Wi-Fi Product Watch: January 2006

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

January 31, 2006

Redline has whole WiMax line; 802.11n draft means good things; lots of new tech at CES; and more.

Want to get your certified WiMax equipment from just one vendor? Redline Communications may be your best bet, as the company's AN-100U base station was in the first round of products certified by the WiMax Forum, and today it announced that its SU-O subscriber unit has received the certified mark. This product also is the first certified WiMax hardware with Intel inside — it's running the Intel PRO/Wireless 5116 Broadband Interface. The SU-O is designed for use both indoors and out in most countries, though an SU-I version for indoor use only will be submitted for certification later this year.

WLAN chipmaker Marvell is partnering with cellular phone maker Kyocera Wireless in a bit of fixed/mobile convergence (FMC). The latter will be building Marvell Wi-Fi chips into dual-mode phones supporting 802.11 and CDMA, in preparation for what's expected to be a market of 125 million devices in just a couple of years. Infonetics concurs, with a report out that says the market for Wi-Fi phones (not specifically FMC phones) will double this year. It went up 76 percent from 2004 to 2005 worldwide. Expect sales of Wi-Fi phones alone to reach $1.9 billion by 2009. Only 33 percent of the Wi-Fi phone revenue of last year came from dual-mode MFC handsets, but by 2009, they'll generate 75 percent  of the total revenue.

Lest we forget that this is the twenty-first century and phones aren't just for voice anymore, Conexant Systems points out that its chips for both Wi-Fi and V.92 dial-up modems are being used by LG-Nortel in a new videophone product being deployed by operators in Europe. The phone, part of the LVP series, has a camera above a 3.5-inch LCD. It uses 802.11g or Bluetooth to transmit video to the broadband or dial-up connection. There's also a handset and speakerphone integrated, plus an alphanumeric keypad for sending text messages. The dial-up is really just for backup when the broadband goes down.

Lenovo is integrating Vodafone 3G/EDGE/GPRS access into ThinkPad notebook models T60 and X60 for use in Europe, probably sometime in the second quarter of this year. When it's available, the computers can be upgraded to take advantage of High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA). The computers will have software called Access Connections 4.1 that will help users automatically switch from one available network to another, whether it's wired or WLAN.

Speaking of HSDPA, Novatel and Siemens say they've completed the first data call on a wireless 3.6 Megabits per second (Mbps) link between a wireless modem (the new Novatel Merlin U870) and an HSDPA base station (Siemens NodeB 880). This is Novatel's second HSDPA PC Card-based modem — the first could only reach 1.8 Mbps. The hardware will run in the radio bands for HSDPA in countries like the United States and in Europe (800, 1900 and 2100 MHz), and is backwards compatible with UMDS, EDGE and GPRS, making it a "global roaming card."

January 27, 2006

The New York Times wrote this week about the AuraGrid system we talked about back in September 2005. AuraOne Systems of Fremont, Calif., says the AuraGrid Wireless Extension System is better than traditional signal boosters because it uses existing coaxial cable — the kind used to connect your cable TV set or satellite dish — to extend the network to "virtual AP" units with extra antennas, thereby extending the signal by using the same channel everywhere. And it doesn't harm your TV signal. The $90 kit includes a four-port Wireless/TV duplexer, dual SMA-T connector, SMA-to-SMA dongle, and three virtual AP room antennas, all backed by a one-year warranty. $20 for each additional antenna. You do need a router with a removable antenna and SMA connector to hook up the AuraGrid, so check your hardware before you invest.

Novatel Wireless says it is supplying the embedded PCI Express Mini cards for Dell laptops that will incorporate EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) and HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) mobile broadband access. They'll show up in the next generation of Latitude notebooks, sometime in the first half of this year.

Calypso Wireless, always trying to combine the worlds of cellular and Wi-Fi, this week released an open source (Asterisk-based IP-PBX software) unit called the Calypso ASNAP Session Controller (ASC). It works with the Calypso C1250i WiFi-GSM Dual Mode VoIP Smart cellular phone, allowing seamless connections via cellular/GSM as well as Wi-Fi for VoIP calls, plus roaming between the two. The unit will support features like voicemail, conference bridging, call queues and call records, and it's compliant with e911.

January 25, 2006

AirTight Networks has made its SpectraGuard SAFE (Security Agent For Endpoints) personal/trial edition software available for free download to secure the laptops of mobile users. The Windows-based software will give users multiple connection profiles, and will give warnings of risks such as connection to rogue APs or evil twins, even to ad-hoc networks like those used in the recently-revealed "Windows Network Connection Attack" (though upgrading to XP SP2 will pretty much take care of that, too). The trial is meant to hook people into the Enterprise Edition, which works with server-based SpectraGuard Enterprise to lock down corporate WLANs.

With 802.11n in draft mode, what does that mean for the future? Dell'Oro Group thinks it means good things. They say the sales of equipment based on the standard will be over $1 billion in 2007, the year it's likely to debut officially (though expect a few million in sales on draft-standard products this year). Analyst Greg Collins says the home market was stagnating revenue-wise, since 11g has been out for so long and no one sees a need for an 11a upgrade. They expect 11n to make up 90 percent of the consumer WLAN equipment shipped by 2009; that same year will see enterprises moving to 11n, once it's found in notebook computers. Frost & Sullivan also thinks things are getting better at home, with overall sales of chips for home networking to triple by 2009 to well over $6.5 billion (that's both wireless and wired, but will we really expect to use cables by 2009? I hope not...).

Motorola Ventures, the strategic investment arm of Motorola, has made a (duh) strategic investment in enterprise WLAN equipment vendor Extricom. Specific numbers were not announced.

January 23, 2006

AirDefense officially released version 3.0 of its AirDefense Personal software today. It works directly with the 7.0 version of AirDefense Enterprise to let administrators "easily create and automatically enforce wireless policies across the enterprise" and make end-to-end intrusion prevention. The software can enforce policies like only using specific VPNs, or preventing use of anything from certain applications to types of connections (preventing, say, Bluetooth, EV-DO or EDGE connections). Admins can blacklist networks, such as the one next to the office, to prevent accidental connections.

Atheros released more detail today about its XSPAN line of WLAN chips set to support the new draft spec of 802.11n, which was approved last week. The first chip — which was shown earlier this month at CES2006 — is the AR5008. They say it has "six times the throughput of 802.11g" — real-world speed of up to 180 Megabits per second (Mbps) — plus better range and reliability. The chips have what Atheros calls a "triple-radio RF design" using Signal Sustain Technology (SST) to get the multiple in, multiple out (MIMO) simultaneous transmission of signals that is key to 802.11n. Vendors can get the now-sampling AR5008 family of chips with PCI or PCI express interfaces, and in either single-band (2.4 GHz) or dual-band (2.4 and 5 GHz) versions.

Unstrung reports that the Cisco-backed lightweight access point protocol (LWAPP) has been pushed through the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to become the protocol of choice for managing thin access points (APs) from a central controller/switch. This makes it the baseline of the Control And Provisioning of Wireless Access Points (CAPWAP) working group. Changes will still happen before LWAPP becomes the final CAPWAP spec.

Got a PocketPC with Wi-Fi? Check out HitchHiker, new free software for Windows Mobile (requires .NET Compact Framework 2.0) to connect to public access points automatically.

SOHOware is selling a new WLAN gateway designed specifically for guest access for businesses. The plenum-rated AeroHotSpot WLH3000 hardware supports up to 50 users. Admins can control who gets access using built-in billing profiles and optional remote RADIUS support, or by limiting time or bandwidth.

January 17, 2006

Aruba Networks has a new branch office/retail unit, the Aruba 200 Mobility Controller. Working with the Aruba Mobility Management System, it can run up to six APs with 100 users. Administrators pre-configure the unit with the Internet IP address of the central office's Aruba controller and drop ship it to a remote location, and once it's plugged in, the 200 will automatically and securely connect to the home office via a virtual private network (VPN) tunnel.  It will sell for $1,750; the Mobility Management System is just under $4,000.

Network Chemistry's RFprotect will soon be available via reseller/channel partners of SonicWALL. The latter's field support organization will use RFprotect Mobile to design networks, while the full RFprotect Distributed suite will be sold as a complement to SonicWALL's controllers and access points (SonicPoints).

The makers of Navizon, the wireless positioning system that works on Pocket PC PDAs by triangulating signals from Wi-Fi access points and GSM cellular towers (read the profile here), are already adding a new feature. The Geotag allows members who supply info to the Navizon network tag locations to specify what's there, such as a restaurant or other business. The tag shows up for any Navizon member/user who's in that area. Navizon software currently only works on Windows Mobile and Symbian devices, but it's free.

Cell Wireless Corporation said last week that this quarter will see the launch of its Wi-Fi Cell VoIP phone. It is specifically for use on Wi-Fi networks, be they hotspots or home or office, though not on cellular networks as the name implies. A price for the phone was not announced.

January 12, 2006

802.1X authentication provider Meetinghouse has released version 4.0 of its AEGIS SecureConnect software, which is meant to provide security for endpoints (which some call stations, and the rest of us call clients or "end user devices" —Windows 2000/XP laptops, basically). The software, which supports Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC) architecture, checks the integrity of the laptop at Layer 2 before letting it get an IP address, supports wired and wireless connections, works with existing RADIUS servers, and can force a connection on the WLAN to use WPA2 security.

January 11, 2006

TRENDnet today officially announced its 802.11g Wireless & Bluetooth Combo USB 2.0 Adapter (model TBW-103UB). It's the size of a regular USB thumb drive (just under four inches long, including the USB plug), and supports 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 1.2 — the latter can be used to access the Internet by connecting to a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone's dial-up modem feature (if it has it). TWB-103UB has an external antenna that can be adjusted to improve signal strength. Cost is $70.

MIMO comes to WiMax: ArrayComm's Network MIMO (multiple in, multiple out — the tech that will power next generation 802.11n) will be made a software option by picoChip in the silicon it provides for WiMax base stations and subscriber stations. ArrayComm's software supports not just MIMO but also adaptive antenna systems (AAS) and the two combined, as well as all the antenna processing profiles approved by the WiMax Forum Mobile Task Group for use in 802.16e (Mobile WiMax) products. The companies say the combo of MIMO/AAS will significantly increase data rates.

January 10, 2006

RaySat's SpeedRay 3000, shown at CES, is a flat 5.7-inch satellite receiver you can put on top of a vehicle. Inside the vehicle is an access point to give all the riders Wi-Fi access to the Internet and to satellite TV. Look for it in the second quarter of 2006.

Mesh equipment maker BelAir Networks is continuing to commit to working with cable companies so they don't miss out on the metro-network craze: today, it announced a wireless mesh and cable Technical Advisory Board. The group will include cable execs, and the first meeting is set to take place at the SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies. BelAir, which recently got funding from cable company Comcast, is shipping cable-optimized versions of its products. The competition at Tropos is working with cable equipment supplier Scientific Atlanta, which planned to resell Tropos equipment along with its products, though the status of that may have changed when SA was purchased by Cisco.

In other mesh maker business, Firetide announced a deal today with EDX Wireless to "provide customers with full featured software tools for planning and deploying municipal wireless mesh networks," according to a statement -- meaning the EDX SignalMX software will now show data for Firetide HotPort mesh nodes. Down the road, the two plan more integration, such as sharing data from SingleMX to the HotView Pro network management software. EDX is also a Tropos partner.

Security partnerships are always hot and helpful: NextHop, which provides software for running network switches, and security provider AirDefense, are teaming up for the purpose of "jointly providing their solutions to customers." Meaning, if you buy NextHop's UNS 4.0 switching software to run your wireless hardware, you can integrate AirDefense security in the box.

January 6, 2006

First, the products featuring Wi-Fi announced and/or demonstrated at CES 2006 in Las Vegas this weekend:

Just behind Netgear and Linksys announcing they will use Airgo's 3rd Generation of MIMO chips comes Buffalo Technology. The company's new AirStation MIMO Wireless Cable/DSL Router (model WZR-G240, $150) and AirStation MIMO Wireless Notebook Adapter (WLI-CB-G240, $100) will both ship in February and will feature Buffalo's own AOSS (One-Touch Secure System) to instantly turn on WPA2 security between client and router. The router supports not just standard cable and DSL broadband, but also fiber-to-the-home (FTTH). Buffalo is also showing other Wi-Fi products at CES, including new additions to its line of high-power routers and adapters (which use special antennas and built-in signal amplifiers), now supporting dual-band 802.11a/g.

Linksys has several new products on display at the show. They include the Linksys Compact Wireless-G Internet Video Camera (model ^56WZR57^, $130), a unique-looking camera that makes video viewable on any Web browser using a dynamic DNS service; the Wireless-G Music Bridge (WMB54G, $100), an audio receiver that isn't tied to any one music service or type of file (like MP3s) — it’s a virtual sound card, and while hooked up to your stereo, it plays back whatever sounds are generated by your PC; and finally, the Wireless-G Media Storage Link Router with Speed Booster (WRTSL54GS, $130) is what you'd expect — a network attached storage device that also happens to be a router and 802.11g access point in one.

D-Link has some "next gen" Wi-Fi media products to show at CES. The latest is the MediaLounge High Definition (HD) Wireless Media Player with DVD (model DSM-520RD, no pricing announced), which includes a 5-in-1 Flash Card Reader. A similar unit comes with 100GB of storage to hold pictures and videos. Both will support the Intel Viiv technology, and will be out in the second half of this year. D-Link also has a new Wireless Internet Camera that supports 802.11g and can be viewed via any browser using a dynamic DNS service that comes with the cam. Finally, a new GamerLounge Wireless Router (DGL-4300) is the company's first with Gigabit Ethernet ports, but it also supports 108Mbps 802.11g and the GameFuel technology for better online game performance. It's optimized to work with gaming consoles as well as PCs. D-Link is also going to sell a triple-threat GamerLounge Wireless Gaming Adapter (DGL-3420) that hooks to any console (Xbox, PS2 or GameCube)—and on Xbox, it doesn't even need separate configuration; it can be done through the console interface.

Actiontec Electronics' latest router includes VoIP service support. The Actiontec 54 Mbps Wireless DSL Gateway with Voice is intended for resale by telecoms with such services based on SIP, so pricing is undetermined. The unit supports two SIP-based voice ports, a POTS backup, and broadband from ADSL 2/2+ modems, plus the usual 4-port Ethernet switch and Wi-Fi access point. It should ship sometime this quarter, and will come with all cables, even phone cords.

2Wire makes a good living selling gateways to telecoms for resale or distribution, but they're going a different way with the new HomePortal 4000 series iNID (intelligent Network Interface Device). This is an outdoor unit that mounts to the side of a house so technicians can deal with it without entering the customer's home — the DSL line would stop outside. 802.11g is a customer-installable option, as it is with the indoor 3000 series.

Control4 says it has a Wi-Fi based system for running home entertainment and controls. The Wi-Fi Control4 Speaker Point ($450) and Mini Touch Screen ($800) are part of the company's overall portfolio, which includes wired and wireless products that are IP (Internet Protocol) based. Speaker Point is a digital audio receiver with a 50 watt per channel digital amplifier; it can be hooked up anywhere in the house. The touchscreen looks like a wall-mounted thermostat with a color screen — it includes the remote audio decoder and access to the Control4 Navigator software interface.

Hauppauge Digital has a new MediaMVP Wireless Set-Top Receiver for playing music, video and pictures stored on PCs (thus the "MVP") on the TV and stereo using 802.11g. It supports MPEG and DivX video formats as well as MP3 music files. It will sell for $150.

CEIVA Logic makes Digital Photo Receivers in the form of picture frames. This year, they're making one that has 802.11b/g built in, so the frame can pull photos from your online account and create a never-ending digital slide show on your walls (previous versions had to hook up to the Internet via wired phone or broadband connections).

You probably can't control any of the above with the OpenPeak SimpleRemote, but this Wi-Fi equipped universal remote can be programmed through your PC without hooking it up via a cable like others. The remote itself has a 2.2-inch VGA color LCD screen so you can preview photos or videos on your PCs or Web cams as well.

NewSoft American's Presto! WMS (Wireless Multimedia System) receives broadcasts at any display with a VGA/XVGA connector —usually a projector — of screen captured images from a Wi-Fi enabled PC or notebook (802.11a/b/g all supported). Content is shown at 15 frames per second over the 802.11 link. It sells for $249 on the NewSoft Web site.

BenQ says its CP120 is the lightest and smallest projector available with built-in dual-band Wi-Fi. It weighs only 2.9 pounds, and measures 8.58(w) x 6.77(h) x 2.40(d) in inches. It has XGA native resolution, with a lumens rating of 1500. It also uses the new sRGB (Standard Red Green Blue) specification from Microsoft and HP for color matching between software and hardware devices. It's out now, and sells for $1,800.

A multi-function with it all: Brother's $250 MFC-820cw is a 6000x1200 dpi inkjet printer, plus copier, scanner, fax and PhotoCapture Center (reading photos from media cards), which also happens to support network connections via Ethernet and 802.11b/g -- which must be Broadcom-chip based, because it also supports SecureEasySetup for one-button security activation. It has a flip-up 2.5-inch color LCD built in for previewing images and using menus. It will be out in February.  The company also has a sub-$200 unit, the MFC-640cw, with most of the same specifications; it lacks the color LCD (only 2-line backlit monochrome) but builds in a full-duplex speakerphone. It won't be out until the last quarter of 2006.

Finally, chipmaker Atheros Communications is showing off all the latest and greatest in its Wi-Fi portfolio of tricks at CES. This includes their XSPAN-branded MIMO technology that they say generates 300Mbps data rates (and could give them a leg up on 802.11n if their founding member stance with the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC) leads to a win in the 802.11n spec race this month); ROCm, a mobile Wi-Fi platform for phones, cameras and other small, low-power devices; Atheros chip use in metro Wi-Fi mesh networks; and the JumpStart for Wireless 2.0 technology for easy security configuration (1.0 premiered at last year's CES).

And outside of Vegas this week:

Socket Communications says its new $99 Go Wi-Fi! P500 802.11g CompactFlash card is the fastest way to connect Windows Mobile 2003/SE & 5.0 Mobile based PDAs to a WLAN. It includes Socket's Wi-Fi Companion software for connection management and fully supports connections using WPA2-Enterprise security. LEDs on the card itself also help show connection status.

January 4, 2006

Linksys has a new set of 802.3af Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) powered hardware for indoors and out, the Wireless-G Access Point with PoE (model WAP54GP, $249) and the Wireless-G Exterior Access Point with PoE (model WAP54GPE, $449). The SMB-targeted APs also support bridge mode for connecting remote networks, and support multiple SSIDs and VLAN settings. They support wired equivalent privacy (WEP), Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and MAC filtering for security.

Verizon is about to start selling wireless home networking equipment, including routers, PC Cards for laptops and USB adapters. They'll be sold at retail stores where you can already buy Verizon DSL. All the equipment will be supplied by Belkin.

WiMax on a handset? Why not. Samsung is demonstrating such an animal using the Korean flavor of mobile WiMax/802.16e, called WiBro. The Samsung M8000 smartphone (with QWERTY keyboard) is considered a precursor to commercial service, set for the first half of the year in that country.

Pharos Science & Applications says its Pharos Traveler GPS 525 is the first Pocket PC/Windows Mobile 5.0-based handheld to include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and global positioning. It has built-in maps of 50 metro areas of the United States on a 512MB SD card, and includes Skype software for making VoIP phone calls. List price is $600.

As was announced in October when the Palm TX made its debut, the Wi-Fi enabled handheld will also support the MobiTV service to receive 24-frames-per-second TV from a dozen channels to start (including ABC News Now, C-Span, ESPN 3GTV, Weather Channel and others). Service should be available via any Wi-Fi connection to the Internet that the TX can get. MobiTV is also available to users of the Palm Treo 650 smartphone.

Sony is no longer the only laptop vendor to offer integrated EDGE data network access (specifically to Cingular Wireless' EDGE/UMTS network called BroadbandConnect). Lenovo will be building the wireless wide-area network (WWAN) into upcoming ThinkPad notebook computers. Look for the pre-configured notebooks by the second quarter of 2006.

Speaking of embedded EDGE, the very similar EV-DO type networks (offered by Verizon Wireless and Sprint/Nextel in the U.S.) are apparently good for laptop buyers. iGillottResearch says that the total cost of ownership (TCO) for mobile devices actually goes down if they have embedded WWAN broadband. Using various models, they found TCO was 14.4 percent lower if the laptop used an EV-DO PC Card. However, the cost goes up if your mobile workers use smartphones with the same type of connection...

Major Taiwanese OEM Accton Technology Corp. is planning to build mobile products with roaming software built in from Boingo Wireless, giving users access to the worldwide footprint of 25,000 hotspots Boingo's virtual network offers. They'll start with a VoIP Wi-Fi handset to come out in March, and later will build a dual-mode handset (GSM/Wi-Fi) and eventually "portable personal gateways."

Pegasus Wireless will show off the WiJET.e at CES this week. The device lets you stream video (whether downloaded or playing in the DVD drive) from a Wi-Fi equipped computer  to any video display such as a TV, a monitor or even a video projector — it only needs to have a VGA connection port. The connection is made via 802.11g. No price is announced, but they expect to start selling it by March 2006.

Helium Networks wants you to try out their Wireless Recon SiteSense software for doing your site surveys and WLAN designs, so the company is now offering the software as a free download with a 14-day evaluation period. The software uses "indoor GPS" location support to make a visual layout that can be used to optimize the WLAN for better performance.

Did we mention that TiVo is now selling their own 802.11g adapter, guaranteed to work with your USB-equipped TiVo Series 2 DVR unit so it can actually share videos between systems and even do the TiVoToGo over wireless? No? Well, they are, it's $50, and it's about time.

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