Colubris's Pay Phone Power Play

Cable equipment provider ADC Telecommunications Inc. (Nasdaq: ADCT) has teamed up with hotspot vendor Colubris Networks Inc. to integrate a DSL modem and an 802.11 wireless LAN access point into one box that can be remotely powered over the wired connection.

The goal? Turning public pay phones into wireless hot spots.

ADC will market the boxes to incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs). The firm says that two regional carriers will start to test the equipment later this year. Neither firm will yet reveal when they expect the product to be commercially available.

The box will help carriers convert payphone networks to run 802.11b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) wireless LAN services as well, according to Carl Blume, director of product marketing at Colubris. "It's a turnkey way to convert a phone booth into a WiFi hotspot," Blume says. Some carriers, notably Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), are already converting their payphone networks to run WLAN services (see Verizon: WLAN, Phone Home).

One key feature of the equipment is power delivery, important in a pay phone environment. Power will come over the same wires used to transmit data. The DSL remote power technology for the box, which ADC calls "span powering," is similar in concept to the Power-over-Ethernet (POE) technology used to supply juice to access points in enterprise wireless networks. (See Vernier Electrifies WLANs for more on this.) Power is sent over four-pair copper wire to the locally situated box from a power management module at the carrier's central office.

The development work is using hardware and software elements drawn from Colubris's existing hotspot products, according to Blume. (See Case Study: McGill University for more detail on these boxes.) However, combining the wired and wireless technology in one box presents its own set of challenges, Blume says.

"The most significant undertaking is implementing the network management software so that the carrier network only sees one unit [rather than separate DSL and wireless LAN streams]," says Blume.

The ADC OEM deal means that Colubris now has three significant partners in the DSL market. Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) sells the firm's hotspot products; and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) has a marketing and development deal around its broadband remote access server (B-RAS) boxes with Colubris (see Alcatel Launches WLAN Product and Colubris Finds Juniper's Hotspot).

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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