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.

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