Why Wi

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2003-04-24 Print this article Print

Why Wi-Fi?

We all know that cell-phone coverage aint perfect. Inside cavernous office buildings, down in the basement, in an elevator, all of these are cell-phone dead zones. Nextels Direct Connect feature is particularly susceptible to failure in those places. But if your network group has done its job correctly, youll probably have Wi-Fi access in most of those places. Imagine being able to seamlessly roam from the cell-net to your wireless net in the office – or at home. Itll probably save you money too, because the Wi-Fi phone calls, made over the Internet, will effectively be free. But its a network integration nightmare, according to Ken Arneson, CEO of Chameleon Technologies, a new startup designed to bring carrier-grade billing and provisioning to Wi-Fi networks.
Although billing is a big problem, call routing is even worse. "If I place a call, what IP address does it go to?" Thats a big one. Then what about "NAT, firewalls, masquerading, all those things", he asks. When you roam from the cell network to the IP network, how does the connection get managed? What about hopping from one Wi-Fi subnet to another?
Its a big problem but solvable, and thats what Chameleons trying to do, along with providing security, authentication and keeping track of the minutes. The company is first working on the problem from a data perspective, although the voice side is on the road map – Arneson spent years at McCaw Cellular after all, and knows the market pretty well. Chameleon provides the flipside to what Seattle neighbor company NetMotion Wireless is trying to do—deliver seamless roaming and security to business users whether they are connected to a corporate network or public hotspot. Instead of an enterprise network approach, Chameleon builds a carrier-style roaming and billing infrastructure for Wi-Fi networks, much like what cell-phone companies have today. Currently operating in Benton County, Wash., Chameleons software lets the county use Wi-Fi hubs to extend its fiber infrastructure to homes, businesses and consumers. It does this by leasing its bandwidth to ISPs and other service providers – and Chameleons products handle all the authentication and back-end for the county, the ISPs and everyone in the middle. Imagine a similar infrastructure for Wi-Fi/mobile phone hybrid networks. When your cell-phone detects an 802.11 network, it hops on, and just works. The back-end takes care of roaming, call routing, and all the other stuff we take for granted in the cellular world. Its not a fantasy – according to Arneson, itll be here within 12 months.

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including ExtremeTech.com, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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