymity, said the company has contracted with two TV stations in central Florida to distribute the service and that 40 more have expressed interest. The technology has been up and running in a test bed and "works like a charm."

After the first two TV station distributors have proved the business case and the technology in a commercial setting, BIFS will "roll it out like flies," our unnamed source said.

The company first came to notice two years ago after it announced its Seamless, Wireless, Omni-Directional Mobile Internet (SWOMI) technology which is currently deployed in Myrtle Beach SC, providing 2-Mbps mobile wireless Internet access to guests at several hotels.