Wi-Fi is hot, but its not the only wireless network in town. To help integrate and manage the variety of wireless platforms and protocols available to enterprise users, several vendors are readying WLAN products that support not only Wi-Fi but Bluetooth and WANs as well.
At the 802.11 Planet show here last week, Red-M Communications Ltd. introduced Red-Alert, a wireless probe that detects unauthorized 802.11 and Bluetooth signals and runs on the Red-Access box. The Bucks, England, company this summer plans to ship Red-Secure, which will help IT managers enforce security policies in a mixed-vendor environment, officials said.
Myriad companies make Wi-Fi security products, but this is among the first to address Bluetooth, officials said. “Its possible to hack using Bluetooth; we want to detect it,” said Red-M CEO Karl Fielder.
Cognio Inc., a startup in Waltham, Mass., this fall will roll out its patent-pending Intelligent Spectrum Management technology, which detects, locates and mediates radio frequency transmissions in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz ranges.
The chip set is designed to work with management platforms such as Computer Associates International Inc.s Unicenter and Hewlett-Packard Co.s OpenView, officials said.
In addition to monitoring, the success of WLAN (wireless LAN) services has been growing, especially among corporate travelers.
“Its being used 60 to 80 percent every day,” said Dave Krasner, the Boston-based Northeast regional manager of IT for Hilton Hotels Corp., which charges customers an average of $9.95 per day for use of their WLAN. “Everyone really wants it. We dont have enough bandwidth sometimes.”
Hilton is in senior-level talks with several carriers to work out wireless service deals, Krasner said. On the table is a service that would allow a customer who has Wi-Fi service through a carrier such as T-Mobile USA Inc. or Sprint PCS Group to use that service to get access at a Hilton for no extra charge.
To that end, companies that specialize in Wi-Fi products continue to woo major carriers—both wireless and wire-line operators.
Nomadix Inc. has a new version of its Network Service Engine software, which includes features designed for mobile operators: enhanced roaming, session rate limiting and media access control filtering, ability to fail over to another gateway, duration-based billing support, and better network management.
The company is working with Cometa Networks Inc., a WLAN services wholesaler formed by several companies, including AT&T Corp., IBM and Intel Corp. Target customers include individual venues such as hotels and coffee shops as well as carriers that want to deploy the services themselves.
“You dont want to have to go to McDonalds every time you need wireless access,” said Kurt Bauer, senior vice president of field operations at Nomadix, in Westlake Village, Calif.
Proxim Inc. is working with Verizon Communications Inc. to turn Verizons existing pay phones into WLAN hot spots. There are about 150 “hot” phone booths in Manhattan, and the company plans to branch out into other parts of the country by the end of the year, said Proxim officials, in Sunnyvale, Calif.
For its part, RadioFrame Networks Inc. plans to add General Packet Radio Service access points to its repertoire later this year, said officials at the Bellevue, Wash., company. The company makes in-building solutions that bridge 802.11 with Nextel Communications Inc.s Integrated Enhanced Digital Network.
Companies that have always focused solely on WLAN components will continue to do so, with the caveat that WLAN is not just about data anymore, especially now that voice network operators want it.
“Now were working on making sure the wireless LAN infrastructure supports voice,” said Rick Bahr, vice president of engineering at wireless chip-set maker Atheros Communications Inc., also in Sunnyvale.
The IEEE is working on a new standard in the WLAN alphabet; the 802.11e protocol is designed for quality of service, which will address the issue of voice over WLAN.
It is developing slowly, though, primarily because the data community and the multimedia community have different ideas of how WLAN traffic should be organized, Bahr said.