Passengers on Lufthansa AG will soon have wireless broadband access not only on daily flights between Frankfurt, Germany, and Washington, but on the airline’s entire long-haul fleet.

Lufthansa has signed a deal with The Boeing Co. to fit about 80 long-haul jets, including the Boeing 747-800 and the Airbus SAS A340 and A330, with the Connexion by Boeing wireless Internet system, the German airline company has said. At the beginning of next year, Lufthansa will successively equip its planes with Connexion’s wireless broadband technology, which it tested between January and April, Lufthansa said. The airline’s FlyNet wireless Internet service enables business users to set up a secure VPN (virtual private network) data connection to their company’s own intranet or mail server. The in-flight broadband service will offer speeds up to 20Mbps to the aircraft and 1Mbps from the aircraft, although the speeds can vary due to weather and other factors, according to a Connexion spokesman. The WLAN service will be available at speeds up to 11Mbps, he said.

IEEE approves draft WLAN spec

Wireless LAN vendors said the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) has approved a final draft version of the 802.11g WLAN standard.

Performance is expected to top out at about 20Mbps, less than half the 54Mbps data rate originally touted for the technology. But supporters said 802.11g will be backward-compatible with existing 802.11b WLAN devices.

Intersil promises to double 802.11g throughput

Intersil Corp. said it has developed a way to turbo-charge 802.11g wireless LAN hardware operating in a mixed network with older 802.11b hardware, according to Joe Zyren, the company’s director of strategic marketing.

Zyren said Milipitas, Calif.-based Intersil has developed a non-proprietary firmware upgrade called Nitro that will boost throughput of 802.11g hardware in a mixed network to 20Mbps. That would be the same speed offered in a pure 802.11g network. He said Nitro, which Intersil would like to see incorporated in the IEEE 802.11e standard that governs WLAN quality of service, boosts throughput by allowing 802.11g devices to transmit six times more packets than normal before having to transmit a “Clear To Send Signal” command to 802.11b clients in the network. Leigh Chinitz, chief technology officer in the wireless LAN division of Proxim Corp. in Sunnyvale, Calif., said that the slower speeds for 802.11g clients in a mixed network results from the IEEE’s desire to insure interoperability between “b” and “g” hardware.

HP Thailand launches Linux laptop

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) has begun selling inexpensive, Linux-based notebooks in Thailand, in a move that underscores the open source platform’s growing popularity in emerging markets. The notebooks are being sold as part of a push by Thailand’s Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) ministry to offer the public affordable PCs.

The PCs come with a preloaded Linux operating system (OS) and went on sale recently for US$450, a representative for HP in Singapore confirmed. The notebooks were made to fit certain feature and price requirements set by the ministry, the representative said, which could help explain HP’s choice to install a Linux OS. Although the use of Linux would definitely bring down the price of the computers, it could bring about support issues. However, the ministry has agreed to take on service and support issues related to the PCs. The arrangement appears to be successful. The Bangkok Post reported on its Web site this week that demand for the PCs has been high. The Thai daily even reported that the ICT is negotiating with other local and international vendors to produce more PCs because it fears that HP will not be able to keep up with the demand. Dell Computer Corp. Thailand and the Association of Thai Computer Manufacturers have expressed interest, the Post reported.

TheftGuard protects Notebook Data

A stolen notebook can be a real threat to a business’s security, but a new BIOS-level application offers protection and control over the use of a stolen machine. The application, called TheftGuard, is supplied as part of a new chip from Phoenix Technologies Ltd., a leading manufacturer of BIOS products.

When a TheftGuard-equipped system is stolen, the owner provides instructions through the TheftGuard web site. The next time the lost computer connects to the Internet, TheftGuard is activated and either disables the machine, wipes its hard drive, or transmits information on the physical location where the signal originates. TheftGuard is not something a user can add; it could enter the consumer channel if a laptop manufacturer offers the security system as an option. Phoenix is aiming the service at large corporations that must protect their data and equipment. By installing protection at the BIOS level, the standard process of reformatting or replacing hard drives won’t work. The machine, then, is virtually useless to any thirds party (unless, of course, they can stay off of the Internet).

Study: Wi-Fi chip prices to decline sharply in 2003

Oversupply and low-cost entrants to the market for wireless Internet chips are causing prices to plummet as volumes grow, according to a study released by market researcher TechKnowledge Strategies Inc.

The average price for a chip that enables connections for 802.11b wireless LAN (WLAN), also known as Wi-Fi, was US$16.06 in 2002, but that price will drop to $6.61 by the end of 2003, said Mike Feibus, principal analyst for TechKnowledge in Scottsdale, Ariz. Revenue from the sales of all wireless chips is expected to decline to US$340.2 million in 2003, from $368.7 million in revenue last year, even as volumes soar from 22.5 million to 41.3 million chips sold. The price for chips based on the 802.11g standard is also expected to fall this year, from US$18 per chip in 2002 to $9.68 by the end of 2003, Feibus said. Prices for 802.11b chips should stabilize around $4 next year, with dualband and triband products priced higher, Feibus said.

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