Posts tagged Wireless
The number of global 4G LTE wireless subscribers has skyrocketed from thousands to millions in just three years, and research firm iSuppli predicts that rate of growth will only speed up.
The rise in worldwide subscribers on 4G LTE has far exceeded expectations. In just three years since its nascent beginnings, the mobile technology has skyrocketed — going from 600,000 users in 2010 to nearly 100 million subscribers in 2012. Now, in a new report, market research firm IHS iSuppli is projecting that global users will double in 2013 and that by 2016 LTE will claim more than 1 billion subscribers.
“With LTE emerging as a true global technology standard, its ecosystem now faces both challenges and opportunities,” iSuppli’s senior analyst for wireless communications, Wayne Lam, said in a statement. “Rapid adoption will drive design innovations, particularly in smartphones, but issues like spectrum fragmentation will also remain an overhang for the LTE industry that requires attention. Overall, however, the LTE space will be less worried about rifts or divisions in technology, and more concerned with laying the foundation for sustained growth across the entire LTE landscape.”
In 2010, analysts projected that LTE would reach 300 million users by 2015. But at the rate wireless technology is now proliferating, iSuppli believes it could reach this many people by 2014. Just in the last year LTE subscribers jumped 599 percent from 13.2 million subscribers in 2011 to 92.3 million in 2012. It’s projected that LTE users will reach 198.1 million by the end of 2013. As smartphone technology and apps become increasingly more comprehensive and dependent on faster delivery, wireless infrastructure has to keep up. This has proven difficult in some aspects, according to iSuppli. For example, while 3G registered on just a few spectrums, LTE has registered more than 40 different frequency spectrums so far. So, even though subscribers are multiplying, kinks still need to be ironed out.
Looks at where networking and storage are right now, and what new developments we might see at CES 2013. It’s been an exciting — and busy — year for networking and storage, two very important categories in consumer electronics. Important because they are at the core of information technology — without either, most or all of your gadgets will come to a grinding halt. And as far as I know, we haven’t yet seen the limit of what they can do. That said, here is a quick roundup of the current state of this sector and what we can expect, based on my educated guesses, heading into CES 2013.
This year will be remembered as the year that 802.11ac (or 5G Wi-Fi) became a reality. Or rather, half of it did. That’s because while there have been a decent number of routers supporting this new standard from all major networking vendors, there are still no hardware clients, such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops, that have 802.11ac built in. This means that, for now, most consumers still have no practical experience with the benefits of this faster wireless standard. It’s predicted that the first 802.11ac devices, including 802.11ac adapters (either USB or PCie) that quickly add 802.11ac to existing computers will be introduced at CES 2013. This means that you won’t need to get an entirely new computer to enjoy faster wireless connections. Currently most of the existing 802.11ac adapters are bulky media bridges that are cumbersome to use. On top of that, you can also expect even more networking vendors to join the 802.11ac movement, offering routers with more features — and hopefully better prices. It generally takes a few years for a new Wi-Fi standard to become mainstream, and 2013 will be the first year on the clients’ side.
While 802.11ac is currently the fastest Wi-Fi standard on the market, it’s by no means the be-all or end-all of Wi-Fi. In fact, there’s a new standard called WiGig that operates on 60Ghz and offers wireless speed up to seven times faster than the wired Gigabit Ethernet standard. It’s predicted that WiGig will be demonstrated at CES 2013, with the first integrated products used in real-world scenarios. We’ll find out if it will replace 802.11ac or offer a new type of wireless connection applications.
The cloud gets larger
During 2012, the integration of home networks with the cloud — a feature that allows for easy management of a home network via the Internet using browsers or mobile devices — was a reality with Cisco’s Linksys EA router series (that use the Cisco Connect Cloud platform) and D-Link Cloud routers, such as the DIR-605L. It’s predicted that this movement will continue, and there will be more networking devices that can be managed via the cloud. Further, there will be more you can do with the home network beyond just changing the router’s settings while being out and about.
Thunderbolt and USB 3.0
The latest peripheral standard, Thunderbolt, became popular among external storage devices in 2012 — and it was no longer exclusively a Mac thing. 2012 was also the year that USB 3.0 became available for Macs.
With that in mind, you can expect more Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 storage devices to be introduced at CES 2013, especially those that support not one but both of these standards. It’s likely that Thunderbolt software drivers for Windows will be more widely available, enabling existing Thunderbolt storage devices to work with Windows-based computers.
Solid-state drives (SSD)
Solid-state drives came into their own in 2012, with many new drives being introduced and a number of portable computers shipping with an SSD preinstalled. And at CES 2013, manufacturers of memory chips will likely introduce even more SSDs, offering consumers better, and most importantly, more affordable options.
The integration of storage and networking
Portable wireless storage expander
A typical example of a product that combines both networking and storage is the Seagate GoFlex Satellite, which allows you to carry a large amount of digital content with you and stream it to tablets and smartphones via a Wi-Fi connection. You can almost be certain to expect the next generation of this type of device at CES 2013.
While NAS servers, such as those from Synology or QNAP, have matured in the last few years, offering not just large amounts of storage capacity and fast performance but also lots of features. At CES 2013, it’s predicted that NAS vendors will introduce even more features, especially the support for TV recording and a new level of ease-of-use. These network storage devices really need to be more user-friendly to work well for home and novice users. I can also almost guarantee that new routers with advanced support for network storage, similar to the Asus RT-N66U, will be introduced at CES 2013. This type of router makes a great entry-level NAS server.
Network media streamer
Network media streamers are probably the most fun combination of networking and storage. Devices like the WD TV, or the Roku, have been entertaining many consumers — myself included — over the last few years. At CES 2013, expect the next generation of these devices, which will offer more options and better support for different streaming standards and services.
The carrier was far behind the leading major carrier, Verizon, which won out on voice and data services in a new Consumer Reports study. More bad news for AT&T. Consumer Reports has released its annual carrier ratings. And just as it had in the last two years, AT&T landed in last place, far behind the top major carrier in the roundup, Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless fared somewhat well in the study, earning relatively strong marks on voice and data. The only bright spot in AT&T’s review was its 4G LTE network, which actually beat out its chief competitor in this year’s study.
Sprint and T-Mobile USA landed between Verizon and AT&T. For its part, AT&T isn’t ready to back down. In a statement an AT&T spokesperson said the company is always working to improve its service. ”While delivering an even better customer experience is a never-ending job, we’re pleased that our customers rate their 4G experience as best of any carrier,” the spokesperson told. “We’ve invested significantly to deliver unique advantages, including offering the nation’s largest 4G network, which enables the fastest iPhone 5downloads and simultaneous talk and surf.”
Consumer Reports’ survey examines voice, data, and customer service across the wireless space. Although Verizon was tops among major carriers, across the industry, it actually landed in the middle of the pack. Smaller carriers, in fact, fared better than their major rivals.
Here is the actual ranking of the seven carriers included, from highest to lowest rating:
1. Consumer Cellular
2. U.S. Cellular
3. Credo Mobile
4. Verizon Wireless
6. T-Mobile USA
Consumer Cellular and Credo are actually mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that rely on other carriers’ networks to deliver their service. Interestingly, Consumer Cellular relies on AT&T’s network. Credo uses Sprint’s network.
As the guy who reviews networking products I generally receive a couple of e-mails from readers a day, and most of them, in one way or another, are asking about the basics of networking (as in computer to computer, I am not talking about social networks here.) Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate e-mails because, at the very least, it gives me the impression that there are real people out there amid the sea of spam. But I’d rather not keep repeating myself. So instead of saying the same thing over and over again in individual e-mails, I’ll talk all about home networking basics, in layman’s terms, in this post. Advanced and experienced users won’t need this, but for the rest, I’d recommend reading the whole thing, and if you want to quickly find out what a networking term means, you can search for it here.
1. Wired Networking
A wired local network is basically a group of devices connected to one another using network cables, more often than not, with the help of a router, which brings us to the very first networking term.
Router: This is the central device of a home network that you can plug one end of a network cable into. The other end of the cable goes into a networking device that has a network port. If you want to add more network devices to a router, you’ll need more cables and more ports on the router. These ports, both on the router and on the end devices, are called Local Area Network (LAN) ports. They are also known as RJ45 ports. The moment you plug a device into a router, you have yourself a wired network. Networking devices that come with an RJ45 network port are called Ethernet-ready devices. More on this below.
Note: Technically, you can skip a router and connect two computers together using one network cable to form a network of two. However, this requires manually configuring the IP addresses, or using a special crossover cable, for the connection to work. You don’t really want to do that.
LAN ports: A home router usually has four LAN ports, meaning out of the box it can host a network of up to four wired networking devices. If you want to have a larger network, you will need to resort to a switch (or a hub), which adds more LAN ports to the router. Generally a home router can handle up to about 250 networking devices, and the majority of homes and even small businesses don’t need more than that. There are currently two main speed standards for LAN ports: Ethernet, which caps at 100Mbps (or about 13MBps), and Gigabit Ethernet, which caps at 1Gbps (or about 125MBps). In other words, it takes about a minute to transfer a CD’s worth of data (some 700MB or about 250 digital songs) over an Ethernet connection. With Gigabit Ethernet, the same job takes just about 5 seconds. In real life, the average speed of an Ethernet connection is about 8MBps, and of a Gigabit Ethernet connection is somewhere between 45 and 80MBps. The actual speed of a network connection depends on many factors, such as the end devices, the quality of the cable, the amount of traffic, and so on.
Rule of thumb: The speed of a network connection is determined by the slowest speed of any party involved. For example, in order to have a wired Gigabit Ethernet connection between two computers, both computers, the router they are connected to, and the cables used to link them together all need to support Gigabit Ethernet. If you plug a Gigabit Ethernet device and an Ethernet device to a router, the connection between the two will cap at the speed of Ethernet, which is 100Mbps.
In short, LAN ports on a router allow Ethernet-ready devices to connect to one another and share data. In order for them to also access the Internet, the router needs to also have a Wide Area Network (WAN) port.
WAN port: Generally, a router has just one WAN port. (Some business routers come with dual WAN ports, so that one could use two separate Internet services at a time). On any router, the WAN port is always separate from the LAN ports, and often comes in a different color to distinguish itself. A WAN port is exactly the same as a LAN port, just with a different usage: to connect to an Internet source, such as a broadband modem. The WAN allows the router to connect to the Internet and share that connection with all the Ethernet-ready devices connected to it.
Note: Since most Internet connections are slower than 100Mbps (a fast cable connection, for example, is about 50Mbps down and about 6Mbps up), an Ethernet-rated WAN port is sufficient in most cases. However, Gigabit Ethernet routers tend to also come with a Gigabit WAN port. That said, switching from an Ethernet router to a Gigabit Ethernet router generally doesn’t translate into faster Internet speeds, but only helps devices within your local network (LAN) to connect to one another faster.
Broadband modem: Often called a DSL modem or cable modem, a broadband modem is a device that bridges the Internet connection from a service provider to a computer or to a router, making the Internet available to consumers. Some providers offer a combo device that’s a combination of a modem and a router, or wireless router, all in one.
Network cables: These are the cables used to connect network devices to a router or a switch. They are also known as Category 5 cables, or CAT5 cables. Currently, most, if not all, CAT5 cables on the market are actually CAT5e, which is capable of delivering Gigabit Ethernet data speeds. The latest network cabling standard currently in use is CAT6, which is designed to be faster and more reliable than CAT5e. The difference between the two is the wiring inside the cable and at both ends of it. CAT5e and CAT6 cables can be used interchangeably and in my personal experience are basically the same, except CAT6 is more expensive. For most home usage, what CAT5e has to offer is more than enough. In fact, you probably won’t notice any difference if you switch to CAT6, but it doesn’t hurt to use CAT6, either, if you can afford it. Now that we’re clear on a wired network let’s move on to a wireless network.
2. Wireless networking: Standards and devices
A wireless network is very similar to a wired network with one big difference: devices don’t use cables to connect to the router and one another. Instead, they use wireless connections, known as Wireless Fidelity, or Wi-Fi, which is a friendly name for the 802.11 networking standard supported by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). This means wireless networking devices don’t need to have ports, but just antennas, which sometimes are hidden inside the device itself. In a typical home network, there are generally both wired and wireless devices, and they can all talk to one another. In order to have a Wi-Fi connection, there needs to be an access point and a Wi-Fi client.
Access point: An Access point (AP) is a central device that broadcasts the Wi-Fi signal for Wi-Fi clients to connect to. Generally, each wireless network, like those you see popping up on your smartphone’s screen as you walk around a big city, belongs to one access point. You can buy an AP separately and connect it to a router or a switch to add Wi-Fi support to a wired network, but generally, you want to buy a wireless router, which is a regular router (one WAN port, four LAN ports, and so on) with a built-in access point. Some routers even come with more than one access point (see dual-band router, below).
Wi-Fi client: A Wi-Fi client or WLAN client is a device that can detect the signal broadcast by an access point, connect to it, and maintain the connection. (This type of Wi-Fi connection is established in the Infrastructure mode, but you don’t have to remember this.) Most, if not all, laptops, smartphones, and tablets on the market come with built-in Wi-Fi capability. Those that don’t can be upgraded to that via a USB or PCIe Wi-Fi adapter. Think of a Wi-Fi client as a device that has an invisible network port and an invisible network cable. This metaphorical cable is as long as the range of a Wi-Fi signal.
Note: Technically, you can skip an access point and make two Wi-Fi clients connect directly to each other, in the Ad hoc mode. However, similar to the case of the crossover network cable, this is rather complicated and inefficient, and is far less used than the Infrastructure mode.
Wi-Fi range: This is the radius distance an access point’s Wi-Fi signal can reach. Typically, a Wi-Fi network is most viable within about 150 feet from the access point. This distance, however, changes based on the power of the devices involved, the environment, and, most importantly, the Wi-Fi standard. A good Wireless-N access point can offer a range of up to 300 feet or even farther. The Wi-Fi standard also determines how fast a wireless connection can be and is the reason Wi-Fi gets complicated and confusing, especially when the Wi-Fi frequency bands are mentioned, which I just did.
Frequency bands: These bands are the radio frequencies used by the Wi-Fi standards:2.4GHz and 5GHz. The 2.4GHz band is currently the most popular, meaning, it’s used by most existing network devices. That plus the fact that home appliances, such as cordless phones, also use this band, makes its signal quality generally worse than that of the 5GHz band due to oversaturation and interference.
Depending on the standard, some Wi-Fi devices use one of the two bands, while others use both. Following are the existing Wi-Fi standards, starting with the oldest:
802.11b: This was the first commercialized wireless standard. It offers a top speed of 11Mbps and operates only on the 2.4GHz frequency band. The standard was first available in 1999 and is now totally obsolete. 802.11b clients, however, are still supported by access points of later Wi-Fi standards.
802.11a: Similar to 802.11b in terms of age, 802.11a offers a cap speed of 54Mbps at the expense of much shorter range, and uses the 5GHz band. It’s also now obsolete though still supported by access points of later standards.
802.11g: Introduced in 2003, the 802.11g standard marked the first time wireless networking was called Wi-Fi. The standard offers the top speed of 54Mbps but operates on the 2.4GHz band, hence offering better range than the 802.11a standard. It’s still used in many mobile devices, such as the iPhone 3G or the iPhone 3Gs. This standard is supported by access points of later standards.
802.11n or Wireless-N: Available starting in 2009, 802.11n has been the most popular Wi-Fi standard, with lots of improvements over the previous ones, such as making range of the 5GHz band comparable to that of the 2.4GHz band. The standard operates on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands and started a new era of dual-band routers, those that come with two access points, one for each band. There are two types of dual-band routers: selectable dual-band routers that can operate in one band at a time, and true dual-band routers that simultaneously offer Wi-Fi signals on both bands.
On each band, the Wireless-N standard is available in three setups: single-stream, dual-stream, and three-stream, which offer cap speeds of 150Mbps, 300Mbps, and 450Mbps, respectively. This in turns creates three types of true dual-band routers. N600 (each of the two bands offers a 300Mbps speed cap), N750 (one band has a 300Mbps speed cap while the other caps at 450Mbps), and N900 (each of the two bands offers up to 450Mbps cap speed).
Note: In order to have a Wi-Fi connection, both the access point (router) and the client need to operate on the same band, either 2.4GHz or 5GHz. For example, a 2.4GHz client, such as an iPhone 4, won’t be able to connect to a 5GHz access point. In case a client supports both bands, it will only use one of the bands to connect to an access point, and when applicable it tends to “prefer” the 5GHz band to the 2.4GHz band, for better performance.
802.11ac or 5G Wi-Fi: This latest Wi-Fi standard operates only on the 5GHz frequency band and offers Wi-Fi speeds of up to 1.3Gbps (or 1,300Mbps) when used in the three-stream setup. The standard also comes with dual-stream and single-stream setups that cap at 900Mbps and 450Mbps, respectively. (Note that the single-stream setup of 802.11ac is as fast as the top three-stream setup of 802.11n.) Currently, there are just a few 802.11ac routers on the market, such as the Netgear R6300, theAsus RT-AC66U, and the Buffalo WZR-D1800H, but it’s predicted that the standard will be more popular by the end of 2012, when hardware devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones with built-in 802.11ac become available.
Technically, the 802.11ac standard is about three times faster than then 802.11n (or Wireless-N) standard and therefore is much better for battery life (since it has to work less to deliver the same amount of data). In real-world testing so far, I’ve found that 802.11ac is about twice the speed of Wireless-N, which is very good. (Note that the real-world sustained speeds of wireless standards are always much lower than the theoretical speed cap. This is partly because the cap speed is determined in controlled, interference-free environments.) The fastest real-world speed of a 802.11ac connection I’ve seen so far is 42MBps, provided by the Asus RT-AC66U, which is close to that of a Gigabit Ethernet wired connection. On the same 5GHz band, 802.11ac devices are backward-compatible with Wireless-N and 802.11a devices. While 802.11ac is not available on the 2.4GHz band, for compatibility purposes, a 802.11ac router will also come with a three-stream (450Mbps) Wireless-N access point. In short, a 802.11ac router is basically an N900 router plus support for 802.11ac on the 5GHz band.
That said, let me restate the rule of thumb one more time: The speed of a network connection is determined by the slowest speed of any of the parties involved. That means if you use a 802.11ac router with a 802.11a client, the connection will cap at 54Mbps. In order to get the top 802.11ac speed, you will need to use a device that’s also 802.11ac-capable.
3. More on wireless networking
In wired networking, a connection is established the moment you plug the ends of a network cable into the two respective devices. In wireless networking it’s more complicated than that. Since the Wi-Fi signal, broadcast by the access point, is literally in the air, anybody with a Wi-Fi client can connect to it, and that might pose a serious security risk. To prevent this from happening, and only let approved clients connect, the Wi-Fi network needs to be password-protected (or in more serious terms: encrypted). Currently, there are a few methods used to protect a Wi-Fi network (called “authentication methods”): WEP, WPA, and WPA 2, with the WPA 2 being the most secure, while WEP is getting obsolete. WPA 2 (as well as WPA) offers two ways to encrypt the signal, which are Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). The former is for compatibility (allowing legacy clients to connect) while the latter allows for faster connection speeds, is more secure but only works with newer clients. From the side of the access point or router, the owner can set the password (or encryption key) that clients can use to connect to the Wi-Fi network. If the above paragraph seems complicated, that’s because Wi-Fi encryption is very complicated. To help make life easier, the Wi-Fi Alliance offers an easier method called Wi-Fi Protected Setup.
Wi-Fi Protected Setup or WPS: Introduced in 2007, Wi-Fi Protected Setup is a standard that makes it easy to establish a secure Wi-Fi network. The most popular implementation of WPS is the push button. Here’s how it works: On the router (access point) side, you press the WPS button. Now, within 2 minutes, you press the WPS button on the Wi-Fi clients, and that’s all you need for them to connect to the access point. This way you don’t have to remember the password (encryption key) or type it in. Note that this method only works with devices that support WPS. Most networking devices released in the last few years do, however.
Wi-Fi Direct: This is a standard that enables Wi-Fi clients to connect to one another without a physical access point. Basically, this allows one Wi-Fi client, such as a smartphone, turn itself into a “soft” access point and broadcast Wi-Fi signals that other Wi-Fi clients can connect to. This standard is very useful when you want to share an Internet connection. For example, you can connect your laptop’s LAN port to an Internet source, such as in a hotel, and turn its Wi-Fi client into a soft AP. Now other Wi-Fi clients can also access that Internet connection. Wi-Fi Direct is actually most popularly used in smartphones and tablets, where the mobile device shares its cellular Internet connection with other Wi-Fi devices, in a feature called Personal Hotspot.
4. Power line networking:
When it comes to networking, you probably don’t want to run network cables all over the place, making Wi-Fi a great alternative. Unfortunately, in some places, such as that corner in the basement, a Wi-Fi signal can’t reach, either because it’s too far away or because there are thick concrete walls in between. In this case, the best solution is a pair of power line adapters. Power line adapters basically turn the electrical wiring of a home into network cables for a computer network. You need at least two power line adapters to form the first power line connection. The first adapter is connected to the router and the second to the Ethernet-ready device at the far corner. There are some routers on the market, such as the D-Link DHP-1320, that have built-in support for power line, meaning you can skip the first adapter. More on power line devices can be found here. Currently there are two main standard sfor power line networking, HomePlug AV and Powerline AV+ 500. They offer cap speeds of 200Mbps and 500Mbps, respectively.
The wireless company says it wants to act as a consultant and a one-stop shop for all mobile needs, and claims it can do this better than AT&T and Verizon.
Sprint Nextel wants to be the king of the hill when it comes to providing a cellular connection to any device, whether it is a heart monitor or a dog collar. Sprint plans to do this not just by offering a wireless connection, but also through a broad offering of advice, maintenance, and other services–supplied by both Sprint and a wide array of partners. It’s a proposition the company believes AT&T and Verizon Wireless can’t match. Those are bold words for a company that isn’t exactly viewed as a leader in the emerging devices business. But Sprint, which lags behind its larger rivals by a wide margin and is still struggling to turn a profit, needs to be aggressive in whatever new areas of growth are out there.
“This is considered a substantive piece that will help the company grow profitably,” said Matt Carter, who runs Sprint’s wholesale and emerging devices business, in an interview. T. Sprint’s focus on this area is part of a broader shift by the wireless industry to go from connecting people through to cell phones to supplying connections to consumer electronic products, infrastructure equipment, or anything that runs on power. It’s a segment called the connected devices business, or machine-to-machine, and is seen as the next source of growth for the wireless carriers. Much of the focus has been on supplying a cellular connection to different devices. The highest profile product, and one of the earliest examples of this business model, is Amazon’s original Kindle e-book reader. Interestingly, Sprint was the original carrier partner, but Amazon switched to AT&T when it opted to sell a product that could go overseas. Since then, AT&T, not Sprint, has been the aggressive pursuing of new connected devices.
Sprint the consultant
Sprint, however, believes it can provide a broader offering than its larger rivals. Last week, Sprint unveiled a newly created unit, called New Ventures, that will focus on providing these kinds of services. The unit will partner with a number of different companies and industry experts to create a platform that customers can use to integrate mobility into their products. Some of these services include an ability to integrate mobile advertising, or a billing service, or maintenance of the equipment. Sprint, in effect, takes on the role of consultant, or a systems integrator, providing advice and support on how mobility would fit with a company. As part of New Ventures, Sprint unveiled white-label versions of its Sprint ID and Sprint Zone applications for Android devices, renamed Mobile ID and Mobile Zone. Sprint aims to convince more businesses to use Mobile ID and Mobile Zone to create a firmer presence in smartphones, part of a larger portfolio of services the company plans to offer.
This strategy is different than what AT&T and Verizon are offering, Carter said, adding that his competitors merely offer a connection and little else. That’s the business AT&T, and more recently, Verizon, has trumpeted as a source of growth. AT&T is serious enough about the business that it breaks out how many devices it adds in a separate category each quarter during its earnings report. While profitable, it’s a business that yields lower revenue. The monthly fee for a dog collar tracker, for instance, would be far lower than what a smartphone customer pays each month. Carter believes that kind of business will lead to any real growth, and that the basic cellular connection will end up being a commonplace, plain vanilla service. ”It’s low-hanging fruit,” Carter said. “We don’t believe it there’s sustainable, profitable growth.”
Not so fast, Sprint
Despite Carter’s confidence, Sprint will face significant challenges. AT&T, for instance, said it already offers many of the same services that Sprint is hoping to offer. The company likewise takes a holistic approach for businesses looking to manage their mobile devices, supply machine-to-machine connections, ad the creation of applications. ”We’ve been doing this for years across industries,” said Abhi Ingle, vice president of AT&T’s advanced mobility solutions unit. “We are best positioned for this complexity given how we can knit it together.” Ice Energy uses AT&T’s service to remotely manage, monitor, and diagnose every cooling unit through an embedded SIM card that transmits data on its status. Likewise, Verizon denies it is a dumb pipe, or a basic connection, in the connected devices business.
For a long time, the carrier’s only significant machine-to-machine deployment had been its partnership to supply a connection to OnStar’s car service. But the company has since pushed forward with expanding its reach, with the added benefit of its faster 4G LTE network as a draw for customers. Verizon offers technical support to companies looking to get on to its network. Beyond the simple connection, Verizon’s service includes the use of data analytics. A connected vending machine, for example, could alert the supplier on which drink gets purchased more, allowing for more speedy and accurate restocking. Likewise, heavy construction equipment can be tagged with a cellular module that can alert its owners if it is removed from the construction site. Verizon used the Consumer Electronics Show to show off a number of its LTE-connected products, including ATM Machines, heart monitors, and a connected car.
Partnerships will be key
Sprint’s deal with Chrysler is emblematic of the company’s new direction. Sprint isn’t just a wireless partner; it’s a strategic wireless partner for Chrysler’s Uconnect program. Sprint’s willingness to work with others is an advantage over its competitors, Carter said. He noted that the company has a better reputation for playing nice with others. ”What will be different is how we go to market to monetize,” he said. Still, its rivals aren’t standing still. Verizon has an innovation center in Waltham, Mass., where businesses and individuals can come in with their ideas. Likewise, AT&T has several labs around the world for the development of connected devices and apps. It’s part of the acknowledgement by the industry that the traditional cellphone customer isn’t the only way to generate revenue.”Mobility is no longer the side show, but the main show for companies,” Ingle said.
Integrating wireless radios such as Wi-Fi with the processor could lead to smaller, cheaper devices. (Credit: Intel)
Intel appears to have taken a significant step toward competing in the mobile space.
The chip company is showing off its Rosepoint project at ISSCC this week. This is a 32nm system-on-chip (SoC) design that puts a dual-core Intel Atom processor right next to a digital Wi-Fi radio. Compared with the typical analog Wi-Fi chips that are available now, Intel claims that its digital version can be miniaturized more easily. It will also cost less to shrink them to fit mobile devices.
This breakthrough didn’t come easy because wireless radios and processors both emit radiation that tend to interfere with each other. As a result, Intel had to invent new radiation-shielding and noise-canceling methods to enable both components to exist on the same chip. The company is also looking into adding a digital cellular radio chip in the near future.
Such developments could eventually lead to smaller and more power-efficient mobile chips that will also cost less to manufacture, though Intel isn’t expecting this technology to reach the market for at least another three years.
The claim, similar to another lawsuit, alleged Apple infringed on Samsung’s patents related to 3G wireless technology. No reason was given for the dismissal by the Mannheim court in Germany, according to Florian Mueller, who runs legal blogFoss Patents. ”For Samsung, this outcome must be disappointing,” Mueller said in his blog. “But the Korean electronics giant is known for its fighting spirit and unlikely to back down.”
Samsung swiftly dismissed the loss. ”Today’s ruling relates to only one of several patents asserted by Samsung in the Mannheim court, and it is of no indicative value as to whether Apple may be found to infringe other of Samsung’s intellectual property rights in Germany,” Samsung said in an e-mailed statement sent to CNET. Apple wasn’t immediately available to comment.
The lawsuits are part of a broader legal between the two companies that span multiple countries and courtrooms. The goal is to score a decisive enough legal victory in a major market, forcing the two sides to resolve their differences and come to terms on a cross-licensing agreement. So far, that has been difficult to achieve. In fact, Samsung has other lawsuits pending in the Mannheim court. ”A ruling on an additional Samsung patent relating to telecommunications standards is due to be handed down by the Mannheim court in the next several weeks,” Samsung said. Beyond dueling in the courtroom, Apple and Samsung are increasingly fighting in the market for smartphone supremacy. While Samsung was the leading smartphone manufacturer in the third quarter, Apple retook the crown in the fourth quarter, thanks to the iPhone 4S.