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Real-world apps take the stage over pie-in the-sky technologies

Interop's Wireless Hits

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor
5/2/2006
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LAS VEGAS -- Interop -- The effort to bring more applications into enterprise wireless systems lies at the heart of this year's increasingly mobile-focused show.

Vendor news and demonstrations this year reflect this refocus -- with much more emphasis on what you can actually do with wireless, rather than endless hyping of technologies like WiFi and WiMax in and of themselves. To this end, vendors are displaying actual fixed/mobile convergence capabilities, improved backhaul, and switches that can control more than just wireless LAN networks.

The Everything Switch: Unstrung has already exclusively revealed the details of Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL)'s new Wi-NG switch architecture, which was officially unveiled at the show today. (See Symbol Preps 'RF Switch'.) Regular readers will recall that the "Wireless Next Generation" architecture is slated to allow users to manage RFID deployments, VOIP services and create enterprise networks using WiFi mesh technology. We're hoping to catch a demonstration of how this all hangs together at Symbol's swanky suite later on.

One-Number Wonder: Symbol is working on fixed-mobile convergence as part of its "RF Switch" with a little-known startup called DiVitas Networks Inc. , which -- it turns out -- has racked up an impressive list of partners for a firm that has just slipped out of stealth mode. (See Convergent Insurgent.)

The company is working with Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) on linking the Finnish vendor's 6100 series phones to its FMC enterprise gateway. The startup is demoing a Nokia handset at its suite, along with five other FMC and WiFi handsets.

Admittedly, says Richard Watson, director of product marketing at DiVitas, this is similar to the work that Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is doing with Nokia. "We're on parallel paths," says Watson.

DiVitas is also working on interoperability with WLAN vendors such as Meru Networks Inc. and Trapeze Networks Inc. , as well as Symbol.

Watson showed Unstrung how the company's system can switch between cellular and WiFi networks without dropping a call. We can report that it worked, even if the call was a little quiet. The firm ensures that it doesn't drop calls when moving between networks by keeping the WLAN link up until the cellular call is running. Watson says that this process generally takes about 150 milliseconds. "That's good enough for most people," he reckons, though many VOIP experts say that a 50 millisecond handoff is best if the user is to avoid the embrassement of dropped packets.

Attack of the Giant Radio Channels: Meanwhile, startup Xirrus Inc. is using Interop to try and launch itself into the wireless LAN bridge market with a "bonded" multi-radio system aimed at covering enterprise campuses and enabling users to manage and secure several high bandwidth channels.

The technology builds on Xirrus's existing all-in-one multi-radio switch and access point. (See Xirrus & the Big Box.) The firm says that its new backhaul system can create up to four independent 162-Mbit/s wireless backhaul links by bonding three of its access points together for each link. Other currently available WiFi-based backhaul systems typically offer 54 Mbit/s.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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