IPWireless Puts 802.11 on the Move

By Eric Griffith

September 02, 2003

Wi-Fi in your car or on the train? Bring it with you: Hardware company Possio is making a Wi-Fi access point that connects wirelessly to 3G WANs using technology from IPWireless -- no DSL or cable needed.

Swedish company Possio, a maker of technologies for bridging different types of network connections such as Wi-Fi to Bluetooth, today announced that it has developed a product that will provide access point functions for hotspots or offices, as well as integrated backhaul. All the unit requires is electrical power, because the high speed connection back to the Internet is wireless.

IPWireless of San Bruno, Calif., is behind that backhaul, which it calls "Mobile Broadband." They use 3G mobile cellular connections -- TD-CDMA (Time Division - Code Division Multiple Access) technology based on UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) -- as the for the connection. Each cell is capable of up to 25Mbps speed, though usually tops out at 5Mbps.

Possio's box will house the subscriber station for the IPWireless connection, as well as the hardware to serve as a standard 802.11b hotspot access point. The box itself will have a 3Mbps speed for the backhaul.

"The weak link is the 802.11," says IPWireless's CEO Chris Gilbert. "The more users, the more the throughput goes down. Other than the Wi-Fi, it's carrier grade."

IPWireless says the key here is the plug-and-play nature of the box. A home or small office purchasing this can just give it electrical power and, as long as they're within range of a base station using the technology, the backhaul will be there for all the clients (laptops and PDAs) that are within range of the box. Moreso, Gilbert says "it's like 'DSL anywhere" because the Possio box could be used on the move, for example, in a car or train.

IPWireless's Mobile Broadband has only been implemented by carriers -- IPWireless just provides the software and equipment -- at a few places around the globe, for example on the Hawaiian Island of Maui and in Jacksonville, Florida. They have a "demonstration network" running down highway 101 south of San Francisco. Worldwide, there are Mobile Broadband setups in Malaysia, New Zealand, and in Europe. Each carrier gives the service its own name.

The Possio access point will use a PCMCIA card for the Broadband Mobile connection which can be removed and put directly into a laptop or PDA for instant, individual connections. The card includes a SIM card for instant authentication.

Gilbert says that while most "mobile carriers have only dabbled" in doing Wi-Fi hotspots, his company's technology presents "another way for carriers to get into the 802.11 game."

When asked about how Mobile Broadband will stack up against future mobile backhaul like 802.16e or 802.20, Gilbert says "the bigger issue isn't the technology, but who'll sign up. Since many carriers already have got a standard and frequency that can use with us, why come up with another standard for it?"

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