As oversell in the wireless industry continues apace its fairly apparent that existing networks can’t keep up with demand. AT&T is the glowing example, unable to manage the enormous data demands placed upon it’s networks by iPhone users, resulting in slow service and dropped calls. Qualcomm, a mobile data service provider, has offered up an obvious solution: make the networks denser.
Obvious, yes, but not in an obvious way. Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm’s CEO, says that by using femto networks on top of existing networks it’s possible to get “eight to 10 times improvement in user experience.” Patrick Mannion of RF Design Line describes femto networks, or femtocells, as “a low-cost, low-power cellular basestation that provides improved indoor coverage while backhauling the cellular traffic over a broadband connection.” Femtocells are preferred to a Wi-Fi option because the networks are more reliable and they allow wireless providers to keep control over revenue that would otherwise be lost if signals were carried on Wi-Fi.
John Walko, of the EE Times, is reporting that AT&T is currently experimenting with femtocell networks in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sprint has similar testing underway in Denver and Indianapolis.
Blackberry users will no longer have to feel let down by their inability to download music wirelessly. UK-based service provider 7digital and RIM have made good on their promise of an over-the-air music download service for Blackberry. 7digital’s application is now available on the Blackberry App World Store.
The absolutely free app provides access to 7digital’s 6 million track-strong library of DRM-free music. Users can download low-quality tracks when on the move. Such downloads are automatically replaced with high bit-rate tracks (usually 320kbps) when the device is connected to a Wi-Fi network. The majority of tracks and albums are priced at $.77 and $7.77, respectively. Smartphones supported at launch are the BlackBerry Bold, BlackBerry Curve 8900, BlackBerry Tour, BlackBerry Curve 8520 and BlackBerry Storm.
Netgear announced their latest foray into the open source wireless router realm with the Netgear WNR3500L. Cisco based Linksys routers targeted at consumers have been flaunting the Linux OS for quite some time. However, Netgear has plans to become a favorite amongst the open source networking community.
The WNR3500L rocks the latest 802.11n support and is fully customizable with the latest open source firmware out there: DD-WRT, OpenWRT, and Tomato. Som Pal Choudhury, senior product line manager for advanced wireless, also mentioned their “Development Partner Program, with multiple software vendors and developers creating customized, robust, commercial-grade applications on the WNR3500L.”
In addition to the open source community, Netgear has collaborated with software application companies to deliver applications such as hotspot software by Sputnik, and remote access by Leaf Networks, among others, to run additionally on the Linux platform.
In terms of hardware, it sports a 480MHz MIPS 74K CPU, 8MB of flash memory, 64MB of RAM, 5 gigabit Ethernet ports, and USB ports for shared peripherals. Netgear will launch the router this Fall with a starting price of $139.99.
The price is a bit steep; do you think the flexibility of Linux and additional software, not to mention full 802.11n support is worth the price tag?
Countless standards exist for sending data over the air, but even devices that are designed to be 100 percent wireless end up needing to be plugged in eventually. Sure some gadgets like the Palm Pre allow for wireless charging via electromagnetic induction, but somehow the milliamps required to accomplish this just isn’t as impressive as Sony’s latest demonstration which showed a 22-inch LCD being powered wirelessly using a source that was almost 20 inches away.
Currently they are calling the technology “magnetic resonance”, and it works by transferring energy between two coils using a magnetic field. By tuning the coils to the same resonant frequency, energy can be moved safely, even when the two coils are not aligned. It also allows them to keep metal objects that get in the way from heating up.
Early tests show both the promise, and the limitations of this new technology. Currently the power transfer is only 80 percent efficient, and with a range of only 20 inches, they clearly still have some work to do before this goes mainstream. The announcement which was made on Friday was only to demonstrate their progress, and it will likely still be several years before anything like this starts appearing in commercial products.
Okay, so this isn’t a testla coil, but are you comfortable with the idea of electricity being wireless?
The folks over at the University of Utah are working on using wireless networking equipment to see through walls. Yep, they are trying to turn your wifi network into an investigative x-ray machine.
Well, it is slightly more complicated than that. They set up a 34-node wireless network and used principals similar to sonar to aggregate the movement of objects behind physical objects. You can practically hear the excitement from all the spy-happy teenagers. Joey Wilson and Neal Patwari’s intentions were much more altruistic.
Obviously, privacy is a concern. But let’s face it, you’ve got nothing to hide so long as you aren’t a terrorist, hostage wrangler, or scantily clad getting out of the shower.
More details about why they did it after the jump.
It’s not all good news, though. AT&T is asking $299 after a $100 mail in rebate, and 2 year service agreement. Optional Nüvifone Premium service will show the user traffic updates, white pages, weather, movies, local events, and fuel prices. However, it will run you an extra $5.99 per month after an initial 30 day trial.
The G60 is basically a high end Garmin GPS, with phone functionality thrown in. It is said to have a full HTML browser with data access through both HSDPA and WiFi. A 3.5 inch touchscreen and 3 megapixel autofocus camera round out the specs. Just for fun, all pics taken with the camera will automatically be geotagged. Given the price, are you considering dropping some cash on one?
The deployment of new wireless standards is usually painfully slow. If Verizon is to be believed however, the rollout of the carrier’s LTE network could be lightning-fast by comparison. Verizon CTO Tony Melone said recently that the company had no intention of “teasing” customers with tiny LTE coverage areas, and promised the rollout “will be as close to all-at-once as possible.”
LTE is a 4G standard that will replace Verizon’s current CDMA/EV-DO network. LTE will be able to use a significant part of the existing infrastructure, meaning faster deployment. Verizon hasn’t given any specific dates, but says that there will be 25 to 30 markets covered with LTE in 2010 alone. They expect their entire network to be switched over to LTE within two to three years.
Malone indicated that Verizon had already certified 55 devices for use on their LTE network, but many are not consumer level. When complete, the new network will support various types of smartphones, and other devices that require data connections, like e-readers.
WiMAX provider Clearwire has expanded its Silicon Valley network to cover the Google and Intel campuses. This development is a long time coming as the two tech behemoths are principal investors in Clearwire. Cisco is another partner and expects to have Clearwire coverage soon. Everyone else in the San Francisco Bay Area can expect the 4G service at some point in 2010.
The service is capable of up to 10 Mbps down, with an average of around 3-6 Mbps. That’s probably a few times faster than any 3G wireless data service you’ve used in the US. Leading up the public launch, select developers will be given free access, provided they live or work in the so called "Innovation Network" coverage area. They need only purchase a $50 USB modem. Certainly a good deal if you’re a developer who wants to work with WiMAX. So, how much would you pay for WiMAX service like this?
After a long seven years of development and tweaking, the IEEE has finally approved the 802.11n high-throughput wireless LAN standard.
The new standard, which is reportedly capable of throughput of 300Mbps, has been changed six times since its first conception. And, according to the IEEE, all existing WiFi certified 802.11 Draft N wireless products will work with the final standard.
No word as to when the standard will make its way to market.
As we get ready to put 2009 in our rear view mirror, so too will we look back at power cords as a thing of the past. Or at least that's how Eric Blier, CEO of WiTricity, predicts the near future. According to Glier, laptops, phones, and other electronic devices will start operating without a power cord within a year, and be mainstream not long afterward.
"Five years from now, this will seem completely normal," Glier said.
We've already seen wireless pads and other similar de-tethering contraptions, but Glier, whose company is a spin-off of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology research group, is hard at work on a technology called "magnetically coupled resonance." Put simply, this technology sends a magnetic field through the air at a specific frequency, which is then received by a compatible phone or other electronic device and turned back into electricity.
Glier says the technology won't significantly impact the price of MP3 players and other affordable gadgets, and the environmental benefits are pretty straightforward. But what health risks might be involved are yet to be seen.