Merry Christmas to one and all!

We're taking a bit of a break to be with our loved ones over the holiday, and we hope you are too. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, and we'd like to pass along a heartfelt "Thank You" for your readership. We'll be back posting again tomorrow once we can burn off some of the egg nog!

TWR's Top 5

As we put the cap on another busy week here at The Wireless Report, we ask that you take a glance at our Top 5 stories from the past seven days before we shelve them and get ready for another week of wireless news and information. Enjoy!

  1. Have vehicle, surf web
    Many folks like me can't get enough of the web. We surf the web at home, at work, at the airport, on vacation, and on and on. But there is still one place where most of us haven't tried to surf the web yet--until now.
  2. Astrology dictates mobile phone love usage
    I wonder if the global wireless providers look at subscriber birthdates and group customers into astrological signs in order to predict revenue levels? They should, according to Virgin Mobile UK, which recently conducted some research which it claims is rather revealing in the way in which your astrological sign impacts upon the way you use your mobile phones.
  3. What's on your wireless holiday shopping list?
    As I'm sure you are quite aware, the holiday season is just around the corner. (In my family, I think it started the day after Halloween.)
  4. Can RFID e-Passports be hacked?
    With newer international passports being enabled with RFID technology, can these systems be hacked and compromised easily? There are some that say any electronic representation that communications beyond its own chips can be hacked given enough patience and persistence. When it comes to electronic passports, though, that is a scary potential situation.
  5. Despite growth of smartphones, many of us still carry more than one wireless device
    Despite the proliferation of smartphones and other wireless devices that can do it all--telephone, e-mail, web browser, camera, text messaging, streaming video, downloading of music, and so on--it seems that many of us have more than one device to perform one or more of these applications.

TWR's Top 5

It's been another hectic week here at The Wireless Report. Check out these five fruits of our labor! Enjoy!

  1. Round 1: Cingular vs. Sprint on the fastest wireless data network
    With some recent hubbub in the area of truthful mobile advertising, I looked at some recent Cingular ads in the New York Times just to see what recent claims from the nation's largest wireless carrier had in store. Taking that information, I looked at another competitor that, um, had a few bones to pick with Cingular's ads. The reason? Cingular was questioning Sprint's wireless data network directly. Hmm. Knowing that Cingular's nationwide -- but slower -- EDGE data network was the impetus behind these ads, I was intrigued.
  2. India becoming a cellular hotbed
    Despite pockets of poverty throughout the country, India is now the world's fastest-growing cellular market in the world. According to the Cellular Operators Association of India, the country added 5.9 million subscribers last month, topping China's total of 5.19 million.
  3. Wireless data revenue kicks it up in 2006
    With all mobile carriers wishing they had better wireless data revenue so that they can begin paying for those billion-dollar system upgrades of the last five years, perhaps they are getting fulfilled wishes. Wireless data revenues for 2006 have soared, according to a new CTIA survey.
  4. NYC, Northrop Grumman to build emergency wireless network
    It's taken a surprisingly long amount of time, but it appears that New York City will finally have a high-speed wireless data network that will be developed for emergency responders. The network is expected to go live in Lower Manhattan by this coming January.
  5. The killer app for WiMAX -- television?
    Is WiMAX poised to leap over traditional forms of entertainment transmission and become some kind of de-facto standard for delivering television to American homes? Some think so, including Om Malik. Television delivery over WiMAX appears to have been embraced by MobiTV as well, with the mobile-delivered television service provider saying that it is working with WiMAX for an alternative delivery platform.

When mobile operators get together to move beyond 3G

Some very influential mobile operators from around the globe have come together to advance the cause of post-3G wireless data initiatives. Being 2006 and all, I guess it is about time, yes? Sprint Nextel, NTT DoCoMo, China Mobile, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and KPN are the global wireless carriers who have formed the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) alliance to advance wireless beyond 3G speeds.

The NGMN alliance will work out of the U.K. to help guide companies into the next generation of mobile networks by facilitating newer standards that stretch beyond 3G. One of the most important priorities will be to create a much faster data transmission standard with as low of a latency as possible. This, to me, sounds like broadband Internet -- but completely wireless (and different than WiMAX, I suppose?).

Insider blogging: Sprint Nextel's VP of Broadband Strategy

I sat down today -- virtually, at least -- and spoke with Mr. Bin Shen, VP of Broadband Strategy with Sprint Nextel, about this afternoon's rather intriguing announcement that Sprint Nextel will be partnering with Motorola, Samsung and Intel to deploy a fourth-generation (4G) wireless broadband data network in the U.S. within the next 24 months. I asked Mr. Shen about four important questions regarding the announcement, presented to readers below.

1) Describe the involvement of the mobile WiMAX partners announced with Sprint Nextel today: Motorola, Samsung and Intel:
  • Motorola -- With the RAZR's success and commitment to advancing WiMAX worldwide, Motorola will bring technical and marketing support to Sprint Nextel in our rollout of mobile WiMAX service
  • Samsung -- Will supply mobile WiMAX device support and marketing/promotion assistance on a world-class scale
  • Intel -- Intel has a firm commitment to WiMAX technology and a perfect partner for development and deployment, based on the success of the wirelessly-integrated Intel Centrino platform
2) Will EV-DO and the upcoming EV-DO revision A standard be replaced by Sprint Nextel's mobile WiMAX solution, or will the technologies and markets co-exist and service different customer segments?
  • The networks will co-exist, since they will serve different markets. Sprint Nextel will be rolling out EV-DO revision A at the end of this year and during 2007, and will remain firmly committed to that technology as our just-announced mobile WiMAX solution is being developed and released to the consumer during 2008.
3) Do you see Sprint Nextel's 4G WiMAX plans competing head-to-head with established, non-mobile broadband alternatives like cable modems and DSL services?
  • Sprint Nextel does not see head-to-head competition with cable modem or DSL providers, although we plan to take broadband services out of the wired environment -- home or office -- and provide that solution anywhere mobile WiMAX coverage will available. So, it it will be mobility-based and state-of-the-art alternative to wired broadband solutions like home-based cable modem or DSL service, but with the all-important mobility-anywhere factor.
4) What timeframe does Sprint Nextel envision on completing backhaul operations, testing and deploying a working customer solution for this 4G announcement?
  • Within 24 months from now, a working, nationwide customer solution should be in place with our mobile WiMAX network. We plan to have our mobile WiMAX network covering areas in the U.S. that 100 million people live and work in by 2008.
With this announcement and Motorola and Intel's recent financial and technical investment in pre-WiMAX company Clearwire, things are indeed shaping up very fast and very nicely for WiMAX technology. Sprint Nextel just trumped quite a few wireless telecommunications companies with the announcement today, so my hat is off to them. Many of us will finally have a wireless broadband Internet solution that can go with us anywhere, but that also gives us the speed of a wired broadband connection. Times are really becoming nice, yes?

Boingo completes Concourse purchase, expanding WiFi served areas

Boingo Wireless, one of the largest WiFi providers in municipalities, airports, restaurants and hospitality areas around the globe, has completed its purchase of Concourse Communications. This purchase will greatly expand Boingo's WiFi reach into many airports among other areas.

Boingo now has WiFi presence in airports within the top 100 locations in the U.S. in Canada, including airports in Chicago, New York, Ottawa, Detroit, Oklahoma City and Nashville.

UWB and Zigbee starting to finally make waves in the consumer markets

Two incredibly promising technologies -- one already in full use and the other gaining steam -- UWB (ultra wide band) and Zigbee (commercial deveice wireless communication standard) are starting to see more and more attention and adoption, which leads to record-breaking chipset shipments with the technology of both standards.

This article talks about how both standards are creating record chipset shipments based on customer demand. The customer in the Zigbee market is most likely commercial/industrial at this time, although automated home control connectivity is not that far on the horizon. UWB, which is needed more than anything, could replace USB and FireWire on PCs as well as the the rat's nest of wires for home stereo and surround setups, which we need more now than ever.

Cingular Wireless preparing for 2006 hurricane season

This is a headline we probably would not have seen pre-2005, but now, it's good PR for the Cingular folks.  Cingular has prepared a "checklist" of sorts to prepare hurricane-prone areas for communications emergencies.

It's good to know that cell sites along the Gulf Coast have backup generators, batteries and centralized monitoring systems that can tell the Cingular NOC when a problem occurs -- like being hit by hurricane-force winds. In addition, COWs (Cellsites On Wheels) can be moved into place to provide temporary coverage in the event a stationary site becomes completely unusable.

Wireless gambling about to take off in Las Vegas

So, you want to get your poker or hold 'em game on with a handheld wireless unit? You're about to be in luck, as these wireless gambling devices are soon to infiltrate restaurants and other venues where physical casino betting is impossible to have available. I mean, the Vegas casinos need to grow their revenue, right? How better than to make handheld gambling fit into every possible supervised public area in Sin City.

The regulations are new, the technology is new and the audience will soon be developing (most likely, males in their 20s and 30s), so watch out the next time you visit the city in the middle of the desert. You'll be able to order a NY strip steak and potatoes while playing Blackjack on the menu, or at least close to the menu.

Another good poke at the mobile phone TV market of the future

From South Korea we have a decently-good indicator of how the future of mobile TV viewing (and downloading perhaps) will play out: not great - for the carriers, that is. South Korea is generally on the cutting-edge of most things consumer tech. And, although mobile TV is popular there, it is possibly going to bypass the mobile operators completely with technology like DVB-H and Qualcomm's MediaFlo - these are real-time broadcasting technologies that bypass the limitations of the carrier's networks and zap programming over-the-air directly to consumers. Whoa - that big linchpin just got taken out of the picture, eh?

With WiFi and WiMAX soon being widespread (possibly for voice calling) and direct-to-consumer tech like MediaFlo just scooting past the networks of established cellular carriers, what's a mobile operator to do? Counter, if they can, with innovation and effective pricing, which is not the case now in my opinion - and the value has to be there - not just "me too" offerings. On with the competition, I say.

TWR's Top 5

It's Saturday and time for our weekly roundup of The Wireless Report's Top 5 stories of the week. It's been a potpourri of news this week, so here are some highlights of what we've been keeping our eyes on. Enjoy!

  • Bill Gates mocks the MIT $100 wireless laptop project
    Well, Gates has done it before - mocked certain technologies and products only to see them try to overwhelm Microsoft, who then has made it a habit of rapid-fire catchup to ensure the franchises that add billions to the Microsoft coffers are covered. But, what has he to gain by making fun of a $100 laptop with built-in wireless mesh networking meant to assist low-income countries and villages into sharing information among themselves and even globally? Remember, many of these people have never seen a computer, much less Windows.
  • New Orleans' growing dependance on wireless communications
    One of the few things left intact after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans was the wireless mesh network used in the downtown area by local police to support communications and respond to crime scenes much quicker.
  • U.S. Senate hears more arguements about wireless spectrum
    From opening up analog TV airwaves for unregulated broadband internet to giving smaller cellular players more bandwidth over the enter country, the Senate this week is hearing a mouthful about how the airwaves and the bands of radio spectrum that govern all wireless industries needs changing to keep up with the torrid pace of wireless offerings from many industries continues.
  • Government agency to test wireless communications systems for miners
    Responding to the tragedies that took place earlier this year that claimed the lives of over a dozen miners, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is about to test a number of new wireless two-way communications devices that will help emergency responders locate trapped miners. The testing will take place in Moundsville, West Virginia by the end of this month.
  • The age of the RFID virus?
    Well, we knew this was coming - it was just a matter of time before someone announced that RFID chips, as they stand now, could be "infiltrated" by a virus. With hardly any memory (at least current commercial designs), why would anyone want to infect an RFID chip with a virus? What is the motivation?

TWR's Top 5

There's no rest for the weary here at The Wireless Report. A lot of interesting news and information has come across our desks this week, so here's a list of our top five stories from this past week. Enjoy!

  1. Book Review: Fighting the Good Fight for Municipal Wireless -- If you're a local government official or someone heavily involved in your community, and have been reading all of the news stories about citywide wireless networks, what do you have to do to bring this phenomenon to your town so it doesn't fall behind in the wireless networking race? If you want to do it right, the first place to start is to get your hands on a copy of Fighting the Good Fight for Municipal Wireless: Applying Lessons From Philadelphia's WiFi Story (Hudson House Publishing) by Craig Settles, who has written THE guide to understanding both the business and political issues that need to be addressed before developing and deploying a citywide wireless network.
  2. Canadian University Bans WiFi Network -- Just when we think it couldn't happen, a Canadian university has banned implementing a campus-wide WiFi network under the belief that there may be health risks by being exposed to WiFi radio signals.
  3. Department of Homeland Security and RFID - Best Buddies -- In what is sure to raise the hackles of privacy advocates and paranoid consumers everywhere, it's being reported that the Department of Homeland Security is considering RFID technology to track individuals in a passive fashion.
  4. Pre-paid Wireless Plans and Related Services Continue to Rise -- The wireless industry is further embracing the concept of pre-paid wireless calling plans. Analysts are pointing to research indicating slowing growth in the industry, so any area that can bring in a steady revenue stream will be accepted by the wireless providers.
  5. Mobile and VoIP Set to Inherit the Earth? -- A fascinating trend in Europe could soon follow in the U.S. and parts of the Pacific Rim (if it hasn't started there already). Within 5 years, landline voice usage is expected to shrivel dramatically as customers completely replace it with mobile phone usage and VoIP usage over broadband. Call this "alternative telephony". Why is this, you may ask?

Congress Looking to Legislate Wireless Communications Systems for Miners

Particular attention has been paid lately to mining safety in the wake of the two disasters in West Virginia in the last few weeks that have resulted in the deaths of over a dozen miners. Most of the focus is on development and eventual legislation by Congress of wireless communication systems and tracking devices so that if something does happen, responders will have a fighting chance to talk with, and eventually rescue, trapped miners.

Of course, all of this talk and research has been too long in coming, and if attention had been paid to this issue even a few months before, these tragedies may have been avoided. In any event, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing next month to discuss mine safety procedures and enforcement measures and wireless devices will definitely be on the agenda.

In addition, it would be a good idea to bring mining company executives to this hearing and have them publicly commit to instituting wireless communications systems so there will some accountability, at least on the surface.

TWR's Top 5

Welcome to our newest feature here on The Wireless Report, where we will list what we consider to be the Top 5 stories of the week. Below is our list with direct links to these featured blog posts. Enjoy!

  1. 3GSM Happening Next Week in Barcelona, Spain -- Next week is sure to bring a bevy of announcements from new handset models - both humans and phones - and new, up-n-coming technology like ZigBee. We'll be blogging about all the goodies from Spain next week, so keep your browser or RSS reader ready. It's going to be a wild week.
  2. Boston Foundation Issues It's Own Wireless Network Report -- After a long period of foot-dragging, it seems that Boston is seriously committed to bringing wireless access to its residents.
  3. Will WiFi and WiMax Laptops Spell the Death of the Desktop PC? -- With even $500 entry-level laptop PCs coming with WiFi (802.11b, but so?) built in, and with folks on the move more and more, and with WiFi hotspots and municipal wireless being all the rage (and sure to increase expenentially), is the standard "beige box" PC and flat-screen TFT monitor - and those clunky CRTs - going the way of the dinosaur soon for the most part?
  4. Wireless Communications Systems Being Developed for Miners -- The recent mining disasters where sixteen miners have perished has resulted in a call by state governments, including West virginia and Pennsylvania, for a wireless communications system whereby rescuers can quickly locate the positions of the victims and get them out of the danger zone.
  5. The Art of RFID -- Instead of using RFID to track high-dollar paintings - so Thomas Crown won't steal them - many artists are using RFID an a rather interesting way - to provide their masterpieces with a unique identity all their own.

Motorola Announces M-Wallet Service

What has proved popular in Europe and Asia may now be making its way to our shores. Motorola announced today they will be introducing later this year its M-Wallet service which will eventually allow shoppers to pay for various goods by waving their cellphones over scanners at the cash register. Users will have the ability to download the service from their cellular provider's website (provided your carrier will have already struck an agreement with Motorola to offer this service) to their own device.

According to Motorola, users will be able to perform tasks as online bill payment and purchase tickets at the theater or train station, and when a special chip becomes available, the aformentioned ability to pay for goods at the cash register will be possible.

This sort of service may very well find great use in cities like New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia where mass transit plays a major role in daily life. It is reasonable to question whether shoppers would use this service at the grocery store and other retail outlets, but Motorola will certainly pull out all the marketing stops to sell the M-Wallet service.

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