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!

Wireless system designed for emergencies being tested

In order to enhance communications between first responders and civilian agencies during a serious emergency, the Joint Task Force-Civil Support and Joint Forces Command (JTF-CS) are currently testing a system known as Wireless for the Warfighter (W4W) that allows for the establishment of wireless extensions for computer and phone lines in minutes.

The W4W can be used to set up networks on the fly and can accommodate up to 500 people. Project leaders say the system, which is based on the 802.11 standard, cuts down the time needed to set up a communications network during emergencies. Eventually, it will leverage higher wireless networking standards, including WiMax, 802.16d, and 802.16e standards, further increasing its mobility.

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.

Wireless network deployments cover the entire USA

Esme Vos of MuniWireless.com has put together a nice list of the cities and counties that have already or are planning to deploy wireless networks so far this year. It's a pretty impressive list and it spans every corner of the U.S.

The list is broken down into 5 categories:

  1. City or countywide wireless broadband networks in operation for public access and municipal use
  2. City hotzones
  3. City or county networks for municipal use only
  4. Planned deployments where an RFI or RFP has been issued or where a network is being deployed
  5. Cities and counties that are considering WANs

What also is interesting that there are a growing number of vendors/ISPs getting into the citywide wireless game, so that can only benefit the municipalities who are searching for a company to partner with and will not be limited by just a few players.

TWR's Top 5

The summer season may be in the home stretch, but the stories just keep getting hotter at The Wireless Report. Check out our Top 5 scorchers for the week! Enjoy!

  1. Motorola has highest marketshare in 5 years
    Looks like Motorola is indeed taking on a new mission -- to capture as much marketshare as possible. Whether it's by design or not, the American wireless handset maker has just posted its highest global marketshare in over five years, with 21.9% of all phones sold worldwide.
  2. The trend of ditching landline phones for cellphones continues to grow
    The idea of getting rid of your old-fashioned phone line and going all-cellular is not just a passing fancy anymore.
  3. Half of British wireless phones have cameras
    Looks like the British are attacking -- with cellphone cameras, that is. Half of all UK-based wireless handsets in use now feature a built-in camera, according to the Mobile Data Association.
  4. Wireless system to be installed at Smithsonian Institution
    The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. says it will be deploying a Common Wireless Access System that will allow for greater cellphone coverage in all of its museums and for free wireless access to come to the entire National Mall by 2008.
  5. TracFone handsets being used in illegal activities
    With huge numbers of TracFone prepaid handsets being sold at many places, authorities are wondering why. Well, last week's arrest of a man for buying TracFone handsets and then modifying them to be used with any carrier and recent concerns that terrorists may be using these units for communications, has made TracFone be under the microscope at many retailers.

Boeing to ground Connexion in-flight WiFi service

Boeing has officially announced that it will be grounding its Connexion in-flight WiFi service by the end of this year. The company says that the service never really took off with passengers in the six years of its availability, so it finally decided to shut it down and take a $320 million charge to cover the costs of putting it in mothballs.

There is some speculation that this will deal a major blow to the concept of offering wireless internet service to airline passengers, however JetBlue is going full speed ahead with its own plans to offer in-flight WiFi in the future, so all may not be lost as of yet.

Caltrain successfully tests WiFi system on fast-moving trains

A test to determine whether WiFi access would work on a fast-moving train has proved successful, according to Caltrain officials.

The transportation set up a WiFi system on one of its trains running between Millbrae and Palo Alto in Northern California. The train acheived speeds up to 79 miles an hour, and access to the internet was not interrupted. The company says it will do some more work on the system before it introduces the system to their entire transportation line.

Obviously, this is an important development in that commuters will be able to access the Web while in motion instead of either moving at very slow speeds or while a train is idling. Other train companies are sure to follow in Caltrain's footsteps.

Wireless access coming to D.C. bus system

Bus riders in the Washington, D.C. metro area may soon have the ability to surf the Web while riding on the bus. A plan by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is shaping up whereby locations including bus stops and tunnels will be outfitted with equipment from outside companies that will allow the service's 70,000 daily riders to access the Web wirelessly.

According to the authority, up to 20,000 hotspots could be up and running through this plan which would allow companies to charge for online ads.

Discussion surrounding improving wireless communications in poorer countries and in disaster areas

A gathering of executives and experts in the wireless industry got together recently at the Wireless Communication Association conference in Washington, D.C. to discuss ways on how to leverage wireless communications in the event of disasters, both natural and man-made.

Since the tsunami in 2004, international relief agencies are relying more on mobile technologies to coordinate efforts on the ground and communicate with headquarters. In addition, in poorer countries, especially in Africa, where the existing communications infrastructure can be described as "spotty" at best, these same experts say that wireless technology can improve service at a lower cost, making it affordable for just about any country.

Of course, this has to go beyond the talk stage and to actual implementation. Will the big wireless providers invest the time, resources, and money to improve wireless communications on a global scale? If it can help improve their profile and bring in some money, sure. Will they do it out of the goodness of their hearts? It remains to be seen...

T-Mobile reaches 7,000 WiFi HotSpots

With T-Mobile continuously striving to expand its WiFi network across the U.S. and the globe, it has just reached having 7,000 WiFi HotSpots available to its customers by signing an agreement with Sofitel. With the Sofitel partnership, T-Mobile will gain 10 HotSpots in the U.S. and over 200 locations worldwide.

With this partnership, T-Mobile has now surpassed having over 7,000 WiFi HotSpots worldwide for customers to access. In addition to having a global wireless telephone presence, T-Mobile apparently sees increasing value in having an international WiFi service as well, and not too many other wireless telephone companies can say that. Perhaps they see the future, and its name is WiFi.

How deep should wireless communications go in National Parks?

Discussions have taken place between Yellowstone National Park officials and telecommunication company representatives to quietly expand the availability of wireless communications within the park without further marring the its appearance or causing any inconvenience to visitors.

There has been quite a bit of criticism from environmental groups ever since the placement of a cellular tower near the Old Faithful geyser, and the meetings have been held to decide where to place additional wireless equipment without causing further disruption.

No concrete plans have been made as of yet, but park officials have said that if any more equipment is going to be placed within the park, they will be in "existing, disturbed, developed areas."

While we have become an increasingly mobile society and the need for constant communications has become practically an essential part of our very collective existence, when (and where) do you draw the line? Is it that necessary that you have to check in with someone at the office or contact a friend while watching Old Faithful gush or in other National Parks where visitors are seeking peace, solitude, and the right to enjoy the natural surroundings?

So - What is the Replacement for Traditional Cellular Networks?

Will next-generation networks feature super-enhanced UMTS using W-CDMA? Maybe so, but we'll dispense with the jargon for a second. Mobile operators may need something more than W-CDMA, which is set to inherit the mantlepiece from the time-division-based GSM standard and will also replace current CDMA networks. This all sounds so happy - some kind of unified global wireless standard - perhaps.

Will WiFi and WiMAX technologies replace the standard cellular-based transmission and reception technology we all know and love so well? Both WiFi and WiMAX don't depend on a honeycomb arrangement of cells to ensure wireless coverage, but how would these technologies replace tried and trusted cellular technology? The meshing of overlaps needed to feed large coverage areas bring up many questions. The massive amount of coverage to step in and just replace what customers are used to is an enormous challenge. The Infonetics research cited in this article is kind of intriguing - maybe we'll have hybrid replacement networks using WiFi/WiMAX in metro areas and W-CDMA to replace all the fringe areas that still need coverage. By 2015 we'll probably know.

TWR's Top 5

It's Saturday, and that means it's time to present you our Top 5 stories of the week in the world of wireless. Enjoy!

  1. Telcos lobbying to shut down New Orleans' downtown wireless network
    As we all know, it's been a rough go for New Orleans over the last seven months. It's going to take a lot of time and effort to bring the city back to something close to what it was, and it's going to take the cooperation of many people to do it. However, BellSouth and other telcos in the region only want to be part of the problem, not the solution.
  2. Do 3G phones change social habits?
    In this story from the BBC, newer 3G wireless services and handsets are said to change social habits. Clubbers and bloggers can benefit from the cameras, video cameras and higher-speed data networks. Well, duh. Clubbers are obvious targets - I see more cameraphones in clubs than real cameras at the Grand Canyon. Bloggers? Well, those who have taken up moblogging as a sort of life documentation science are guilty as charged also. I regularly send photos while mobile to my Flickr site using a simple and secret email address.
  3. Wireless "piggybacker" compares behavior to borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbor
    Just came across this op-ed piece from someone who compares the practice of "piggybacking" wireless services from others to borrowing a cup of sugar. Oh really?
  4. Newbury Networks announces wireless asset tracking and location-enabled "presence" platform
    One area we see quite often here at The Wireless Report are bungled implementations of good and great wireless solutions. A great idea can be toasted if not implemented in the most customized way for the customer using it. This entails studying the workflow of the customer, tailoring the solution/software to their needs, testing the solution and tweaking as needed, and also planning for changes and other paths so that the solution is flexible and adaptable.
  5. Mobile casino gambling now legal in Nevada
    This was pretty much a foregone conclusion anyway, but it's still a significant piece of news. Yesterday the Nevada Gaming Commission passed a regulation that allows for the use of handheld devices (similar to PDAs) for gambling in any public area of casinos located in the state. Simply put, you can play blackjack, poker, and other assorted games while lounging at the pool or another place in the complex where you can be supervised. At this point, you can't use these devices in your hotel room or any other place where you can be left alone.

Backup Broadband - Using Bellsouth's WiMAX-like Service

We've all heard of disaster recovery - planning to ensure business contuinity if your main line of, well, something, becomes ensnared in a problem. How about your broadband internet connection, as opposed to just the data sitting on your side of the fence? Many home customers, small businesses, and even large enterprises would be pitching monumental fits if they lost their broadband, like an infant without a bottle. It's a sign of how connected we are and if we lose that tether that we rely on to communicate and gasp, run millions of dollars in commerce through, bad things surface.

So, with that doomsday scenario in mind, Bellsouth is happy to provide you a cable-less broadband backup solution should you ever need it (line from the insurance industry there, sorry), at a reasonable $29.95 per month (it was $69.95). This is actually not a bad idea should you live in a zone where weather or other factors could cut your wired lifeline for a while - like Hurrican Katrina did. The proprietary-delivered service is very similar to WiMAX but not really based on the emerging standard.

WiFi hotspots established in St. Thomas

A collaboration between Canada-based BelAir Networks and Choice Communications from St. Thomas has resulted in the establishment of a WiFi zone inside and around the island's Havensight Mall and the surrounding area including Vessup Marina, American Yacht Harbor, the St. John Ferry Dock, Coral World, and Coki Beach. Residents, crews, and travelers on incoming cruise ships can use the wireless Internet service as well as local shops, restaurants, hotels, and marinas. 

According to both companies, the carrier grade wireless network achieves downlink speeds of up to 11 Mbps nearly a mile from the BelAir nodes. Although St. Thomas' hilly terrain is susceptible to tropical storms and intense heat during the summer, BelAir and Choice both claim the network will be able to weather the elements to offer service to the island's 50,000 permanent residents and to 2 million tourists a year.

(Thanks Alicia!)

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