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Alternative Wireless Networks 74

Elvis Maximus writes " has an interesting piece on an effort in London to create a wireless alternative to traditional ISPs called Similar projects discussed include, SFLAN and SeattleWireless." Interesting both from the technological and legal sides.
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Alternative Wireless Networks

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  • Mobile Ad-HOC Networking is being worked on by the MANET group [] of the IETF [].

    If done well, then it seems that we could bring back a little freedom back to the internet.

    If a wireless network became popular enough, then we could see free(as in speech and maybe pretty cheap), cooperative, wireless networking popping up in metropolitan areas.
  • Then there's Metricom's "Ricochet" system. That's more aimed at mobile users. Uses little, shoe-box-sized repeaters mounted on utility poles all over the place.

    I live in the DC metro area and actually contacting Metricom here is quite a chore.

    The last time I looked at their website (several weeks ago) there were no prices for service listed. When I called, I sat on VM hold for AGES and was never able to speak with a human to find out how much they want per month (their system told me to call back later and hung up).

    They are still at 28.8 kbps in this area and have been promising 128 "soon" for about 3 years, still not here.

    I was going to use 2 or 3 channels for a vehicle project, but TDB now, they will not get my business nor will they be a sponsor.

    Yet another example of a great theory that did not survive contact with reality.

    Visit DC2600 []
  • That is an excellent idea. You can visualise a system where the network can request a computer to dial in an add aggregate bandwidth. In the era of flat dial-up pricing, this would work wonders.

    The only problem is that in order to get decent routing behavior (you want the path through the modems to be transparent) you'll need at least one dedicated server with a good connection to be a routing proxy -- all the modem connected users are masqed behind it, and it forwards packets along the least congested route.

    I'm grinning like a fool in love. This is just soo cool. I hereby present you with the Joho prize for coolest idea of the day -- typically presented in the afternoon, but today we make an exception.
  • Well one solution to the problem of each station needing its own frequency is what is called DAMA mode in the ham radio world. Basically it works like this, the main node(our default gateway) is the one who decides when a station can send data. The reason for this is the fact that all of the end points can hear the hub, but not all of the end points can hear each other transmit. Obviously one could see how collisions could become a problem. DAMA also should allow you to keep any one station from hogging all of the bandwidth.

    Of course this doesn't prevent people from trying to jam the station, but if your using something like spread spectrum, this too isn't much of an issue.
  • But if you are living in a building, why would you need anything more than bluetooth? =)
  • An interesting article about airspace and licensing, etc. []

    "What is not free, however, is a license to use air -- or more specifically, the airwaves. And it is licenses for the wireless spectrum -- offered through government-controlled public auctions --that are embroiling U.S. corporations in massive and sometimes hotly contested bidding wars. "

  • In Chicago - check out this equipment from Lucent: ducts/productdetail.html?id=28 []. I like's very community-friendly approach to building a network. I'm interested in getting something like that together in Chicago - Not-for-profit, non-hierarchical, and somewhat subversive.
  • We have had wireless Internet and private networking services since early last year in Bellingham, WA. Check out the websites [] and []. These companies are utilizing spread spectrum radio and can reach 95% of homes and businesses in our county (range about 15 miles from the towers, without repeaters). 2mb, 4mb, & 16mb services are available. Our county does not have a large enough population (only about 200,000 people) to attract much in the way of fiber providers, so wireless Internet access is catching on quick. It is cheaper, faster, and so far, just as reliable as wired connections in the area.
  • there is a group in stockholm starting up a node who may share the same peering agreement as consume. More info at j
  • This was tried twice in Silicon Valley in the early 1990s. Once by Dewayne Hendricks, who wanted to put a node at every library to cover the surrounding area, and once by Tom Jennings, the designer of FidoNet, as The Little Garden, [] an early ISP. Some of us at Stanford even looked into this in the late 1980s, but nothing came of that.

    At least one end of an RF link needs to be well-sited and engineered. Cell sites and broadcast stations are in high, well-chosen locations with good antennas, so that they work with remote units in lousy locations with poor antennas. This is the basic limitation on peer-to-peer RF systems. However, if you have access to tall things to hang antennas on, it can work. Today, though, it's hard to find a tall thing that isn't overgrown with cellular antennae. People with tall things now want to be compensated for antennas on them. And there's more public opposition to putting antennae up every year.

    I'd once toyed with this idea as a net for video games, with all the video game boxes in a neighborhood linking up. I'd also thought of a way to do legal "pirate" radio, with boom boxes acting as relay stations using spread-spectrum in a junk band. But without well-placed base stations, there will be too many dead spots.

    Metricom [] probably has the cutest approach to this problem. Their service uses little boxes attached to street lights, and operates spread-spectrum in the 900MHz band. Most of the nodes are RF-only relays; only a few have wired connections to the Internet. They provide a good, although low-bandwidth, flat-rate mobile Internet service.

  • Too bad I'm in Chicago :)

    What class license have you? Because, remember, anything above 300 GHz is free space for hams and is probably unpopulated.

    Another advantage? Tiny, high-gain antennas. Imagine a two-meterlong Yagi giving you a 10.. 20.. 30+ dB gain. You could EME your network packets!

    "These are the ramblings of a damned lunatic. I am to be thinkink about super-footooristik designes for werld Konkwest."
  • wrong:

    lasers are coherent; they have very low beam dispersal. Light beams that cross don't interact. active tracking of targets can acheive excellent great accuracy.


    The points about needing to be careful about not blinding someone is well taken; these things are regulated for a reason. Likewise, rain and fog are serious bummers.

  • As far as I know you still have to use a Mac to use the AirPort base station, but it does not look like it would be impossible to hack for UNIX use (perhaps it already has been and I just missed the news).

    works great for unix - it's just IEEE 802.11 wireless networking, no worries. and now, for your added viewing pleasure, the base-station configurator exists for windows as well. see:

    for starters.

  • My thought was disjointed. I see the arcology concept as sort of all of Seattle under one roof, where wireless networks would still be needed (lasers beaming terrabits of info) for basic city operations. The bluetooth concept, linking to the wireless network was just a bit of wishful thinking. And I just pulled Bluetooth from thin air, I know little about it and really don't want to know anymore. I just liked the idea of being able to take notes in a classroom while they are being transcribed on my computer at home.
  • by danderson ( 157560 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2000 @06:35AM (#785842)
    you still have to use a Mac to use the AirPort base station

    If the AirPort is truely IEEE 802.11 compliant (as it claims), you should be able to use _any_ vendor's 802.11 compliant hardware with it. And other vendors support other hardware and operating systems.

    For you Linux types: Enterasys' [] wireless offerings [] include linux drivers []

  • Formus [] here in Dublin, Ireland are currently beta testing broadband wireless access and point-to-point microwave access. It's looks really cool and it's a lot lot cheaper than getting fibre to your door (especially here in Ireland, looking at $30k-£35k a year for 512k line).

    Only problem is if someone decides to stick a building or something in the line of sight to the base station your gonna loose bandwith. Even if it's a misty or foggy day bandwith drops.

    They sent out engineers to my company and they got up on the roof and took some digital pictures and stuff, but it turned out that there was a few buildings in the line of sight so it was a non-starter for us.

    It still looks promising even if it scares the telcos into reducing the cost of a fixed line.
  • Brilliant Scott! Thanks for the info! I think it's very difficult to track down reliable documentation about wireless and it's true uses today that isn't tainted with corporate sales gibberish.

    Although, I suspect the future will more more like the user will look up the ISP's number on Visor (given Palm's zero innovation mode currently) and select the number and the Visor will call over a packet switched network and complain that his 2.4 GHz Internet connection is down. =)

    Thanks for the links!

    Jayson Pifer
  • Well, it actually depends on how the plans are to do this... if it's via a laser transmission, that has it's own set of flaws, while a radio peer-to-peer has another set.


    (1) Weather. If it's rainy (Seattle), smoggy (L.A.) or snowy (Canada), then you have problems. Also, other 'obstacles' like pigeons and such can be fairly hazardous to a connection... :P

    (2) Precision. Laser transmission has to be fairly precise, or you're going to lose packets. Which is not a good way to promote the efficiency of your product. ("We only lose 30% of your information")

    (3) Power. Laser transmission can be very ineffective, power-wise, and the further it has to travel, the tighter the beam (what with precision and all) has to be. You have to be careful about power output in open areas.

    (4) Interference: What happens if two or more lasers cross? Packet data swaps? Corruption of data? Nothing?

    Now, mind you, in a relatively small, enclosed area (I believe an arcology has been mentioned), it might be more feasible.

    Radio peer-to-peer:

    (1) Available frequencies: If every 'user' is on their own sub-frequency, in large metropolitan areas, you can run out of sub-frequencies rather quickly. What with radio traffic already there, you have to be able to devote a frequency to a user that can be assured of less then a fixed amount of interference.

    (2) Jamming: If you're using a radio peer-to-peer, it's possible to be jammed fairly easily. It's fairly simple to set up a broad-band radio jammer to mess with local radio stations right now (with most, if not all of the parts available at Radio Shack). It may not work over a very wide area, mind you, but it can be done.

    (3) Privacy: Radio peer-to-peer, unless properly encrypted, can be 'listened' in on by practically any other user of a radio ptp. And with the right software, encryption can be circumvented, for the most part. After all, you have to be able to insure that the receiver can read it. You can't just send a PGP key with this, because potentially, anyone could 'see' it.

    If you're out in the middle of East Armpit, Texas, this becomes less of an issue, but in major metro areas, you'll have all kinds of d00dz playing around with their toys.

    IMAO, radio peer-to-peer is not the way to go for now, but for all I know, all of my concerns have been addressed already. Laser transmission offers it's own problems as well, which I really can't see certain ways around. The last thing I want is a 'laser grid' in the sky full of information. Too many possibilites that something could go wrong.

  • Some friends of mine and are interested in establishing a community-based wireless network in Northwest Portland, OR. We're pretty early in the process, but if you'd be interested in participating, please e-mail me at

  • "excellent great"

    wonderful proofreading today.
  • Perhaps you need to investigate the premises of your various theories a little more.

    1. Check this thread 13&cid=19 first. There is a link to a Security Geeks story that has info on hacking an AirPort (now, I am told, useable on Linux and Mac) base station to 128bit encryption.

    2. The HAM radio encryption limit is not anything like what you say. It is a legeslated restriction. You are not "allowed" to encrypt on amature frequencies by law, not by physics.

    You can easily use any encryption method you like across a TNC (terminal node controller) packet connection. As long as you do not mind breaking the law. If you use public key encryption it will work just fine (well, as fine as TNC gets anyway). The radio can care less if the bursts are gibberish or human readable.

    However, you can signal hop and use any method you like for that, so long as the data is not encrypted. Check some of the Off the Hook archives for this info, bernieS gave a nice brief outline of this method on a show from last year or so.

    3. Several news stories recently have covered breakthroughs in laser networking. However, moving your house to a line-of sight path to the hub may not be practical.

    Visit DC2600 []
  • It's called RIP, dude.

    That's what's happening to your legal rights online.

    Boycott Britain! Screw the .uk!
  • The PADD analogy is a pretty good one. Unfortunately, what we don't see in Star Trek is what kind of security protects this information transfer. Out in the field where the nearest receiver is a starship, that is fine. In a city where there are hundreds of possible receptors, how can I prevent someone from stealing my notes as I send them back to my computer? What kind of encryption will have to be built into these things and will the general noise of so many transmissions be enough to protect my very sensitive Politics in Brazil notes?
  • Always thought Manchester had pretty good weather on account of being being in a valley (you've never lived till you've been over snake pass in heavy snow) sort of localised weather system, could see this working a lot better places like edinburgh or stirling (maybe moving there soon) where a lot of the town is on a hill, all we need it to get the National Trust to let us put huge antenna (?) on the castles :)

    Funnily enough I actually posted this to /. before I posted it to, ho hum :))

  • I see the arcology concept as sort of all of Seattle under one roof

    Almost right. What would go under one roof would be Seattle minus all the things that only exist because Seattle isn't all compactly tucked under a roof. The parking and driving infrastructure go right away, of course, as does all the space taken up with lawns. Lots of things that are repeated over and over again so there's always a close one can be repeated fewer times when everything's close.

    But remember that the point is not to pack more people in. The point is to free up all that extra space to be open land, available for agriculture, parks, wetlands to protect the water supply and provide habitat, and so on.

    And your Bluetooth idea might well work especially well in an arcology. If you have a wireless network access point in each room you still need to have it connected (either wireline or wireless) into the greater network. That might be easier in an arcology.

    By the way, you can find more info about arcologies on the Arcosanti home page [].

  • Yeah I was thinking of something like that, after having tried things like midpoint with windows before.

    But here you have a network where you can have a huge amount of gateways to the internet (modems, ISDN, ADSL, cable), most of which where the person 'dialed up' will be using either a fraction or none of the connection (right now I'm reading a several 100K /. page, modem idle) all that bandwidth could be being used.

    I thought initially there would have to be some checks, i.e. if I wanted to download sunsite for fun, well I wouldn't want people using my connection, but umm then there are all those other people doing nothing...

    I'd say this is, or at least should be, the way of the future. Taking the power back :)

    The main problem I can see so far is that there is nothing centralised, these are all isolated projects, and when it comes to linking them there will be IP conflicts etc.

    Also is the software available yet? stuff like BGP going through masqued gateways, or tunneled over the internet.

    Really regretting the fact that I spent the day setting up IMAP on my server and missed this thread while it was still alive.

    So it goes....

  • checkout why is there nothing like this O/S yet?

    or taking a wild guess and saying there probably is, where is it? me want

  • yeah, if you read through the archives at they seem to have realised this, like the range that they want to use is restricted, as far as I can tell though they have chosen to ignore this so far...
  • ok I've seen - chicago/la mentioned and the links for the story our in differnt areas too. Anyone want to or know of anyone working on one in oahu hawaii? email if interested, I'm open to differnt methods, although due to the restrictions I read in the become a ham book I never went to get a ham license.
  • by Ron Harwood ( 136613 ) <harwoodr&linux,ca> on Tuesday September 12, 2000 @05:26AM (#785857) Homepage Journal
    Check out [] if you live in Canada...

    They're doing full, bi-direcional wireless in test markets now - but they already have uni-directional with a modem for the uplink, which still works well with laptops.
  • We've been thinking about getting a wireless LAN here at work, but this is something I've been wainting for a long time.

    When will something like this come to Sweden? I know there have been some trying with test panels and stuff...
  • As a resident of the greatest city in the world (/me ducks) I'm going to be following the progress of this with interest. It makes a lot of sense to be using available technology in such a way that it can simulate a broadband connection using much more portable wireless devices.

    Whilst London isn't likely to suffer from a lack of broadband when it finally takes off over here, there are a lot of places where it'll be years before phone companies decide it will be worth the cost to install it. In rural areas and third world nations lacking vital infrastructure, this sort of network could provide communities with many of the advantages of broadband technology.

  • We have a company in town that provides 2.4GHz wireless internet access. The biggest problem is if you order a T1's worth of data, and it starts raining, you may only get 128K or 256K. Weather adversely effects the signal quality. Laser transmission suffers from the same problems. The only way to get a strong connection in any weather conditions is to get a hard line.

  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2000 @05:28AM (#785861) Homepage
    This sounds like what I wanted to do in my dorm 6 years ago when we only had dial-in connections, but we had a fast local network. I wanted to combine the bandwidth of the modems to produce a bandwidth pool that local users could use. This assumes that the local network is faster than the dial-up connection, and that the dial-up link is the weakest link between you and the internet.

    One of the benefits not mentioned in the article is that there's greater reliability since each computer has many ways of communicating with the 'net.

  • If anyone is interested in doing this in Los Angeles area, do send me an e-mail at I've had a ham license for a few years, and have worked with packet. I'm very interested in a part 15 spread spectrum network, though due to regulatory restrictions on amateur communications.
  • Of course, these guys are now talking about using wireless ethernet to carry the traffic; but the idea of radio peer-to-peer has been around. Heck, look in the config for linux kernel, and you'll see the amateur-radio AX.25 packet radio support.
  • First order of business...make web site look less like an RFC.
  • I'm a wireless nets guy, so I'll talk about your radio points. As for (1), you use some CSMA/CA protocol to share a channel among many users. You could even use TDMA to get some guarantees about latency and bandwidth (subject to an error-free channel)

    (2): if you're CDMA, it's not easy. Also, it's kinda illegal, so if people actually used these things, the FCC people with their scopes will come knocking at your door.

    (3): end to end encryption. enough said.
  • If you look on the same page as the intended article from, there is another interesting little tidbit [] about a ham radio station being installed on the International Space Station, so the astronauts can talk to ham operators on the ground. This might just be the push I've been needing to go out and get that ham license.
  • Umm no. My wireless connection from this city to a local shoreline city suffer's no effects when it rains (Unless it is a torrential downpour that also shakes the towers) The difference if the toy's you are using and the 1KW Link I have.
    10foot dishes on a 300 foot tower transmitting at 1KW to reach 90KM away.

    so wireless has a problem ONLY when it is low power Pro-sumer level equipment. Big commercial equipment has no problems whatsoever.. (ask the phone company they do wireless point to point everywhere!)
  • If dirt world communities behaved like online communities, or even if the HAM "spirit" would spread a bit, we could have wireless networks all across the countryside.

    This securitygeeks story [] covers how to setup a very basic AirPort wireless network that can communicate at great distances as well as 128 bit encryption.

    As far as I know you still have to use a Mac to use the AirPort base station, but it does not look like it would be impossible to hack for UNIX use (perhaps it already has been and I just missed the news).

    Anyway, the point is that the hardware and the software is already here, all we need to do is band together and use it.

    Visit DC2600 []
  • We (ad hoc networking community, not necessarily IETF MANET WG community) do pretty well for small nets (Broch et al, Mobicom 98 []) and geographically routable large nets (Ko and Vaidya, Mobicom 98; Li et al, Karp and Kung, Mobicom 00)

    Also, a silly plug, we (the monarch group []) haven't updated our latest internet draft because we've been busy writing working code =) Another interesting protocol is DSR:

  • You raise the point that encryption is difficult over wireless because anyone can listen, and say that "you can't just send a PGP key with this, because potentially, anyone could 'see' it."

    The thing about public key encryption, though, is that anyone can see the public key... On a two-way communication system, what happens is one peer generates a key pair and sends its public key to the other, which then does the same. When you encrypt a message with someone's public key, it can only be decrypted using their private key, which only they have. (The private key is never transmitted.) So the two peers use each other's public key to encrypt messages to each other.

    That's what makes PKE so cool, IMO. You need never transmit a secret, so even if someone's listening in when you send your key, all they can do is encrypt messages to you, not decrypt messages from you.
  • True, you may have larger aggregate bandwidth; however, any individual connection can only download/upload at the modem rate. Special exceptions can be made when you own the servers on the other ends of modems, but in a normal circumstance, it's not possible. In which case the whole system is kinda pointless, and everyone would be better off with their own modems.
  • Snag is that, in the UK at least, ham radio is heavily restricted in what it can carry (in particular, no commercial traffic).
  • What everyone seems to be missing is that this is an opportunity to bypass ISPs altogether. A network by the people and for the people. Internet3!
  • It is exactly what you're talking about.
  • If you're looking for highspeed 2-way in Southern Ontario, look at WDSL []

    They cover Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Stoney Creek, Grimsby, Beamsville, Carlisle & Waterdown.

    3Mbit/s 2-way business access

  • very nice... make your own link to the T1 at work!!!
  • Umm... Nobody's really actively pursuing the arcology idea right now, and I don't think most people want to live in big domed city.

    The domed city, I think, is one of science fiction's more pessimistic inventions, and doesn't seem at all likely.

    (Note to self, when reading this archive in 60 years under a dome: way to predict the future, genius.)
  • Theres something like this in aus -
  • Suppose you had several nodes (say you and your neighbors) each with a different ISP (and interconnected with ethernet). How could you do packet level load balancing between the multiple connections? Perhaps you could set up a VPN among your neighbors and a fast colo'ed machine. Then run OSPF on you private network and NAT at the colo. Of course this makes it difficult for each resident to have their own servers. But they could always run their servers on the colo machine instead which is probably better anyway.

    Wow, it'd be like having your own private internet. I'll setup an ARIN analog to dole out private ips. Then I'll create a new country code '.ryan' for my internal machines. Since my domain server will proxy DNS lookups everything will work out fine. Then I'll make my own napster server and a private usenet. An IP parallel universe. Cool! Right out of a sci-fi novel.

    Are there any large scale VPN alternate universes out there?

  • The focus in Sweden today is not Wireless due to its lack of bandwith, at best 11Mbit shared. Then we have the enviromental problem. I would love a wireless network, but a lot of people thing of it as living in a Microwave.
  • But let me fill in some blanks:

    Wireless Internet is going to be big in places where it is physically possible to do so at a better rate than what the telephone and cable companies can or are willing to charge. The UK in general is crippled by BT. Rural areas in the United States have unreliable voice service on their phone lines, much lessdata, and cable doesn't exist. I have a friend who works for a wireless Internet company in Duluth, Minnesota (not a HUGE city) that is successful for those very reasons:
    Superior Broadband, Inc. []

  • there was a cool project going over at l0pht a while back (is it still active?) aiming toward a multimegabit wireless (microwave) lan around boston. They called it, and were integrating encryption over the links to provide secure remote internet access.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Did the moderator who modded this up check out the link first?

  • by Cylix ( 55374 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2000 @05:37AM (#785884) Homepage Journal
    Interesting model...

    Essentially they want to create a high speed and low cost wireless intranet within their area. It would be nice to have something similar to a local free high speed network in your home town. Fast file sharing and quick access to those within your networks limits.

    However, I saw no mention of any type of bandwidth provisions... it would seem as if they would be relying on network providers to peer with them... If this is the situation, I would seriously doubt anyone would give away bandwidth for free.

    This sounds like a nice idea, but I have a difficult time grasping of how you would get this to work properly. IMHO relying on others to contribute is usually a bad idea.

    With a select and dedicated group of individuals who would give a damn if the network runs and maintain their part...this could work... so it would seem this is left to the hobbyist and small organizations to implement for themselves.

  • Here's an analogy: many islands each with a small bridge to mainland. If the islands interconnect, then if one island wants to move lots of cargo to mainland and the other islands aren't shipping anything, then some of the trucks can first go to other islands and then go to mainland. This situation is even better when the islands are closer to each other than they are to mainland, making it economical to build faster & wider bridges between the islands, so overall latency isn't increased very much.
  • Wouldn't wireless make more sense within an arcology? Once we get to a point that entire towns are actually located 'inside' a building and weather effects can be completely bypassed?

    Also, within a wireless isp range, could protocols be established so my Bluetooth devices can connect to the net? I'd love to be able to have a Bluetooth enabled Crosspad send the notes I'm taking right to my computer at home.

  • Yeah, but agents from the Matrix might 'cut the hard line'. (For 'agents' read 'engineers', and for 'Matrix' read 'telephone/electricity/gas company')
  • I would have to disagree with you, but for entirely different reasons:

    Although most ISPs are happy to "flood the spectrum with enough RF to bake a potato at 500 yards", there are some who are approaching it with a more cautious and thoughtful approach, utilizing passive receive amplifiers rather than transmit amplifiers; using directional antennas to eliminate radiated interference and sectored antennas to allow maximum coverage. Not everyone is tilting OMNIs from the top of a building to reach a customer below (although some do think that UFO's need bandwidth too :-).

    Although the band will get chewed up by the abusers, the rest of us will continue to plan our networks, and continue to run long after the has-been ISPs are gone or have switched vendors yet again.

  • Well Seattle and Manchester, England are non-starters then.... Tim
  • I work for a company that's completing a completly wireless backbone based on microwave technologies. Check out . The transmission method is subject to the weather and you need line-of-sight to the tower, but it sure beats waiting months on end for a DSL connection, especially in secondary markets and rural areas (which is what we're targeting).
  • I understand nobody is actively pursuing this, but as a general rule of thumb, with buildings getting bigger and bigger, the need to centralize services, cut down on commuting to save the environment, I see us slowly creeping towards an arcology concept.

    Okay, so maybe we won't have one big domed megagopolis, but I can see several larger structures created from the physical linking of many buildings. So it wouldn't be a planned arcology, but an arcology of convenience. Through this interconnectedness, wireless systems may not be necessary, but between arcologies, a wireless system might be an answer. I don't know, I'm just riffing, so don't quote me on anything.

  • FYI, the website:
    Wireless ethernet conforming to the 802.11 standards is a license free networking technology which runs at up to 8 mbits. It can be thought of as the networking equivalent of CB radio. The technology is low cost and standards based and comes actually plays to some of ethernets stronger points (ethernet was origninally developed as a wireless broadcast medium). There are 2 license free bandwidths that may be used in the uk 2.4 Ghz and 3.5 Ghz. Most activity is in the 2.4 Ghz range which leaves a virtually unused band which will exploit. There is much activity in the states in the wireless isp industry and as a result most of the common problems and there solutions are in the public domain. The equipment is also fairly well supported for drivers under linux and bsd. The low cost of the medium makes it ideal for consume's initial phase. It may be used in directional or omni modes depending on arial design. Directional instalations obviously fit more bandwdith into a smaller physical space and are prefered. Omnis are useful for street wide coverage etc. It may be that the backbone of the netywork is initially done over 3.5ghz directional and the last hop to laptops etc. is done over 2.4 ghz gear...
    You see, they plan on using the 3.4 Ghz and a mixed model of wireless ethernet-type for a particular street's coverage and directional (lasers or 3.5 Ghz RF) for their backbone. As long as they're not trying to flood the airwaves with 2.4Ghz, they should be okay going with street-wide-area power (like the achievable range of my cordless 2.4 Ghz phone). With some smart routing technology it should be quite possible.

    Another thing that they're talking about is implementing ip6. Hooray!

  • I don't think you get it. is trying to be a big fat ISP. It is only interested in your money not your freedom. and are trying to make you your own ISP giving you your freedom. Just because Look is wireless doesn't mean that it is the same.


  • by nosilA ( 8112 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2000 @08:24AM (#785894)
    This depends largely on the frequency that you are transmitting at. Higher frequencies (i.e. microwave) diffract more and therefore you experience a major loss of signal during rain, or even high humidity. Lower frequencies (i.e. FM) do not diffract nearly as much and are more or less unaffected by weather. 2.4GHz is somewhere in the middle there, and the amount that weather effects it is mostly proportional to how directional the antenna is. omnidirectional antennae don't lose much signal in rain, but directional do (dispersion is bigger problem).

  • True, you may have larger aggregate bandwidth; however, any individual connection can only download/upload at the modem rate. Special exceptions can be made when you own the servers on the other ends of modems, but in a normal circumstance, it's not possible. In which case the whole system is kinda pointless, and everyone would be better off with their own modems.


    I personally had 4 modems dialled into the same NAS on my provider (with different accounts) and the link speed was a little under the theoretical maximum for a single modem *4. This was because the NAS allowed pooling. This was back in the 2.0.x days of the Linux kernel and the program which enslaved the individual ppp links was a little kludgy, but it worked wonders. So long as the other end is a Total Control center or a Cisco AS5200/5300, you should be fine, so long as the guy running it kept modem banding enabled. :-)

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2000 @08:31AM (#785896) Homepage Journal

    In a city where there are hundreds of possible receptors, how can I prevent someone from stealing my notes as I send them back to my computer?

    That is not a technical problem. Just use public key encryption to exchange session keys. The real problem has been export limits and companies who figure that the stupid lusers they sell to won't know the difference anyway.

    The first problem is less of an issue now in the U.S., the second just requires clueful users finding clueful vendors or Free software.

  • I hope to God I never live in a city-biodome. But yeah, I think a far future goal of these projects (at least it is for my indivudual fumblings) is to allow a PAN to interface with a wireless WAN. Think (sorry, but the analogue is right here) the Star Trek PADDs, no wires, always connected.
  • I already use there service here in Montreal (uni-directional), it works great, REALLY fast! They say begining of Novembre bi-direct will be available....
  • I've been using my Airport with Linux for several months now. It works great. It is useful to have a Mac to initially configure the Airport base station, but not necessary. I borrowed a Mac laptop from work to set mine up the first time. Several weeks ago I was messing with my configuration and got everything munged up; not feeling like driving to the office to borrow the laptop again, I found a Java Airport configurator []. Works perfectly from both Win32 and Linux: no Mac required.
  • I just picked up a lucent Orinoco base station. It's basically the same core as the Airport (at the same price), and will happily interact with an Airport. It supports 64bit encryption (a 128 bit model is a bit more). Lucent will also support their cards and base station under Windows AND Linux. When asked about PC support, apple said something basically like "If you want wireless, use a Mac." Oriellynet has a piece on getting PC's to talk to airports. []
  • by gscott ( 187733 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2000 @06:15AM (#785901)
    I work for a company that sell wireless LANs. I the past 9 months, over 75 percent of our sales calls have been from ISPs implementing wireless LAN technology to deliver internet services to customers. Unfortunately, most of them know little about the technology and are not interested in engineering a wireless network that delivers a constant bandwidth with high reliability. Most seem to want to only be able to deliver something faster than dialup and then don't car if they have to flood the spectrum with enough RF to bake a potato at 500 yards! The three unliscend bands are around 915 MHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5.8 GHz. THe 915 band has become so flooded with RF due to overlap by the paging towers that it is considered no longer reliable (at least by us, we tend to be more conservative). The advent of the 802.11b compatible 11 Mb cards abd caused a HUGE explosion in the amount of 2.4 GHz equipment out there. My humble opinion is that a few years down the road, the end user look up his ISP's number on his Bluetooth enabled PalmPilot, will call his ISP on his 2.4 GHz phone, and complain that his 2.4 GHz internet connection does't work worth a damn. The use of frequency hopping allows a network to be designed so that it can handle the interference better but there are distance limitation and (until very recently) bandwidth limitations. . The 5.8 GHz band is fairly open and there are several standards in the works that will open it up to high bandwidth, low cost products but right now there aren't too many out there. The distance limitations hurt too. Sorry for rambling. I just don't think that creating a city-wide 2.4 GHz network (I am assuming here, don't know if that is what they really are doing at is really possible due to the sheer amount of 2.4 GHz equipement that is going to be around in a few years. The FCC never really intended for the wireless LAN equipment to be so prevalent in the world of ISPs, IMHO. It's great indoors and for bridging LAN's but the more people put it out there, the more interference we are all going to have to deal with eventually. If you are really interested in the wireless ISP arena, check out the archives at They have a wireless mailing list and there is a lot of info there. You could also check out Just my thoughts as a frustrated salesperson/tech support guy.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"