Innovation on the Show Floor

The Wi-Fi Planet Conference &
Expo
closed on Friday afternoon last week, after three days of exhibits
filled to capacity, and four days of avidly-attended interactive conference
sessions.


Conference sessions featured the show’s regular day-long ISP
Mini-Forum
with appearances by Marlon Schafer, founder of rural WISP Odessa Office
Equipment
of Odessa, Wash.; Doug Luce, founder of urban ISP and hotspot
provider Telerama of Pittsburgh, Penn.; Jack Unger,
founder of peripatetic seminar specialist Wireless Infonets; and Tim Sanders, founder of
consulting and analyst firm The Final Mile of Asheville, NC.

The show floor was equally dazzling, with over a hundred exhibitors. We spoke
to those whose business has an ISP component. In this article, we only have room
for brief sketches, but we will be following up with most of the companies we
met, filling in the picture with more detailed articles.

Honolulu, Hawaii-based Firetide produces a mesh wireless product
that garnered one of five coveted “Best of Show” awards. We’ll be following up
with an article on the technology, and also on the company’s two partnership
programs, one of which is very friendly to small WISPs.

Reston, Va.-based BelAir Networks had its own mesh idea.
The company’s radios have four antennas, but only one is a point-to-multipoint
radio for distributing the signal. The other three each provide an individual,
self-configuring point-to-point backhaul to another BelAir radio.

Troy, NY-based MapInfo was showcasing its data products.
Comprehensive nationwide U.S. listings are expensive but may be valuable for
some readers. An interactive map of all NPA/NXXs sells for $13,000, a similar
map CLECs’ coverage areas and switch locations sells for $7,500, and a contour
map of the U.S. sells for $22,500. Statewide data is one-fifth to one-tenth the
price of nationwide data. Fiber, towers, and other useful telecommunications
data are also available.

Paul Hanlon of London based TTPCom, a company with products in all wireless
protocols, said that on the consumer side, a wealth of new applications will be
unlocked with the UltraWideBand standard (802.15.3) is ready. The company looks
forward to delivering HDTV as well as DVD movies within the home to multiple
devices. In a world where everybody has a 20 GB iPod, homeowners will want to be
able to transfer that amount of data quickly to and from their home
entertainment system. Founded in 1988, publicly owned, and focused on the
consumer market, the company was a relative veteran compared to many on the show
floor.

But nearby sat the booth of Orland Park, Ill.-based Andrew
Corporation
, which was founded on Jan. 1, 1937. The company was one of the
world’s first antenna suppliers. Today, it claims to be the leading manufacturer
of PCS cellular antennas, earthstation satellite antennas, terrestrial microwave
antennas, and coaxial cable. “We’re not yet number one in the WISP market,” said
Michael Horan, business development manager for broadband access. He said that
when WISPs “realize they need to spend an extra $10 for an antenna,” his
company’s market share will rise. The booth had a Magnesium alloy steel antenna
which retains its shape under high stress, such as under heavy wind. He was
prepared to take down the antenna and jump on it, but we declined the
demonstration.

At booth of Chicago-based PCTEL, representatives from Cometa Networks were
learning about the company’s Segue Controller, an appliance
that manages RADIUS and billing for up to 200 access points per box. The company
showcased the launch
of its SAM software
which turns any notebook or desktop PC into an access
point.

Nearby, Ross McKee, founder and president of Norcross, Ga.-based Access Data
Technologies
, an integrator, was demonstrating his company’s iGenie product.
It’s a captive computer for hotspot owners that it designed to be secure and
easy to use, so that users can buy access to the Internet or to the games stored
on it, but cannot abuse the computer by, for example, loading spyware onto it.
The company claims that hotspot owners in busy locations can see their traffic
rise exponentially, especially in locations where users are not business
travelers such as homes for the elderly. “I have women in hair salons paying $4
an hour just to play solitaire,” said McKee.

The company charges $1500 plus a revenue share for the iGenie, although in
NetNearU hotspots the revenue share is paid by NetNearU. The Unit is hardened and
weatherproof. “Waterproofing is really important in sports bars,” chuckles
McKee.

Founded in 2001, Morgan Hill, Calif.-based Airya sells relatively cheap point-to-point
antennas. The company even discloses prices in its product list.
They use 802.11a for faster backhaul, reaching distances of up to 30 miles. The
5 mile product has a beamwidth of 9 degrees, and the 2.5 mile product has a
beamwidth of 18 degrees. The 2.5 mile product sells for $1,199 per pair.

Many more products were on display, including VoIP solutions, spectrum
analyzers, and RF mapping software. This is just a brief overview of the
ISP-related products we saw. The Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo world tour
next year will visit the following five cities: Toronto, Tokyo, Baltimore,
London, and, once more, San Jose. See you there.

Reprinted from ISP-Planet.

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