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Broadband Wireless: Looking for connectivity 'hot spots'

Thu, 02/14/2002 - 7:00pm
Michael Lafferty

ANAHEIM— Claiming that WiFi, the industry standard wireless LAN technology, "has reached escape velocity," Sky Dayton, founder and chairman of EarthLink and founder and CEO of Boingo Wireless, told attendees at the 2002 Broadband Wireless World Forum Thursday during a keynote address that now was the time for service providers to sign up businesses, airports, buildings and other places where people congregate (or "public hot spots") for WiFi connectivity.

Dayton made his case to the BWWF audience by pointing out that the WiFi platform, where people in public places can connect to the Internet via a standardized wireless connection, faces a number of challenges. Noting that there were a large number of WiFi service providers throughout the country, he said this service patchwork does not translate into a positive customer experience. With multiple operators, WiFi-enabled travelers have to deal with multiple accounts, sign-up configurations, access numbers and poor customer service across the board.

The solution, said Dayton, is a "wireless ISP that doesn't own or deploy infrastructure," much like EarthLink is a wireline ISP that doesn't own networks. While local, regional and even national wireless ISPs can establish rights-of-way agreements with businesses and other public facilities, what's needed to tie them all together, he said, is a customer aggregator like Boingo.

An umbrella aggregator, said Dayton, can offer travelers a unified access platform for a host of wireless ISPs across the country. Such aggregators can offer travelers one account, a simple client software interface, a single bill and even a secure virtual private network connection. In addition, aggregators will provide marketing and technical support, nationwide customer service and billing for the individual wireless ISPs.

Noting that recent consumer research showed that up to 97 percent of business travelers make travel plans based on broadband accessibility, Dayton predicts that it won't be long before "every retail location will become a WiFi hot spot" and act as a magnet for customers who are looking for high-speed connectivity.

Meanwhile, on the show floor:

• Netro Corp. introduced its wireless Angel product, a carrier-class platform that offers NLOS (non-line-of-sight) deployment with 95 percent coverage probability using orthogonal frequency division multiplexing for high-speed data and voice services. The platform also offers dynamic bandwidth allocation between services and users, adaptive modulation, frequency reuse, and full redundancy with a carrier-class network management system. The Angel remote CPE unit incorporates the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance standard for home LAN connectivity providing a 10 Mbps data rate.

• Nokia featured its RoofTop Wireless Routing system that has been designed as a fixed wireless solution for residential and small office broadband service. Operating in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz band, the technology creates an adaptable routed mesh network using multi-hop IP routing. The system eliminates line-of-sight problems by automatically routing traffic from base stations through CPE units around obstacles to find the best signal path in real-time.

• Free-space optics manufacturer TeraBeam unveiled its new Elliptica transceiver. Previously, the company had deployed a large, four-foot-tall transceiver capable of sending and receiving 1 Gbps (the equivalent of 660 T-1 lines). With Elliptica, TeraBeam has taken the four-foot unit, added improved pointing and tracking capabilities and packaged it in a basketball-sized elliptical transceiver that can be hung from walls or ceilings, or mounted outside. The unit operates at 100 Mbps in each direction.

• Alvarion, which was formed by a partnership between BreezeCOM and Floware, showcased its WALKair, BreezeACCESS, BreezeNET, BreezeLINK and BreezeVIEW products at the show. WALKair products operate in the 3.5 GHz, 10.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands, delivering high-speed access of up to 34 Mbps per user, either symmetrical or asymmetrical. It supports a wide array of IP-enabled voice and data applications.

• The BreezeACCESS platform includes products for carriers and service providers operating in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz ISM band, the licensed 3.5 GHz and the licensed 2.5 GHz (MMDS) band. The ACCESS family has recently been enhanced with the addition of OFDM functionality to enable NLOS installations. BreezeLINK is a full-duplex wireless modem providing synchronous data connections. It establishes point-to-point connectivity providing E-1/T-1 transmission speeds.

BreezeNET is a wireless LAN operating in the license-free 2.4 GHz band that enables LAN and building-to-building connectivity and Internet access for small and large enterprises. BreezeVIEW is a management software suite that configures, manages and monitors performance for all Alvarion units in real-time. It also enables remote system diagnostics of the wireless network.

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