Muni WiFi still has utility, and at least two utilities

Originally, it was just the poles in Chaska that had a retro look.

The first generation of municipal wireless providers is mostly gone, as fiber takes precedence and mobile networks grow. One of the survivors deserves particular mention: the City of Chaska, Minnesota.

I visited Chaska several times in the course of building and running a similar WiFi-based broadband utility in Lompoc, California. Chaska’s project led ours by a few months and the lessons learned there saved us time, money and a lot of trouble.… More

Apple plays market leader again with Hotspot 2.0

13 June 2013 by Steve Blum
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Seamless offloading of cellular data traffic onto WiFi networks is a big step closer. Apple announced that version 7 of iOS and the next generation of iPhones will support the Hotspot 2.0 standard. The new capability should start appearing this fall.

The idea is to allow users to automatically authenticate on a WiFi hotspot blessed by their carrier when it’s available. Data traffic would then be routed via WiFi until the user moves out of range.… More

An invisible hand for wireless broadband

6 June 2013 by Steve Blum
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What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Shortages are often – some would say always – the result of a market failure. Supply and demand are functions of both the physical availability of a good or service and the price deemed acceptable by both parties in the transaction. If the balancing mechanisms don’t exist, suppliers are left with unsold inventory and buyers do without.

Wireless bandwidth is a classic example. Who hasn’t tried to connect a smart phone and found no mobile carrier signal and only locked down WiFi?… More

Real world planning brings real free WiFi to Santa Clara

Free WiFi coverage in most of Santa Clara.

It’s a beautiful thing when the pieces fall into place and a city can maximize the value of past investments and decisions. Particularly when it means better and cheaper broadband service.

Santa Clara is rolling out an elegant solution for universal Internet access. The city owns and operates its own electric utility, and put in a fiber optic network to support it. The fiber’s reach is limited – it’s definitely not FTTH scale – but it’s enough to make broadband connectivity relatively easy throughout the city and keep the cost of Internet bandwidth down.… More

Globalstar's terrestrial WiFi will help satellite customers too

9 March 2013 by Steve Blum
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Won’t have to party like it’s 1999 anymore.

Globalstar is the latest satellite operator to discover the possibility of boosting return on investment by using assigned frequencies on the ground (h/t to David Witkowski for the heads up).

Globalstar has slice of spectrum immediately adjacent to the 2.4 GHz unlicensed band that’s heavily used for WiFi. The thinking is that customers can do a quick software update to extend a WiFi device’s frequency range a bit and then use Globalstar’s channel to access the Internet via a pay wall.… More

AT&T fails to offload traffic to WiFi

22 February 2013 by Steve Blum
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AT&T must’ve hired the same guy who invented premium lifeboat pricing on the Titanic.

AT&T’s public WiFi network is not the offload destination of choice for its smart phone customers, according to usage data from January 2013. Instead, customers prefer to log onto randomly available hotspots where ever they might be – home, work or in a pub.

In the U.S., only 3% of a typical smart phone user’s WiFi traffic goes via a WiFi access point managed by his or her’s primary mobile carrier.… More

Collateral damage could kill hotspots

Toll barrier coming down on free range WiFi.

Free public WiFi access might be an unintended casualty of the imminent onslaught of the Copyright Alert System, otherwise known as the Six Strikes rule. I say “might” because I’m not completely sure that the damage will be unintentional. There’s no doubt there will be damage.

This joint effort by major U.S. ISPs and the recording and movie industry associations is a monitoring program that watches Internet traffic for illegal downloading activity.… More

Not much difference between airline passengers and a bag of potatoes

This is your captain speaking.

Good news from Boeing, just in time for the holiday flying madness. With the growing popularity of on-board WiFi, engineers there needed to figure out how it propagates in an airline cabin.

There’s no mathematical model for predicting what happens to WiFi signals when you have a few hundred people packed together inside of a metal tube. So they came up with a testing protocol.

Boeing is proud of the fact that it only requires about ten hours to complete the series of tests.… More

Oh, you mean a Maxwell Smart home

“Chaos is an opportunity for people like me,” said Tom Kadlec, one of the founders of The Homeworks Group. They do the hard work of integrating and managing home automation systems for about a thousand subscribers. Both he and his partner have electrical engineering degrees, which is great for them but not so good for the home handyman who majored in, say, political science.

Come quick, 99. I’m surrounded by ARMed phones.

Protocol agnostic and easy to use: home automation needs heavy helpings of both if it’s to ever find its secret sauce.… More

Unnatural opportunity in M2M

10 January 2012 by Steve Blum
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Consumer electronics products have a natural limit to growth. With only 7 billion or so people on the planet, even if some people buy more than one of any gizmo you can’t get past, say, 10 billion deployed units within the life cycle of any given product category.

Of course, that’s a theoretical limit, as a practical matter even one billion is wildly out of reach for the vast majority of products. The mobile phone has hit the 6 billion range, because it’s a personal item rather than a family purchase, such as, for example, a television.… More