FON's $5 WiFi

Hotspots get a whole lot cheaper and potentially more secure, while converged devices get more ruggedized and mesh goes solar in this week's new-product roundup.

FONtime: WiFi chipmaker Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR) is working with wireless upstart Fon to provide potential customers with a souped-up 802.11g router for public WiFi hotspot applications. (See FON Raises $21.7M and FON Launches WiFi Router.)

The tiny router, about the size of a paperback, is being offered for $5 for those who agree to share their connection with other WiFi-seeking consumers in their area. In turn, FON customers -- or "Foneros," as the company likes to call them -- can use any FON wireless access point around the globe for free. Madrid-based FON says that it has nearly 100,000 users worldwide now and estimates that it will have 1 million by the end of 2007.

The FON "social router" uses Atheros's AR5006AP-G chipset, which has a range-enhancing "Super G" feature that helps deliver data transfer rates of up to 54 Mbit/s and cover over 300 feet -- the size of a city block, an Atheros spokesman explains.

iPass's Better Blocker: Enterprise wireless connectivity provider iPass has developed a new security system for on-the-move users and unveiled it today amid a slew of other news.

The firm's "iPass Device Lockdown service" is intended to stop users from catching something nasty via WiFi -- or other connection options -- while on the road. The service works to automatically restrict Internet access solely to iPass Policy Servers, to which the user can connect via one of the 62,000-plus hotspots in the firm's North American network. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company then automatically analyzes, updates, installs, and launches device software based on the enterprise’s latest security requirements. The system is intended to complement "scan and block" systems that are typically deployed by corporate types at the network edge.

Tough, Tough Toys: Intermec Technologies Corp. has introduced what it calls the smallest ruggedized handheld on the market, its new CN3 model.

The Singapore-based company offers the handset-sized device as an all-in-one replacement for cell phones, GPS units, pagers, laptops, and cameras [Ed. note: what about a toothbrush?]. The gizmo has integrated 3G, WiFi, and Bluetooth radios and comes with the choice of either a barcode scanner or camera.

The CN3 runs on Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 software with the Messaging and Security Feature Pack -- so that users can get "push" email -- and comes with a QWERTY keyboard and 128MB of RAM. Intermec says the device also supports Cisco's CCX extensions for wireless LAN. No doubt many of its customers use Cisco 802.11 networks. (See Cisco Speaks Enterprise.) Sunny Hotspots: Costa Mesa, Calif.-based IR Data Corporation is the latest company to get into the solar-powered WiFi mesh game with its SWAP900 unit, which integrates a WiFi radio with a 900MHz mesh router plus a solar panel.

The company says the 900MHz mesh radio enables connectivity between units and allows "long-range connectivity" for applications such as asset management, security monitoring, and scientific research.

IR isn't the only company on solar trail. Vendors such as AirTegrity Wireless Inc. and Green WiFi are all developing 802.11 radios powered by the sun. (See AirTegrity Donates.) Regular readers will remember that Unstrung has predicted that solar would arrive with the development of systems that don't need large amounts of power to get connected. (See Hotspots of the Future.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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