WiFiNet News

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Daily reporting about Wi-Fi and other wireless data, including hotspots, home networks, commuter Wi-Fi, and in-flight Internet.
Updated: 2 years 36 weeks ago

Signal Fade

Thu, 2011-08-11 17:29

This blog has run its course: Thank you, loyal readers, many of whom still read this site regularly have been following the blog for most of the decade it's operated. Even less-regular readers may have noticed that posts to Wi-Fi Networking News have become fewer and farther between.

There are a few reasons, discussed here before. First, Wi-Fi has become embedded in everything, and it generally works. When it does not, the reasons tend to be specific and technical enough that broad advice doesn't help. Second, Wi-Fi is now like oxygen, found everywhere, and often free in the United States. Third, cellular or mobile broadband has become much more important, and while I've covered that issue here, it's never been a perfect fit. (I once had a Cell Net News site, but it didn't generate enough traffic to keep operational, and had too narrow a focus.)

Fourth, the many, many gadget and tech sites that fill the zone with coverage of every last little issue deal well enough with much of what I blogged about—short items and links, rather than full-blown articles—that it seemed futile to write 100 words here when 1,000 articles were all over Google News and the rest of the Internet.

And, finally, many of the issues I formerly wrote about here, I'm now paid to write about elsewhere, where I receive a bigger readership as well. For instance, I wrote an item about closing up this blog for BoingBoing, which will run soon. I also have a regular gig for the Economist, writing technology items each week for the Babbage blog. Ars Technica, Macworld, and TidBITS have also been more targeted and appropriate places for me to write at length about issues that involve wireless and mobile networking.

I've loved writing this blog, but has traffic plummeted after 802.11n was finalized and municipal networks started falling apart, it's been difficult to make the time to keep this site useful. I'm bowing to reality: I have too much on my plate, not enough readers (and thus, not enough ad revenue) here, and better fora in which to write more broadly about the topics that interest me.

I so appreciate the support everyone has given me over the decade in running this site. The blog will stay up forever. I have no plans to pull down archives. But I doubt there will be a new post here unless the market shifts again and there's a need for it.

Best to you all,

Glenn.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless

Taco Bell Refries Wi-FI

Tue, 2011-07-05 02:38

Taco Bell will add free Wi-Fi and entertainment systems to its 5,600 US stores: I've been wondering for years, as loyal readers know, why McDonald's was the only of the large quick-service restaurants to do a full-chain adoption of Wi-Fi. The system will be part of adding damned television sets to the "dining rooms." Because if there's one thing better than eating a taco comprised of the cheapest possible ingredients, it's having programming and advertising blaring at you at all possible moments.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless

Boingo Adds Gogo Support

Mon, 2011-06-27 17:57

There's no discount, but you can use your Boingo account to pay for in-flight Internet: This is a nice move, long expected, which links up two popular offerings for business travelers. Boingo has a variety of service offerings which all unlimited or high-usage access to various parts of the globe. In North American, their $10-per-month plan provides unlimited use of terrestrial hotspots in the network.

The Gogo connection lets you use the same Boingo software, account, and linked credit card to pay for in-flight Internet access at the same retail rate as other passengers. One would hope Boingo could negotiate a better rate by reducing Gogo's marketing burden to bring customers in the future.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless

Cablevision Bumps Wi-Fi Speed Significantly

Tue, 2011-06-14 19:24

Cablevision's member-only Optimum WiFi service now offers up to 15 Mpbs down and 4 Mbps up: The network is free to Cablevision's broadband subscribers, and restricted to them, although the firm also allows some roaming from other cable providers' customers, and has free and open hotspots here and there.

The company tells me it has 10,000s of access points in place across its New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut markets, along with 7,000 hotspots in business locations that are Cablevision customers. Over 500,000 Cablevision customers have used the network so far.

Wi-Fi networks, even at 802.11g speeds, can easily handle 15 Mbps over short distances. With 802.11n, 15 Mbps should be achievable over longer ranges.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless

AT&T Gives Free Wi-Fi to 20 New York Parks

Thu, 2011-06-09 19:11

This comes years after varying plans and bidding proposals that didn't work: AT&T is paying for the cost of installing and operating Wi-Fi in 20 parts in the five boroughs of New York City, including the High Line, the park converted from old elevated rail lines, long abandoned. It's a several-year deal, apparently. Right not, three parks (Battery Bosque in Battery Park, part of Joyce Kilmer Park, and the rec center at Thomas Jefferson Park) have service. The rest are coming this summer.

Bryant Park has long had free Wi-Fi, delivered through a series of hands, and it's been an apparent success as part of the terrific revitalization of a public space that was once abandoned to drug deals.

Karl Bode at DSLReports reminds us that last September, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision were planning to install Wi-Fi in 32 parks as part of their cable franchise extension, offering just 10-minute sessions up to three times a month before charging 99¢ a day. It's unclear where these two plans intersect.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless

Free Wi-Fi in New York's DUMBO Neighborhood

Thu, 2011-06-02 19:39

An area between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, nicknamed DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), gets free Wi-Fi: New York has precious little free Wi-Fi, even though non-profit groups like NYCWireless and private firms have worked at times with business districts and parks to get some action going. A number of different parties worked together to make the Dumbo Wi-Fi zone happen: the neighborhood improvement district, the Two Trees Management Company (for site placement and funding), and NYCwireless.

More details are available at the Dumbo NYC site for that neighborhood.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless

Alaska Airlines Completes Wi-Fi Install

Thu, 2011-06-02 18:57

Alaska Airlines says its Gogo Inflight Internet installation on most planes: A handful of aircraft won't feature service, mostly those carrying freight. Facebook access will be free through June, and the airline has a game promotion as well. Alaska charges the same access fees for service as the rest of Aircell's partner airlines, with most users paying $10 or $13 for laptop service for short and long flights, and a few dollars less for handheld (not tablet) service.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless

Tempe Wins Suit over Wi-Fi Hardware

Wed, 2011-06-01 21:02

Ah, this brings back memories: Cast your mind way way back to 2006, when Tempe, Ariz., was on the cutting edge of municipal wireless systems. The city, which already had its own wireless ring for city backhaul, put out a tender for a firm to provide a combination of public and private services. Neoreach won the bid, and built some of the network out as it shifted through names and subsidiaries, winding up with Gobility as the ultimate owner when the network failed. (Gobility had oceans of issues unrelated to this network.)

While the network hasn't been operational even in part since 2007, the gear was left all over town. Two-thirds of the access points were owned by a leasing firm, Commonwealth Capital Corporation (CCC). If the nodes were abandoned, Tempe alleged, then Tempe would be granted ownership. CCC disagreed, because it hoped to sell the system with the nodes still in place.

CCC sued to have the nodes returned to it after ridiculous attempts were made by it to sell the network. The case ran from Feb. 2009 to March 2011, when the company dismissed its own lawsuit. Tempe, meanwhile, had sued CCC for the rent due on pole usage for the period when CCC was trying to sell the gear. Tempe prevailed in court for $1.8m and ownership of the hardware.

The money assuages the fact that the 4–5-year-old hardware is likely nearly unusable. It should be mostly Strix Systems gear, which appears to still be a going concern, even though its "news spotlight" page refers only to events in 2007. There's likely some backhaul equipment from other makers.

This is the last gear hanging that I'm aware of from the olden days of 2006–2008 that isn't in active use, such as the network in Minneapolis.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless

Towerstream's Plan for Manhattan-Fi

Fri, 2011-05-27 03:58

The wireless backbone provider Towerstream will flip on a dense Manhattan Wi-Fi network: Towerstream built a wireless network in the skyline, paying for prime locations on the top of buildings to point high-speed service at line-of-sight locations where conventional wired or even fiber broadband wasn't available, would take too long, or wasn't competitive or reliable enough. Now it's taking aim at Wi-Fi.

But it's not trying to be a metro-scale Wi-Fi operator. That would be foolish. Rather, Towerstream is building out a dense Wi-Fi zone, described by BusinessWeek as seven square miles of Manhattan. The firm is deploying 1,000 routers, and the backhaul is clearly its own building-top network. Being able to leverage its own backhaul is a distinct financial advantage, as it already has a business model that works for the point-to-multi-point service it offers today. This is icing on the cake.

Towerstream will sell access to the network to carriers looking to offload mobile 3G and 4G traffic from congested, expensive cellular networks to Wi-Fi. AT&T has built similar zones itself, although I doubt quite as dense or extensive. Towerstream could become a vendor-neutral cost-effective alternative to carriers building these "heat sinks" for high bandwidth usage themselves.

Phone users benefit from this offloading as well as carriers. You get a much faster rate of service from a dense, high-speed Wi-Fi network than the comparable 3G or even 4G service, and no carrier in the US bills by the byte for Wi-Fi: if it's included, it's free. Thus, you can use much more data without hitting limits or paying overages.

The BusinessWeek article has a serious flaw, however. It misstates the nature and reason for failure of municipally backed Wi-Fi networks. The writer, Peter Burrows, makes a variety of historical errors, including stating, "While most of the failed experiments of yore were based on taxpayer-funded municipal projects, this time there's a clear business need for wireless carriers." In fact, there wound up being built no taxpayer-funded municipal networks. All of the deals involved cities or counties bidding out the right to build a network, with access to public facilities (conduits, towers, building tops, etc.) as part of the carrot. Very little municipal money was spent, while private firms went through tens of millions in never-completed network buildouts. Minneapolis stands as a shining example of the only network that was completed and thrived. (The city purchases services from the network operator, but the network was funded and is run by US Internet.)

Burrows also describes the router that Towerstream will use somewhat incompletely. He talks about it being an antenna, for starters, and claiming the units run $800 each. That might be the unit cost, but installation and providing an electrical feed will run the installed price much higher. He notes, though, that Towerstream will pay $50 to $1,000 per month to the owner of the property at which a router is installed. Nice fees if you can get them.

There's a great capper to this story: Towerstream's quiet 3-month test of 200 routers in Manhattan: "Last year, Towerstream conducted a three-month test of a 200-device Wi-Fi network in Manhattan. Without any promotion, the network handled 20 million Web sessions by consumers who happened to spot Towerstream when trolling for a Wi-Fi connection." That's the kind of data that might get carriers to sign up.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless

T-Mobile Adds Free Wi-Fi Calling

Mon, 2011-05-16 22:22

GigaOm confirms T-Mobile will add free Wi-Fi calls to its UMA-capable phones: T-Mobile tried an alternative to femtocell and unlimited calling plans several years ago, allowing unlimited domestic calls over Wi-Fi for handsets with unlicensed mobile access (UMA) technology built in. UMA allows seamless roaming between Wi-Fi networks and the cell network, handling the billing and call details on the back end.

After a few years, however, even after making the add-on price as low as $10/mo for a family plan for unlimited calls that started on Wi-Fi (either placed or received on a Wi-Fi network at home or a hotspot), T-Mobile stopped offering the service to new customers. Apparently, it continued to be available as a calling option, with Wi-Fi calls being deducted from general minute pools.

Now, T-Mobile is making Wi-Fi calling free to postpaid Even More and Even More Plus customers (those that have had a credit check and pay at the end of a billing cycle). These customers need a UMA handset, which includes many BlackBerry models, and have to opt in to the free service.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless

American Airlines Trials In-Plane Streaming

Tue, 2011-05-03 21:31

Finally: I've been asking the question for several years: when will media servers on planes be used to provide in-flight entertainment over Wi-Fi? The answer is now. Aircell told me years ago that they had provisioned the ability to put media servers on planes, and were waiting for pieces to fall into place. Its public trial with American Airlines on a couple of 767-200s will start this summer.

It's a logical connection that when you have people on a local, high-speed wireless network that you could deliver content to them for free and for a fee. Given that the majority (sometimes entirety) of people on a flight have some kind of device with a screen, why build in miles of wire and clunky seatback entertainment systems?

One of the best, Virgin American's Red, is still slow, hard to navigate, and of poor quality relative to even the worst tablet or netbook. Alaska Airlines never installed such systems for reasons of cost, and rents its digEplayer instead—a portable tablet preloaded and precharged.

An airline that moves away from seatback systems and into passenger-provided hardware could also stock tablets for rental, now that there will be ready availability of a variety of sizes and capabilities that handle video playback well, and which cost relatively little compared to custom systems like the digEplayer.

This could also eliminate live satellite feeds by providing time-delayed playback on demand. Imagine that when a plane comes to a halt and the doors are opened that a system at each gate starts a high-speed 802.11n transfer of several hours of news and other recent sports, talk shows, and network programs. There's something nice about "live," but there's also the reality of operational cost and antenna drag.

Aircell and American haven't announced which programs and movies will be available nor the cost or other particulars.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless

False Kid Porno Raid Gets Media Play

Mon, 2011-04-25 03:13

A Buffalo, NY, man gets an early morning visit (and alleged contusions) from the ICE: His left his Wi-Fi network open, and extremely poor FBI work (according to this AP report) led to a raid on his home because that's where the IP address led. While it's no crime in the US—it is in some other countries—to leave your network open for anyone to access, this isn't the first time this has happened. I've written up a few previous similar incidents that led to police or federal agents breaking down the doors for criminal acts conducted over the network at the physical address. In most cases, a neighbor is the guilty party.

You'd think the FBI would be briefing agents on this issue, so that they don't face multi-million-dollar lawsuits for faulty work that pinpoints the wrong person. The Buffalo man isn't suing, even though his attorney alleges he was thrown down the stairs by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He says they didn't properly identify who they were after breaking down the door and brandishing weapons. (Who knows from ICE?)

Even on an open network, it's possible to track identifiers that would allow relatively easy confirmation of which machine was the case, or to stake out the area for a few nights, tracking signals and locations. Then agents could enlist the homeowner with the open network to ensure the Wi-Fi signal remained available and could be used to track at which exact moment that a perpetrator was engaged in an illegal act and then raided at the same time. (We're talking child pornography here, not file swapping.)

The AP article says that US-CERT recommends "closing" a Wi-Fi network among other security measures. This option, labeled differently on each maker's router software, disables default beaconing, and thus the network name and availability isn't broadcast. However, whenever the network is use by a party that knows the name and has associated with it (encryption or otherwise), traffic can be snooped and connection information extracted. I don't recommend closing a network as it provides no effective security, and neither does limiting an network to specific MAC addresses (the Wi-Fi adapter's unique hardware number).

US-CERT has six recommendations for best home practices on its Securing Wireless Networks page, which include these two. Closing a network is noted as "Protect Your SSID."

Really, using a nine-letter/digit WPA password is the simplest way to protect a network in a reliable and secure way no matter what other restrictions are in place.

I choose to password protect my network in part because I don't want to be indirectly responsible for anyone's actions on my network (whether in a raid or just because someone commits a nefarious act using my router), and because Comcast caps my use at 250 GB per month.

Copyright ©2011 Glenn Fleishman. All rights reserved. Please notify us if you find this content anywhere but at wifinetnews.com or wimaxnetnews.com. Reproduction of full articles from RSS feeds is prohibited without permission.


Categories: Wireless