Monday, December 25, 2006

2006 in wireless

CNET has a year in review for mobile communications. To summarize, the big stories in 2006 were the growth of WiMax, the progress made in mobile phones that can switch from cellular to WiFi seamlessly, and the advent of entertainment, search, and (the inevitable) advertising into the mobile space.

Among other major advancements that I can think of - the tremendous growth of the so-called municipal WiFi networks. Muni WiFi is now already up and running in several cities in the United States. Going by my own experience and from other anecdotal stories, these networks are still in a stage where they are used as more of a backup option by most customers who have other, paid services for regular Internet access. However, things are looking good gauging by the competition that cities seem to be getting in terms of bidders for their plans for offering such services.

Then there was the recent news about the FCC plans for creating a public safety network using wireless networks, partly motivated by the failure of the communication infrastructure during the 9/11 attacks and the Katrina hurricane. It took a while but nonetheless, it's a welcome announcement. The plans are to use the 700 MHz band given that it is conducive to long-distance communication and offers good wall penetration, always a desirable thing in case of an emergency.

Add to that the announcement by Emirates airlines that they have become the first in the world to introduce in-flight mobile use. The rates are more in line with a regular cellphone service with international roaming rates unlike the exorbitant per-minute charges of the in-seat satellite phones. This would definitely be very useful for jet-setting executives who travel a lot and like to get work done in the air. Now, how it might affect the other passengers to have to hear cellphone babble 30,000 feet in the air is another story.

GPS seems to have hit its sweet-spot this year if one were to go by the TV commercials and print ads luring you to go out and buy a GPS so that you never get lost. Some of the newer cellphones and handheld PDAs come with in-built GPS.

Overall, the wireless world has seen spectacular progress this year and not just in terms of exciting new technology, but also in that that more and more people now have access to this and are actively using it.

Look forward to an exciting 2007.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

WiMax in Silicon Valley

Though you might read about WiMax technology companies in the famed Silicon Valley of California, not much seems to be have happened in terms of actual WiMax trials like they seem to in Asia and Africa. There are WiFi trials and systems like the Google WiFi in Mountain View, but nothing similar for WiMax. However, looks like that is about to change. This summer, Caltrain, which is one of the Valley's commuter rail system, conducted some WiMax trials on a 16 mile stretch. Here's a link to the briefing on The companies involved in making this happen were Intel, Nomad Digital, Sensoria Corporation, and Redline Communications.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

IEEE 802.20 - a fresh start

The IEEE 802.20 working group has been revamped and a new chair person has been chosen. This comes after the working group was temporarily suspended earlier this summer. A search is on for the fill the remaining positions. This new group is scheduled to start functioning at the IEEE 802 plenary session to be held during the second week of November in Dallas, Texas.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

IEEE 802.20 working group suspended

The IEEE 802.20 working group has been temporarily suspended. Apparently, the chairman of the group had some special relation with Qualcomm. 802.20 was supposed to be the next big step in mobile broadband wireless access and a competitor to 802.16e. However, with this news, mobile WiMax (IEEE 802.16e) is bound to get a boost. As if that wasn't enough, this week, Sprint announced that it will be spending $3 billion over the next two years to develop its 4G networks using WiMax. Earlier this year Intel had announced that it would have WiMax cards for laptops ready by the end of 2006. The earlier plan had it scheduled somewhere in 2007. The confluence of these events is sure to give WiMax a big turbo thrust. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. But, the stakes have just been raised by Sprint.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

MuniWireless Silicon Valley 2006

In June this year, I attended the MuniWireless Silicon Valley conference in Santa Clara, California. It was a 2.5 day event with lots of stuff going on - presentations, workshops, birds-of-a-feather sessions, product demos, etc. The open-source community was very well represented.

One particular presentation that I found very interesting had to do with an initiative called Green Wifi. It uses solar energy to power wireless routers and it's been deployed in developing countries where the infrastructure is still lacking. I talked to the founders, Marc Pomerleau and Bruce Baikie, and was very impressed by their dedication and enthusiasm. Check out their website at

Another interesting initiative is the Ile Sans Fil, a community wireless project for providing free wireless access in Montreal, Canada. I talked to Michael Lenczner from the group, a very enthusiatic young man who pulled out his laptop and showed me how he could monitor the live status of hotspots in Canada, right there from our conference room in Santa Clara. Their website is They have also developed a captive portal solution aimed at groups or individuals who want to open free wireless hotspots while preventing abuse of the system. It's called WifiDog and is Linux open source.

Broadband Wireless World 2006

In April this year, I attended the Broadband Wireless World 2006 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. There were a variety of entities represented - CEO's, management, engineers, ISPs, vendors, etc. One of my goals was to figure out what they thought of where WiMax will be in the future and to this end, I talked to several people. At the end of the conference, my impression was that opinion is still quite divided. Some folks think Wimax will be here in the next two years, whereas some think it's still to early to say when. One of the complaints was that it's a chicken-and-egg situation with respect to providers and customers. Another line of thought was that the rest of the world will probably be quicker to adopt WiMax as compared to the U.S., given the crowded license spectrum and the difficulties of obtaining licenses here in the U.S.

The expo boasted a large number of vendors and their state-of-the-art equipment. I had a few interesting conversations, one of which was with a gentleman from Kyocera, Japan. Kyocera is testing out this new technology of theirs - iBurst. However, the testing is being done in a few other countries but not Japan. The reason is that it is very difficult to obtain spectrum licenses in Japan and hence, they find it easier to do their testing elsewhere. He also said WiMax doesn't have as much potential in Japan for a simple reason - most of the country (99%) is on wired broadband and so there isn't much of a need for WiMax.

This is a good conference for WiMax folks. The fact that the annual CTIA conference was held in Las Vegas a week or so before it, made it more attractive for a lot of people.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A brief review of WiMAX websites

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been browsing the following websites -,,,,, and These are the ones I mentioned in my post dated March 03, 2006. Here's a brief summary of my thoughts.

IMHO, if you are new to the world of WiMAX, these two are the best sites to begin with: and The best thing I liked about them was the abundance of news articles. Not only are these articles new, but they are from a variety of sources and report on happenings all over the world. It is hard to choose from between the two since they have different things going for them. has additional information in the form of white papers (from Alcatel, Alvarion, Fujistu, Intel, Redline among others), links to events, and a substantive FAQ. They also provide WiMAX education and training targeted at engineers and management. On the other hand, they have lots of annoying blinking ads on their site, podcast links that didn't seem to work, a few polls but without any indication of the sample size and therefore useless in terms of making any informed conclusion, a job site that had only seven listings, and message boards that seemed languid in terms of posting activity. has a lot of news and no annoying blinking graphics. On the other hand, they don't have any message boards or white papers. is the website of the WiMAX alliance which is a consortium of WiMAX industry companies aimed at promoting interoperatibility standards for broadband wireless access. They too have a lot going in terms of reports, white papers, and news, albeit not as many as the afore-mentioned two sites. If you want to know what companies are working in the WiMAX area, this is by far the most comprehensive site.

The other sites didn't have a lot of features that would make them stand out from the rest. All of them had the annoying blinking ads. didn't seem to like my Firefox browser. I could see Microsoft ODBC errors displayed on the front page. They had a couple of weekly features with no date. However, they do have a long list of vendors. For people looking for that specifically, this is useful. There were no white papers and only a few reports. You had to buy the reports. All news links were pointers to external URLs some of which didn't work. On, the latest article was more than 45 days old. They too had a good list of vendors. There was a listing of books which were simply links to The forums were links to Yahoo groups. This was quite similar to - forums that linked to Yahoo groups, books listings that linked to, and research reports links that were non-functional.

Overall, I think,, and are the best in terms of learning and keeping up with the happenings in the WiMAX world. You could visit the rest once in a while when time permits.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Toronto to go wireless

News just came out that the city of Toronto is going to go wireless. Initially, the plan is to cover downtown Toronto and then eventually, the whole city, in the next three years. This so-called "Municipal Wi-Fi" project is touted to be the largest such project in North America. The plan is to mount WiFi transmitters on streetlights in the city that would form a wireless mesh network.

Commercial wireless service providers are already raising questions about whether the city can do it. Obviously, they don't want the city to eat into their market. The question that I had was whether this could be done better with WiMAX? Given the larger range of WiMAX and the fewer number of transmitters that would be required, would WiMAX be a better alternative? It's much too early to tell. WiMAX is still in its infancy as far as commercial applications is concerned. An entire city adopting WiMAX could still be a few months away. I will cover this topic sometime in the coming weeks.

Wireless shark network?

New Scientist has an article on how scientists have designed a neural implant that could be used to control the brain signals of a shark. It could potentially be used to control the shark's movement and make the shark follow vessels without being "spotted." A whole new meaning to "stealth spies."

I could imagine using a school of sharks. Much like setting up a wireless sensor network. Except in this case, you utilize the shark's energy to power the movement of the "sensor nodes." One practical problem would be in getting hold of a number of sharks and implanting them. Furthermore, there might be ethical issues that would arise in the future once this technology gets on the radar of more people. Nonetheless, it seems like a fascinating use of techology. It remains to be seen how far Mother Nature will let mankind mess with her. Or will Hollywood beat them all to it with "The Return of Jaws - Underwater Spy."

Friday, March 03, 2006

WiMAX web sites

WiMAX is the more popular name for IEEE 802.16. I'll start my blog by listing a few websites that are useful in learning more about this technology and related news. First place to start would be IEEE's own. I found three URLs that all link to the same page:

Apart from this, there is a bunch of industry sites. Here are a few of them:

In the not-so-distant future, I'll try to write up a bit more on these sites themselves and their relative plus and minus points. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 17, 2006


This is where I'll be posting stuff about WiFi and WiMax. Stay tuned.