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Issue #2003 - 19 (June 2003)
(Updated June 19, 2003)


WiFi News This Week

1. IEEE 802.11g Standard Ratified 
See details in another news items of this issue. Go to http://www.mobileinfo.com

2. Atheros shows multi-standard card (IEEE 802.11a/b/g)

Atheros Communications, the market share leader in multi-standard wireless LAN (WLAN) technology, introduced seven new chipsets that cover the gamut of WLAN applications. These chipsets support multiple WLAN standards with optimizations for different market segments and price points. A single driver and firmware code base supports all the chipsets, providing both backward and forward compatibility with Atheros’ legacy and next-generation multi-standard designs. The new chipsets feature third-generation wireless technology that boosts throughput and range, while decreasing power consumption and cost.

3. Hot spot growth predictions lowered

During the past few months, we have been served a series of announcements about companies planning or getting ready to roll out tens-of-thousands of 802.11 hot spots (Cometa Networks, for example, said it planned to have 20,000 hot spots by the end of 2004). Telcom research group Analysys Research says that news of such massive roll outs was premature, and offers a more sober look at the hot spot landscape. Ross Pow of Analysys says that public WLAN roll-out plans may fall well short -- by as much as 50 percent. The new assessments made Analysys lower its projections for WiFi market growth: In March it estimated that the WiFi services market would be worth $5.5 billion by 2007 ($2.64 billion in Western Europe, and slightly under $2.8 billion in the U.S.). Last week, the company predicted that the WiFi service market would be worth only $2 billion in the U.S. and $2 billion in Western Europe by 2007. The earlier assessment estimated that the number of hot spots in Western Europe would grow from 1,400 in 2002 to 30,000 in 2007, and from 3,400 to 27,000 in the U.S. during the same period. The company's current estimates show that there will be between 25,000 and 30,000 hot spots in both Europe and the U.S. by 2007. The company sees the present market as fragmented, and like other analysts, Analysys expects to see a period of consolidation in the market during the next five years, with existing service providers likely to emerge as dominant players in the market in the medium term.

4. WLAN chip market to double in size, but decline in revenue
The market for WLAN chipsets will face interesting trends in 2003: it is expected to double in terms of unit shipments, but will also face a dollar decline, according to a report from research firm TechKnowledge. The WiFi chipset market will grow by 83.9 percent this year, from 22.5 million units shipped in 2002 to 41.3 million units in 2003, according to TechKnowledge. Stiff competition among chipset manufacturers, however, is leading to falling average selling prices for chipsets, especially for the older 802.11b. In total, the WLAN chipset market will fall by 7.7 percent in terms of sales in 2003, from $368.7 million in 2002 to $340.2 million in 2003. Newer technologies, such as 802.11a and 802.11g, carry a higher margin but are not yet growing fast enough to offset or prevent the dollar decline, said Mike Feibus of TechKnowledge. "In the short term, there are a glut of chipset suppliers all converging on the market at once," he said. "That's why prices are falling faster than the market can grow."

5. The 802.11-equipped car is here
3Com and Italian car maker Fiat Auto announced that they would embed enterprise-class wireless networking technology from 3Com in one of Fiat's models, making it possible for passengers to connect to the Internet in service stations, car parks, or urban locations covered by a WLAN. The Wi-Fi system installed in the Lancia Phedra offers broadband Internet access through the vehicle's multimedia system. The 3Com Wi-Fi connectivity solution is enhanced by AWAutoPC with a wireless keyboard, developed by AWA, a partner of 3Com. Passengers (one hopes not the drivers) would be able to shop on the Internet, check the stock market, read their email, or take part in a videoconference.

6. Support for WPA grows: More makers of 802.11 equipment joined to support the WPA security standard. Improving WLAN security is thought to be the single most important step toward wider adoption of WLANs in the enterprise. WPA is a subset of the 802.11i standard, which is yet to be approved. WPA improves upon the under-achieving WEP by replacing WEP's static encryption key with a dynamic one, and by incorporating the 802.1x standard for user authentication. Among the companies announcing their support for the new standard:

  • Buffalo Technology announced Monday it would ship WPA-enabled products by the middle of this month. They will include the AirStation 54Mbps Wireless Broadband Base Station and the AirStation G54 Wireless Notebook Adapter, a PC Card client device with an interface for an external 2.4GHz antenna (all these products are based on a Broadcom chipset). 
  • D-Link Systems said that its AirPlus, AirPremiere, AirPlus Xtreme G and AirExpert AGB wireless zAN product lines will be equipped with WPA by the end of the second quarter; the company will also offer free firmware upgrades for current customers. 
  • Linksys Group will make WPA available in its Wireless-G products through firmware and software upgrades by the end of this month. By the end of August, Linksys will provide WPA upgrades for many of its Wireless Dual-Band A+G and Wireless-B products. 
  • NetGear will provide a WPA firmware upgrade for its Model ME103 802.11b ProSafe Wireless Access Point by the end of June. The company eventually will extend WPA support to most other equipment, but may not be able to add it to all products now in customers' hands. About six weeks after WPA firmware becomes available for a given device, the company should be able to ship the product with built-in WPA. 
  • SMC Networks also announced that WPA will be built in to all of its WLAN products by the end of June. 
  • Cisco, which has offered its own security systems to strengthen the weaknesses of WEP, is now supporting WPA, although it will continue to support its own technology. Cisco will likely offer WPA support across its entire WLAN lineup during the next few months.

7. First-in-the-nation "hot building"
The America Plaza office building in San Diego is now offering its tenants and visitors free wireless Internet access. SENTRE Partners, which owns the building, believes their approach (they call it "hot building") will give them a competitive edge over the competition. 802.11 covers the building's 34 floors and four underground levels. The network will also support security cameras and voice-over Internet protocol systems. It took two months to complete the project -- for which SENTRE received consulting from Intel, Corning, and Cisco Systems -- at a cost of about $300,000: $130,000 for switches; $110,000 for fiber-optic cabling, pull boxes, and patch panels; $40,000 for installation; and $20,000 for wireless APs.

Source: Fiercewireless, 80211Report, Forward Concepts

MobileInfo Comments and Advisory: Wi-Fi continues to dominate the wireless market. Real action is in the enterprise. Looks like hot spots will cool down.  

Note: This news release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and section 21E of Securities Exchange act of 1934 in USA. Similar provisions exist in other countries. There is no assurance that the stipulated plans of vendors will be implemented. MobileInfo does not warrant the authenticity of the information. Readers should take appropriate caution in developing plans utilizing these products, services and technology architectures.  All trademarks used in this summary are the property of their respective owners.

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