Wi-Fi Product Watch

Wi-Fi Product Watch

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Written By Eric Sandler

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

March 20, 2007

InnerWireless and Pango merge; EarthLink offers Wi-Fi phone; NEC builds UMA femtocells; PS3 improves wireless; and much more.

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InnerWireless and PanGo Networks, companies known for in-building wireless deployments and real-time location system (RTLS) technology on wireless (respectively) are merging. InnerWireless showed its first version of its own RTLS, Spot, earlier this year — it runs on low-power 802.15.4 networks. The new company they’re forming will “focus initially on the global healthcare, commercial and industrial markets,” according to a statement released today. Financial terms were not disclosed, nor have they revealed what the final name for the company will be. I’m betting on InnerWireless.

If you live in a city with an EarthLink citywide Wi-Fi network, you may soon also be talking on the cheap. The company has picked Taiwan’s Accton to manufacture a Wi-Fi phone that it will offer to customers in the future. It’s beta testing the phone right now in Anaheim, California, where the ISP first activated citywide Wi-Fi. EarthLink thinks people with cell phones may want to switch to their new phone, since it’ll be significantly cheaper at $15 a month for 500 minutes or $25 for unlimited use, both for domestic calls. Service and the handset are free during the testing, however. The phone will be SIP-based, so that shouldn’t limit it to being used just on EarthLink’s network — it should work on any Internet-connected Wi-Fi. The phone will cost $100 at launch, and it comes with a charger cradle that doubles as an in-home Wi-Fi router — but it won’t serve as a customer premises unit (CPE) to help extend the outdoor Wi-Fi signal into your home. EarthLink says you plug the cradle/router into a broadband Ethernet connection… perhaps because their network doesn’t extend indoors.

NEC will be building femtocells — cellular base stations you can put in a home to extend a network — that will support UMA technology from Kineto Wireless. Mobile operators can offer the NEC Home Gateway Solution to customers as a CPE, so they can use a dual-mode handset with both cellular and VoWi-Fi support that can switch back and forth as needed. Femtocells that support faster 3G networks are already being pegged as the “next big thing” by analysts like Analysys. They have a new report that says indoor base stations “have the potential to transform the telecoms industry.”The much-maligned Sony PlayStation 3 is getting a new system update, to version 1.60. One of the new features of the gaming console will be one that’s already found on the Xbox 360: streaming video, audio and still photos from your existing PCs to the PS3 to view on your home entertainment system. Called “Remote Play,” this will only be available for the 20GB configuration of the unit. (Other cool stuff: playback of Blu-Ray Rewritable (BD-RE) discs and better support for keyboards and mice with Bluetooth, in order to improve your PS3-based Web surfing.)

March 19, 2007

As mentioned last month by Skyhook Wireless CEO Ted Morgan, the company’s Wi-Fi Positioning System technology has a new home on AOL’s AIM 6.0 instant messenger service. AIM Location is a plug-in for the Windows XP/2000 version of AIM that will allow users to share their location information with others on their buddy list, as well as see where their buddies are (if they also use the plug-in). The software creates a new buddy list category called “Near Me” to show you who is within a set distance, be it the same hotspot venue or just the same city — whatever you choose.

Motorola’s MC70, the digital assistant handheld designed for the enterprise, will now support EV-DO networks for wireless 3G-based broadband connections. The unit starts at a price of $2,845 with CDMA/EV-DO support integrated.

Extreme Networks has new software for its Summit WM Wireless LAN products, specifically to support Voice over WLAN in the enterprise. It includes certification for phones from SpectraLink and Avaya, as well as the Vocera badges, plus compliance with 802.11e/WMM for quality of service (QoS) for voice traffic. Clients can specify the voice quality they require when making a call, which the Summit WM software can allow or deny depending on what is available. The software will also make sure that battery life in a handset is extended by using 802.11e-based power management.

Meraki Networks is the company that makes the very cool Meraki Mini repeater, a unit that helps a home or community make a mesh network on the cheap — the Mini retails for only $49. Now, a Meraki reseller, NetEquality, is selling the Mini in a wall-plug enclosure. There’s no need for the unit to have an unsightly cable sticking out of it to go to the outlet — the Mini is right there at the outlet itself (this isn’t a HomePlug thing — it just makes it easier to plug-in-and-play). You still need a regular Mini to attach to the backhaul (DSL/cable modem) since the wall-plug enclosure covers the Ethernet port. The NetEquality version is $79. [via GigaOm.]

Investor’s Business Daily says the Apple TV, a $299 set-top box unit for streaming video (including stuff purchased on iTunes) from your PC or Mac to your television via Wi-Fi, could be in Apple stores this week. There have already been 100,000 of them pre-ordered. The article points out that the Xbox 360, which has its own optional wireless dongle, can do much the same thing, but is limited to Windows Media files. Apple TV will have a 40GB hard drive inside for storing video like a DVR.

March 14, 2007

It’s another Wi-Fi-equipped music player! The Slacker Portable Player, to arrive this summer, will be a $150 handheld with a spacious four-inch display. It’s part of Slacker’s “music ecosystem.” The unit can play tunes when connected to Wi-Fi networks (it even supports WEP and WPA), and will do the same when connected to Ku-Band satellite bandwidth to be licensed by the company behind Slacker (Broadband Instruments). Users just modify their channels for free at Slacker.com, and when the hardware connects it does the rest, playing like an Internet radio service (think Last.fm or Pandora) you customize for types of content; but you don’t download songs and keep them. It shows advertising, but you can avoid that by paying $7.50 a month. You can skip the player and just use the online jukebox software; but if you do want the portable, Slacker is promising a satellite car kit as well.

Foundry Networks is expanding its IronPoint Mobility product line with new APs coming in April. The IronPoint Mobility RS4000 and AP150 are actually OEM-ed products from Meru Networks. The RS4000 is a “radio switch” with multiple radios (two 11a and two 11b/g) especially suited for high-density use. It comes with either a 180-degree directional antenna ($2,075) or a 360-degree omni-directional ($2,195). The $525 AP150 is a standard dual-band, dual-radio (802.11a/b/g) access point for use in a single-channel deployment. Both run off the IronPoint Mobility Controllers (which are not OEM-ed, but made by Foundry). New for the controllers is the IronPoint Wireless Location Manager (WLM) application, giving real-time mapping of the radio frequency environment and reports on where users are by collecting all the data it can collect from the APs, which can be set as dedicated scanners or can do time-slicing to scan only part of the time. WLM will sell for $7,995.

WildPackets’ latest version of OmniSpectrum is 3.1. The radio frequency spectrum analysis tool (a version of Cognio’s Spectrum Expert, also at version 3.1) will ship in two weeks with the same enhancements, such as support for Windows Vista. WildPackets charges $3,295 for the PC Card/software combo that runs on a laptop.

Motorola will be selling a CompactFlash card design providing 802.11b/g connectivity, specifically for use in industrial equipment, to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Motorola won’t build the card itself. The LA-5127 Wireless Networker CF card design features full WPA2 security for an enterprise; it’s already approved by regulatory bodies in 70 countries.

Motorola is also at work with Vonage. The two will be offering the Motorola-designed VT2542 Internet Phone Adapter & Wireless Router unit — which includes 2-port VoIP telephone adapter, 4-port Ethernet switch and 802.11b/g access point, all in one — for $100 (there is currently a $40 instant rebate as well) plus $10 shipping. But don’t forget the $30 activation fee. It’s available to Vonage customers now.

March 13, 2007

Last week, the IEEE 802.11n Task Group gave an 83.4 percent approval to passing Draft 2.0 of the high-speed specification; it’s widely accepted that 2.0 will be the basis not only for products going forward, but for certification efforts by the Wi-Fi Alliance to begin later this year. The spec still received over 3,100 comments that need to be addressed, but that’s a quarter of what draft 1.0 got for feedback. The next step is a “sponsor ballot.” Despite all the good news, the final ratification is not expected until the second half of 2008.

Trapeze Networks has a new access point. The MP-422 is a dual radio with both 802.11a and 11b/g running with the company’s Smart Mobile Intelligent Switching. Naturally, it integrates with any system using the Trapeze RingMaster management software. It’s shipping now and costs $600.

March 12, 2007

New in the Azimuth Systems suite of tests is one for fixed/mobile convergence. The new FMC Performance Test has scripts suitable for handset manufacturers, chip designers and service providers. The scripts (with 20 repeatable tests) check things like dropped calls, call quality and battery life of a handset under various conditions (like roaming). The software runs on Azmuth’s W-Series platform.

How much is an 800 Megabit per second (Mbps) wireless link worth to you? DragonWave’s new Horizon Compact delivers the goods at a cost of $15,000 (that includes equipment for both ends of the link). Considered a “zero-footprint backhaul solution for Carrier Ethernet,” according to the company, the Horizon units are nine inches square and outdoor-mountable. They run in radio frequencies ranging from 11 to 38 GHz and work in not only point-to-point (P2P) connections, but also in ring and mesh topologies. They’re powered by standard Power over Ethernet on Cat5E cables.

AnyDATA says its new AWR-600 Wi-Fi Router makes instant hotspots by using an HSDPA 3G network for backhaul. The Wi-Fi end is standard 802.11b/g; security goes up to WPA-PSK, plus the usual firewall, IP filters and MAC filters, as well as VPN pass-through. The backhaul end supports HSDPA Release 5, which gets data rates up to 7.2Mbps; it can also use WCDMA. It has four Ethernet ports as well, and claims to support 253 users at a time with DHCP. It’s not really for consumer purchase, though — they want to sell it to HSDPA providers to resell to their customers.

March 9, 2007

AirDefense is teaming with management software maker AirWave Wireless. The two will integrate AirDefense Enterprise 7.2 with the AirWave Management Platform (AMP) 5.0, sharing information about the devices they find on the network, both welcome and unwelcome. The companies will also do some co-marketing, with discounts for customers who buy both products. Data gathered by AMP is used by AirDefense to find rogues and boot them. The companies say the sharing of data will “reduce their Wi-Fi support costs by eliminating redundant data entry,” and will lead to fewer false positive reports of strangers on the net.

Sony is the latest camera vendor to incorporate Wi-Fi into a camera. The $600 Cyber-shot DSC-G1 is a 6-megapixel unit with a 3.5-inch LCD screen, 2GB of built-in memory, and of course 802.11b/g embedded so it can connect and transfer images to devices, a process made even easier if the target device supports Digital Living Network Alliance specs. Since it’s Sony, it will take a MemoryStick Duo or Pro Duo card for expansion up to 8GB. It will ship in April.

Have we (and by we I mean Wii, as in the one from Nintendo) been waiting patiently for a title that takes advantage of the game console’s built-in Wi-Fi? The wait is almost over. Pokemon Battle Revolution will be here in June to let players on both Wii and the handheld Nintendo DS play against each other and squirt characters back and forth across the games (DS users need Pokemon Diamond or Pokemon Pearl).

London’s Infonetics says the money for wireless LAN equipment was up overall in 2006 ($2.8 billion, an increase of 18% from 2005), albeit down by 5% in the last quarter. The money should shoot up to $4.3 billion by 2010. Access points still account for 78% of revenue, but switches are growing, with a 27% increase for the year ’06. The Cisco/Linksys combo continues to hold sway, with the parent company heading the enterprise WLAN world and Linksys edging out Netgear and D-Link for #1 in consumer wireless.

Analysis from Analysys in England says that fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) of VoIP and cellular voice will save European corporate customers 30% on voice communications. It could hurt the mobile operators as corporate customers bypass them, but they should pony up for services with femtocells they can sell and thus stem the tide of demand for dual-mode phones with Wi-Fi built in. Analysys believes dual-mode phones will account for 14% of handsets sold to enterprises by 2012.

Annoyed that your old PC Card doesn’t fit the ExpressCard slot in your new laptop? Duel Systems’ new DuelAdapter is a PCMCIA and Cardbus to ExpressCard adapter, so you can plug the old card into either the 34mm or 54mm ExpressCard ports. It works with Wi-Fi cards, cellular broadband cards, and even video, audio and memory expansion cards. It supports both Windows XP and Mac OS X, with Vista support on the way. The DuelAdapter will sell for $119 ($99 if you act fast).

March 7, 2007

5G Wireless has a new piece of hardware for spreading the Wi-Fi. The G-Force 650 unit is a combination DSL modem and 11b/g access point that targets the timeshare and resort market. Unlike a lot of 5G’s equipment, the 650 is for indoor use, but it can be remotely managed by a network provider. It will automatically reboot itself if it fails, which 5G says should mean less than one minute of downtime. The company didn’t announce pricing or availability.

In-Stat’s research says that Wi-Fi, WiMax and cellular 3G (like EV-DO and HSDPA) “are battling it out for market share worldwide.” However, they see the technologies co-existing and competing, depending on the economy — developing regions may see less Wi-Fi, but could be great for 3G vs. WiMax battles. There’s more in their new report entitled “3G, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and Others Battle for Wireless Supremacy.”

Socket Communications has a new Windows Mobile 5-based handheld out. The Socket SoMo 650 is meant for the market between consumer PDAs and industrial handhelds. It has built in 802.11b/g, Bluetooth 2.0, CompactFlash and SDIO ports, 128MB SDRAM and 256MB Flash memory, all running with an Intel 624 MHz processor.

March 6, 2007

Archos announced the 704-WiFi today, a portable media player (PMP) with seven-inch LCD touchscreen running at 800×480 resolution on a 22-ounce box. Like the previous 604-WiFi, it plays back music, video and photos, and it surfs the Web and displays e-mail (they don’t say what browser/e-mail client it uses). It has an 80GB hard drive, enough to store 100 hours of video. Users can download video from online stores. It costs $550, and there’s an optional $100 DVR Station dock that lets you record to the player directly. It’s available for pre-order today.

March 5, 2007

Panasonic this morning announced its version of the Wi-Fi Phone for Skype (and it looks very much like the previous versions from SMC, Belkin and Netgear). The difference may be in the packaging: for $400, the four-ounce phone is sold as part of an “executive travel set” complete with a travel router for home/hotel/office, all in a leather travel case. The phone, model KX-WP1050, is supposedly one of a series of Skype Certified products Panasonic has planned. It will make calls out (with SkypeOut; unlimited calls between US and Canada are $30 a year) and will receive calls from non-Skype phones (using SkypeIN). Of course, calls to other Skype users are free.

Cisco’s Linksys division is teaming up with small-to-medium business (SMB) VoIP provider Sotto Wireless (profiled here). They’ll be bundling wired and wireless equipment with desktop IP phones using Sotto’s hosted service. They’ll offer it through VARs to resell to SMBs. Linsksys’ VPN Router (model RV082) and wireless Access Point (WAP200) and phones (SPA901, SPA942) are the core, along with PoE Adapter and 8-port 10/100 and Gigabit Ethernet switches.

Siemens Communications’ HiPath Managed Services for Wireless Networks debuts today for both corporations and municipalities looking to unwire.  Hot on the heels of the release of the HiPath MobileConnect service for fixed/mobile convergence, this latest extension of HiPath gives customers a “single contact point” 24/7 for running their networks, whether the provider uses Siemens equipment or not. It’s already got some big customers, including the WLAN deployment of Washtenaw County in Michigan and, as of today, the city of Lompoc, California, which operates a city-owned network called LompocNet.

News out of VoiceCon Spring 2007 in Orlando: NEC Unified Solutions is releasing its SIP-based Univerge Mobile Client softphone, to go on dual-mode VoIP/mobile phones (as well as on single-mode Wi-Fi phones). This will make such phones capable of working with the Univerge IP telephony platform even when they’re out of the office, providing all the usual corporate call tools like caller ID and voice, along with items like buddy lists, IMs and more. The Mobile Client requires both the Mobility Gateway for the NEC Univerge Media Gateway Controller and the software to run. Phones the client runs on include Blackberries, Nokia’s E60/61, and most Windows Mobile smartphones.

March 2, 2007

Cisco Systems is teaming up with mobile provider NTT DoCoMo in Japan to support fixed/mobile convergence. Specifically, the Cisco Unified CallManager digital PBX and Unified Wireless Network will work directly with the NTT dual-mode mobile phone, the N902iL, so it supports both Wi-Fi and NTT’s FOMA3G network. The companies say the deal stems from customer requests for the Cisco support. The phones will have all the capabilities of a desktop IP phone (take, place, hold or forward calls, access voicemail, etc.) in the office, and will be able to take calls even when not in the office by using a single number for access. Cisco similarly supports Nokia phones through the CallManager.

March 1, 2007

Cognio, the company behind the Spectrum Expert analysis tool (which is used under different names by companies like AirMagnet and WildPackets) has upgraded the product to version 3.1. This time, the software/hardware combination will literally give an IT person recommendations on what to do when finding interference on the WLAN. Also new is an “instant replay” of the visual representation of live spectrum, a Spectrum Snapshot where a mouse roll-over reveals details, and full support for the Windows Vista OS.

Farpoint Group, in conjunction with Cognio, issued reports today on Wi-Fi interference issues. And the findings basically say that everyday devices in both the home and office can significantly hamper Wi-Fi networks. The usual suspects (microwave ovens and Bluetooth headsets) can cause a 62% and 20% reduction in throughput, respectively. Cordless phones can knock the network out altogether (100% reduction of throughput).

Ruckus Wireless is getting into the hotspot business. The new Ruckus MediaFlex Hotspot (HS) is a unit geared to broadband providers, who can sell it to venues that want to offer public access to their own customers, specifically for those venues in the middle of “dynamic and dense Wi-Fi environments” that need an extra push from the Ruckus antenna array. They claim a two- to four-times increase in range, so the hotspot can cover a wide area. Ruckus says MediaFlex HS is ready to handle voice and video in addition to data, using 20 Mbps for throughput. The first customers using it are in China and Thailand.

Juniper Research says that by 2012, phones supporting just Wi-Fi for VoIP will be dead. Even as the market grows to $70 billion, only 2 percent of those handsets will be just for WLANs. The future, Juniper says, is all about dual-mode phones that also support cellular. North America will be the biggest market for VoFi by 2012, followed by Europe/Middle East/Africa, then the Asia Pacific region. They say to add another $13 billion annually when businesses factor in the controllers and APs needed just for voice.

Vocera isn’t just for Wi-Fi badges anymore. At the medical-themed HIMSS show in New Orleans this week, it announced partnerships to extend its reach. One deal is with Sprint, who will help Vocera’s customers stay in touch on the Sprint cell network even when not in range of their local WLAN used by the VoIP badges. Motorola’s ruggedized MC70 digital assistant hardware will get full Vocera abilities, so it can be used as a speakerphone like the badge (or like a regular phone if held to the ear). Vocera will support Cisco Compatible Extentions (CCX) to work better under Cisco infrastructure, even talking with Cisco IP phones connected to the Cisco Call Manager. A deal with Dictaphone will let doctors use their Vocera badge to dictate and edit notes, even while they’re with a patient. And Vocera will have a new SIP interface later in 2007.

Also at HIMSS, Bluesocket announced a new line of BlueSecure controllers, all using the Bluesocket Secure Mobility tech. New features include flexible policy enforcement, universal WLAN authentication for all types of devices and users, and management of VoIP QoS and bandwidth to prevent network contention. The line includes the BSC-7200 supporting 8,000 users, and the BSC-600, 1200, and 5200, all supporting smaller networks of 8 to 150 APs. Pricing was not announced.

February 21, 2007

Divitas Networks launched its mobile-to-mobile convergence system this week (it was first announced in April of 2006). It consists of the Mobile Convergence Appliance (MCA) and Mobile Convergence Client (MCC) software embedded in handsets. The company bills the system as the PBX equivalent for voice over WLAN (with cellular hand-off), all controlled by the enterprise (as opposed to UMA, where the hand-off is controlled by a carrier). The MCA can work with or without an existing PBX system for landlines, however, and is WLAN infrastructure-agnostic — and handset-agnostic, be it dual-mode, cellular-only smartphones, or Wi-Fi only. Even softphones on the PC. Getting the MCA 1000 unit and a 10-user MCC license will cost you $5,495.

Speaking of UMA (that’s Unlicensed Mobile Access), Kineto Wireless’ client for the technology, which lets carriers support dual-mode phones with seamless hand-off between Wi-Fi and cellular, is going to be integrated into the new HP iPAQ 510 Voice Messenger smartphone announced last week. The phone is one of the first to support Windows Mobile 6.

Marvell has collaborated with Seagate Technology to create DAVE, the Digital Audio Video Experience storage platform that combines Marvell’s applications processor and WLAN chips with a high-capacity portable hard disk specifically targeting the consumer handheld market. They want users to fill it with content for viewing from a Wi-Fi-enabled mobile phone.

ArrowSpan says its new outdoor MeshAP 1180 features a peak transmit power of 1 Watt to get extended range (standard on the unit is 200mW with a 23dBm gain). It will be available in March. Meanwhile, the company bills the currently available MeshAP 1100 for indoor use as “health-friendly,” as it is only using 25mW transmit power on its dual 2.4 GHz radios.

hField Technologies’ High Gain Wi-Fire Wi-Fi Adapter is a laptop-mountable USB adapter that can connect to far-off 802.11b/g networks thanks to an incredibly high receive sensitivity of -98dBm. Now, the unit will ship with new software, the Wi-Fire Connection Manager (WCM) 1.3, to get manual control over the access points it scans, auto-reboot of Windows Zero Configuration as needed, and more. It’s a free download to existing Wi-Fire users.

Dallas-based Omera will be using the RoamAD platform in the future for taking on the muni-Fi market. OmeraMesh products will, in the future, be powered by the RoamAD software; Omera plans to use it to go after citywide contracts, and says it has already deployed its first city, but doesn’t say who.

AirDefense Enterprise 7.2 launched yesterday with a new reporting engine which the company says can build customized reports in minutes, in addition to the standard reports built in. It’s another product with heavy emphasis on the Payment Card Industry (PCI) requirements for WLANs, which are very stringent. AirDefense also has a LiveRF Module sensor powered by Motorola used to troubleshoot remote networks from a central console.

February 16, 2007

Total WLAN equipment sales, combining home and enterprise, shot past $3.6 billion in the year 2006, according to Synergy Research Group. That’s 15% better than 2005. Enterprise sales in particular grew due to an increase in centralized systems (controllers and switches) — they now account for 45% of the enterprise WLAN infrastructure (up from 30% a year ago). Cisco remains number one, Symbol at second (despite a 21% sales loss from year to year; maybe the Motorola acquisition will help in ’07), Aruba is third with a 62% sales increase from ’05. The home market leaders remain consistent: Linksys, D-Link, Netgear, Buffalo and Belkin all had gains — Netgear most of all, with a 41% increase since ’05.

February 15, 2007

Tropos Networks says it has new mesh software to help its equipment integrate different types of networks, not just Wi-Fi. Called SABRE (the Spectrum and Application Based Routing Engine), the software sets up rules for traffic, making sure to carry “different applications on different spectrum and radios,” both licensed and unlicensed. They give the example of using a Tropos 5320 unit with 5GHz radio for video and 2.4GHz radio for consumer use, with SABRE switching a camera to 2.4GHz if it’s less congested. SABRE will be part of each Tropos MetroMesh router starting in mid-year, and will be available as an upgrade to existing customers.

Intel said last year that it would work with Nokia to bring HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) connectivity to Centrino users in the future, building it into the chipset just like Wi-Fi. Well, that’s not going to happen. InfoWorld reports that while “Santa Rosa” (the Centrino Duo, with Core Duo chip and 802.11a/b/g/n built in via “Kedron” card) is ready for later this year, it won’t include the 3G technology after all. Intel says it’s about money — namely, that customers won’t pay the premium to get HSDPA for now. It may still be built into future platforms.

Wondering just how much Wi-Fi there will be in the world in a few years? ABI Research predicts that the market will grow from 200 million chipsets sold in 2006 to a billion sold by 2012. This according to the research firm’s Wi-Fi IC Market Share Analysis and Forecasts report. The cumulative passing of the one billion mark will happen in 2008. ABI analyst Phil Solis says cellular handsets and consumer electronics will be the key areas for Wi-Fi chipmakers to sell into, and will probably account for two thirds of the chips sold by 2012.

February 9, 2007

A remote control with Wi-Fi built in? Why not. The Wi-Fi Smart Remote technology is from tvCompass. The design incorporates a 2.2-inch color LCD in the remote itself, storing information about all your entertainment components internally, and backing them up to your home network (via Wi-Fi, naturally). The wireless also enables access to tvCompass’s own click365 content, including games, IMs, text voting, even an electronic program guide. Some content is free, and others will cost you. It runs the Microsoft Windows Embedded CE operating system. Both Audiovox (under its TERK brand) and SMK Electronics have signed on to make Smart Remotes. The TERK remote, coming this summer, has an MSRP of $300.

February 7, 2007

Polycom is buying SpectraLink for $220 million. Both boards of directors have approved the acquisition, which puts one of the leaders in Wi-Fi telephony for the enterprise in the hands of a company known for unified communications systems. They have the usual regulatory hurdles to clear before the sale goes through, but they expect it to close in the second quarter of 2007. Wireless IP telephony and voice over Wi-Fi are singled out by Polycom Voice Division’s senior vice president and general manager Sunil Bhalla as key, saying that the SpectraLink buy will “yeild immediate synergies.”

Texas Instruments is embedding support for Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) (via the UMA client from Kineto Wireless) into its OMAP-Vox platform. That means dual-mode phones that support GSM/GPRS/EDGE and Wi-Fi using the platform will be able to take advantage of UMA from carriers to get instant hand-off from one network to another. The only other chip vendor Kineto has worked with to date is NXP, formerly Philips Semiconductor.

Market research firm NSR’s senior analyst Jose Del Rosario says in a new report that, based on the current draft of 802.11n approved by the IEEE 802.11n Working Group in January, “the ‘n’ standard for all practical purposes could be considered already here and no longer stalled.” He expects pre-certified 11n equipment to hit 300,000 units shipped by the end of the year, and says that when the ratification of 11n is actually complete sometime in 2008, the market will explode, with shipments hitting 28 million units (and $670 million in revenue) by 2012. That’ll be helped by 11n moving into phones, TVs, game hardware and more.

iLocus says that fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) will cause a $3.3 billion a year drop in revenue for cellular operators in the United States. That is, unless they get a 61% gain in market share by 2011 to balance out losses. In the UK, operators needed to gain 63% to prevent a $1.3 billion a year loss. Yeah, good luck with that. The report estimates the number of F/MC users at the end of 2006 at 436,000.

Not one to be left out, CSR has announced it will also have a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM radio chip out to compete with the announced offerings from Broadcom and TI. They’ll call it UniVox Mobile, and it will, like the others, have technology built in to prevent interference between the 2.4 GHz use of the Wi-Fi and the Bluetooth. CSR told EETimes it expects to stand out with exceptional power savings over the competition. Expect phones with the new chips in 2008.

AirTight Networks has upgraded SpectraGuard Enterprise 5.2. It now sports FIPS-compliant encryption, and has new enhancements in detection and classification (better pre-11n detection, multiple sensor categories and groups), as well as prevention (recognizing specific vendors, stopping connection to metro Wi-Fi networks), and recognizing a new attack called “multi-pot,” where multiple honeypot APs are used to trick users. The company has also just joined the PCI Security Vendor Alliance, which focuses on payment card transaction security, as the alliance’s first member with a focus on wireless.

Bluesocket’s BlueSecure 1500 and 1540 thin access points, run by BlueSecure Controllers, have received Voice Interoperability for Enterprise Wireless (VIEW) Certification from SpectraLink. That means they’re ready to work seamlessly with SpectraLink’s NetLink Wireless Telephones, because the APs “maintain low latency and jitter in all test scenarios.” Both APs support 802.11a/b/g, but the 1500 has a single omni-directional antenna, while the 1540 has optional external antennas.

Businesses in the Charlotte, North Carolina area can now turn to Sotto Wireless to get an all-in-one wireless network and phone service. They’re the first live market for Sotto after trials there and in Seattle. Sotto provides each employee with a single number that they can take anywhere, by utilizing Nokia phones that support cellular and Wi-Fi connections. Read more on Sotto here.

AirMagnet has been issued a new patent, No. 7,130,289, which is “a method and system for detecting a hidden node in a WLAN,” meaning a wireless device that can’t “hear” one or more other devices on the network, which screws up the LAN’s avoidance collision protocol, causing interference. This new tech will identify such nodes ahead of time to prevent interference and downtime.

February 5, 2007

It’s not really news that some people don’t like to pay for their Wi-Fi. But it is news when they start fighting the power using a tool like the WiFi Liberator Toolkit. The site describes it as “an open-source toolkit for a laptop computer that enables its user to ‘liberate’ pay-per-use wireless networks and create a free, open node that anyone can connect to for Internet access.” Just go to Starbucks (or wherever your favorite access is sold), sign in with your account, plug in the Liberator (a standard USB adapter used in addition to your initial Wi-Fi connection), and start broadcasting to other Wi-Fi users who can piggyback on the signal. The goal? Nothing less than the complete decimation of pay-for-play Wi-Fi! Bwah-ha-ha! To do that, they need ubiquity, but so far, the Liberator software (based on Ping Tunnel) is limited to Mac OS X.

D-Link now has a family of 3G Mobile Wireless Routers that use a 3G connection (EV-DO on the DIR-450 model, and UMTS/HSDPA on the DIR-451) for backhaul and 802.11b/g for a client connection (or the four-port 10/100 switch on the back for wired computers). They work like any D-Link RangeBooster router without the 3G backhaul. However, to get that mobility, plug in a 3G PC card that supports a 3G account with any of the following: ACS Wireless, Alltel, Cellular South, Embarq, Sprint or Verizon Wireless for EV-DO; Orangenet, Vodafone, Exelcom or Maxis for UMTS; and Cingular, T-Mobile, Exelcom, Maxis, Vodafone, Celcom or Globe for HSDPA. Only select cards are supported. Each unit sells for $300.

ZyXEL is also taking up the mobile router call with the new ZyWALL-2WG, which it calls a “mobile broadband security appliance.” It supports backhaul with HSDPA and the slower EDGE and GSM networks when you insert its card in the PC Card slot (no EV-DO). The only provider they mention supporting is Cingular/AT&T. The security side of things is covered with support for ZyXEL’s own ZyNOS ICSA IPSec VPN and firewalls. No price was announced.

It can’t all be good news for the mesh product vendors, can it? Tropos Networks, fresh off announcing its 500th municipal customer, is being sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia by a company named IPCo, LLC. Of course, it’s for patent infringement. IPCo is not a maker of mesh products, but a “patent and technology licensing company with a particular focus on the wireless mesh networking space.” This is the second time IPCo has gone after Tropos — the company filed a previous suit last year. The new suit alleges that Tropos violates IPCo’s ownership of U.S. Patent No. 7,103,511; the previous suit is on patent 6,249,516. Both are trademarked under the name Essential Wireless Mesh (EWM). Tropos won’t comment on ongoing litigation.

In happier news, Meraki is hitting it big not only with coverage in the NY Times this week, but also by getting $5 million in investment funding from Sequoia (Google is a previous investor). Not bad for a product that started as an MIT experiment. Meraki has sold 15,000 inexpensive outdoor nodes to date (and they’re still just in the test phase). Meraki nodes cost a fraction of what Tropos and others charge at around $50 to $100 a pop.

One of those more expensive mesh vendors, Firetide, said today it’s expanding its presence in the vast untapped market that is the People’s Republic of China. It’s opening offices in Beijing and working with nine main regional partners on projects such as a network for use by high-speed vehicles (traveling up to 90 miles per hour) and a community-wide network for an area in Northern China.

February 2, 2007

AirSpy Training will be offering a Certified Wireless Networking Professional (CWNP) course with a focus on VoIP using SpectraLink NetLink phones. The two have formed an “education partnership” to create a custom curriculum, authorized by CWNP. Classes will be offered at SpectraLink’s offices in Boulder, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia.

The WildPackets OmniAnalysis Platform is now at version 4.1 and has added support for not only Windows Vista, but also for running on Intel Centrino 3945 chips, all the better to analyze 802.11a/b/g. It’ll also check the management frames on 802.11n packets.

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