Wireless Internet

Is Wifi at home for Me? At Home

Wifi at homeI used to have Ethernet cables running around my office to connect up several computers that I owned. There was no Wifi at home. This is from the cable modem that we receive our internet connection with. I even had an Ethernet cable running from my office out the door , along the walls and over to the couch so that I could multi task at night. This included watching my favorite show or at least being in the same room as my wife in the evening. While I kept track of email or played a game or kept up with Twitter and Facebook.

Now with WiFi all of the cables are gone and my wife is happier since there are no cables running around the room. She still is not happy about my multi tasking when we are supposed to be spending time together. Oh Well. It was pretty simple as well. The cable company came and replaced the old modem which had only Ethernet connections with one that had Ethernet and WiFi capability. I do not even use the Ethernet any more preferring to use the WiFi when I am at home regardless of what room I am in, including the office.

WiFi Products are Interoperable!

Wi-Fi products from all manufacturers are easy to connect together. The Wi-Fi Alliance has awarded more than 11,000 product certifications to devices that have been tested for interoperability. This ensures that they are good neighbors to other Wi-Fi equipment. This means that they won’t interfere with operation in other products that you have in your home. Or while you are traveling about outside of the home with your WiFi enabled computer.Many coffee shops now have WiFi for their customers , although some limit the connection time to 2 hours.

All Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products have been tested to operate well on wireless networks. They contain the latest security features to protect users who are connecting to the Internet over the WiFi network.

Is Wifi at home for Me?

If you want to avoid having unsightly cables running around your home, WiFi is definitely for you. That really is the main reason for WiFi. It allows you to roam around your home or office within specific distances and still be on the internet. Upstairs, in the basement, out side on the driveway or in the backyard.  Best reception for WiFi devices is found when you locate the WiFi in the center of your home or as close to that as you can.  Some people have had weak signals if they locate the modem in the basement and they are at te other extreme end of the house.

Everyone can use Wi-Fi, almost anywhere in the world, in coffee shops, in their homes, even at the office. We will discuss WiFi more for business in the next post. Home Wi-Fi networks act as a gateway to the internet. As well as they can connect multiple devices to each other, to audio and video content, and to the Internet via a single high-speed connection. A Wi-Fi network can connect a family’s computers, media and display devices together. There are no cables to share hardware and media resources such as printers, audio files and Internet access.

Summary

We think that just getting rid of the cables and being able to wander around the house or yard with your computer, your smart phone or iPod is a real bonus. You are still be connected and it is by far the most advantageous benefit for having WiFi in the home.

If you have similar ideas or thoughts about WiFi at home, please leave us a comment. All helpful and thoughtful comments will be approved. We will even approve a link to your web site if you provide a quality comment  that is interesting and helpful to our readers.

For more information about using WiFi in your home, click here.

 

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Is WiFi for Me? For my Business?

Wifi at home - Is WiFi for MeWi-Fi has become almost universal for  business applications these days as a means of enhancing productivity as well as controlling costs. It does not matter whether you are a small business owner or a multi-national corporation. There are excellent reasons for using WiFi in the office. As well as making it available for your staff who work out of the home. Is WiFi for Me? We have discussed WiFi in several other posts. If you need more information check out our posts about What is Wifi and How does WiFi technology work?  Assuming that you either already know something about WiFi  we will plunge right in.

Is WiFi for Me – Security and WiFi

Network security is a big thing for corporations of any size. No one wants outsiders to break into your network  and do damage or steal your secrets. WiFi does not make it easier or harder to do this , although many people would argue this point. Security for  the office is really about making sure that you have your network behind a strong firewall. This is needed to protect you from hackers coming in though the network. Keep strong passwords on all devices including your wireless modems. They prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to your wireless network. IT administrators need to manage security very closely regardless of whether you use WiFi or not.

Each device connecting via WiFi connection must be password protected. Each device  must also have to enter a secure password to enter when connecting to the WiFi network.

WiFi for Employees

Most IT managers will want to hard wire via Ethernet cable all desk top computers to the network. This delivers connection to the corporations internal network and also the internet. They feel that this is somehow more secure and delivers better performance. In addition, they will enable WiFi so that all laptops can connect via WiFi. This makes it easier when they are moving around the office to meetings etc and / or connect via Ethernet cables. Utilizing a WiFi network in this manner provides a much better and flexible communications capability for employees. Hence it enables increased productivity as well.

Many employees are provided with smart devices or have their own. These devices may or may not be allowed on the corporations network. But they can connect through the WiFi network to obtain their emails and keep their calender’s up to date etc.. Using the wireless network for this purpose will significantly reduce the mobile data traffic. Hence your monthly bill from the mobile companies will decline!

Wi-Fi products can be used  to extend standard wired Ethernet networks to public areas. For example meeting rooms, training classrooms and large auditoriums.

Wi-Fi networks also work well for small businesses. They provide connectivity between mobile salespeople, floor staff and behind-the-scenes finance and accounting departments. Because small businesses are dynamic, the built-in flexibility of a Wi-Fi network makes it easy to operate It is also affordable for them to change and grow.

WiFi for Guests

Whether it is an employee from another city or a vendor paying a sales call, providing wireless at your work location will be appreciated. Many companies will provide a second wireless network in common areas such as conference rooms that only allow access to the public internet. For example this prevents a guest from access corporate servers and getting into places they should not be allowed.

WiFi for Staff who Work at home

Many corporations also provide wireless networks to their off-site and telecommuting workers to use at home or in remote offices. Even home offices benefit from the advantages of wireless technology. As you work from the comfort of your home office, you can connect your PC, printer, scanner, smart phone, audio/video equipment and other wireless devices with a single access point. All accomplished without a lot of wires running under your desk. No cables to mess up the home so the spouses are happy as well. Their home is not messed up with extra cables. Yet they have the benefit of their husband or wife to work at home.

If you have comments about this post , please feel free to leave a comment.

For more information about using WiFi in your home, click here.

 

 

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How does WiFi Technology Work?

How does WiFi Technology Work?The short answer in a summarized version re how does WiFi technology work  is as follows. Wi-Fi networks use radio technologies in the 2.4 and 5 GHz radio bands. It is defined by a standard called 802.11 . The objective is to provide secure, reliable, fast wireless connectivity. It should be without the need for cumbersome wires in homes and hard to get to business areas.  A Wi-Fi network in the home or office can be used to connect electronic devices to each other. Also to the Internet, and to wired networks which use Ethernet technology.

How does WiFi Technology Work

The longer and more consumer oriented answer is as follows:

Why is Wi-Fi so Attractive?

Wi-Fi in the home is welcomed by many consumers. Now they do not have to run unsightly wires around their home. These run from the cable modem or telephone modem to their computers. Home owners love this concept since they can roam around with their smart phones or portable computers all over the house. They can go even the back yard and still use their Wi-Fi connection to send and receive data.

Note that most smart phones have the option too use network data or data services provided by the wireless companies. This is usually expensive. It comes with limits in terms of how much data you can send and receive. Using your Wi-Fi connection, means that you are using the data connection supplied by a cable company or the telephone company usually at much lower rates.

Installing Wi-Fi in Your Home

Most cable companies and telephone companies offer a combined modem and Wi-Fi device which is hooked up to the cable that enters your home. If you can try to locate this device in a central location in your home and not in the basement. this will ensure that you have good wireless reception throughout your home and even outside in your yard. The data signal transmitted over the cable is reconfigured from a wired data signal into a wireless format and transmitted over the air for a limited distance which is usually sufficient to cover your home and yard.

The installer will configure the wireless modem for you, however most now are so simple and straightforward that they self configure themselves. The only step you must do is to first decide if you want your wireless network password protected or not and secondly configure your computer and smart phones to access your wireless network.

Password Protect Your Wifi Network

One of the basic decisions is whether you want to leave your Wi-Fi network in your home open to anyone accessing it or if you want to password protect it. If you password protect your network it means that only those people you give the password too can use your network. For example, a friend of mine does not even have a data connection at his home. Instead he uses his neighbors open wireless network! I have also driven around urban streets to see how many open vs. protected networks there are and have been able to access quite a few. We strongly suggest that you password protect your wireless network!

Home Network Security

There was a recent news report where someone hacked into a person’s home network and started talking to their baby over the wifi based baby monitor. Talk about a scary thing. Make sure you use a strong password and password protect everything.

When you connect your smart phone or computer to the network via Wi-Fi, you will have to have a Wi-Fi modem in your computer which most do these days. Once you start the application for wireless connection you will be presented with a number of wireless networks that are available in your area. Select yours. If it is password protected, you will be asked to enter the password in order to access it. From that point on your computer will remember the password.

This post has focused in a non technology oriented way, how does Wi-Fi technology work. Our next couple of posts are going to focus specifically on the home. Also on the business applications of Wi-Fi. Watch for Is Wi-Fi for me? At Home?  and Is Wi-Fi for me? For my business?

For more information about using WiFi in your home, click here.

 

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What is WiFi?

What is WiFiWith all of these new technologies and acronyms, consumers are having a difficult time keeping up. What is WiFi? Wi-Fi is one more that benefits many consumers in their homes as well as at the office and the coffee shop.  Wi-Fi is a technology that eliminates the cable or wire between your computer and the modem that sits in your home which the cable or the telephone wires are attached too. If you have a smart phone that is Wi-Fi capable it also can take advantage of the wireless access in your home or at the office and coffee shop.  Wi-Fi eliminates the need to find a wired network connection.

While this is a great step forward with no more wires running around your home, you still need to understand how to program your computer or smart phone to take advantage of the Wi-Fi wireless network.
Every device is different, although most are intuitive and easy to set up. Ask the sales person to walk you through the set up procedure so that you can set up your computer or smart phone on your wireless network when you get home.

The following provides a little more information for the average consumer.  For most people, you just want to know that it works and these devices today are so user friendly that most people can set them up easily in their own home. Just follow the instructions that come with the device and you should be good to go.  Read on for more info about Wi-Fi. we will also be adding additional posts about how W-Fi is used in the home and in the office as well.

What is WiFi Technology

For the average person, Wi-Fi technology is basically a box that has one or more antenna’s on it, sometimes they are inside the unit. This unit is usually attached to a cable modem for example or more often now, manufacturers are combining the cable modem and the Wi-Fi terminal in one box to eliminate even more wiring and cost.  Position the Wi-Fi terminal in a relatively central location in your home, in an out of the way location and you will have uniform wireless coverage through out your home. Same applies to the office, although you may end up having more than one Wi-Fi device if it is a large office.

Once installed and connected, you can send and receive all of your usual email, data, video etc via your Wi-Fi device. These devices save hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in cabling that is no longer needed.

All major communications suppliers including the cable companies and the telephone companies now offer Wi-Fi terminals for your use, usually combined with your standard monthly data service.

What is WiFi Frequency Band for Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi products operate over a specific set of radio waves. In the same way as your cell phone, garage door opener, TV, radio, GPS navigation system or microwave. Each of these types of products  have been designed to operate in a specific frequency band of the radio spectrum to ensure that there is no interference between them.

Radio Band Examples

  • AM broadcast band (530-1610 kHz)
  • Shortwave bands (5.9-26.1 MHz)
  • Citizens’ band (26.965-27.405 MHz)
  • Television channels 2-6 (54-88 MHz)
  • FM broadcast band (88-108 MHz)
  • Wi-Fi (2.4GHz or 5GHz)

Wi-Fi products operate in the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands. Most radio bands require a license from the government. Not so with Wi-Fi.  These bands are designated as “license-free”. This indicates that individuals may use products designed for these bands without a government license. A great deal of coordination in the design of these devices with other products has taken place. This is needed to ensure that there is no interference and all manufacturers must adhere to these rules. For the average consumer, you just need to know that this is all taken care of. They will have no impact on anything else in your home.

What is 802.11?

Standards bodies control the design of all products in the world. Each design, in this case for Wi-Fi receives a designation.  Wi-Fi products are identified as 802.11. They are then further identified by a lower case letter that identifies which specific technology is in operation. Each specifies a set of features that relate to performance, frequency and bandwidth. When you purchase a Wi-Fi device, you want to make sure that device is compatible with the latest Wi-Fi standard.

Wi-Fi Generations

Most new devices are tested to ensure they are back word compatible. In other words that they will work with older devices. There is a limit to this. Even though you may not have the latest Wi-Fi compatible software on your computer for example, it may still work. You can just try it and see or compare the specs for the Wi-Fi device you are buying. For most people this is way too much information and complexity. 99% of all new computers are equipped with the latest Wi-Fi technology.

For more information about using WiFi in your home, click here.

 

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Wireless Trends Continued

Wireless Trends ContinuedThis is a continuation of our blog post on wireless trends.  We cover the last three topics that seem to be the foremost issues for wireless carriers which also impact consumers no matter were you live. One area we have noticed that only a few consumers are beginning to become aware of is free WiFi. Instead of having to pay for your data, many consumers are now taking advantage of free Wifi to gain access to the internet. You have to frequent coffee shops, restaurants even laundromats to find free Wifi, but many business are adding WiFi every day because they understand that it could bring them additional business. Starbucks and McDonalds have certainly learned this and have embraced the free WiFi approach.

It does not seem to matter what country you are in there are five wireless trends that all markets seem to embrace at one time or another.  Some countries are behind others are ahead, however they will adopt these trends at some point in time. These trends are :

  • The decline of voice revenue
  • The data crunch
  • Mobile broadband

In some countries as well, particularly Canada and the US , the data crunch is overtaking the ability of the carriers to provide capacity. There is a tremendous cost to augment their networks, however they seem to be following in the same direction as other countries have. Using a combination of rates and added capacity they seem to be managing the growth in their networks. More on this later.

Wireless Trends – The decline of voice revenue

Voice revenue is under pressure because many of the new carriers are offering unlimited minutes or so many minutes that it might as well be anytime minutes. This puts a lot of pressure on the traditional wireless carriers.

Combine this with unlimited texting, unlimited data and alternate services such as Skype and WiFi, and you see potentially a huge impact on the carriers revenue. Consumers are not stupid. They are switching, they are avoiding long term contracts and they are looking for better deals which allows them to control their monthly costs.

Wireless Trends – The data crunch

More and more people are switching to smart phones  which are gobbling up vast amounts of data on mobile networks putting a lot of pressure on the networks run by the carriers as well as causing some consumers to have large monthly bills.

As more and more people move to smart phones, data will continue growing at a phenomenal rate. Email, photos and video contribute to a large portion of what is being downloaded or sent. The amount of data traffic will only increase.

There are ways that consumers can limit their data bills and carriers may even encourage their customers to follow these sorts of solutions to take some pressure off the wireless networks. WiFi at work, at home, or at coffee shops is a great way of taking advantage of free data connections, which helps the consumer as well as the carrier. Data traffic is channeled to landlines when a WiFi connection is used for data.

Wireless Trends –  Mobile broadband

The future is clearly  mobile! Consumers love the convenience and also the freedom to check their email, send text messages and browse the internet while on the go. Riding the bus to work in the mornings, half of the bus riders are checking their email or staying in touch with family or colleagues. Same thing on the ride home. Anytime, anywhere is the motto for most people for voice , data and even video on their smart phones.

Feel free to leave your comments and opinions about our thoughts and ideas regarding wireless trends. Spam comments will be deleted. For more posts about wireless evolution, click here.

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Wireless Trends

Wireless TrendsIt does not seem to matter what country you are in there are five wireless trends that all markets seem to embrace at one time or another.  Some countries are behind others are ahead, however they will adopt these trends at some point in time. These trends are :

  • Fragmentation of the market
  • Wireless substitution
  • The decline of voice revenue
  • The data crunch
  • Mobile broadband

In some countries as well, particularly Canada and the US , the data crunch is overtaking the ability of the carriers to provide capacity. There is a tremendous cost to augment their networks, however they seem to be following in the same direction as other countries have. Using a combination of rates and added capacity they seem to be managing the growth in their networks. More on this later. The wireless trend is still evolving and mobile wireless smart phones will gradually take over the way we communicate.

Wireless Trends – Fragmentation of the market

Although Canada is nothing like the US in terms of number of carriers, the Canadian market is becoming more fragmented all of the time. There are the main carriers such as Bell and Telus who operate nationwide, however even they have their regional strengths. Bell is strong on Ontario and Quebec, while Telus is strongest in Alberta and British Columbia in terms of numbers of customers and revenue generated.

Then there are all of the local carriers such as Videotron in Quebec, and a number of other carriers that operate mainly in province. They are posing a great deal of competition to the incumbents with their focus on establishing themselves and acquiring customers. There is a transition while these new carriers establish themselves and capture market share, however in the long run they may become self funding or end up being acquired by one of the incumbents.

As more competitors enter the markets regionally and even locally in areas such as Toronto, there will be more fragmentation.  Consumers need to be careful of which carrier and plan they go with. If the only make local calls, they will be fine in most cases, however if they roam at all then they may not have coverage or pay higher fees than they were expecting. We have enven heard of some local carriers not covering an entire city, leaving some people without service.

Carriers use a combination of market specific pricing and termination fees to attract and hold onto their customers. Most people will find that the cost of services will be different in various provinces, even sometimes between cities in the same province.

Wireless Trends –  Wireless substitution

The existing incumbent carriers have a serious problem. They weathered the loss of long distance revenue when the internet and competition forced significant reduction to long distance revenues. Now the threat is wireless that is posing a threat to this revenue stream. Many people already have or are considering moving to wireless only, reducing the revenue that the big carriers get from land lines.

Companies such as Mobilicity, Wind Mobile and Public Mobile who have no land lines do not worry about this issue at all. In fact one of their key market thrusts is to people who want to reduce their overall costs and move to a wireless only home.

Gen X & Y  are cutting the chord. They might have grown up in a home which had a traditional wireline phone, however as they moved out of the house they went to a wireless only service to reduce costs as well as to take advantage of the convenience that wireless gives. With family plans for wireless subscribers, a wireless service can be quite effective.

Canada is somewhat behind other nations. The US is ahead of us, but well behind many European countries. We continue to expect some serious cord-cutting over the next few years. As a result many customers will avoid signing that bothersome 3 year contract with the wireless carriers.

Feel free to add your own comments to our blog about our thoughts and forecasts. Spam comments will be deleted.

Next weeks blog will cover the last three topics in our review of wireless trends. Stay tuned. For more posts about wireless evolution, click here.

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Wifi & Your Data Plan

Wifi Your Data PlanI recently acquired an IPOD Touch. I am amazed just how many WiFi sites that are available and are free to access! In case you are not aware an Ipod Touch can pretty much do everything an iPhone can do. Except make phone calls on the cellular networks provided by the phone companies. This is how you Wifi Your Data Plan.

They can connect via WiFi and browse the internet, do your email, Facebook and a thousand other applications, same as the iPhone. If you really want to make phone calls, you can use Skype to make calls. They are free when it is a computer to computer call and you pay a nominal fee when the calls are made to non Skype users.

What is really neat is that all of this data, phone calls, email , net surfing , Youtube videos etc is free as long as you are using a WiFi connection. Wifi Your Data Plan and save thousands of dollars.

This is the real advantage of an iPod Touch and as it turns out any smart phone that can also use WiFi. I also have an iPhone from work which does all of the things an iPhone is supposed to do over the cellular voice and data network. It is a 3G model so it is one of the later ones so it has all of the features that you need in a smart phone. I especially like the touch screen and large size that you have to work with viewing emails and web sites.  It is much more intuitive to use although it does have several limitations.

Major Advantage

For example, you cannot connect other devices other than ear phones, and there is no USB interface. Even without that it is a great little tool to use and I much prefer it to a BlackBerry device.

The real advantage of the iPhone in my mind is that you can program it to take advantage of free WiFi connections when there is a WiFi network around. It will use this free network instead of using the carriers data network and costing you a bundle for all of the data you are downloading.

Movies take a lot of data transfer and you can use up your plan quickly, and then are forced to pay very expensive rates for all of the extra gigabits of data that you download.

I do not know if other smart phones do this as well. I hope so. Maybe anyone reading this blog can let us know if this can be done by other smart phones. Most offices now have their own wifi networks.

Of course they are password protected, however if you have an iPhone provided by your place of work, or you have your own, you can sign into the network and use the free WiFi instead of using up your data plan.

Wifi Your Data Plan – Starbucks Announces Free WiFi

If you do not already know this, many coffee shops offer free WiFi to entice their customers to come in and stay awhile. Starbucks had this crazy scheme were you had to have a Starbucks card. Also have a balance of at least $5 on the card. If you maintain this balance you can have 2 hours of free WiFi every day. However you have to log in to your account to be authenticated.

Starting in July, apparently, WiFi will be free and unlimited as well to compete with the other coffee shops in the area. So program your iPhone to take advantage of these free sites. For most sites all you need to do is log in once. The iPhone will remember this for as long as you own the phone.

This is an absolutely great way to minimize your data bill with your carrier. Also you can use skype at these locations to make free calls to other Skype users. More savings for the user!

Other locations Offering Free WiFi

McDonald’s across the US offer free WiFi. They have not copied this in Canada as of yet. Many coffee shops offer free WiFi, including Second Cup, Bridgehead, non chain shops and lots of small mom and pop shops also offer free WiFi. The major chain in Canada that currently does NOT offer free WiFi is Tim Hortons.

I guess they feel that they have a large enough client base that they do not need to offer WiFi at their donuts shops. As of Sept 2012, they began rolling out WiFi to their donut shops.

Wifi Your Data Plan – WiFi at Home

Add a wireless modem at home and you can use your iPhone to browse the internet and any other apps you might want to enjoy. Make sure your home WiFi is password protected. Program your iPhone or iPod Touch to access this connection for surfing and playing games etc.

WiFi at home also makes it much more convenient for your users with laptops or other wireless devices. Most cable and dsl providers now offer WiFi enabled modems to enhance their customers experience and convenience. Installation is easy and from the first moment you can connect all of your computers as well as iPhones and iPod Touch devices with no problems whatever.

They also come with standard Ethernet ports to allow direct wire connections for older computers. Or those of us who want to have a more secure connection. This is convenience at the utmost and it saves you money at the same time over your wireless data plan.

If you have other thoughts about using WiFi instead of your wireless data plan on your data phone or smart phone. Please feel free to leave your comments and thoughts as part of this blog. We can all use more ideas to save us money, find new applications and enable the phones we have to be better tools for us.

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Five Problems with Cell Phone Networks

Five Problems with Cell Phone NetworksMany people do not have any appreciation for just how complex the Cell Phone Networks are and how easily congestion can delay or prevent calls going through the network. There are many locations within the network that can act as choke points. The engineers at these communications companies are always monitoring and improving this network. However it does take time to update these networks. Frankly if a given area does not have enough potential to drive revenue, the carriers will not invest a lot of money into these poor service areas.

There are 5 main areas that these choke points can be lumped into. We will discuss them in a moment. However when you add data calls, the amount of traffic increases exponentially and places additional strain on the network. In fact data is growing at a higher rate than voice traffic. This is becoming a challenge to many cell phone companies since they need to spend millions of dollars to fix some of these data choke points to deal with the exponential growth in traffic.

The 5 areas are: A) Airwaves B) Buildings C) Switching Gear D) Land Lines E) Application Servers. A data bit travels from your cell phone via airwaves, through building walls to cell towers, then via land lines to switching , more land lines to applications servers which will process the data bits and deliver back to you the information you requested. There are ample opportunities for the data bits to be slowed or delayed while each device deals with the traffic that is being sent to it. As traffic increases this only gets worse unless additional capacity is added.

Cell Phone Networks Problems

Airwaves

Congested airwaves are less problematic than other choke points, but they still slow service.

Take the fastest 3G network today, which can support a download speed of 21 mega bits per second. Someone using a laptop wireless card that also supports 21mbps can surf the web at full speed.

But if two laptop users try to download at 21mbps from the same cell tower, the highest speed each consumer will see is cut in half. If a third user tries to download at the highest speed, divide the peak speed by three, and so on.

Fortunately not every laptop needs or can deal with 21 mbps, but you get the point when you have a congested site that has thousands of cell phones, or wireless cards competing for limited resources the response time can become delayed.

Buildings

City skyscrapers block wireless signals, and office workers using cell phones at their desks clog networks originally designed for people on the go.

These same buildings can attenuate a signal so much that a cell phone can work perfectly fine outside and not at all inside. Weaker signals slow the transmission of data  and use your batteries power much faster.

Switching Gear

Applications like Yahoo Messenger that constantly send and receive signals on the network play havoc with switches, which were built for sustained calls. A two-minute IM chat can require as many signals as it takes for 10 voice calls. A single computer with an air card can be running 4 or 5 applications at the same time, generating data traffic from each of the applications aimed at different servers in the network.

Signaling traffic is growing 50% faster than data as more apps are constantly “on,” according to Signals Research Group. That’s in part why iPhones generate more traffic than 30 basic cellphones.

Landlines

Data bits flow from cell towers through fiber and copper lines to a switching station. Then from the switching station again via land lines to application servers via even more switching stations. Data and calls are then sent to their final destinations over even more landlines and servers.

The scheme, designed pre-smartphone, can push only 75% of a tower’s maximum capacity to the next switch or endpoint. Wireless data is expected to more than double annually from 2008 to 2013. Video and apps will grow more popular, landlines are a growing problem.

Application Servers

Many of the tens of thousands of applications for smartphones connect to the public Internet through their own servers. So don’t always blame the wireless carriers for bad service. Slow loading corporate e-mail or sports scores can be the fault of an app maker’s own bandwidth constraint.

It does not matter whether it is ITunes, CNN or any other site that is receiving lots of traffic from all over the world. The application servers must receive the data, process it, and determine what information is being asked for. Once they ind it, queue it for transmission and then send it back to the original requester there are many obstacles.  And this is the simple straight forward version.

Applications servers can be their own choke point if many users are making the same request at the same time. This occurs routinely when something is advertised on a web site or on TV and thousands of people make the same request at the same time for information about the same subject.

Cell Phone Networks – Summary

With all of these possible choke points in the network it is amazing that the communications system works as well as it does. Rest assured that data engineers are monitoring and making adjustments routinely every day. They improve the network and adding capacity to deal with an ever increasing traffic demand. Especially as more and more smart phones are added by customers across the country.

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Wireless Revolution

Mobile Text Messaging MarketingThere is a wireless revolution happening and many people are not even aware that it is happening. Some people are being left behind since they are not adapting the technology at all. Other groups are early adapters and still they find that technology is moving much too fast even for them, bit they are having a ball trying to keep up. It is just creeping up on us and becoming part of our lives without us even realizing it.

Sure we have all seen the growth of cell phones and smart phones. This is really just the tip of the ice berg. Routinely we browse our email, keep up with social networking sites and surf our favorite web sites all with the help of our smart phones such as the iPhone, the iPod Touch, now the iPad, Rim’s BlackBerry products, Palm and Android.  Google is just getting into the act with their Android software which will appear in over half the mobile devices while Apple will probably have the other half.

You can rest assured that these titans of the mobile world and the computer software world will deliver more and more functionality. I consider myself reasonably tech savvy, however I was blown away after walking into an Apple store and purchasing an iPod Touch recently. For many people, they will say what is the big deal. For me and I suspect thousands of others it is a big deal.

Wireless Revolution –  Sales

I had the help of a nice young man who patiently explained the benefits of the iPod Touch and even demonstrated an app or two on his own iPod Touch that he carried in his pocket. This guy really had deep pockets with lots of room in them.

Once I decided to buy an iPod, he needed to check on inventory. Out comes  what looks like an iPhone and he quickly checks on inventory before heading back into the storage area of the store. Another device scans the bar code and recorded the information against a bill of sale which he downloaded to his wireless device and then displayed the price to me including tax.

Once I agreed, he ask for my credit card which he scanned into his wireless device ( smaller than the ones you see at the airport car rental checkin area) . After verification and confirmation he advised me that the sale had been completed and walked off to get a hard copy of the receipt which I had asked for. Apparently most people are satisfied with an electronic copy being sent to them via email.

Activating My iPod

This was the really easy part. With WI-FI throughout the store, the iPod quickly sync’d. We customized the iPod with my information and with the apps that I needed to get started. I have since added others over the past month.

Now this is just purchasing a simple iPod. Which really demonstrated how a well thought out sales process can integrate wireless capabilities to really simplify the transaction. Not once did the sales person need to go to the cash desk or punch in the information. It was all done from the store location were we met. The back office applications also probably rewarded him with whatever sales points he gets. Also it updated the stores books re inventory, sales for the day, net profit and so on.

Wireless Revolution – New Integration Evolution

Apple and Google are persuing more features, more applications and functionality. Rest assured that what I just discussed will find it’s way into many more applications and businesses.

Can you imagine walking into a store and waving your wireless device beside an item to find out the price? Also indicating you are willing to purchase the item. Then checking out the item yourself. As you leave the store a scanner confirms that the item you purchased has indeed been paid for, updates the inventory etc.

This is just the beginning of the wireless revolution with much more to come. Actually North America is behind the rest of the world in adoption rates. Countries like Japan leading the surge to a wireless revolution were you pay for everything using your smart device!!

Get ready , here it comes!

Comments are welcome. For more posts about wireless evolution, click here.

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Skype as a Solution to Indoor Coverage

skypeThose of you who are not familiar with Skype should really have a look at this application. This post is about how Skype can help you when you have a weak wireless signal in your home. However there are many more benefits to Skype than this specific application we will look at during this post. Many people are using high speed internet in their homes. More and more are also connecting a wireless router to the high speed modem supplied by the cable company or the telephone company. This way they can connect to the internet from their PC’s from anywhere in the home. They do not need to have wires running around everywhere. This is by far the best way to use the internet and the most convenient for the family. Just make sure that you are properly password protected with a strong secure password.

A Solution to Indoor Coverage

Skype is an application that you download onto your PC and use as a VOIP phone on your PC. It works great as long as you have a connection to the internet and a PC to run the application. You can make calls all over the world to other Skype users as well as to any cellular and land based phone.

While you may have excellent wireless coverage from your wireless router for connection to the internet, you may have really poor coverage from your cellular phone because the cellular signal is either too weak or cannot penetrate the walls of your home. You may find that you are dropping calls in the middle of a call or cannot even initiate a call with your cellular phone.

Now this is were Skype comes in, providing that you have a smart phone that can access the internet via your wireless router. I know for a fact that an Apple Ipod touch can do this because I do this every day, however not all phones can connect via WiFi due to restraints or controls that the telephone companies place on their phones.

The trick here is to be able to download and install Skype on your smart phone, establish a Skype account and then use Skype instead of the cellular service to make your phone calls. If you can do this you are away to the races, since not only will you be able to make good quality phone calls from your home using your cell phone, it will be much cheaper as well.

Skype to Skype Calls are Free

If you pay as you go, Skype calls to other Skype users are free. If you make calls to regular phones Skype charges around 2 cents per minute for many calls. Some are more, but way cheaper than any cell phone.

Alternatively you can also arrange to have Skype phones installed in your home. So that they always use Skype when you are making calls. If you follow this example, you may want to purchase a calling plan. For example the $3.00 a month plan for free monthly calling across North America.

You can also purchase a telephone number that people can call and it will find you anywhere you are when you are connected to the internet. Voice mail can also answer when you are not available. so how does this all work into a solution for poor indoor coverage at home.

Once you have Skype installed and working, forward your cell phone calls to your Skype number and answer all of your calls on your Skype phones. When you leave, remove the call forwarding and use your cell phone as you would normally. If your phone has the capability to download applications use your cellular phone with the Skype application activated while you are at home so you never miss a call again or drop calls while carrying on a conversation.

The Ipod touch is a perfect example of how anyone can use a smart computer as a phone. Once you download Skype from the iTunes store for free, install it and you are ready to go. There are many free WiFi sites around which you can use to make phone calls. Your home can become a free wi-fi site or you can password restrict it with a password. Either way you can make phones calls from your smart phone as soon as you connect.

If anyone knows of other approaches for fixing poor indoor coverage, please leave your comments to this blog. For more wireless internet details and info, click here.

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End Appears Near for Minute-based Voice Plans

End Appears Near for Minute-based Voice PlansThe Rise of 4G means voice will soon run over all-IP networks. The technology platform that carriers use to provide voice services may change. It does not necessarily mean that the billing methodology will change for customers.  Some groups believe that once the conversion of voice to all IP networks is complete, the carriers will be forced to do away with minute-based voice plans and move to data plans that are a combination of voice, data, text and video.

The white knight in this case is the rise of 4G wireless technologies such as WiMAX and LTE, both of which will eventually be able to deliver high-quality voice calls over an IP network rather than a traditional cellular network. This may mean that users might not have any monthly limit on the number of minutes they can talk on their phones; instead, they would pay a flat rate for monthly data plan that will encompass both voice and Internet services.

The wired world in the enterprise, voice has mostly moved to IP already.  In terms of wireless, cellular carriers don’t have enough dedicated bandwidth right now to support IP-based voice. But in future developments of LTE, it will all be over IP.

Minute-based Voice Plans

Redman notes that carriers are still likely to rely upon minute-based voice plans during the initial stages of LTE and WiMAX deployment, since it will take some time to make those technologies ubiquitous. Thus, users who don’t live in major urban areas will likely have to rely on cellular connections for wireless voice service for several years after initial implementation in urban areas. But once IP-based wireless networks are up and running around the country, it will no longer make sense for users to pay by the minute or at least that is the supposition of some writers.

What is evident with the new network technologies that are on the horizon is that it will be far cheaper to provide voice and data over these networks. The question will be whether these same networks will unlock the handsets to allow customers to make VOIP calls over competing VOIP carriers such as Skype and Truphone.

Even today, the Apple 3G  Ipod Touch can utilize WIFI to connect to the IP network and it allows calls via Skype to any phone or computer connected to the Internet. This is one of the first examples of mobile Voice moving to cheaper IP networks and avoiding the minute based plans that are currently in vogue. What really enables this particular solution is a handset that connects to the internet and is independent of any carrier service plan. Currently you cannot purchase a 3G Iphone which is essentially the same platform as the Ipod touch without also signing up for a voice and a data plan from the carrier.

Access to the Network

Access to the network is the key and as long as the carriers own this access, they will be able to charge whatever they wish in the manner they wish, which includes voice based minute plans. If for example WIFI networks were to proliferate, then it may be possible to move to a data only plan or even a free network access plan. However even this scenario is problematic.

Most users do not want to look around for free access. They wish to have access at a moment’s notice were ever they are. This is the service that the carriers are so good at offering.  What is really needed is a competing carrier that offers a mobile service based on IP for a flat monthly rate. Regardless of what the content is. If a competing carrier were successful in capturing a significant portion of the business. The current carriers would be forced to change their plans. They would move from a voice based minute billing plan to a flat rate data plan.

We’re already seeing carriers’ revenue for long distance voice go down due to competing providers. For example Skype and voice access decline in proportion to data while revenue for data goes up.

Dumb Pipes!

This poses a separate problem for carriers. They have long feared being relegated to the status of “dumb pipes” that only transmit data. Especially if they don’t provide any value-added services for their customers. We have already seen this phenomenon in the wired world with the decline of LD revenues.  Wired Carriers are seeing their only major source of revenue in the future will come from fees for users to access their networks. Carriers will still make money doing this. It is much less revenue compared to the sums they hauled in, in past years.

The mobile carriers will need to rethink their billing plans as customers have more solutions available to them. Loyal customers are moving from traditional networks to competing carriers who offer fixed rate data plans. Which include voice over IP. They will need to figure out how to replace these lost revenues. Will they move to advertising based solutions? Will they move to featured data solutions that add value to customers which they are willing to pay for? Voice mail applications, 3 way calling, conference calling, or call display etc. In the data world they may still be chargeable in the VoIP world. There may be additional data services that customers will need which are still in the development stage. Whatever they are, the carriers will need to figure out a way to replace the lost revenue from minute based voice plans.

What it comes down to economically, is that it’s cheaper to do voice over IP networks. The questions is whether these savings will be passed along to the customer. Market competition will dictate how quickly this occurs and how much the customer will actually save.

For more posts about wireless evolution, click here.

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Iphone vs Android Wars

Iphone vs Android Wars Currently as of this post BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIMM) commands 41.6% of the market, according to technology data tracker comScore. Apple’s iPhone OS is is second place with 25.3%, and phones that run Google’s Android operating system are in 5th place with 5.2% of the market. The smart phone data market has been heating up for some time, however with the introduction of Google’s android, the market is about to heat up and perhaps change the dynamics as well. A year makes a huge difference. We just heard that Android is outselling iPhone outside of North America and Apple is very concerned. Rim is now a distant third and not likely to make it in the next 5 years.

What is really interesting is that Google and Apple are getting a lot of press with the introduction of the Android platform and the Ipad respectively, however they are not the largest smartphone makers by a long way. RIM is well ahead of the pack with over 41% of the market! RIM is probably quite happy for these two to fight it out while they continue to focus on building apps and selling their products.

Iphone vs Android Wars

However the real question is what is driving traffic on the network? Turns out that data from smartphones and specifically Apple and Droid phones is driving 86% of the data traffic to these smartphones.  Apple I-phones and Ipod touch devices already have over 100,000 applications developed with more being added every day. Android phones now have over 20,000 apps and there is a huge army of developers developing more. Unfortunately Rim has only just passed the 1000 mark for apps that work on the RIM smartphone products.

Revenue Streams

The future appears to be the development of applications and they drive several revenue streams for many companies. The developer makes money when his or her app is purchased. Even if they are just charging a dollar a download, there are thousands being downloaded every day driving revenue into the developers hands.

Compelling apps also drive hardware sales of the smart phones themselves for Apple and for any manufacturer of the smartphone using Android. In addition Apple is taking a cut of the revenue for each app, while google makes money through traffic and searches that are conducted via the smartphones.

Finally the telephone companies who run all of this data over their networks are seeing traffic sky rocket through the roof. Although they are spending millions to beef up their networks they are also collecting millions on increased data traffic and smartphone monthly fees as more and more customers  purchase monthly subscription plans from them.

In fact while voice stagnates in terms of revenue growth on cellular networks, and landlines are sliding, data growth represents one of the few bright spots for the telephone carriers.

The Contenders

There appears to be 4 main contenders for the OS systems driving smartphones.  Apple’s OS , Google’s Droid, Rim and Microsoft’s Windows phone 7 appear to be the main contenders. Rim is improving their browser and making it more internet friendly. Apple currently leads the pack with over 100,000 approved applications, Android is approaching 20,000 and Rim has just surpassed the 1000 mark.

Apple has the momentum and needs to bring out more functionality in their OS and support even more applications.  Google with its droid OS is new and has momentum as well simply because of its size and deep pockets as well as the popularity of existing applications that work very well on the computers of today. The question is can they morph this success onto the smartphone and catch the leader ?

What Are Their Strategies ?

Google has made their interface open attracting many developers of applications.  The data traffic runs on three carriers in the US and on 10 smartphones.

Apple on the other hand has a close standards approach to approving apps. It can take several months to approve an app which turns off many developers although it can be argued that you have better higher quality apps as a result. The OS runs on 3 devices, the sG S,  3G Iphone, and the Ipod touch.

5 ways iPhone and Android differ

Google is carrier agnostic while Apple runs on ATT’s network only.

Google is carrier agnostic while Apple lets carriers take a cut of the app revenues

Also Google is offering Android on more phones with varying price points, while Apples OS runs on 3 proprietary smartphones.

Google has an open standards approach while Apple is my way or the highway approach to smartphone apps.

Google’s strategy isn’t about keeping one carrier happy but about enabling mobility, hardware and software to a variety of different tiers, while Apple has focus on one carrier only.

Who Will Win the War? Iphone vs Android Wars

It is much too early to make a call on who will win the smart phone war.  Rest assured there will be lots of new smart applications  for consumers to play with and incorporate into their everyday lives. The main contenders are not going to sit back, they will do everything they can to grab their portion of the data market.s

If you are planning to purchase one of the new smart phones along with the monthly data plan, take the time to assess just how many apps you will be using and how much data you will send or receive. Data traffic with these smartphones will become the single largest expense on a monthly basis unless you have an appropriate plan from your carrier.

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Wireless Router Basics for the Home

Wireless Router Basics This post is about Wireless Router Basics. Home owners who have high speed cable or DSL systems installed at home can download email, browse web sites and even listen to music and videos once they have high speed access to the internet. Often they will connect their computers directly to the cable modem via the Ethernet connection. There is nothing wrong with this approach as long as there is only one computer to access this high speed connection. If you want to connect more than one computer then you need to purchase what is known as a router. It allows more than one connection from multiple devices.

Wireless Router Basics

Think of a router as a device that will route and manage traffic such that traffic destined for one computer will always go to that computer and traffic destined for the other computer will always go to the other computer. It is a traffic cop such that one computer cannot hog all of the capacity. It also prevents unwanted visitors from getting through the router to your computer.  Most small home routers can support connection of up to 4 hardwired computers, however this requires the use of connecting cables to run from the router to an Ethernet card on each computer. This is really a problem for a lot of families who want to have multiple computers spread throughout the home. Cables are unsightly and most homeowners do not want to have anything to do with them.

Fortunately there are wireless routers that will support multiple computers up to a reasonable distance. All you need to have is a wireless Ethernet card in your computer and you can connect with the router and hence the internet.There are the basics you need to know before getting a wireless router for your home network, as well as Network World’s tester’s top pick.

Wireless Routers

Wireless routers have come a long way in a short time. The oldest standard wireless LAN technologies follow the IEEE 802.11a and 802.11b standards, which were established in 1999. The 802.11a standard uses the 5 GHz frequency and has a maximum data rate of 54Mbps. The 802.11b standard uses the 2.4 GHz band and delivers a data rate of 11Mbps. The upshot of this is make sure you purchase a router that supports 54Mbps of throughput for the data rate.

Note that with all wireless routers, the actual speed you get over the airwaves varies greatly based on distance and other factors like the types of obstacles that lie between your computer and the wireless router that cause interference. The rates given here are really just theoretical maximums. New standards are being introduced which will see routers that support up to 150Mbps to 300Mbps.

The 802.11n technology started showing up in many wireless routers in 2008, before the standard was even ratified. But the meat of the standard was there at the time, and manufacturers did not have to do much to update their wireless routers to comply with the standard once it was finalized. With a higher speed router there is less chance that your home network will become the choke point if one computer is generating a lot of data traffic.

Wireless router security

With the rapid deployment of broadband Internet access across the country and the world, the deployment of wireless routers shot up, too. This raised all sorts of security concerns, because wireless traffic is vulnerable to snooping.

Use of WPA2 is recommended for wireless routers in the networks of both homes and businesses. Most people protect their routers by applying a password. This stops anyone who is trying to access the wireless signal. A few people will leave their routers open. Anyone can use their service, leaving them open to paying for traffic that they are not personally aware of. They are exposed to downloading material that would be considered questionable. It also leaves them open to penetration of their computers as well.  Always apply a password. Only give it out to people who you want to use your high speed access.

Where to Buy

Today’s wireless routers are manufactured by companies including 3Com (which is being acquired by HP). Also  Belkin, Buffalo Technology, D-Link, Linksys (owned by Cisco), Netgear, and others. They are sold in stores such as Best Buy, Staples and a host of other electronic stores around the country.  Experts and any of these stores will be happy to walk you through the steps of setting up your router, although the instructions are pretty straightforward and simple to use.

Once installed and with each of your computers equipped with a wireless Ethernet card, you will be able to enjoy the flexibility of using your computer in any room of the house or even the back yard.


Wireless Internet @ Home

Wireless InternetMost homes are not equipped with Ethernet cabling throughout the house. This is the type of cabling you need to connect your computer to your cable modem or to your DSL modem. In some cases consumers will also have a small router. They can connect to their high speed modem which will support up to four computers and a network printer. Running cables to 4 different computers and a printer spread throughout a house is a non starter for most people. They just do not want to clutter up their homes with all this cable laying along the floor.

Wireless Internet via WiFi

There is another solution and that is adding wireless internet to your home using a wireless router. These devices are relatively inexpensive and also easy to install. You will need to have a wireless card in each computer that you want to connect to the router over a wireless connection. If you have printers with a wireless card you can also connect the printer to the wireless network allowing all computers to print from this network printer. The printer can also be connected to one of the computers or to the router via an Ethernet card.  Most wireless routers will also support several wired connections as well.

Coverage with a Wireless Router

With a wireless router, wireless internet @ home can be very convenient. the kids can connect their computers from anywhere in the house, the parents from the den or while watching TV.  Basically anywhere in the home as well as within a short distance from the home outside. Even some of your neighbors may be able to access your wireless network from their homes if your wireless router is located properly.

A precaution that everyone should follow when they install wireless router is to password protect it to avoid unwanted people from accessing your network and using your service for free. The best case is that they will use your network for free and drive your traffic up to a point were your service provider decides that they need to charge you a higher fee. The worst case is that they download large files of questionable material or worse hack into your own computers and take a look around at your personal files. Right now out of four wireless networks that I can see, one is wide open and accessible. Always protect your wireless network with a password.

Sometimes when I am waiting for my wife to finish an appointment at the hospital, I drive into the nearby neighborhood and look for an open WiFi that I can use to read my mail and browse the internet. I usually have no problem finding one. Password protect your WiFi to stop people like me from using your WiFi for free.

Setting up Wireless Internet

Setting up wireless internet at home is pretty straight forward. Turn off your high speed modem, plug the Ethernet cable provided with your wireless router into the high speed modem and the wireless router. Plug both units in and turn on both units. Insert the CD that came with your wireless router and follow the instructions. Note you need to have a wireless modem installed in your computer and turned on for your wireless connection to work.

You will be prompted to add your name, password etc and then you should be ready to connect. Provide the password to other users in your home. This is actually the network key and is needed by everyone who will access your router.

Improving Productivity with Wireless Internet

Once you are connected you can move around the house or the office with your computer and always remain connected. Read your email, chat with other users and social networks, print using your wireless router, connect multiple computers, stream music or video. With all of these advantages you will wonder why you never moved to a wireless network sooner.

An additional advantage is that when you have visitors or the kids come home they can easily connect to the internet via your wireless router without having to dig out a cable or unhook your own.  Guests can even connect from the comfort of their room without needing a cable to connect.

Router Capacity for Wireless Internet @ Home

Routers come in various capacities in terms of being able to support multiple computers as well as maximum throughput. Before you decide on a wireless router , evaluate your needs and then decide on a router.

What is the speed of your cable connection or DSL connection? Will the router utilize this maximum capacity? What content will you be downloading from the internet? Will you just be doing email and internet browsing? Or will you be downloading movies and songs which take more bandwidth? Select the router that will give you the capacity that you need. Remember that other  members of the family may be using the internet for other applications so check with them before you make a decision.

Location of our Router for Maximum Coverage

Select a practical location for the router that is easy to install and near where your high speed modem is located. If the router is located in the basement, there is a possibility that you will not have the best performance if you and your computer are on the top floor. Best location for a wireless router is in the middle of the house on the main floor, away from walls and other metallic obstructions. This is not always practical so try to locate your wireless router as close to the above suggestions to maximize your coverage and avoid poor performance.

Conversely , if you locate the router on the 2nd floor and your office is in the basement you could also have poor connection and poor service as a result.

Computer Security for Wireless Networks

In addition to setting up security on your wireless router, you should also set up appropriate security on your computer. This is like a 2nd line of defense. Protect your computer from viruses and hack attacks. Install a virus checking program. Close ports that are not needed. Set up your firewall on your computer as well as on your wireless router to maximize your security.

For more on wireless internet discussion, click here.

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