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Issue #2003 - 28 (November 2003)
(Updated Nov. 4, 2003)


WiFi News This Week

1. Pyramid Research findings - 100,00 hotspots in 2005
There were approximately 20,000 hotspots at the end of 2002 - expected to go up to 45,000 (10163 in Europe, 10970 in North America and 24,292 in asia Pacific) at the end of 2003. This number will go to 100,000 by the end of 2005.

2. Aberdeen predicts crash of 802.11b WiFi Soon
In a paper published recently, Aberdeen analyst says that there would be a sudden crash in 802.11b WiFi very soon, especially in high-density urban areas. Major reasons are proliferation of access points (because of cheap prices) , signal interference with nearby Wi-Fi access points and devices (microwaves, hands-free phones and garage door openers) operasting in the same band. With radio signal interference, there is a loss of signal, re-transmissions and dropped internet connections. 
It may be noted that there are only three channels over which you operate. Switching to alternate channel is not an workable option. This may degrade the service to a level that may make it almost useless. 

Switching to 8023.11a is an option but it has following disadvantages:

  • Throughput drops off considerably after 20-50 feet, providing less range than 802.11b/g. 
  • Access points cost two to three times the 802.11b street prices. 
  • Few laptops have built-in 802.11a. Add-in cards are costly and consume much more power than the latest Intel Centrino's 802.11b wireless technology. This will improve as new laptops start shipping with dual- and tri-band radios that include 802.11a. Unfortunately, the world's hot spots are almost universally 802.11b with a smattering of 11g.

3. Intel releases much-anticipated combination 802.11a/b chip
Intel's combination 802.11a/b chip -- the Intel Pro/Wireless 2100A -- is shipping. The chip, the release of which had been twice delayed, is now ready for customers to use in Centrino-based notebooks. Shipments of Intel's next Wi-Fi chips -- a combination 802.11b/g -- is not likely to be ready until the end of the year. The Pro/Wireless 2100A contains two radio chips. The 802.11a radio chip comes from Intel and is the company's first home-grown Wi-Fi chip. The 802.11b radio chip will come from Philips Semiconductors. Other companies such as Broadcom and Texas Instruments are already making integrated 802.11a/b chips. Intel does not view its late entry as a problem, believing that even combination chips are now sufficiently commoditized so that its muscle would allow it to be an important player in the sector.

4. Shakedown in WiFi Switch Enterprise Vendors
Recent announcement by Wi-Fi startups like Aruba that it laid off 30% of its employees may indicate rationalization in this sector is inevitable. 

5. New WLAN security/management solutions unveiled
Security is still considered a weak point in implementing WLANs. Four companies have released or are ready to release new or improved security products:

  • AirMagnet unveiled Version 3.0 of its Mobile product suite, comprising Laptop Trio, Reporter, and Handheld, and which includes support for 802.11g, as well as a number of new management and security features. 
  • WLAN security vendor AirDefense will soon release the next version of its platform, AirDefense Guard Version 4.0, in which it has moved more of the detection and monitoring functionality from the sensors to the APs. 
  • Startup Koolspan early next year will release a system which uses high-speed encryption to secure WLAN traffic between trusted end points. The system utilizes a USB token for authenticating users.
  • Colubris Networks is teaming with RSA Security to create an enhanced WLAN security solution for enterprises. Read more here, and on Colubris's site and RSA's site.

Sources: Different, including 802.11 Report Newsletter

MobileInfo Comments and Advisory: 100,000 hotspots is still short of million hotspots you nedd for universal coverage. How can we provide pervasive coverage? We have always suggested - through hybrid networks - appropriate combination of hotspots or company-operated WLANS and public 3G networks.

As for Aberdeen's prediction that there will be crash of Wi-Fi spots very soon, there is some partial truth in this but it is only an alarm signal. Smoke means that if we do not care, it might lead to fire. The industry is aware of the problem and is already working on solving it or at least alleviating the problem. We would have hoped that Aberdeen would have done responsible research before sending the warning signal out. We expect more thorough research from Aberdeen. If Aberdeen thinks that it is serving the same role as Berkeley did with WLAN security issues in 2001, that is OK. It has sensitized us all to a potential problem.

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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