Tag Archives: Mobile & Wireless

Netgear, is now on board with their own system: provides some big-time competition for those two companies

One of the market leaders in that space, Netgear, is now on board with their own system, which not only validates the concept provided by eero and Luma, but now provides some big-time competition for those two companies.

The devices come pre-paired together, so there’s no need to go through a setup process indicating which one is used for which scenario (the ‘router’ label connects to the broadband device, and the ‘satellite’ unit goes in the other part of the house – Netgear recommends putting it as close to the ‘center’ of the house as possible).Netgear yesterday announced its Orbi WiFi System ($399.99, available in September), a two-device system consisting of a “router” and “satellite” that customers can connect to their broadband modem (cable, DSL or other connection).

Over the past few weeks I’ve written about Wi-Fi startups eero and Luma and how their new wireless mesh systems are changing the home network wireless market with easier setup and larger coverage than compared with traditional Wi-Fi routers and range extenders.

 

Netgear Orbi router satellite NETGEAR
The Orbi system from Netgear includes a pre-paired and labeled ‘router’ and ‘satellite’ device.

 Netgear officials say this method provides for higher bandwidth (it uses about 1.7Gbps of that frequency band) than other wireless mesh systems, especially when more client devices (tablets, phones, TVs, etc.) are all competing for wireless network access.The Orbi system utilizes so-called “Tri-band Wi-Fi”, taking one of the bands within the 5 GHz frequency to provide a dedicated channel between the router device and the satellite.

Other technical details of the Orbi system include:

* Coverage up to 4,000 square feet

* A single Wi-Fi network name (SSID) for the entire network – 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands (other routers include separate names for those bands)

* Four Gigabit Ethernet ports and a single USB 2.0 port on the back of the ‘router’ and ‘satellite’ units.

* Advanced router features, including  IPv6 support, dynamic DNS, port forwarding and parental controls.

* Security support for 64/128-bit WEP, WPA/WPA-2 PSK and WPA/WPA-2 Enterprise.

Once I get my hands on a couple of the Orbi devices I’ll let you know how it compares with the eero and Luma. When I talked with Netgear about the system, I was encouraged that setup can be done via a browser in addition to the smartphone/tablet app, as old fogies like me still prefer doing setup via their notebook. In addition, the ability to tweak advanced settings is something that older guys like me (or network pros) would appreciate.

MIT researchers have found a way to transfer wireless data using a smartphone at a speed about three times faster

Multiple independent transmitters will be able to send data over the same wireless channel to multiple independent receivers without interfering with each other.The researchers developed a technique to coordinate multiple wireless transmitters by synchronizing their wave phases, according to a statement from MIT on Tuesday.

Since wireless spectrum is scarce, and network congestion is only expected to grow, the technology could have important implications.

The researchers called the approach MegaMIMO 2.0 (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) .

MIT researchers have found a way to transfer wireless data using a smartphone at a speed about three times faster and twice as far as existing technology.

For their experiments, the researchers set up four laptops in a conference room setting, allowing signals to roam over 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi. The speed and distance improvement is expected to also apply to cellular networks. A video describes the technology as well as a technical paper (registration required), which was presented this week to the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Data Communications (SIGCOMM 16).

The researchers, from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, are: Ezzeldin Hamed, Hariharan Rahul, Mohammed Abdelghany and Dina Katabi.

Google Fiber is reportedly hoping to rely on wireless technology instead of fiber

Google’s parent company Alphabet has also suspended Google Fiber gigabit speed projects in San Jose, Calif., and Portland, Ore., according to unnamed sources in a Wall Street Journal report.

If Google Fiber plans to rely widely on wireless technology to offer fast internet, it would be a sound move that could improve its competitive edge against traditional internet service providers.

Google Fiber officials could not be reached to comment on the report. The report also said that Google Fiber is also hoping to boost its high-speed internet expansion by leasing existing fiber or asking cities or power companies to build the networks, instead of Google Fiber building its own.

Google Fiber is reportedly hoping to rely on wireless technology instead of fiber-optic cables in about 12 major cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas, where it has planned faster internet service.

So far, Google Fiber has reached six metro areas, starting first in the Kansas City area in late 2012. The process has cost hundreds of millions of dollars, analysts estimated, owing to the expensive process of digging up streets and properties in front of homes and businesses to lay fiber.

At its inception, many analysts thought Alphabet only created Google Fiber to push more fast internet expansion by traditional providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.

“At first, we didn’t think Google Fiber was going to be a real business and, rather, was just a way for Google to tweak internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable into rolling out ultrafast internet service,” said independent analyst Jeff Kagan on Monday. “That was the beginning of the ultra-fast internet race.”

Google Fiber has not said how many customers it has in Kansas City or elsewhere. Its Google Fiber official blog continues to tout recent improvements in its service, including the most recent blog from July 12 indicating three new small business internet plans, including one for $250 a month for 1 Gbps upload and download speeds with no data caps.

Small businesses in Charlotte, N.C.; Kansas City; Provo, Utah; Austin, Texas, and Nashville are eligible for the three plans.

The likelihood that Google Fiber would rely on wireless instead of fiber-optic cable where possible should come as no surprise, analysts said. Other ISPs have either rolled out or have plans to deploy smaller cellular equipment for shorter distances to connect homes and businesses to the nearest high-speed fiber optic cable. Sometimes that wireless link could be a short distance of less than 100 feet from a building to a street or a longer distance of a few blocks. There are a wide variety of so-called “small cell” outdoor devices already on the market, some of them called “picocells” that can be as small as a shoebox and light enough to hang on a light pole, utility pole or even on a bus stop shelter.

“As wireless has grown and changed traditional telecom, it is also changing traditional internet connectivity,” Kagan said. “Wireless internet connectivity looks like it might be very big over the next several years.”

Kagan said AT&T Gigapower is leading Google Fiber in citywide fast internet fiber rollouts, but wireless could help Google pick up the pace and match AT&T.

“This latest reported move by Google toward wireless may mean we are starting to see a real horse-race beginning,” Kagan said. “It could let Google move into more cities, more quickly.”

Speed of deployment with wireless could be the vital ingredient to keep Google Fiber competitive.

“Wireless has a lot of advantages, including the speed at which it can be installed at an individual home, office or apartment building versus having to do a cable drop to each premise,” said Gartner analyst Bill Menezes.

“That means fewer truck rolls, and the service provider can ship the customer premise receiver with self-installation software, instead of doing an on-site install, cutting the [capital and operating expenses],” Menezes added.

However, Menezes said Google’s testing of the effectiveness and speed of wireless technology will be crucial. If Google decides to rely on wireless technology that uses a higher frequency, it will transit over a short distance and have poor in-building penetration, he said. In turn, that could mean more outdoor antennas, possibly one affixed to every premise that Google Fiber would want to serve.

Google and other companies are also testing the use of unlicensed spectrum. “That effort seems to be the linchpin, because if Google Fiber had to pay to acquire large amounts of spectrum in licensed frequencies, that would seem to eat up a lot of the capex savings of going wireless versus installing fiber to the home,” Menezes said.

In April, Google began testing wireless connections in Kansas City in the 3.5 GHz spectrum, which is called the “innovation band” by federal officials. That test is expected to last up to 18 months.

A previous attempt, in the 1990s, to offer “wireless cable” under a plan called a Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service wasn’t successful, as was the rollout of WiMax, a technology that relies partly on microwave transmissions and was fostered primarily by Sprint and Clearwire in the U.S. Sprint killed the WiMax network in early 2016.

“The enabling wireless technology has improved significantly since those failures, but we’re still waiting for someone to do this successfully at a large scale in the marketplace,” Menezes said.

It’s taken more steps toward compromise since backers of LTE-Unlicensed slammed a coexistence workshop

LTE-U is a system for running LTE networks in some of the unlicensed frequencies used by Wi-Fi. The workshop, the latest of several intended to make sure LTE-U doesn’t unfairly interfere with Wi-Fi, brought together participants that want to use the new cellular system as well as those devoted to Wi-Fi.

The Wi-Fi Alliance says it’s taken more steps toward compromise since backers of LTE-Unlicensed slammed a coexistence workshop that took place last week. But those moves haven’t brought about wireless peace just yet.

Representatives of both sides are supposed to be working toward consensus on a test to make sure LTE-U and Wi-Fi products can get along. But some LTE-U backers objected to aspects of the proposed test plan after the workshop last week.

When it was done, the Alliance said a test for coexistence was on track for completion next month. However, LTE-U supporters, including Qualcomm, said the whole effort was technically unsound and biased against them.

On Thursday, the Wi-Fi Alliance said that two issues that were left open after the workshop have been resolved in favor of the LTE-U contingent.

First, the alliance abandoned a part of the test plan that would have looked at how well Wi-Fi and LTE-U radios in the same device could work simultaneously. Opponents had said that test was beyond the scope of the project.

Also, the alliance agreed to use Wi-Fi gear from multiple vendors to establish baseline performance levels for the tests. In order to get the tests going sooner, the alliance had previously planned to use equipment from just one company, said Kevin Robinson, vice president of marketing. Now he’s confident the test plan can be finished in time with multiple vendors’ equipment.

Reached on Thursday, Qualcomm wasn’t won over yet.

“The WFA staff has not yet issued a revised test plan dropping the in-device coexistence test, which was totally beyond the scope of this effort, or establishing a multi-vendor Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi baseline,” said Dean Brenner, senior vice president of government affairs, in an emailed statement.

In addition, Qualcomm still says the test plan is biased against LTE-U, which would be sharing spectrum that’s unlicensed – meaning it doesn’t belong to any one technology. Interference can go both ways.

“The plan would still require LTE-U to provide 100 times more protection to Wi-Fi in all environments than Wi-Fi would provide to LTE-U,” Brenner said.

According to Robinson, the effort’s been anything but a one-way street.

“All sides have had to compromise to get to the point where we are,” he said.

The parties involved will meet again soon. In about a week, they’re scheduled to get together for a hands-on test event to finalize the test plan, Robinson said.

FCC settlement with Wi-Fi router maker a win for open source advocates

“The Commission’s equipment rules strike a careful balance of spurring innovation while protecting against harmful interference,” said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau, in a statement.  “While manufacturers of Wi-Fi routers must ensure reasonable safeguards to protect radio parameters, users are otherwise free to customize their routers and we support TP-Link’s commitment to work with the open-source community and Wi-Fi chipset manufacturers to enable third-party firmware on TP-Link routers.”

The FCC and TP-Link have agreed to a creative settlement that slaps the home and SMB Wi-Fi router maker with a $200K fine for violating wireless emission rules, but also requires the vendor to work with the open source community and chipset makers to allow modification of TP-Link devices.

UPDATE (8/8/16): It reads in part: “The recently executed Consent Decree between TP-Link and the FCC is strictly related to FCC power-level restrictions. While TP-Link products that were shipped/in market met FCC power levels, there was a potential that customers who changed their router settings could unintentionally manipulate power levels outside of mandated FCC regulations. TP-Link issued an Aug. 5 statement about the consent decree on its website and updated its FAQ for open source firmware. Compliant firmware was made available via the company’s website in late 2015, which we encourage customers to download and update their routers.”

The FCC last year angered those who like to install third-party firmware on their Wi-Fi routers when it proposed a rule requiring vendors to design their 5GHz radio devices in such a way that their power levels would not create interference. In fact, the FCC issued a clarification titled “Clearing the Air on Wi-Fi Software Updates” last November in response to complaints, such as from a Save WiFi campaign that popped up.

While the FCC did not force vendors to completely lock down their devices, some vendors – including TP-Link – decided to do so. Others, such as Linksys and Asus said they would work to support third-party firmware, enabling modders to extend the range of their routers or add other capabilities enabled by technologies such as OpenWrt.

In fining TP-Link, the Enforcement Bureau cited the company for marketing certain Wi-Fi routers in the U.S. with a user setting that violated Section 15.15(b) of the FCC’s rules. TP-Link has agreed to nix sales of noncompliant models and build new models in compliance.

But it’s the requirement that TP-Link work with the open source community and chipset makers that stands out in this settlement.

AT&T and Verizon — have pivoted beyond their traditional business in the search for alternative revenues

Those purchases — the latest being Verizon’s announcement Monday to snap up Yahoo for $4.8 billion — came about because the carriers realized more than two years ago that traditional wireless services are becoming saturated in the U.S. As a result, wireless services revenues have shrunk or remained flat in recent quarters.

With their purchases of DirecTV, AOL and Yahoo, the nation’s two biggest wireless carriers — AT&T and Verizon — have pivoted beyond their traditional business in the search for alternative revenues.

AT&T’s total revenues were up 22.7%, reaching $40.5 billion, primarily because of increased revenues from DirecTV, which it purchased in 2014.

The latest second quarter 2016 financial results show that AT&T Mobility — the division that oversees wireless service revenues — saw a 2.1% decline to $17.9 billion from the same quarter in 2015.

For Verizon, comparable wireless services revenue declined by 4% to $21.7 billion in the second quarter. Verizon’s total revenues were down 5.3% to $30.5 billion.

There was no indication in the report of a positive impact from Verizon’s AOL purchase in 2015, although Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam talked about the “complementary” value that will come from integrating Yahoo with AOL.

In addition to buying other companies, both carriers are pursuing revenue from Internet of Things technology. Verizon said it got $205 million in that segment, a jump of 25%. AT&T didn’t report the segment separately in the latest report.

The focus on new forms of revenue comes because both companies saw a ceiling on wireless services.

Market saturation

“AT&T and Verizon both figured out a while ago that when you each have 30% or more of the market in a very competitive wireless services market, that there’s not that much room for growth,” Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, said in an interview. “Rather than doubling down on the same strategy, you have to come up with something better.”

Buying both Yahoo and AOL in 2015 helps make Verizon into a full-service wireless internet provider, while AT&T’s purchase of DirecTV in 2014 helps the company “become your connected service provider for every screen,” as Entner described it.

One consequence of these market shifts? T-Mobile “is now the most traditional wireless carrier in the market,” Entner added. Joking about T-Mobile’s healthy strides with its UnCarrier price-cutting and other moves, he added: “The UnCarrier is the most carrier of them all.”

Chris Antlitz, an analyst at Technology Business Research, offered a different take on the newfound revenue strategies.

“Both companies generate the highest margins of profit on their wireless business and both want to stay positioned as the premium providers,” Anglitz said. “They are making sure they hold onto the best customers with the highest credit scores. They are taking the cash flow from the traditional wireless business and redeploying it into growth areas — mainly digital ads and Internet of things.”

The most profitable of these new businesses is widely expected to involve new advertising technology platforms. Customer data from AOL and Yahoo, combined with Verizon’s own internal customer data, means the carrier will be able to charge a premium for highly targeted internet advertising and will have a global base of customers not limited to the U.S., Anglitz said.

AT&T is also interested in digital advertising, “but they are more covert about it than Verizon and their work is more homegrown,” Antlitz said.

Protecting the wireless service market

Although AT&T and Verizon have pursued new markets, traditional wireless phone service will continue to deliver up to 90% of each company’s business, Antlitz predicted. As a result, customers are likely to continue to hear both companies brag about having the best network coverage and overall quality of service.

To that point, Verizon this week announced it had spent $5 billion in the first six months of 2016 on network enhancements. That’s a total of $116 billion since 2000, the company said.

Verizon also noted it has faster wireless speeds in 37 states, according to the latest RootMetrics national performance study.

AT&T meanwhile today announced it had snagged the top ranking in the latest Wireless Customer Care rankings from J.D. Power. The ranking is based on a survey of 7,556 U.S. wireless customers in the first half of 2016. The top spot was previously held by T-Mobile.

AT&T and Verizon are the nation’s two largest carriers by a large margin over T-Mobile and Sprint. Based on pre-paid and post-paid wireless customers, Verizon has 113 million, AT&T has 89.9 million, T-Mobile has 52.5 million and Sprint has 45.3 million.

FCC emphasizes that users of authorized wireless gear must obey rules

Just because your wireless equipment is authorized for use by the FCC doesn’t mean you can do whatever the heck you please with it, according to an enforcement advisory issued by the commission just before the long weekend (see the entire warning below).

“Authorized equipment must be used in a manner that complies with federal law and the Commission’s rules,” reads the advisory, in part.

Other examples include using broadcast transmitters to run pirate radio stations and using authorized wireless routers on unauthorized channels at disallowed power levels.

One longtime wireless industry expert, who asked not to be named, says www.gina-shop.com“the examples they give, along with some recent enforcement activities, say it all.  They keep running across people and organizations who are using legitimate functions of wireless devices in ways that are inconsistent with the regs.  Said people and organizations then try to make the claim that if the function works at all, it must be consistent with the regs.”

In other words, the expert says, the Enforcement Bureau is “telling people, in polite terms, ‘Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law, so understand the regulations and don’t violate them.'”

 

In fining big hospitality outfits like Marriott and others tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for wrongdoing, the FCC has shown it isn’t messing around. It encourages those who suspect equipment is being misused to make note of it at the FCC’s new Consumer Complaint Data Center.

While the advisory might appear to be stating the obvious, an FCC spokesman elaborates that “the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau is taking proactive measures to decrease the number of complaints about the use of authorized equipment in a manner that is not compliant with their authorizations.  Reducing complaint volume helps us handle those that do come in in a timely manner. The issue is an ongoing, steady problem.”

One example of such rule-breaking is Wi-Fi hotspot blocking, in which organizations interfere with others’ rights to use shared spectrum, often in the name of security. As we documented in a Network World report earlier this year based on a Freedom of Information Act request for complaints filed about Wi-Fi blocking, the public continues to find fault with hotels, casinos and other organizations on this front.

 

FCC Enforcement Advisory

Google Fiber Offer Customers A Combination of Fiber And Wireless Delivery of high-speed Internet. with Webpass acquisition

For Google Fiber, which has typically worked with cities in planning and building a fiber network from scratch, the acquisition will give the Alphabet business a headstart in many markets, particularly in dense urban areas.

Google Fiber is acquiring Internet service provider Webpass to quickly increase its urban coverage and offer customers a combination of fiber and wireless delivery of high-speed Internet.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Google did not immediately comment on the acquisition.

It has operations in San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, San Diego, Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Chicago and Boston. Webpass in San Francisco owns and operates its Ethernet network, thus removing its dependence on phone and cable companies.The company offers business connections from 10 to 1,000 Mbps and to residential customers service from 100 Mbps to 1Gbps.

Google is already working in San Francisco, where Webpass also operates, and is negotiating with property owners and managers in buildings near existing fiber infrastructure to explore connecting their residents to gigabit Internet.

Google Fiber has earlier indicated that it would like to use wireless besides fiber for the delivery of Internet services to customers. In April, it obtained approval to test Internet delivery on 3.5GHz spectrum in parts of Kansas City that could result in fast, short-range wireless connections to serve areas not reached by Google Fiber.

Webpass will help to further expand that coverage as it will remain focused on the rapid deployment of high-speed Internet connections for residential and commercial buildings, mainly using point-to-point wireless, Webpass President Charles Barr said in a blog post Wednesday that announced the proposed acquisition.

“Google Fiber’s resources will enable Webpass to grow faster and reach many more customers than we could as a standalone company,” Barr wrote.

“Great news! We look forward to welcoming @Webpass to the Google Fiber team once the deal has closed,” Google Fiber wrote in a tweet.

The companies expect the deal to close this summer, subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

Apple Fixes Serious Flaw In AirPort Wireless Routers By Releasing Firmware Updates

Apple has released firmware updates for its AirPort wireless base stations in order to fix a vulnerability that could put the devices at risk of hacking.

The company released firmware updates 7.6.7 and 7.7.7 for AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule base stations with 802.11n Wi-Fi, as well as AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule base stations with 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

According to Apple security, the flaw is a memory corruption issue stemming from DNS (Domain Name System) data parsing that could lead to arbitrary code execution.

The AirPort Utility 6.3.1 or later on OS X or AirPort Utility 1.3.1 or later on iOS can be used to install the new firmware versions on AirPort devices, the company said in an advisory.

However “arbitrary code execution,” especially through a remote vector like DNS, is as bad as it can possibly get for a vulnerability.As is typical for Apple security announcements, the company did not release details about possible exploitation scenarios and did not assign a severity rating for the flaw.

What is not clear is whether the data parsing issue is in the DNS server or DNS client functionality.

A router like AirPort can serve as a local DNS resolver for devices on a network. This means that it receives DNS queries from computers and passes those queries upstream through the global Internet DNS chain.

On the other hand, routers also act like DNS clients, asking other DNS servers on the Internet to resolve host names.

If the error is in the parsing of queries received from LAN computers, it would limit the attack to the local network. Whereas, if the flaw is in the parsing of DNS responses, it could be exploited remotely.

When a DNS client asks a server to resolve a domain name, the query is eventually passed to one of the Internet’s 13 so-called root DNS servers — in reality clusters of servers. Those servers indicate the authoritative DNS server for the queried domain name and it’s that authoritative server that replies with the requested information.

Attackers could register rogue domain names and configure the authoritative DNS server for them to respond with specifically crafted data that would exploit the flaw. They would then have to trick a computer from behind an AirPort router to send a DNS query for one of their domain names, for example by tricking a user to click on a link.

Another unknown is the privilege with which attackers would execute malicious code if this flaw is successfully exploited. If the code is executed under the root account, it could lead to a full device compromise.

By controlling an AirPort device, attackers could launch various attacks against local network computers. They could hijack search queries, insert rogue ads into Web pages and even direct users to malicious websites when they try to access legitimate ones.

Giving the potentially serious impact of this vulnerability and the fact that DNS is a critical service that can’t be easily disabled, users are advised to install the updated firmware as soon as possible.

FCC nears vote to bring superfast 5G networks to the U.S. Consumers

The FCC, during its July 14 meeting, will vote on a proposal to open up a whopping 14 gigahertz of high-band spectrum to unlicensed wireless use, Chairman Tom Wheeler said Monday. Wheeler didn’t offer a lot of details about the proposal during his speech.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will move to open up high-frequency spectrum to not-yet-available 5G mobile services in an effort to bring the superfast wireless connections to U.S. consumers.

“We will be repeating the proven formula that made the United States the world leader in 4G,” Wheeler said in a speech. “It’s a simple formula: Lead the world in spectrum availability, encourage and protect innovation-driving competition, and stay out of the way of technological development.”

If the commission approves the so-called spectrum frontiers proposal, the U.S. will be the first nation to open up high-band spectrum to 5G networks and applications, Wheeler said. “That’s damn important because it means U.S. companies will be first out of the gate,” he added.

It’s important for the U.S. to lead in 5G deployment, said Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of mobile trade group CTIA.

The new mobile standard “will connect nearly everything with high-speed networks 10 times faster than those today and capable of supporting 100 times the number of devices, including the Internet of Things,” she wrote in a blog post. “Our homes and our cities will become even more connected, reducing energy consumption and improving our community services.”

The superfast mobile networks will also enable mobile health services, collision avoidance capabilities for cars, and new educational opportunities enabled by virtual and augmented reality, Baker added.

U.S. companies are already gearing up to offer 5G services, with AT&T and Verizon planning trials in 2017, Wheeler said. The first commercial service should be available in about 2020, he added.

“I have seen 5G hardware and firmware; the technology is here,” he said. “It is also important, however, to recognize that 5G technology will be in constant evolution. It would be a mistake to think 5G can be frozen in a snapshot; it is more like a video with many new scenes, all building on each other.”

Proponents of 5G say it will allow thousands of simultaneous users to get download speeds in the tens of megabits per second, or 1 gigabit per second for smaller groups. The technology may also provide better coverage than current 4G wireless networks.

The new 5G services will be able to use now-fallow high-band spectrum because of technological advances in computing and antennas, Wheeler said.