Thursday, August 31, 2006

Aruba going for IPO?

Aruba is planning an IPO, according to Unstrung, who are the kind of people who would know. Wireless LAN users will be interested because the company will have to publish
results (WLAN vendors have so far been pretty secretive), and also because it will come under the control of shareholders. We'll have to wait and see whether they are "ignorant", as Unstrung suggests.

I'd pretty much given up on any of the companies in this space actually going public. They're all founded on the premise of explosive growth, with the old model that they'll do an IPO and get loads of money that way, if they can't persuade Cisco or Nortel or one of the other big players to buy them first. That model hasn't worked this century (except for Airespace), largely because there's only really one company ( Cisco ) left that's ready and able to pay the sort of money the VCs would expect for these start-ups..

I've been thinking that enterprise WLANs is turning out to be the kind of slow-growing area where IPOs and big buy-outs just don't happen.

Aruba's new CEO, Dominic Orr, who I last met in June doesn't agree. Perhaps he's thinking of the kind of froth we've seen around Web 2.0, and VoIP players like Skype and Vonage (though Vonage's IPO was apparently a flop).

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Internet voice hits a time warp...

I just made a bid to catch up with the rest of the world, and found myself travelling back in time. I made a VoIP call from a public hotspot - And found myself using an old-fashioned red telephone box, and a phone that resembles my old 1990s Nokia, in a manner resembling the 1980s Rabbit network, where customers could make phone calls hanging around on street corners.

I've got a Vonage Wi-Fi phone on test, which can make calls from my home Wi-Fi, or any other hotspot that doesn't require a web browser and password. The Cloud has a deal to let Vonage calls through without any registration, so I can use this phone - at least in theory - at any Cloud hotspot.

I'm at the Techworld office in Gray's Inn Road, so I search for local hotspots, and try The Puzzle pub first. No joy there - there's Wi-Fi, but it claims to be BT OpenZone. So I head for a BT payphone in Bedford Way, where the Cloud also promises service.

Sure enough, there's not just a payphone, but an old fashioned callbox. My phone detects an access point, and I make a call.

I'm still unsure though. There's no visual evidence that this phone box is actually providing the Wi-Fi (it's metal - shouldn't there be an antenna on the outside?). And, though the phone did detect a Cloud hotspot, it's hard to tell whether it connected to that or another one...

Monday, August 28, 2006

802.11n rumours

I'm hearing rumours that there may be some kind of 802.11n progress in the next day or so. Nothing definite, but I've heard it's progress, rather than another "delay" (which is how most routine steps in the IEEE voting procedure tend to get mis-reported).

Meanwhle, what else is going on? The accepted wisdom is that MIMO is only for consumers right now, till the 802.11n standard is complete. That's certainly born out by Atheros' approach: the company is cutting the number of radios to make MIMO cheaper, so it's draft-n products will be even more attractive to consumers at Christmas. This confirms what everyone's saying - and what I (and everyone else) found in reviews of draft-n kit.

Despite all this, there is one company out there selling MIMO products aimed at the enterprise. Blusocket launched a MIMO access point earlier this year. We haven't yet reviewed it, and Bluesocket's market tends to be a bit niche-y, but they're getting some good coverage from one customer, Smart City Networks, that does the wireless networks for a bunch of US convention centres (or should that be centers?).

Unstrung reports that Smart City is using the Bluesocket MIMO kit for convention centres in Las Vegas and elsewhere - along with some background about how demanding that sort of environment is, indicating what a good test it will be of the MIMO performance.

It brings back the atmosphere of a few years ago, when Wi-Fi itself was emerging. Show nets were a good way to promote Wi-Fi, in an environment where there might be some users ready and willing to try it out. These networks were usually subsidised by the vendors, and often failed.

Now, show Wi-Fi is promoring the new-wave of Wi-Fi. Connection is more of an essential item now, so there's less of shopfront aspect, though I expect there's an element of subsidy here.

The picture of CES at Vegas is from Paul Thurtt's WinSupersite.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

HP shows its wireless stuff...

HP stumped up a 5300 switch and a wireless LAN module for Techworld to review. There's no big surprises in the review, but Dave Cartwright takes issue with the lack of GUI integration between the wireless module and the switch - and integration is supposed to be the name of the game, at this stage of the enterprise wireless LAN market.

We hear from various people that the HP wireless module is actually from Symbol, but HP insists its theirs. The lack of integration would suggest it's been bought in. I doubt there are any clues in the screenshot, but if anyone wants to study it, I'd be interested in comments. I've checked the MAC addresses, and they're a range owned by HP.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Wi-Fi: It's not as widespread as you think...

I've just been to Cornwall for a fortnight. I didn't feel the need to go online once.

But, for anyone who thinks Wi-Fi is everywhere now, there's good news and bad news. There's no public Wi-Fi in Mullion, the biggest village on the Lizard peninsula (the farthest south you can go in mainland Britain).
To get any Wi-Fi, you have to travel more than five miles, to Helston, where there are about ten hotspots, in service stations and pubs.

I didn't try any of them, I'm sorry to say.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More for your wireless money?

As I said yesterday, I can't see why anyone would pay extra for Draft N wireless (it's traditional at this point to add, "...unless you have a real need for higher speeds and don't mind proprietary extensions," but I am having trouble imagining anyone who meets those criteria).

Instead of paying for a bit of extra speed, it's possible to get extra features. The Fritz Box, which I reviewed for Techworldgives you a VoIP PBX and (for those who want it) ISDN support for more or less the same price.

That's my approach: don't get cool, get sensible.