Receive new posts as email.
This site operates as an independent editorial operation. Advertising, sponsorships, and other non-editorial materials represent the opinions and messages of their respective origins, and not of the site operator or JiWire, Inc.
Entire site and all contents except otherwise noted © Copyright 2001-2006 by Glenn Fleishman. Some images ©2006 Jupiterimages Corporation. All rights reserved. Please contact us for reprint rights. Linking is, of course, free and encouraged.
AirDefense, a wireless security company, found some disturbing hacker activity at the CeBit trade show: AirDefense often monitors activity on WLANs at trade shows and then reports on what it finds. At CeBit, it appeared that hackers were targeting specific companies in an effort to, for example, shut down their access point to prevent exhibitors from demonstrating products. One very simple way to help avoid being targeted is for companies to choose a name for the access point that won’t easily identify the company. AirDefense also suspected that hackers were potentially competing against each other to see who could disconnect the most Wi-Fi users using denial of service attacks. If there is an upside to the activity AirDefense found, it’s that the hackers seemed less interested in stealing information that was being transmitted.
T-Mobile said that it will trial wireless Internet access on the high-speed ICE trains in Germany: The trial will start in the third quarter and will also include hotspots in 20 German train stations. If the results are good, 80 trains stations and all Deutsche Bahn high-speed trains will get it. No other details so far on the equipment to be used or how the onboard Wi-Fi access will be backhauled.
This two-piece story details one traveler’s experience trying to get online from New York to Munich: He makes some good points regarding culpability. In Munich, he had a terrible experience trying to deal with Swisscom, which supposedly operated a hotspot throughout his hotel.
But he is actually an iPass customer and in Heathrow and the hotel had trouble getting connected. iPass often talks about the strict process it requires hotspots to go through before they can become part of the iPass network. On a side note, I’ve spoken to one hotspot operator who told me that the process for becoming part of the iPass network was not rigorous and no different than the process he’d gone through to roam with other networks.
It’s my opinion that the networks being offered in public places like airports and hotels actually ought to be much more reliable than a network in a home, for example. If an end users is paying iPass or a company like it for access and that user is in an airport for an hour and can’t get on, that makes for a totally useless service. The user is paying a premium specifically for access when out of the office and often that access is required within a very short window, such as during a layover or in the morning in a hotel before a meeting. That gives the provider very little leeway for downtime because if the network is down during those windows, the service is useless for the end user.
This user concludes that hotels should start requiring a certain level of service from their hotspot or broadband providers because a poor Internet service reflects badly on the hotel, even if the provider is at fault. Increasingly, customers who need high-speed access choose hotels because of the availability of such access and it’s a real bummer when that access doesn’t materialize. There is always the chance that hotels will get fed up with poor service from their providers and decide to hire someone in-house to build and maintain the network. That, of course, would be bad news for the Swisscom’s of the world.
On another side note, I used Swisscom access for a couple weeks in a hotel in Dublin and had to call a couple times for help and had a really good support experience. So I suppose that customers of any company can have a random bummer customer support experience.
Smart Telecom launched a Wi-Fi network covering the city of Cork, Ireland: The network covers a 1.5 square kilometer area. The service is initially free but very soon will require payment for access. It is apparently a mesh network but it’s not clear who the vendor is. Smart Telecom said it is talking with four city councils in the country about building similar networks in other cities.
Smart Telecom seems to be quite aggressive recently in its approach to the Irish market. It offers some pay phones, at least around town in Dublin, and it recently started offering DSL service in Dublin. Smart also offers local phone service.
Last Mile plans to equip lampposts with access points: It’s really hard not to draw comparisons between this idea and the ill-fated Metricom in the United States. Metricom hung its access points on lampposts and rolled out its incredibly well-loved Ricochet service. It later shut down but has re-emerged in a couple of cities. One of many reasons cited for Metricom’s failure was that it used proprietary technology for its network. Last Mile has a chance of overcoming that challenge if it is using Wi-Fi.
Last Mile also hopes to save information on flash memory cards inside the lampposts about local pubs and shops. People with special software on their mobile devices can connect to the lamppost and access the information. The mobile phone companies have been talking about location-based services, such as the kind that would inform users of nearby venues, for many many years. Without any sort of location pinpointing technology, they have asked users to input zip codes or other location information to serve up the data. While such services have surely proved useful to many users, I wouldn’t imagine them capable of driving loads of usage or revenue for a company like Last Mile.
I’m curious to know about Last Mile’s agreements with cities to secure access to the lampposts. That was another problem that faced Metricom—the company often had difficulties securing deals with municipalities for the access.
Using lampposts as locations for access points isn’t a bad idea depending on your goal. It’s a fine plan for a network that is meant to blanket a wide area and is meant to serve a specific group of people who have demonstrated a demand for access to data around town. Last Mile is in fact hoping its network may be used by emergency services agencies. Last Mile’s success may also depend on exactly what kind of technology it uses.
MCI business customers can access Boingo hotspots in the United States, Europe, and Asia-Pacific: The deal is part of MCI’s Remote Access Service, an offering used primarily by traveling business people to access the Internet. The agreement means those customers can access an additional 3,400 hotspots in the U.S. and 1,300 in Europe and Asia-Pacific. MCI’s Remote Access Service already includes 6,200 hotspots. This agreement puts MCI in league with some of the other big consolidators that offer wired and wireless access to traveling business people.
The wording in this press release and the subsequent coverage I’ve seen is really vague about where the hotspots come from, with only a sideways mention of Boingo. But after a couple of quick emails to a helpful press representative at MCI, it sounds to me like this is a standard Boingo deal for MCI.
A group of ISPs in Italy is lobbying the government to open up its licensing rules for Wi-Fi: I’m not totally clear on how things stand in Italy, but it looks like the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands are not yet open to unlicensed use. Also, the ISPs are concerned that the government may restrict the use of Wi-Fi to remote regions and only where DSL isn’t available.
This paper describes progress in Finland to deliver cheap broadband access to residents of apartment buildings: Housing cooperatives did a remarkable job working together to bring high-speed access to residents. The next step is to add Wi-Fi. The plan is for apartment buildings to place antennas on their roofs to offer coverage for the building next door. In this application Wi-Fi isn’t meant to be used as a primary form of access, but the author of this report describes it as the “icing on the cake.” Presumably it would allow people to use the Wi-Fi network as they move around the neighborhood.
T-Systems, the Deutsche Telekom unit that offers a hotspot roaming platform, has two new hotspot operators in Spain as customers: WiFiEuro and Alo Communicaciones will offer roaming services to their end users via the T-Systems platform. T-Systems has made several other announcements recently about new customers for the platform but has been curiously tight-lipped about other customers. The company claims to have 120 Wi-Fi partners around the globe, but is only willing to name about ten of them. The customers it names are all quite small. A T-Systems spokesperson says that the company doesn’t release the full list of customers, who brand the service under their own names. Customers can choose which hotspots they will allow end users to roam onto. There are a number of other roaming platforms available to hotspot operators and they all are quite open about which hotspot operators use their offerings so I’m not clear about exactly why T-Systems is so secretive about its customer list.
BT Openzone is hoping to draw in some new customers with a £2 deal for 250 minutes of access: The minutes last three months and after that the same amount of minutes can be purchased for £10. BT has historically made several other low price offers, seemingly aimed at attracting customers. So far, however, BT hasn’t done much in the way of dropping its regular prices, despite lots of grousing from the community about its high access rates.
In other BT news, the company is planning to launch a trial of a combined GSM/Wi-Fi service in April. The service will enable voice calls over both GSM and Wi-Fi networks. Trialers will use an HP iPaq. BT has been talking about this type of offering for a few months and in mid-February said it would add Wi-Fi to the concept in about 18 months. Initially, BT had planned to use Bluetooth. That plan is still underway but the company is also developing the Wi-Fi solution.
O2 Germany plans to start selling a device from Novatel Wireless called Ovation: The console allows 3G data users to share their connection with others via Wi-Fi. Essentially, it’s a Wi-Fi access point that uses 3G for backhaul.
Glenn Fleishman wrote a story last year about Junxion, a company in the U.S. that is selling a similar device. In the U.S. such devices are not welcomed by cellular operators and in fact some wireless operators say using them is against their user agreements. They would prefer that each person using their connection pay their own subscription for the access.
There is no mention in the O2 press release of requiring customers to subscribe to a special plan in order to use the device.
These devices, if the right size, can be especially useful to workers that may travel together. For instance, just one worker can subscribe to 3G service and the others can all share that connection via the console and Wi-Fi enabled laptops.
3Com says that some of its hospitality customers in Ireland are beginning to offer free access to Wi-Fi networks: This is part of a move away from relying on hotspot operators to build and maintain the networks toward building and managing their own Wi-Fi networks. Two 3Com customers, the Lynch Hotel and Bewley’s Hotel Groups, are offering Wi-Fi for free.
If this is indeed the start of a trend, we can expect a couple of developments. Over a year ago in the U.S., there was endless debate on the free vs. fee subject. While it’s still not totally certain how that conundrum will work out, these days in the U.S. it seems that both models may continue to work. In the hotel business, in a strange twist, it seems that the lower cost hotels are offering Wi-Fi for free while often the higher end hotels charge for access. It’ll be interesting to see if a similar phenomenon happens in Europe or if the free vs. fee debate will take a different turn.
This article also touches on enterprises and their use of Wi-Fi, looking at security issues. I’ve noticed a few articles recently pointing to companies that want to allow visitors to access their Wi-Fi networks while preventing the visitors from accessing important information that lives on the corporate network. The need to separate traffic and support other enterprise-grade services may prove an entrée to Europe for the WLAN switch and security appliance vendors. Such companies secured a lot of headlines in the U.S. last year but I’m not seeing much mention of them in Europe yet. As enterprises here begin to embrace WLANs more, perhaps those companies will move into the market in order to support enterprise services.
Swisscom reports that it nearly tripled the number of hotspots it operates over the year: The operator averages 6,000 connections per day throughout its 2,000 properties. While that apparently represents 200 percent growth over the year, I wouldn’t find that rate terribly impressive. It means that on average just three people log on per day in each of its locations. Considering that some of its locations are large hotels, I wouldn’t think that would be thought to be a great rate. In total, Swisscom Eurospot covers 170,000 guest rooms.
In case Swisscom is paying attention, I’ve got one simple suggestion for increasing that usage rate: lower your prices. I stayed at the Westin here in Dublin once and was astounded by how expensive Swisscom’s access was. I can’t remember the exact price and I’m failing to find the cost either on Swisscom’s site or the Westin’s, but I was shocked at the price.
Talktelecom has trialed a voice over Wi-Fi service in Dublin and is now introducing a pilot offering: The details of this are a bit thin and the company’s Web site doesn’t add much. Talktelecom’s head says that customers will be able to download a special application to their Wi-Fi-enabled mobile phone that will allow them to make voice over Wi-Fi calls via Talktelecom’s service. The company says rates will amount to €2 per hour.
The most interesting component of this announcement is the application. While it’s simple enough for companies to build applications that can be downloaded to PDAs and PCs, it has historically been difficult to offer applications to be downloaded to mobile phones. Java- and Brew-enabled phones allow application downloads. The newest model smartphones that include Wi-Fi may offer some more open platforms for applications.
The Talktelecom executive notes that half of mobile calls made by business users are made in the office and I’ve heard similar figures before. That means that this service could cut costs for enterprises if their workers use the voice over Wi-Fi service instead of the mobile phone network. Some companies like BridgePort are developing enterprise-grade solutions that tie into the corporate phone network and enable voice over Wi-Fi in the office. BridgePort must make deals with mobile operators for its service to work, however, and I suspect that may cause problems for it. An offering from a company like Talktelecom is likely far less expensive, though wouldn’t support as many services, and basically cuts out the mobile operator.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post referred to a vague relationship between Talktelecom and hotspot operator BitBuzz, per reporting in the ENN story. I followed up with BitBuzz for more details and have learned that no such deal exists. ENN has posted a correction.
Connexion by Boeing continues to rack up the roaming deals: This time, PicoPoint, a WLAN aggregator, has linked the Connexion service to its roaming offering. PicoPoint offers operators and ISP’s a roaming platform that allows end users to roam onto hotspots around the world. End users use their existing service provider’s account but can access the Connexion service on available flights.
Meru Networks’ CEO thinks that Japan will be the first place that voice over Wi-Fi really takes off: Meru is supplying wireless LAN infrastructure to three voice over IP suppliers in Japan. Meru’s CEO sees NTT DoCoMo’s introduction of a combined cellular and Wi-Fi handset as an indication of the push toward voice over Wi-Fi in Japan. There are a lot of important business issues surrounding voice over Wi-Fi that still need to be worked out, but the concept is one that is definitely moving ahead.
Redbrick’s Wi-Fi hunt went off this past weekend in Dublin: Photos of the hunt and the winners are up online. Fastest time: 14 minutes.
Scagaire, an Irish Policy Research Group, submitted comments to a request for comments from ComReg, the regulatory body in Ireland: Among other issues, the response encourages ComReg to pursue any policy that allows for the availability of community, non-profit, non-commercial wireless services. The document also notes a line from the European Convention on Human Rights which restricts the rights of governments to limit the ability of people to send and receive information. That line is beginning to be used as an argument for only issuing licenses as an exception, not the rule. This is the same human rights argument put forth by the newly formed Open Spectrum UK group in its comments to OfCom, the UK regulatory body.
The group also proposes a number of standards that should be set for hardware and software operating in unlicensed frequencies as a way to encourage “good neighbor” policies. The proposals aim to cut down on unnecessary use of spectrum and interference.
The response has another interesting line in its comments. It says that ComReg ought to ensure that end users have the right to share or resell their Internet access through wireless networks. This could become an interesting point and it’s one that I haven’t heard much talk of in Europe. In the U.S., many ISPs, usually those affiliated with the big telcos or cable operators, have expressly forbid customers from even giving Internet access to their neighbors via Wi-Fi. Others, such as Speakeasy, have actually offered to help customers resell the service to their neighbors. It appears that Scagaire is hoping that ComReg might create rules in advance of operators in Ireland trying to limit their customers’ use of their broadband connections. [link via Sascha]
BT Infonet said that its MobileXpress customers can now access the Internet onboard airplanes that support the Connexion by Boeing Internet access service: MobileXpress customers are typically mobile business people who use the service to connect to the Internet, over a wired or Wi-Fi network, when they’re away from the office.
Boeing is steadily making more deals with hotspot operators and services like MobileXpress that target mobile business people. The Connexion service is still only available on a handful of flights operated by four airlines so it’s a really limited offering. But perhaps Connexion hopes that by signing up as many partners as possible it will drive traffic onboard. If it can offer evidence of real traffic on the existing service, it may have more luck selling the service to other airlines.
A BT executive said that BT isn’t interested in following in the footsteps of its U.S. counterparts in trying to limit municipal wireless projects: He says that BT is fully supportive of the community wireless projects that have brought innovative services mainly to rural areas. Such networks are fairly widespread in the UK. A networking group submitted a report to the UK government yesterday noting that there are at least 550 small scale wireless networks operating in towns across the UK.
Hopefully BT will sing the same tune once networkers start targeting the big towns. A group called Wireless London was formed earlier this year, aiming to promote free wireless networks that span the city.
Broadreach Networks, an operator with 350 fixed and Wi-Fi locations in the UK, is offering free network access for Skype users: Skype considers Broadreach its first partner for Skype’s voice over Wi-Fi offering. Skype users could make Skype calls in any hotspot; the key to this announcement is that Broadreach is offering Skype users free access to its networks. It’s unclear if there is a time frame for this deal. If not and if Skype manages to make similar deals with other hotspot operators, this could become a very powerful service. Potentially, Skype customers could ultimately pop into most any hotspot and make calls for free. It would be a great service for customers and could potentially draw business to the hotspot operators because once in a hotspot a customer could decide to buy access to check email or the Internet.
It may be significant that Skype’s first foray into voice over wireless is with a relatively small operator like Broadreach. Other large hotspot operators may have been approached but declined to participate because they have cellular networks or even local phone networks and may be wary of encouraging a free voice service.
Even though cell phone penetration is really high in Europe, calls are quite expensive compared to U.S. cell phone rates. For that reason, I think that some people would be willing to pop into a hotspot to make a free Skype call if a hotspot is reasonably close by.
On a practical note, until more handheld devices are available that can run Skype, I wonder how many people will be interested in making Skype calls from hotspots. Personally, I wouldn’t be terribly comfortable sitting in a public cafe making a phone call using a headset and my laptop.
RedBrick, a student networking group in Ireland, is sponsoring a contest this weekend fashioned after DecCon’s Running Man: Entrants will hunt for a moving access point and the winner receives €200. The race takes place in the Dublin city center and includes an indoor portion in a shopping center in town.
PlusNet, a broadband provider in the UK, is offering a promotion as part of a new offering: It appears that PlusNet will begin offering customers access to BT Openzone hotspots. For the month of March, access to the hotspots is free. After that, existing customers will pay 7p per minute to access the hotspots. I’m a little confused about what other pricing options are available; the site notes that new customers will automatically be put onto the lowest cost subscription account, which offers 120 minutes of access. Per minute pricing for hotspot access seems so draconian.