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Roving Planet Mixes It in Cities

Wireless LAN software startup Roving Planet Inc. is capitalizing on its roots as an airport 802.11 integrator to bring "mixed-use" public and private WiFi networks to town and cities.

The company claims that it has already signed up several towns. "We have five muncipalities -- cities -- that we're under contract with," says Kaj Gronholm, VP of business development. No names, no packdrill, natch.

So what does mixed use in the city actually mean? Basically providing different levels of access and security for public (that's you and me, folks!) and private users (city workers) on the same network. Gronholm notes it might also mean managing access feeds from both standalone 802.11 access points and meshed WiFi networks in a municipal environment.

Roving Planet offers software that manages user network access, security, and what applications they can see on a network (see Roving Planet Revs Up and $9.5M Lands on Roving Planet). Gronholm says that Roving Planet offers network adminstrators a number of methods to control who gets on the network and what they see, from user lists to firewalls and authentication.

"We also use VLANs to help segment the public/private network where we can as well," says Gronholm.

Gronholm and friends honed their mixed-use model at airports, where a single 802.11 network might be installed by the airport authority, but also used for business by the airports and the airlines, and accessed by passengers wanting to surf or download their email over a hotspot.

Gronholm says that Roving Planet's software is being used in about 12 mixed-use networks in airports at the moment, including Fort Lauderdale, Des Moines, and LaGuardia.

But if the metro-scale citywide WLAN networks take off, as even major players like Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) appear to anticipate they will, managing them seems likely to become more of an issue (see Cisco Creates Safety Net).

Startup rivals Colubris Networks Inc. and Trapeze Networks Inc. are also starting to talk up mixed-use networks (see Hotspots: Mixed Nuts?).

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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