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Putting Sexy Back into WiFi

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Putting Sexy Back into WiFi
July 06, 2009
By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor


After a quiet spring, it's nice to see WiFi (News - Alert) devices and services heating back up for the IT community. Be warned that some advancements offer peril as well as convenience.

Certainly Agito Networks (News - Alert) stirred up everyone by announcing WiFi support for the RIM BlackBerry smartphone. Agito for BlackBerry – the first solution of its kind --can treat the ubiquitous smartphone as an extension of the office PBX (News - Alert) over WiFi, so users get all kinds of mobile UC/FMC functionality, including routing calls through one enterprise number, hold, transfer, extension dialing, and conferencing. Voice calls can be routed via WiFi over the internal corporate network for better in-house coverage than cellular and to keep costs down by not using cellular minutes; least cost-routing might be the biggest economic win for a BlackBerry (News - Alert)-laden organization
Providing this service requires an Agito's RoamAnywhere Mobility Router, and it doesn't come cheap with the 2000 series listing at around $10,000 and the 4000 series starting at $27,500. Additional charges for BlackBerry support will be on a per-user basis, but Agito wasn't talking pricing in their press announcement.
Outside of the office, cable and phone companies alike are rolling out – perhaps "reintroducing" would be a better phrase – free WiFi services to complement their wireline broadband offerings. Add on the steady creep of free and paid WiFi services rolling out in fixed and mobile locations, and it becomes clear that even if you don't like 802.11 b/g as the primary way for end users to reach the office network, it will be there for better or for worse.
Speaking of mobile locations, planes, trains, and even buses are getting WiFi. In the sky, airlines rapidly add in-flight WiFi by leaps and bound while on the ground Amtrak is currently testing WiFi systems on its Acela express route from Washington D.C. to New York City; no set timetable yet on when it will formally introduce service.
And if you can't find a WiFi hotspot, you can bring your own. Sprint and Verizon (News - Alert) Wireless have introduced "MiFi" style devices linking 3G networks with a pocket-sized WiFi router. If you have a mobile office or traveling team, up to five WiFi devices at a time can share a 3G connection through a Novetel Wireless MiFi 2200 mobile connection.  
About the only downside to MiFi is the potential level of mischief the device may offer. In theory, a talented attacker could configure a MiFi style device as an easily transportable (and concealable) "rogue" access point that could be left in a conference room or carried into a Starbucks in a briefcase or backpack. Can you find an unauthorized access point in your office?

Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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