New Wi-Fi mobility system comes to Europe

Allied Telesyn Inc. hopes to offer European users of wide-area Wi-Fi networks the ability to move from one access point to another without losing a connection, using proprietary technology developed and deployed in Asia.

"We see a market in Europe for Internet service providers, city carriers, enterprises and others that are interested in a mobile IP solution but want to protect their investments in current 802.11a, b and g systems," said Marcus Otto, a director at Allied Telesyn's German unit.

The mobile IP (Internet Protocol) system was developed by engineers at Japan's Root Inc., acquired earlier this year by Allied Telesis Holdings KK.

The system, based on Root's proprietary Layer 3 Roaming technology, enables the hand-over of IP connections in wireless networks similar to the hand-over of voice and data calls in cellular networks. For instance, when sufficient access points are installed along a rail track and the train is equipped with a mobile router, passengers can view streamed video without interruption, according to Otto.

The system is being tested in the Hong Kong subway and on a high-speed train route between Singapore's downtown and airport. "Our technology can hand over connections in objects traveling at speeds up to 300 kilometers per hour," Otto said.

Key components of the technology include the authentication server and the home agent server.

"The home agent server keeps track of moving objects as they communicate with access points," said Otto. "It is responsible for the hand-over process."

The mobile IP system is wireless access-technology neutral, according to Otto. It can work with all flavors of wireless access technology based on the IEEE 802.11 standard.

The planned IEEE 802.20 standard for mobility in wireless networks, however, is another story. This standard is designed to support connections up to 1.5M bps (bits per second) in devices moving at 120 kilometers per hour. It could compete directly with the Root system.

"We are focusing our efforts on operators, enterprises and organizations that have already installed systems based on the 802.11a, b and g standards," said Otto. "There is a huge installed base of 802.11 equipment in Europe, and companies shouldn't have to throw away this investment if they're interested in adding mobility to their service."

Another IEEE standard could also become a competitor: 802.16, better known as WiMax. Although WiMax base stations have greater range than present 802.11 systems, and thus avoid hand-over issues in many cases, spectrum for WiMax will be licensed for a fee, which could prevent many smaller Wi-Fi operators from investing in it, Otto said.

Allied Telesyn is conducting trials with several undisclosed city carriers in Scandinavia and Germany, and is in talks to pilot the technology with a large European waste management company.

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