Wi-Fi Product Watch: August 2006

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

August 30, 2006

California tries to protect users; Microsoft tests Windows Live Connection Center; Alliance names new Wi-Fi security setup; and much more

The state of California has passed the "Wi-Fi User Protection Bill," according to Reuters. The law, to take effect in January after being signed by the Governator, instructs vendors who make and sell Wi-Fi equipment to include instructions on how to set up security to prevent "piggybackers" who would "steal" access, which they state is against the terms of service of many broadband providers. A warning label in every box would show up either as a sticker over the ports (uh... wireless doesn't use the ports), an on-screen warning when installed or configured, or an alert that requires user intervention to set up or bypass security configuration. A Los Angeles-based lawmaker in the state assembly wrote the bill when he was shown how easy it is to find other networks to use. Lets hope he doesn't figure out how easy it is to skip commercials with that new-fangled TiVo device...

RoamAD of New Zealand has a new release of its WLAN software platform that supports quad-band radios on mesh networks. It can support nodes running 2.4GHz 802.11b/g, 5GHz 802.11a, 4.9GHz (reserved for public safety use), even 900MHz. RoamAD partners and OEMs build the nodes with these radios, and the company has announced a partnership with a new OEM, ADI Engineering, to make them under the Pronghorn Metro product line based on Intel XScale CPUs and RoamAD's WNP 1.5 software.

August 29, 2006

Hong Kong-based PePLink announced a new Surf-AP Wi-Fi Modem today. Like previous PePLink products, it serves as a bridge from an outside wireless network to your home. The difference this time is that the Surf-AP also is a full Wi-Fi access point, so you can connect to multiple wireless computers. Previously, you hooked a single computer to the PePLink hardware via an Ethernet cable, which killed the whole "wireless" aspect. The Surf-AP is designed for central management by a wireless ISP offering a citywide Wi-Fi network. PePLink equipment is in use by some municipal mesh networks run by Tropos, as it supports the Tropos extension for better connections to the mesh.

Another month, another Wi-Fi phone for Skype! This time, Logitec (the Japanese company, not the US Logitech) will release the familiar looking candy-bar design with its model LAN-WSPH01WH. No word on pricing, and it isn't likely to be released in the U.S. One nice difference is that it not only supports Wi-Fi but also runs Bluetooth, so this one you could actually use with a wireless headset and maybe even connect to your PC. Maybe.

Speaking of voice, the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology guys at Kineto Wireless say their UMA client software now supports 3G/UMTS connections. UMA lets users keep a call going as they talk on a handset supporting Wi-Fi and various mobile technologies. Most UMA devices support 2.5G/GSM/GPRS/EDGE cellular networks. Now, handsets with the right chips/antennas and this software can roam from Wi-Fi to 2.5G to 3G as needed without dropping a call. The UMTS Forum believes use of 3G/UMTS technology will reach 100 million subscribers worldwide by the end of this year. Currently, a trial run by T-Mobile is underway to test UMA roaming in the Seattle area.

NextHop Technologies, providers of software to run wireless switches, is working with AirTight Networks. The two will co-market their wares to the OEM community to get AirTight's SpectraGuard Enterprise intrusion detection/prevention systems built into hardware running NextHop's Dynamic Network Architecture (DNA).

If you were one of the people panicked by the so-called "Wi-Fi Drive By" demonstration and you grabbed new drivers for your Intel Centrino laptop to become unhackable, well, that's probably a good thing overall... but you got hosed. The files apparently have a memory leak that slows things down on laptops. Intel figured out the problem and has already released new drivers, which you can download now.

Can anyone claim to have 2 million Wi-Fi users on their network? Nintendo does. That many unique players of the Nintendo DS handheld had logged onto the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection as of last week. The network is found at various hotspots, including those at McDonald's restaurants, where Nintendo DS users can log on for free. Recent releases for the DS that include Wi-Fi functions include the new Star Fox Command.

Hawking Technologies has a new Wireless-G USB Networking Adapter (model HWUG1) with a removable, screw-on antenna so you can upgrade to its various hi-gain versions, some of which they claim boost network range up to six times. The $59 card supports 108Mbps Turbo Mode when it talks to a Hawking Wireless-108G MIMO Router, and has full support for security up to WPA2.

August 23, 2006

BetaNews reports that invitations are going out to testers from Microsoft to check out Windows Live Connection Center Wi-Fi. It's a service that will be split into two parts, an application for finding and connecting to networks (replacing Windows Zero Config in XP, perhaps?), and a Web-based service with a hotspot directory integrated with the Windows Live Local service to map out the venue locations. No word on if this software will also integrate the Wi-Fi Protected Setup standard the Wi-Fi Alliance has been working on, but it might be a good bet since MS was involved in creating it. There's also a form online where users can sign up for what's called the Windows Live Wi-Fi Suite. Currently, the software isn't running on Vista builds until RC1 comes out in September, nor does it work for handhelds. The beta test is expected to run through early 2007.

Vonage will be selling a new wireless router made by D-Link that includes two phone ports to use with the Vonage VoIP service. The VWR Wireless B/G Broadband Router (with 4-port Ethernet switch) will sell directly from the Vonage site for $130 (there's currently a $40 instant rebate, but you have to factor in the $30 activation fee for the bundled Vonage service, so plan on spending $80).

Linksys says LELA can help. It stands for the Linksys EasyLink Advisor, which is a Windows-based software application that will come with the Linksys Wireless-G Broadband Routers with SpeedBooster (model WRT54GS), and eventually other routers as well. Users can also download it directly. It's supposed to simplify setup and management of the network. The company says once a user names the network through this utility, that configures enough to skip up to 15 steps that would usually follow, showing Flash-based presentations the whole way. It will even accept settings from currently installed WLAN hardware, installing existing devices when it finds them, creating a network map reminiscent of that from Network Magic.

August 22, 2006

Cognio's Spectrum Expert is now at version 3.0, an upgrade designed to make it easy for those without a radio frequency background to understand what's going on. A new Channel Utilization Chart shows overuse of channels; a Signal-to-Noise Chart shows how APs perform vs. interferers. Users can also easily save plots and data charts to use in Office software for reports. (Unfortunately, for now, they don't call out anything special about the Draft-N/802.11n products and how they use 40MHz channels — they just show up on the spectrum plot.) This Windows software is the basis for similar products from AirMagnet and WildPackets. All the various incarnations come with an 802.11a/b/g card. Cognio's version costs $3,995, but it's free to current users with a maintenance contract.

InfoWorld reports that there's another new pre-certification testing lab opened by the Wi-Fi Alliance. The latest, run by Wipro, is in Bangalore, India. It's the third of its kind (the others are in the U.S. and Taiwan). Vendors can send Wi-Fi products to these labs for tests to be sure they'll interoperate with the Alliance test bed before they send products in for official, expensive testing that they could potentially fail and have to re-test. This way is cheaper.

The Wi-Fi shootout contest that takes place every year at the DefCon hacker conference in Las Vegas always gets a new winner in the long-distance Wi-Fi connection record. This year was no exception. iFiber-Redwire got a 124.9-mile connection without amplification, going from mountaintop to mountaintop; the connection lasted three hours. Last year, they only got 55.1 miles. The amplified signal record is 192 miles. The team claims it can get 300 miles without amplifying the signal, but they couldn't in Vegas due to the terrain. Of course, to do that, they have homemade antennas attached to Wi-Fi equipped laptops; one was a 10-foot diameter dish on a trailer, the other a 12-footer mounted on scaffolding. [via WiredNews]

August 17, 2006

Marvell's newest Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g) chip is also a Bluetooth 2.0 chip (upgradeable to 2.1). Designed for handsets, media players and other low-power consumer platforms, the 88W8688 has an overall size of less than 80 cubic millimeters. It's sampling now to vendors.

Synergy Research Group says the overall WLAN market worldwide took a dip in the second quarter of 2006, by 3% from the first quarter. But overall, it was up 14% compared to Q2 of 2005. Enterprise sales, as usual led by Cisco (down 4% from Q1), were flat. Consumer/SOHO sales of Wi-Fi equipment were down 4%, led by Linksys (a Cisco subsidiary), which was down 2% quarter-to-quarter. Synergy notes that Q2 precedes back-to-school and holiday purchases, so a rebound by Q3 is a possibility.

In-Stat says that in Q2, at least 300,000 routers and client cards were shipped supporting Draft-N (the 1.0 draft of the 802.11n standard). The researchers say users who bought them will find the transition to the final 11n "bumpier" than it was for the people who bought early 11g products before that standard was finalized. They expect 11n chips to comprise only 3.6% of the WLAN chips shipped in 2006, but that will grow 20% next year — even though the latest reports say the 11n standard won't be finalized until 2008.

August 16, 2006

A few naughty vendors are leaking the name of the Wi-Fi Alliance's upcoming program for easily setting up Wi-Fi network security, so the Alliance is going to spill the beans on the official name: Wi-Fi Protected Setup. (The code name was "Simple Config.") This doesn't replace 802.11i/WPA2 or anything else -- it will just make those standards easier to set up for consumers; Wi-Fi Protected Setup is not really going to help enterprise IT people. Alliance research shows 43% of users found it " moderately to very difficult" to set up security (which, honestly, seems low). How exactly it will perform its duties will remain under wraps for now. Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Alliance, told Wi-Fi Planet today that "the details of the program and the specifics are not cooked enough." Vendors with their own software or hardware based 'one-button setup' of security, like Buffalo, Broadcom, Atheros, have all been involved in the creation of Wi-Fi Protected Setup. With luck, it might show up in products before the holidays.

Rumors are rampant that T-Mobile will launch a service in Seattle as soon as September 12 using Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA), which would allow hand-off of cellular GSM calls to voice over Wi-Fi with a phone that supports both. With thousands of hotspots, T-Mobile users could theoretically walk off the street while on the phone, enter Starbucks, trip over to the Wi-Fi network while still talking (freeing up cell tower space for other calls while T-Mobile still gets money for the minutes used). The focus at first is likely to be home users, who can use their phone for cell calls or to make VoWi-Fi calls over their own home network, without needing a separate service like Skype which would entail getting a separate phone number. Likely phone candidate for the trial is the Samsung T709. [via GigaOm]

Aruba Networks will be performing for the military. Through a deal with strategic partner General Dynamics, Aruba's WLAN system will be available through the U.S. Air Force Network Centric Solutions (NETCENTS) indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract. Air Force, Department of Defense (DoD) and other government agencies can all get FIPS-certified Aruba equipment through GD.

August 15, 2006

Crutchfield's catalog leaked info about the Sirius Stilletto 100, a new portable unit that will not only stream Sirius satellite radio from satellites, but can also do it via Wi-Fi at home or hotspots. Think of it as TiVo for satellite radio, as it will also record 100 hours of audio programming. It will also play WMA and MP3 files of your choice, ripped by you or pulled from subscription services supporting the Microsoft PlaysForSure DRM. Price will be $400. Docking stations sold separately. [via Gizmodo]

WildPackets is releasing a new version of its spectrum analysis software in the next 30 days. OmniSpectrum 3.0 (based on tech from Cognio) runs on Windows laptops and has additional graphical displays for showing interference, with a per-channel showing of what the sources are. The software comes with a CardBus PC Card supporting 802.11a/b/g and sells for $3,995.

Cisco Systems has received Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 Level 2 validation of its wireless security. This means a Cisco Unified Wireless Network is now okay for use by parties in the Department of Defense. The company's centralized WLAN is in the process of getting Common Criteria certification from National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP), which means it would be compliant with DoD Directive 8100.2 by 2007. 8100.2 compliance is the final step required for all off-the-shelf products used by DoD.

hawking-ha17dd.jpgHawking Technologies loves to dish — it has sold a dish antenna for laptop Wi-Fi for a while. Now, it offers the Hi-Gain 8dBi WiFi Directional Dish Antenna (model HAI8DD, $49) that works with APs, bridges and adapters. It can be wall-mounted or put on a desktop. It comes with an RP-SMA connector and the Hawking HACST (SMA to TNC) adapter to connect not just to Hawking equipment, but also to other third-party wireless devices.

AnchorFree's wiPod application, which puts a list of AnchorFree's 10,000 free-to-access hotspots on the Apple iPod, is now available -- for free, of course, though you have to become a member of the AnchorFree online community. Once installed, the directory can be found in the Notes section of the iPod OS, under "Extras".

All the major players in the Wi-Fi-based RFID/asset tagging world are working on something this week:

  • Ekahau is working with St. Croix Systems on a combo solution for health care markets, integrating the former's real-time location system (RTLS) with the Capital Asset Lifecycle Management software from St. Croix.
  • Again focusing on hospitals and health care, PanGo Networks is working with Versus Technology to combine the latter's IR/RFID tracking system with the PanGo software, which the Versus platform will in turn use to track items over a Wi-Fi infrastructure.
  • AeroScout is updating features on its Wi-Fi-based T2 Tag, which it calls "unique and unparalleled in the market." They include an optional temperature monitor used for remote alerts, and a real-time motion sensor. Using the motion sensor can also help push battery life in the tag to over four years. The tags also are getting call buttons and three different-colored LED lights. The tags have Electromagnetic Compatibility Certification to signify they're safe to use around people.

August 10, 2006

BelAir Networks has added support for the licensed 4.9GHz spectrum (reserved for first responders) to its products. A BelAir multi-radio node can be used with Wi-Fi for standard citizen access and 4.9GHz for cops and fire and EMS, while also providing a backhaul mesh network that precludes the need for Ethernet or fiber. BelAir now has products with a single radio (50C), dual radios (100), four radios (200) and the new six-radio BelAir300 Converged Multi-Service Wireless Node that can include cellular, Wi-Fi and wireless mesh.

The HypeWifi Advertising Platform will serve up targeted advertising to hotspot users, based not just on location but also demographics. End users are given marketing questions (nothing personal, they promise) to answer before can log in to the free Internet access. HypeWifi is a provider of hotspot services in the Houston, Texas area, and will, naturally, launch the platform at those locations.

Frost & Sullivan forecasts a rosy picture for WLAN chipsets. They think the $910 million in revenue earned in 2005 will more than double, to $2.288 billion by 2009. (They're equally bullish on the assisted global positioning system (A-GPS) chipset market.) Reasons for the continued WLAN chip growth include, among other things, the coming of 802.11n as a standard and the expected move of Wi-Fi into consumer electronics of all shapes and sizes.

Daewoo Electronics will be building Wi-Fi into its next generation set-top box (STB), but not just any Wi-Fi — 802.11n-draft compliant wireless. It will do this with the WLANPlus chip from Israel's Metalink. The company plans to show the technology off at the IFA show in Berlin, Germany in September.

In case you were worried about that Wi-Fi card driver exploit that was recently pointed out at the Black Hat conference, vendors of wireless intrusion prevention systems like AirTight Networks and Network Chemistry want you to know that there's no reason to worry... if you own and run their products, you're protected.

August 8, 2006

Sony's Mylo ("my life online") is a new phone-sized handheld communicator that looks a lot like the PSP but doesn't play games. Instead, it uses open Wi-Fi (11b) networks for sending instant messages via Google Talk, Skype or Yahoo! Messenger accounts — all free, no monthly fees involved. It can handle voice-over IP calls using Skype as well — and Skype is allowing calls from the SkypeOut service to any phone in the U.S. or Canada  for free (usually, it's only free from Skype user to Skype user), at least for a while, after which you'll just pay for SkypeOut minutes. myloThe Mylo has a 2.4-inch color screen for browsing JPEG photos, reading emails (using Yahoo! Mail or Gmail) and Web surfing, or watching movies in MPEG-4 format. It's an MP3/WMA player (via a built-in speaker or headphones), and will play the ATRAC audio format that Sony likes but no one else does. That 1GB of flash memory will probably fill up fast, but you can add more with Memory Sticks. The keyboard is revealed when the top of the Mylo slides upward. Put it close to another Mylo, and they seek each other out for an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection so you can IM or share music and photos. It comes in black or white, and has a built-in database provided by JiWire of 20,000+ hotspots in the United States that you can use to get Mylo online. The battery supposedly runs for 45 hours of music playback, seven hours when online, or three hours when talking with Skype. Microphone, headphones, USB cable and a neoprene case are all included. All that (but no camera?!) for $350 at SonyStyle and retail dealers starting in September.

Wavion made a splash in May saying mesh networks won't work for cities, and that you gotta use MIMO-like characteristics (such as taking advantage of multi-path interference). Now the details are out on their product that will do just that. Each ruggedized WS410 access point will have six antennas inside. It can mount on buildings or poles, and has numerous power options such as standard AC, Power over Ethernet, or a power tap when on a light pole. It can even send out power to another device that works with it, such as a backhaul radio or a camera. Wavion wants to license out the technology, but will sell the WS410 itself. The company admits the cost is higher than any mesh radio system per node, but says you buy so few that the return on investment is high from the get-go for any citywide deployment. They'll ship in volume by the end of August.

AirMagnet's new StreetWise will come in three versions, all suited to make sure mobile workers are practicing good security. There's a personal, freeware version any user can download for free and install on a Windows laptop to set their own security parameters; the regular StreetWise gives admins control over laptops in the enterprise when users install a pre-configured version of the software with the security policy in place; and the full central version lets administrators push policies down to the end user. StreetWise doesn't do advanced things like force you to upgrade the OS or anti-virus definitions. It's all about the wireless security. It can limit hardware used for Wi-Fi connections (no swapping cards); adapt to user locations so you have different policies for work, home and hotspots; turn on or off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or infrared; and prevent simultaneous use of wired and wireless connections. The software meets various government criteria (such as FIPS 140-2) and even has US Army TIC approval. Cost for the regular version is $22 per seat, or $36 per seat for the centrally managed version. [AirMagnet says there's been a delay and the freeware version, at least, won't debut until next week.]

Socket Communications says the Go Wi-Fi! P300 802.11g SDIO card (model WL6217-664) for devices running the Windows Mobile OS (2003/2003SE or 5) is ready (though not for sale on their site as of today). It uses a free version of the Socket Wi-Fi Companion for the interface (it usually costs $25 for just the software) and supports 802.1X authentication with WEP/WPA encryption, runs on screens both landscape and square, and sells for $99 MSRP. Supported devices will eventually be listed online.

It didn't take long for Broadcom to find another company to build in its Draft-N Intensi-Fi chips (Dell was the first to offer the option). Acer's new Ferrari 1000 ultra-portable notebooks with Acer's InviLink Nplify mobile wireless technology will be powered by the Intensi-Fi. It also uses Broadcom's Blutonium Bluetooth 2.0 wireless and Gigabit Ethernet.

Atheros won't long be behind with the laptop wins for Draft-N technology. Its AR5008 chip using the 1.0 draft of 802.11n tech they call XSPAN is now running on a mini PCI Express (PCIe) card reference design. The chipmaker says the design "is the first in the industry to achieve PCIe compatibility certification," and the chip has the same certification as well. Atheros also has PCIe cards for 802.11b/g and dual-band a/b/g.

August 4, 2006

Verizon Wireless and Novatel Wireless are trumpeting the availability of the WWAN PCI ExpressCard/34 (model V640) which supports the Verizon EV-DO network called BroadbandAccess. It works in ExpressCard/34 (which are 34 millimeters wide) and ExpressCard/54 (54 mm wide) slots on laptops. The card comes with Verizon Wireless' VZAccess Manager software for setting preferences, and will fall back to working with the Verizon NationalAccess network if EV-DO is not in the area.

AirDefense has upgraded its Mobile product to version 4.0. It has a new analysis engine based on the engine found in AirDefense Enterprise, which comes with 100 alarms and notification types (including e-mail and Syslog messages). The software (which runs on Windows 2000/XP) synchronizes with the Enterprise version for scanning areas that may be slightly out of the usual range. New location tracking can hone in on a device by triangulating using the device's own signal strength. The software can now come with a hardware kit that includes a dual-band 802.11a/b/g card with external antenna connectors for the included omni (with 3dBi for 2.4GHz and 5dBi for 5GHz bands), and two 7dBi directional patch antennas (one each for each unlicensed radio band). With the hardware, Mobile 4.0 retails for $1,695.

Vivato lives? The Web site for the company, which shut down operations in December 2005, now proclaims "Vivato is back! The acquisition of Vivato is now complete. The same great technology that Vivato brought to the marketplace is being reintroduced to our partners and customers." Now called Vivato Networks, the company will continue to sell the entire line of 802.11b and 11g outdoor and indoor base stations, plus AP/bridges for outdoors and indoors.

August 1, 2006

linksyswrvs4400nrouterDraft-N products aren't just for home networks any more. As promised, Linksys has announced its line of products running the 1.0 draft specification for 802.11n that are geared toward small businesses. The line-up will consist of a $169 access point (model WAP4400N) and $119 PC Card (WPC4400N), both available now, as well as a $229 VPN-capable router (WRVS4400N) coming in September. The big difference between these products and the consumer products is support for Gigabit Ethernet on the switch ports, WMM-based Quality of Service for voice and video, Power over Ethernet (PoE), an intrusion prevention system created by Linksys, IPsec tunnel support in the router, and a different look. They'll only be available from distributors and value-added resellers (VARs).

AirMagnet says it's now shipping its AirMagnet VoFi Analyzer software for analysis of Voice over WLAN networks. AT&T is already using it in performance labs. Calls are checked from the PBX all the way to the wireless client, as the software can integrate with the IP-PBX or call manager software. The software's MSRP is $17,500, plus $7,500 for the call manager integration. The company is also offering a free white paper called "The Evolution of Vo-Fi: Voice over IP over Wireless LAN." The company also recently passed the 5,000 customer mark.

You know how no one ever turns on security for their home Wi-Fi network? Well, that's not the case, apparently. JupiterResearch found that 60% of home networks have it turned on. It's covered in the report, "Home Wi-Fi Security: Understanding Consumer Behavior and Impact on Wi-Fi Adoption." Associate analyst Ina Sebastian says security is still the biggest concern, but that the advent of WPA makes things easier to set up for consumers. 29% of respondents have also logged onto a stranger's open network while traveling. Only 12% would get on their own neighbor's network.

After a few years of waiting, the CWNE (Certified Wireless Network Expert) Program is now available. This is the highest level available of the program, and "tests the candidate's expert level knowledge of advanced topics surrounding QoS, Voice over Wi-Fi and advanced WLAN design," according to a company announcement. Anyone who has or gets a CWNA, CWSP or CWAP certification before the end of this year can apply for the CWNE; after January 2, 2007, you'll have to pass the PW0-300 exam to get the certification, which is valid until you die. The official study guide is from the IEEE.

The ZigBee Alliance says 10,000 developer's kits have been shipped by Alliance members, and that it has certified 13 platforms as ZigBee compliant. The latest is from RadioPulse. The ZigBee specification has been downloaded over 29,000 times in the last year; they say it’s the third most downloaded IEEE 802 standard (it's based on 802.15.4). All of that is meant to say that ZigBee should be coming out strong, soon.

Firetide's new software for its mesh equipment (version 3.3) is, the company claims, better suited to support the triple play (video, voice, and data all at once). Flow-based routing will help bring throughput up to 32 Mbps; Quality of Service (QoS) for video and voice prioritization is expanded; there's now mobility as clients roam from mesh node to mesh node; and they've finally added full WPA2 encryption support. 3.3 comes with new Firetide products, and is a free download for current customers.

Colubris is the tenth and latest company to get certification from SpectraLink's VIEW (Voice Interoperability for Enterprise Wireless) program, which started a year ago. The tests confirm interoperability between Colubris hardware and SpectraLink VoIP phones. Other companies with VIEW certification include 3Com, Alcatel, Aruba, Cisco Systems, Extreme Networks, Nortel, Siemens, Symbol Technologies and Trapeze Networks.

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