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Tech's Role in Recovery Ongoing

Fri, 03/02/2007 - 1:29pm
Monica Alleven

Considering the speed at which Wi-Fi hot spot, mesh and WiMAX companies responded to provide help after Hurricane Katrina, it wasn't difficult to imagine the same would happen after Rita.

Pronto Networks, a provider of operations support systems for managing large-scale Wi-Fi hot spot and hot zone networks, is one of the partners in the deployment of Wi-Fi in areas hit by the hurricanes. Shortly after Katrina, Pronto and its partners Intel, MCI's SkyTel and Tropos Networks got together to enable free Wi-Fi service to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), local government employees and citizens.

Lee Tsao, director of worldwide solutions for Pronto Networks, says Pronto already was involved with supplying high-speed access via wireless to areas of historic New Orleans before Katrina struck.

Yet getting a grasp on exactly how many cities are involved in Wi-Fi rollouts can be a dicey proposition. Pronto, for one, considers itself involved with at least 20 digital communities across the country, but some of those communities are counties that contain dozens of cities.

In the case of WiMAX, the cost of equipment could be lower by the time the next Katrina-sized disaster happens. If that should be an earthquake in California, some government officials already are talking about how they can use WiMAX to their benefit.

But whereas the mobile version of WiMAX has a ways to go commercially, another technology company sees the value in offering mobility from Day 1. IPWireless is supporting high-speed applications on trains running around 200 kilometers per hour, notes Jon Hambridge, vice president of global marketing at IPWireless.

IPWireless is a supplier of TD-CDMA, one of the three standards defined as part of UMTS. Last week, IP Wireless announced its UMTS RailLink, a network solution that allows operators to offer high-speed broadband connectivity and Wi-Fi access on trains.

The company says UMTS RailLink allows mobile operators to work with rail companies to provide passengers with uninterrupted Wi-Fi hot spot access with similar or better performance than fixed hot spot services. During a demonstration with a European GSM operator, uninterrupted megabit-plus access was provided to a train across multiple cell sites over 39 kilometers of track, including a bridge span.

Twelve operators worldwide are part of trials with IPWireless, which earlier this year demonstrated a wireless VoIP handset at the spring CTIA conference in New Orleans.

Unlike some pre-WiMAX vendors, IPWireless is working closely with operators, including via a trial with Sprint Nextel set to get under way in the Washington, D.C., area. And a lot of operators are starting from scratch, Hambridge says. "It's very quick and easy to deploy our network," he says. "We're launching networks in weeks."

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