Wi-Fi Product Watch: December 2004

Week of December 20-24, 2004

  • Netgear continues its expansion of its “Double” line of dual-band products for home networks. The latest is the $90 Double-108 Mbps Wireless USB 2.0 Adapter (WG111U), suitable for desktops and notebooks. The chip inside is from Atheros and supports their Super A/G speed boost, up to a data rate of 108Mbps when used with other Atheros products, and the eXtended Range (XR) tech to increase the distance between nodes. Smart Wizard software makes it easy to install—the hardware is compliant with Windows 2000 and XP.
  • Chipmaker Airgo claims that in seven weeks it’s sold one million high-speed MIMO wireless chips—the kind powering the Pre-N (as in 802.11n) products that Belkin sells. Company CEO Greg Raleigh calls it the fastest adoption rate of any type of Wi-Fi yet, even beating out the much hyped pre-11g products sold by Broadcom before 802.11g was a finished standard. Airgo bases the claim on looking at previous press releases from Broadcom back then, so it’s no guarantee. But selling a million chips is nothing to sneeze at either way, especially for a first generation. However, this announcement doesn’t mean there’s one million Pre-N products out in the world. While Belkin supposedly can’t keep products in stock, they only represent a “major percentage” of the one million chips Airgo has shipped. The company will be making more customer announcements in early 2005.
  • Fortress Technologies said this week that its wireless security technology is now guarding over 10,000 networks. It call this an “unparalleled achievement in wireless security.” The company’s platform was recently picked as the only one meeting the requirements to secure the U.S. Army’s Automatic Identification Technology III. It recently bought the rights to the intellectual property of defunct switch vendor Legra Systems, and is working closely with partners including 3Com, Senforce Technologies, and Redline Communications.
  • Companies that buy jets from Honeywell Intl. will get more than just fast flights: they’ll be able to make calls on board using a VoWi-Fi system. Cirilium Holdings is developing the wireless voice network specifically for Honeywell Business Jets. It will interface with the air-to-ground satellite communications system on the plane and let passengers talk on wireless VoIP handsets as much as they want. The tech would likely be picked up by Business Jet OEMs as well.

    Week of December 13-17, 2004

  • The CWSP (Certified Wireless Security Professional) program from the folks at CWNP/Planet3 Wireless, continues to garner vendor partnerships. In addition to showing off Propagate’s AutoCell technology, today the Atlanta-based course designers said that the Airespace Wireless Enterprise Platform, Bluesocket’s WG-400 Wireless Gateway, and the smartBridges airBridge TOTAL Wireless LAN Bridge would become part of the standard equipment covered in the class. Airespace, in fact, will be making sure that all of its instructors are getting full CWNP certifications.

  • iPass’s purchase of Safe3w a few months ago has paid off in the release of DeviceID, a security service that the hotspot aggregator/remote connection provider says will “help IT managers create and enforce access policies.” The service will look at systems trying to get on the corporate network via virtual private network (VPN) connections and expect to see a “device-oriented factor,” not just authentication based on who the person is (established with username and password). This is available separately from the usual iPass service, but can also be integrated for use by corporate access customers.

  • Communication Machinery Corporation (CMC) said today that its latest EmulationEngine test system, the EE-WPA, is on the way, and it’s ready for security checks. The unit, which virtually emulates up to 64 Wi-Fi users for WLAN stress testing, supports WPA with full 802.1X authentication, with RADIUS, EAP-TLS, TKIP, MIC, and even the WPA-personal with pre-shared key that’s used in homes. Up to 59 of the virtual users can be configured to use WPA, so the users can be mixed so some have open access, others use WEP, and others use a flavor of WPA. The product ships Dec. 20.

  • Network Instruments jumps its analysis/troubleshooting tool, Observer, to version 10.1 and throws in a new report scheduling function to auto-deliver custom reports, among other things. For wireless network admins, the company says it has added “numerous Expert Conditions to monitor for problems” such as interference and DoS attacks. Prices start at $995.

  • UWB chip developer Staccato Communications says it has shown customers its first single-chip, all-CMOS ultrawideband design, which incorporates the radio and baseband to provide super-fast wireless up to 480Mbps. Staccato uses the MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA) specification. It will start sampling in early 2005.

  • Wi-Fi gateway maker BlueSocket says its model WG-2100 has achieved FIPS 140-2 Level 2 certification by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Canadian Government’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE). FIPS makes it okay for a product to be used by federal agencies such as the DoJ, DoD, and others. The company has a GSA Federal Supply Schedule contract now, so it can be one of the four million commercial companies that can sell directly to the US government.

  • The WiFlyer pocket access point from Always On Wireless, which is made primarily for those stuck with dialup connections, has its first firmware upgrade. It brings support for new ISPs, including iPass and AT&T Worldnet. Users can automatically dial through a browser interface, and PDA users get a new sign-on screen specific to their hardware. With the new firmware installed, users can also more easily switch from a dialup phone connection to a wired Ethernet broadband connection. And through a deal with Wayport (which is reselling WiFlyer in airports), a coupon good for a single connection at a Wayport hotspot is included in the box with the product.

  • Fabless semiconductor company Wavesat claimed today in Taipei that it is delivering the first ever WiMax baseband chip to customers this month, with general availability coming in January. The chip, the DM256, is Wavesat’s sixth generation OFDM product, but its first to support 802.16. Wavesat is, of course, a member of the WiMax Forum.
  • Airespace says it’s working with Microsoft to build in the company’s Network Access Protection policy enforcement controls. They say that by incorporating it, customers will get complete protection, as it complements Airespace’s own Wireless Protection System. The combo will provide real-time security monitoring on the same equipment used for network traffic, 24×7 IDS for rogues and finding their locations, 802.11i support with Proactive Key Caching, and FIPS 140-2 certification for government use.

    Week of December 6-10, 2004

  • AirWave Wireless has released version 3.1 of its AirWave Management Platform (AMP). Greg Murphy of AirWave says 3.1 includes enhanced rogue detection and will better integrate with Cisco’s WLSE architecture. In fact, it can use Cisco Aironet APs to scan wirelessly for other APs. It includes an API for integration with other third-party intrusion detection systems (IDS) that use proprietary hardware sensors, as well.

    AMP 3.1 will also include better handling of overlapping channels, dual-radio configuration, and more access point support—and will now work with third-party site planning tools to help IT set up the RF design they want through AMP.

  • Speaking of site surveys, AirMagnet has a new 2.0 version out of its Surveyor tool. There’s now a standard edition for network administrators, and a Pro edition for people who do nothing but build Wi-Fi networks. Both versions can do larger-scale surveys and have support for AutoCAD formats, plus more simulation features to try different options without first having to deploy wireless equipment (with “before” and “after” pictures). The Pro version adds support for global positioning systems when doing outdoor surveys, multiple floor displays so you can watch wireless on four floors at a time, and detailed reports that installers can share with potential customers.
  • Gamers get priority with the new D-Link GamerLounge Wireless 108G Gaming Router (model: DGL-4300). Company media relations manager Darek Cannole says that the built-in GameFuel technology “analyzes packets, looks for games, and gives them priority. It will allow connections for FTP, P2P, surfing, e-mail—it allows them through—they just don’t have priority.” Gaming traffic recognized includes consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation2, as well as PC games. The $179 product uses Gigabit Ethernet on its ports to better support fast games, and has Atheros-based Super G 108Mbps 802.11g on the wireless side to squeeze out the fastest connections it can get. A sister product, the DGL-4100, does just Gigabit Ethernet.
  • InfoExpress has released version 3.0 of CyberGatekeeper, a network access controller that forces end-points (clients) to meet all network security policies before they can log on, whether they’re local on a LAN or WLAN, or remote (even using a VPN). CG 3.0 comes on appliances distributed throughout a network—it’s made specifically to work with whatever the existing infrastructure is. The previous version didn’t support 802.1X, but the 3.0 version will, as long as you provide the RADIUS server and supplicant software. Clients have to run an executable, or have open a specific ActiveX client, to get on the network—or, at the very least, meet the criteria set in CG as a device ID, whether it’s based on MAC address or other. Pricing is based on the number of end-points: a CG 1000 unit will handle 50 users at once for $10,000 to start.
  • Patronsoft’s hotspot management software, FirstSpot, is now hitting version 3. The Chinese company provides software and hotspot services for WISPs, and they say the new software provides “unprecedented control” over hotspots. New features include the ability to exclude certain IP addresses when using DHCP, support for Microsoft and Funk RADIUS servers, tracking data usage to specific users, client isolation to prevent unwanted users on a client PC, and more.
  • Fortress Technology will be providing its security features to long-range wireless broadband in a partnership with Redline Communications. Redline’s pre-WiMax/802.16 equipment, they say, will be suitable for government and military applications—it will meet FIPS 140-2 and the Army’s Wireless Best Business Practice policies for authentication and encryption.
  • Roku has a new unit for streaming digital audio from a PC to your home stereo over the wireless home network. The tube-shaped SoundBridge M500 works with most audio files (WMA, WAV, MP3, AIFF), including AAC files and Apple’s iTunes software, unlike many other similar products. It costs $199, and sells at Radio Shack.

  • Cranite Systems’ WirelessWall shot up to version 3.3 this week. The client software part now auto-detects Wi-Fi cards so IT can swap network cards without having to reconfigure the software.

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