Wi-Fi Product Watch: February 2005

Week of February 21-25, 2005

  • Fujitsu Microelectronics America says it will make a WiMax-compliant system-on-a-chip (SoC) to let vendors quickly make new WiMax-certified products when certification testing commences this summer.

  • In case you’re keeping track, Propagate Networks is no more—they’ve changed their name to AutoCell Laboratories. Our thanks to the maker of the now-eponymous AutoCell technology (which automatically changes settings for things like the power output, channel, etc., on WLAN equipment) for not using the word “air” in the new name.

  • According to CommsDesign, China has walked out of a meeting on international wireless standards because it felt that its Wireless Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI) security scheme—which it once planned to force upon all WLAN equipment sold in China, but later recanted—was getting short shrift compared to the IEEE 802.11i standard. WAPI was placed on the slow track at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) meeting in Germany due to a procedural issue. ISO was working to see if both 11i and WAPI could be set as optional standards for each other. Wi-Fi Net News says the Chinese government doesn’t like 11i because it believes the AES key used in 11i can be cracked by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the U.S. WAPI, on the other hand, is completely under the control of the People’s Republic.

  • The home control tech of ZigBee is not even really available yet, but it’s already steering the boat. Literally. The UK company Raymarine demonstrated a wireless autopilot system for powerboats up to 25 feet in length at last week’s 2005 Miami International Boat Show. Using ZigBee chips from Ember, the SmartPilot S1000 system will supposedly run for years on just AAA batteries, letting a pilot steer his craft from any location on board. It will come programmed with patterns that boats can take when out fishing so they don’t have to leave their lines, plus it will keep track of other electronics on board such as fish-sensing sonar.

  • Interlink Networks has upgraded its LucidLink Wireless Security software for SOHOs and SMBs to version 2.1. This small-scale, easy to use 802.1X/RADIUS server authentication software has added support for access points and wireless home routers from popular vendors D-Link, Linksys and 3com, bring the total of APs it can auto-configure to 28. The software can also be set up now on existing WLANs without throwing away the settings for previously-configured wireless equipment. In the future, as new hardware is supported, LucidLink will update itself over an Internet connection. LucidLink 2.1 costs $99 for three users, $449 for a 10-user license, on up to 250 users.

  • Datacomm Research Company has a new report out (shipping later this week) entitled “Wireless LANs: Opportunities & Challenges in Home Entertainment, Voice, and Public Access” that says the market for WLAN equipment will “double in value and triple in unit shipments by 2009.” The research is based on interviews with company executives, with everyone from ISPs to enterprises looking at wireless. Conclusions include the determination that enterprises are still a small market but they’ll grow as they have to secure networks, and that hotspots are disappointing today but will lead the way in “cost-effective indoor wireless.” The report also apparently takes a close look at MIMO-OFDM, the flavor of multiple-in, multiple-out signals that will likely power the future high-speed 802.11n standard. The report sells for $2,000.

    Week of February 14-18, 2005

  • SMC Networks has a new and inexpensive ($70 MSRP) wireless router out for cable or DSL broadband users. The EZ Connect g Wireless Broadband Router (model SMCWBR14-G) has the usual bells and whistles: four-port 10/100 switch for Ethernet, support for up to 253 simultaneous users, NAT/SPI firewall, DHCP server, parental controls, etc. For wireless security, it’s got WEP up to 152-bit, Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), and MAC address filtering. It can disable SSID broadcasts, and it even has a built-in RADIUS server for 802.1X authentication.

  • To no one’s surprise, WLAN equipment sales grew in 2004, according to Synergy Research Group. The fourth quarter of the year was up 10 percent from the previous quarter, and up 30 percent from the same quarter last year. Enterprise sales grew faster than SOHO sales, though SOHO still has 57 percent of the total WLAN market. The top three sellers on the enterprise side haven’t changed (Cisco, Symbol, and 3Com), but recent Cisco acquisition Airespace was already number four, having grown in sales by 425 percent year to year—the numbers pre-date Cisco’s acquisition. The SOHO companies were also in the same positions as usual— in order: Linksys, D-Link, Netgear and Buffalo Technology—though from year to year, Netgear was up 63 percent, compared to Linksys with 38 percent and D-Link with 42 percent. Buffalo was the only company to show a loss in sales from its 2003 numbers, though it did have a gain from the third quarter.

  • Linksys, a division of Cisco if you didn’t know, is selling a new 12 Volt Power Over Ethernet Adapter Kit (WAPPOE12) to power Linksys wireless hardware in areas where no power cord is available. The kit has an injector to send power to the access point, and a splitter to separate the data and direct current—thus only one Ethernet cable is needed. The $50 kit works with a number of popular Linksys products, including the WGA54G, WAP54G and the BEFW11S4 (version 4).

  • PhotoChannel Networks has launched WiFi Mobile Printing, a service for receiving digital photos directly from Wi-Fi enabled devices, including cameras. Retailers carrying the system could get photos uploaded directly from a device or through a hotspot that the device is on. At least one unnamed retailer is using it in a trial now. PhotoChannel will show the system off at the PMA 2005 convention next week in Orlando.

  • A processor just for Wi-Fi switches? Broadcom has one that it says works for network switching, both wireless and wired, but SiNett co-founder and vice president of Marketing & Operations Shrikant Sathe says Broadcom has “fundamental footing in the wired world.” He claims that SiNett’s OneEdge chip family, consisting of the SN5024 Unified Access/WLAN switch and SN6004 WLAN controller, does more than combine various pieces of silicon to build equipment. It is instead a single-chip architecture that unifies networks. He claims this will reduce cost and increase datapath processing performance. OneEdge will also take advantage of future standards like CAPWAP, which will control “thin” APs with little or no intelligence on the edge of the network. Someday.

  • Tropos Networks has a new software release (Tropos Control Release 4) for running its metro-scale mesh networking equipment. It continues to use the company’s Predictive Wireless Routing Protocol to cut down on the number of hops a signal can take, but included is the appropriately-named MetroMesh OS feature for “multi-community capabilities.” This is basically VLAN service on a citywide scale that keeps traffic from different users separate. “A carrier putting a network in a town can have a separate network for each customer—one for EarthLink, one for AOL, etc.,” says company vice president of marketing Bert Williams. “We can have multiple user groups, each with their own address space, their own access and security policy, their own prioritization schemes.” The software should be available in March, free to existing customers with tech support subscriptions.

  • Airgo Networks’s TRUE MIMO chip is in another new product, this time in a WLAN switch targeting businesses (other Airgo products so far have been for consumers). SOHOware’s AeroGuard MIMO ($900 for the single radio version and $1,200 for the dual-radio with 11a/b/g) uses a technology they call Embedded WLAN Switch Appliance (EWSA) to, uh, embed the ability for the AeroGuard access points to become switch appliances. It then can perform “centralized edge AP enrollment and configuration,” as well as advanced security and quality of service (QoS). As an appliance, the unit can manage 20 APs, or the business can buy the full network management unit to control 3,000 switch appliances in multiple sites—thus running 30,000 APs in total, theoretically.

  • Cicero Networks of Ireland has taken the wraps off CiceroVoice, a SIP-based trial service to put voice over wireless IP (VoWi-Fi) into the hands of carriers and service providers, just so they can try it out. The entire system is run by Cicero, with no need for the company to install anything. It will allow end-users to make calls from any Wi-Fi location, from home or work or hotspot, using the Cicero Phone software. The aim is for a company to be able to evaluate what they should or should not offer to customers for VoWi-Fi—and then, of course, they can buy into the service through Cicero. The company expects to have a carrier using CiceroVoice by the second quarter.

  • SonicWALL says it has added anti-spyware technology to its entire security product line, including the TZ and PRO series using the SonicOS 3.0 software. Technically, the technology is part of an enhanced version of the SonicWALL Gateway Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware and Intrusion Prevention subscription service, which should be available some time this quarter at a price of $195 per year. Current subscribers get the anti-spyware addition automatically.

  • New member of the WiMax Forum (the consortium of 200+ companies that will support and make products for the future 802.16-2004 specification): MetroBridge Networks of Vancouver, B.C., a wireless access provider in the “Lower Mainland” of Canada that covers 2,000 square miles using a redundant microwave network. It is Canada’s first WISP to join the group.

  • Making wireless site survey models in software? Be careful. Wireless Valley, the maker of the LANPlanner for designing WLAN layouts in a building, says it has been awarded a patent for “manipulating drawings and electronic files to build models for use in designing, installing and optimizing wireless communications systems.” It basically covers creating or modifying any computer model of a location that uses wireless communications.

  • Kineto Wireless’ Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) client software, meant to integrate Wi-Fi and GSM/GPRS/EDGE cellular, is getting more new places to play. First, the software will be ported to the Symbian OS used on many a smartphone. Second, Kineto is working with Taiwan’s Chi Mei Communications Systems to make a full UMA handset—they are being shown this week in France at the 3GSM conference.

  • Wireless doesn’t always mean radio waves… LightPointe has a new product out using free-space optics to get good range (1,500 meters) with great data rates (100Mbps). The new product, designed with bridging at campus networks in mind, is the FlightLite 100E. The $9,500 product has about three times the range of other units in the FlightLite line, and supports PoE to get power.

  • Vocera Communications —you know, the guys that make the cool VoWi-Fi badges like they use on the bridge of the starship Enterprise (Picard’s, not the other ones)—- have upgraded their software to version 3.0 to enhance the speech recognition capabilities and to improve the programming interface for voice messaging. The software now supports extensions, including one for generating reports on problems and usage by individuals, groups, or whole departments. Security has also been upgraded, as version 3.0 supports Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), so it can run the communications system in WLANs running the more up-to-date encryption.

  • Surviving switch vendor Meru Networks says its new software (System Director version 3, which manages 802.11a, b, and g) and new controllers work with its existing AP200 access points to make a new “cellular WLAN architecture” that’s better for VoWi-Fi communications. System Director also adds up to 64 virtual WLANs, so companies can run multiple logical networks on the same single infrastructure, and can do a captive portal for signing users into the network. There are four new controllers: the MC500 Remote for branch offices (five APs or less), the MC1015 Edge for smaller networks of around 15 or fewer APs, the MC1030 for 30 or fewer; and the MC3000 Enterprise for controlling 150 APs across a campus.

  • Trapeze Networks —another survivor, so far, in the WLAN switch market—says it will be working with PicoPoint Technologies to “build out a Voice over Wireless IP service to the WLAN market.” PicoPoint’s GBIA group is all about making sure WISPs can allow roaming among the 14,000 hotspots run by GBIA members in 50 countries. Now, such members can buy Trapeze equipment with PicoPoint’s OSS/AAA back-end systems integrated as desired.

  • Ultrawideband chip designer Pulse~LINK says it has the “world’s first UWB radio for WLANs” available today. Called the PLK23300-EVK, the chip is part of an evaluation kit for potential customers. The chip uses Pulse~LINK’s Continuous Wave (CWave) architecture to deliver a data rate of a gigabit when used for personal area networks (PANs)—a tech different than that of the industry groups that have split to work on MBOA and DS-UWB respectively.

  • ISP system software vendor Aramova (formerly Rockstar) announced this week that its access management systems have been certified as fully interoperable with any and all products from Nomadix, including that company’s gateways running the Nomadix Service Engine (NSE) and Nomadix Interconnect Services (NIS).

  • Another Wi-Fi audio player, now available stateside: the Noxon from TerraTec streams digital audio stored on your home network to play back elsewhere in your home using 802.11b/g. The $150 unit has a remote for configuration and a built in LCD screen to show you what song and artist is playing.

  • SpectraLink has a new Wi-Fi phone handset out that is directed at the healthcare market. The h340 is 5.5 inches long and only four ounces in weight, made durable so it can be dropped on those sterile floors or into vats of liquid without getting hurt. Plus, it has a 12-month warranty. Like other SpectraLink phones, it works with an existing IP-PBX system using SpectraLink’s Voice Priority QoS. The $600 handsets should be ready by the second quarter of this year.

  • Speaking of Wi-Fi handsets: Quorum Systems says its new CMOS-design Sereno QS2000 chip blends in 802.11b/g-based Wi-Fi with GSM/GPRS/EDGE cellular tech, ready for a future phone near you. Using proprietary technology, it can do simultaneous operation of the unit for data and voice operations. Plus, it’ll do seamless handoff between high-speed Wi-Fi and long-range cell networks.

  • Also in the world of cellular/Wi-Fi convergence, the Unlicensed Mobile Access technology (UMA) being pushed by Kineto Wireless is now also going to be supported by Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands in its Nexperia cellular system that is specifically 802.11-enabled to support data and VoIP. Philips will integrate the Kineto UMA client software, and will help the company “accelerate the development of UMA-compliant mobile devices.”

    Week of February 7-11, 2005

  • Proving that no technology for wireless is beyond trying on for size, Netgear will be launching a 108Mbps MIMO G Wireless line of products, powered by TRUE MIMO chips from Airgo Networks. Initially only for the Japanese market, the line will start later this month with a router (model WGM124) and PC Card (WGM511). The router will support WPA and WEP, have NAT and SPI firewalls, and privacy and content controls —all the usual features. You can read more about the benefits of Airgo’s MIMO chips here—the tech is also available in products from Belkin and Linksys.

    This is the latest new technology Netgear has embraced in the last few months, following announcements that it’s using Propagate Network’s AutoCell tech to get rid of interference, and a high-speed beam-forming tech from company Video54 it will call RangeMax.

  • AdventNet says its ManageEngine Wi-Fi Manager software will be sold in the UK by Networks Unlimited. The software combines management and security solutions for 802.11a/b/g networks in corporations or on campuses, and works with hardware from most leading vendors, including Cisco, Symbol, and Proxim.

  • Alcatel of France is becoming an OEM of future WiMax/802.16-2004 equipment designed by Israel’s Alvarion . Alvarion calls their brand of the products BreezeMAX, but Alcatel probably won’t. As part of the agreement, Alcatel says it will be doing several pilot deployments in Europe, including some for the French broadcast service provider TDF and the RAPT public transport agency in Paris.

  • Seamless Peer 2 Peer, a subsidiary of Alpha Wireless Broadband, has filed for a patent covering the way its Phenom software encrypts Wi-Fi traffic using a combination of RSA’s 256-bit AES encryption in conjunction with RSA’s Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). Alpha acquired Phenom last month. The company says the software provides “individuals and corporations with secure peer mail, chat, file transfer, [and] up to 2 MB downloads and remote PC access.”

  • Sputnik Premier is the new Web-based hosted service from Sputnik for hotspot providers. This one can accept payment by credit card (through an account with Aria Systems) and even via a PayPal account. Anyone with an e-mail address can use it to pay, while the provider gets to set their own prices. Sputnik says it doesn’t get any fees on the PayPal purchases. GetLocal, a WISP in the Seattle area, is using Sputnik Premier with its hotspot network and says the first location was “up in four hours with a captive portal with its own graphics.” Premier will cost $50 to turn on and manage any number of locations using Sputnik access points, and after that it’s $30 a month or $300 a year (per AP).

  • Texas Instruments has introduced a new silicon combo that will put Wi-Fi into any product supporting universal serial bus (USB) ports. The TNETW1450 is a MAC/baseband processor that can be coupled with the TNETW3422 2.4GHz radio chip or the TNETW3426, which supports both 11b and 11g, all supporting standards like WPA2 and even Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX). It’s all small enough to fit into a extra-small package that can serve as a USB-based client on a desktop or laptop.

  • Kineto Wireless, still leading the charge on building Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology into products to speed up cellular/Wi-Fi convergence, has announced new UMA client software that works on the Microsoft Windows Mobile Pocket PC smartphone platform. This will be available as part of a developer’s kit that chipmakers and vendors can use to build in UMA. First product to ship with it will be the BenQ P50 smart phone, to be shown this month at the 3GSM World Congress in France.

  • If you haven’t used a voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) phone yet at work, you will. Infonetics Research in England says that in 2004 it was a $45 million dollar industry worldwide and sold just 113,000 units, but “healthy growth” is expected right through 2009. Dual-mode phones supporting both Wi-Fi and cellular networks are just getting off the ground (only 8,000 sold when they became available in the final quarter of last year), but again, Infonetics expects this to grow dramatically, especially as prices come down. The potential for growth in the consumer space is enormous.

    In-Stat agrees: in a survey of 300 SMBs and enterprises about the demand for Wireless VoIP, 23 percent said they had already deployed VoWiFi, and 30 percent are looking to do so in the next year. Most respondents said they’d be happy making calls from a laptop or PDA, though. They forecast that by 2009, there will be more voice users on WLANs than data users.

  • AirTegrity Wireless of Stateline, Nevada says it’s expanding its operations, and will be introducing WiMax products to its modular, multi-channel radio-based AirVantage broadband appliances platform for ISPs working with small to medium sized businesses. The AirVantage Base Station will be “WiMax in a Box,” meant to lower cost and time of deployment. AirTegrity will use WiMax chips from Intel , and will start at $600 for CPEs and $5,300 for base stations.

  • Spectralink says it has made some security enhancements available for its Netlink Wireless Telephones, specifically the e340 and i640 units. They’ll now support full Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), as well as the WPA2 that is based directly upon the finalized 802.11i standard for security. The i640 will also have enhanced push-to-talk (PTT) features, such as simpler administration and faster access to PTT channels on a network.

  • Last week, PCTEL announced a new version of its Roaming Client software (the basis for the secure sign-in software used, for one example, by T-Mobile Hotspots). The new software, called Roaming Client-VE (for Voice Enabled) does just that—it allows IP-based voice communication on any supporting network, from GSM to Wi-Fi—and soon it will support CDMA. Like previous versions of the software, it will make the type of network connection used invisible to the end user once configured. The client will just sign onto whatever is seen as the strongest available network. The company will offer the software for licensing to any carrier provider with either wireless or wireline service—anyone looking to move beyond data and into voice.

    Week of January 31-February 4, 2005

  • AirMagnet says it is the “only infrastructure-agnostic wireless security solution” to date that has received Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 compliance for its Enterprise SmartEdge Sensor software algorithms, making it valid for use by many high-security government agencies in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia, as well as by financial institutions. AirMagnet products are used to “monitor, administer and secure an organization’s wireless network,” according to the company.

  • Garderos Software Innovations in Munich, Germany has released version 2.4 of its WLAN software, which it says can now do full operational support system (OSS) and authentication, authorization and accounting (AAA) for hotspots and enterprise WLANs. “High availability” is the catchphrase of choice, and as such, 2.4 also supports authentication of users using SIM cards, which are very popular overseas.

  • Possio of Stockholm says its third-generation wireless router, the PX40, will still use cellular networks for backhaul to Wi-Fi connections like previous products. However, the new product adds support for 3G UMTS (UMTS FDD in Europe and Asia, as well as the more data-centric UMTS TDD), plus SMS messaging for networks that require it.

  • Linksys has announced three new ADSL 2+ products: a standard DSL modem, a unit with built-in Gateway and Ethernet switch, and (for us) a Gateway with integrated 802.11g wireless (Model WAG54G v.2). That wireless unit also has a 4-port 10/100 switch, and can support up to 32 wireless devices. It has the usual firewall and parental controls, and it can act as a VPN endpoint, using IPsec for up to five remote connections.

  • Bluesocket‘s upgrade to its BlueSecure Intrusion Protection System, version 3.1, which monitors WLAN traffic in real-time, adds new features including active containment of rogue devices (disabling APs and clients that aren’t recognized), advanced RF spectrum analysis of 802.11 radio traffic (with real-time graphic displays of performance), and enhanced reporting “that meets government and Department of Defense deployment requirements.” The system also now works in a client-server setup so it can scale up to cover multiple sites with access by multiple operators. The server costss $2,250, and a 802.11a/b/g sensor is $695.

  • Speaking of Layer 2 protection of WLANs (which Bluesocket’s IPS provides), Cranite Systems’ WirelessWall also has a new version out today. Version 4.0 builds in support for virtual LANs (VLANs) for more flexible configurations on networks, such as having multiple subnets on the same hardware infrastructure, or separating different types of users entirely—also on the same infrastructure. WirelessWall also now has full integration with the intrusion detection system of AirMagnet Distributed, so that AirMagnet warnings pop up in the WirelessWall interface. The program also now does directory caching so that if something fails, users can stay connected to the network, even staying authenticated if the RADIUS server goes down.

  • Atheros announced yesterday that it shipped its 20 millionth chipset during the fourth quarter of 2004, after just three years of business serving up WLAN silicon. 4.7 million chipsets were shipped that quarter alone.

  • Nayna Networks of San Jose, Calif., is continuing to grow its product line past wired networks with its ExtreamSTREAM platform—it now has Wi-Fi access points for SMBs and enterprises. For example, the new XA-154 Access Point uses MAC address filtering for security, and has an inter-client blocking feature to prevent users from getting access to each others’ computers. This unit is currently in place providing wireless access at the Wyndham Aruba Resort, Spa and Casino on the island of Aruba. The company also has a ruggedized outdoor AP, the XA-254.

  • Terayon Communications Systems has created a Wi-Fi add-on for their TJ 700x series DOCSIS cable modem, which will turn existing units into wireless access points for home, or hotspots for business venues. The module, Wx-54G, uses 802.11g Wi-Fi and supports WEP up to 128-bit. Terayon says there are three million TJ 700x cable modems in use, including versions for the Japanese market.

  • Aruba Networks is going to build support into its WLAN switching system for the “network identity appliances” of Infoblox, called RADIUSone. The hardware, with full 802.1X authentication support, will now work as a plug-and-play AAA (authentication, authorization, and accounting) solution for Aruba-based networks. The two will offer the grouping as a turnkey system.

  • MeshDynamics says its new MD-300 family, which can provide a three-radio Structured Mesh (patent pending) deployment, “yields greater than a 50x bandwidth improvement over traditional mesh networks.” It uses two radios to do the backhaul with 802.11a, then has a separate radio, usually 11b/g, to provide client services. They say that the Structured Mesh nodes “form a tree, analogous to the structure of a conventional wired switch stack.” Currently, the hardware is in beta testing, but Softcom will deploy them for municipal wireless in Sacramento, Calif., soon. Units will cost $3,900 each in quantities of 1 to 24 units, or $2,900 without antennas.

  • 3e Technologies International (3eTI) has three more AirGuard access points that have achieved FIPS 140-2 validation by the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST). They are available as an indoor model (519) with a 200mW 11b for longer distance government WLANs —it also has several connectors for power, USB, and Ethernet. Model 525A is ruggedized for outdoor use and can work as a repeater or for point-to-multipoint connections. The Model 525N is much the same, but ready for industrial applications. Both support Power over Ethernet (PoE) and have the 200mW 11b radio— but they also can do bridging/repeating with 11b/g.

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