Any idiot can set up a WiFi hot-spot - thanks, Proxim

by Guy Kewney | posted on 21 November 2002

Do-it-yourself public WLAN access just got easier; there are several small startup companies offering packages, but Proxim is probably the first mainstream WiFi provider to put hardware and software into a single box for any idiot to go live with a hot-spot.

Guy Kewney

Proxim has taken a page out of the Sputnik Community Server - and has produced a dummy's kit to setting up a wireless hot-spot.

The main difference is that the Sputnik package is aimed at domestic idiots, while Proxim is aiming at commercial ones.

Where Sputnik offers an open-source solution which turns any wireless-enabled PC into a node on a public access network, Proxim has announced a self-contained package.

"Much of the focus on public access to date has been on hot spots in coffee shops, airports and other public spaces. However, enterprises that want to offer visitor access for customers are an important market as well," said Ken Haase, director of marketing and business development for Proxim's Broadband Services Division. "The AP-2500 enables visitors to enhance their meetings with remote live demos, video conferencing, or access to their corporate network that can make their meetings more productive."

By contrast, Sputnik turns your PC into a node on the Sputnik network, allowing you to have access to other Sputnik nodes. The startup says the Sputnik Network, a free back-end infrastructure for providing secure authentication and national roaming for the sponsors of public access networks that use the Sputnik Community Gateway for turnkey access points, has now been available (in the US) for several months. An enterprise version is also available.

Slightly more organised - at least from a marketing viewpoint - is Boingo, which will sell you a package of hotspot-management software and hardware to join the Boingo network.

It's conceivable that companies like Sputnik and Boingo could find themselves adopting the new Orinoco AP-2500 - it "enables enterprises to offer secure visitor access and provides hot spot venue owners with an affordable, easy-to-use solution for public Internet access," says the official release.

The market for enterprise guest networks -- where an office runs a protected WLAN that allows visitors to access the Net -- will be a large market, that has so far been untapped, believes Proxim.

Product marketing manager Rob Jansen of Proxim reckons that estimates of future WLAN density may be badly underestimated. He quoted the commonly accepted figures, suggesting that by 2005, WLAN business will amount to $300m to $500m worldwide - but, he says, this estimate has been calculated without taking enterprise visitor networks into consideration. He thinks this will be a big extra market.