Companies unify wireless mates

Two Canadian companies have announced they are teaming up to provide some much needed help in supplying expanded interoperability between two wireless technologies.

Ottawa-based Bridgewater Systems, an Internet Protocol (IP) software provider, and Brampton, Ont.-based equipment manufacturer Nortel Networks have converged to bring software-enabled offerings that will link the Code-Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and 802.11 wireless LAN environments.

Bridgwater’s software will provide subscribers with single sign-on and single bill capabilities – its products allow service providers to authenticate a user roaming from a CDMA to an 802.11 network. Meanwhile, Nortel’s CDMA gear will allow for common authentication and billing between the CDMA2000 IX network and Wi-Fi networks.

CDMA carriers are clearly warming to the notion of marrying the two technologies. Late last week, Spotnik Mobile, a public wireless LAN and WLAN provider announced it had secured $6 million in financing from Telus Corp. to develop a Wi-Fi network. Spotnik said it planned to launch the network early in 2003. A spokesperson from Telus emphasized why the partnership has appeal.

“We’re quite excited by these kinds of announcements [because] from an infrastructure perspective, there is a need to bridge the local area network and wide area network in the wireless space,” said Chris Langdon, director of product marketing at Telus Mobility in Vancouver.

To date, limited demand has emerged for the combination of 802.11 and CDMA services except in hot-spot types of environments that include campus settings and hotels. On the whole, deployment remains at “the embryonic stage,” admitted Langdon.

One of the key issues around the companies partnering is the billing aspect, a thorn in the side of the carriers mainly because there isn’t a common billing system in place between voice minutes and data downloads, explained Brownlee Thomas, research director at Giga Information Group in Montreal. This appeals to mobile users that check e-mail, attachments, PowerPoint with minimal graphics, Excel and Word, as there could conceivably be a pay method carriers could use to bill their users for data offerings.

As Thomas stated, there is no question that these kinds of melding of technologies are the future of mobile computing, but we haven’t exactly hit the Mecca on all fronts.

“The drawback is the demand isn’t there to cover the costs. No one knows how quickly the demand will be there because most companies don’t have their applications mobile-enabled and they are still working on their mobile strategy,” she said.