Wee-Fi: Intel’s Wi-Fi PAN Released; Eye-Fi iPhone App

Wee-Fi: Intel’s Wi-Fi PAN Released; Eye-Fi iPhone App

Intel releases driver update to create simultaneous peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network and local area network connection: Intel started talking about its Cliffside project months ago, and EE Times reports that the silicon manipulator has released software for Centrino 2 laptops that allows simultaneous PAN (Personal Area Network) and LAN (Local Area Network) use.

PANs are used for gadgets and syncing: cameras, keyboards, printers, and such; LANs are used for network connections for file transfer, Internet access, and applications. Combining PAN and LAN into Wi-Fi without making a tradeoff is an interesting strategy, but it assumes that everything you’ll want to use in a PAN has Wi-Fi built in. Bluetooth still has an advantage of both chip size and power usage over even the most efficient Wi-Fi, and most compact Wi-Fi chipsets are now being sold as integrated packages with Bluetooth on board.

Eye-Fi to offer iPhone application: Eye-Fi will offer a free application that lets owners of its Secure Digital (SD) format Wi-Fi memory card to upload pictures from the iPhone to computers and online sharing services. Eye-Fi is also working on direct video-to-YouTube uploads from its memory card.

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Clearwire Opens Portland Network

Clearwire has finally launched a second city: Portland, Ore., close by to Intel’s headquarters in Beaverton, finally gets WiMax coverage. This is the first network under the Clear brand, the service that’s being deployed by the new Clearwire, a merger of the old Clearwire and the WiMax assets of Sprint Nextel. Over 700 sq mi are covered in the metropolitan region.

It was a poorly kept secret that Intel employees have been using WiMax service in the area for a couple of years, starting at their campus and eventually expanding out as the network was lit up for testing. Portland is an ideal early commercial market, however, because there’s such a mix of old and new infrastructure, as well as suburbs and something like exurbs/rural not far from the city’s boundaries due to an urban growth boundary.

From what I can tell, the impetus to get a city-wide Wi-Fi network (started by MetroFi, but never completed) was because of the uneven ability to get high-speed broadband. Clearwire’s 768 Kbps to 6 Mbps residential service is price from $20 to $40 per month, which might be higher in some cases than comparable cable or DSL–but only if that cable or DSL is available. Business services may be far cheaper than landline offerings, while mobile and fixed bundles are much cheaper than anything the cell and wireline broadband companies can offer together so far.

Portland is served by Qwest, which is way behind in offering fiber-connected services, although it’s finally rolling them out. Some of the suburbs are handled by Verizon, which is offering Fios in some places, its fiber-to-the-home service. (GTE once had parts of Washington and Oregon, and that operation was eventually folded into Verizon.)

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Skype Resells Boingo Access in New Mac Beta

Skype has released a beta test version of its Mac OS X that offers per-minute hotspot access: The 2.8 beta, released today, works with Boingo Wireless’s worldwide aggregated hotspot footprint to allow metered access with no setup fee or monthly commitment.

Skype told me that they’re charging 19 U.S. cents or 14 euro cents per minute. That’s quite steep, except that they’re pitching this to people who need a few minutes at a time. Boingo likely hopes to sell a lot of subscriptions to people who find access addictive, and don’t want to pay over $10 per hour on a minute-by-minute basis.

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New York Parks Wi-Fi Shut Down

New York Parks Wi-Fi Shut Down

The company operating Wi-Fi in some New York parks is closing down: Eagle-eyed correspondent Klaus Ernst noted that the Wi-Fi in the parks project has shut down. Wi-Fi Salon, the concessionaire for most of the major parks, posted a message about the current economic conditions, but the note is undated.

I was always dubious about Wi-Fi Salon due to the surreal technical explanations made by its founder, its small size and lack of real-world experience, and the extensive delays in every step of the project. Ultimately, something closer to kiosks than coverage were erected, and I’ve never seen any usage numbers.

Community Wi-Fi organizers in New York City had a variety of other ideas about how to offer free Wi-Fi, but parks had its own agenda. Let’s see if they approach this differently this time around.

Update: Marshall Brown, Wi-Fi Salon’s founder, takes issue with my characterization of his operations. No one–especially me–ever claimed that building outdoor networks was easy. From all that’s happened in the last few years, it’s clear that building large, sustainable, free (sponsored or otherwise) networks requires many stakeholders, a diverse revenue stream, and real purposes for a network beyond public access.

Crain’s reports on the issue: Possibly prompted by my post (or by Brown’s outrage), Crain’s New York Business writes about the shut down and Brown’s new project, which has put Wi-Fi into Union Square. Brown’s new venture, Wired Towns, is talking to business improvement districts about outdoor Wi-Fi across New York City.

Yet another update: Sewell Chan of the New York Times provides more details about the timeline involved.

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The Week Ahead

It’s been a slow few weeks in Wi-Fi and wireless land; that should change this week: The holidays were quiet, but both the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Macworld Conference & Expo happen this week, and we’ll see some action. I’ll be at Macworld starting tomorrow evening; Apple might pull out a surprise. At CES, we’re likely to see quite a lot of gadgets and home-networking servers.

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