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News From New Orleans

by Mark Sedenquist

A new Website has launched, and it certainly captured my attention. In a previous column I mentioned the WIN 4 wireless backbone network that GTE Wireless has created, and although the desired customer for the WIN 4 service does not include mere mortals like myself, there is an excellent description of the types of business applications than can be enhanced by wireless communications devices.

WIN 4 is expected to be able to offer backbone routing capability for the three digital formats, (CDMA, GSM & TDMA) as well as analog. Since this a new Website, some of the components are not fully operational but is one to watch.

The wireless wizards have returned home from the meeting in New Orleans, and so the question is: what do we know now that will enable us to log-on from anywhere in North America? Well, there is good news and so-so news. The good news is that major corporate communications entities have pledged to invest millions of dollars to create the necessary wireless gadgets and services to meet the needs of Dashboarders and other data communication customers. The so-so news is that the current demand for those services may not be enough to accelerate the roll-out of the equipment until 2002.

On the other hand, lots of cool gadgets are hitting the marketplace. I have a decidedly jaundiced view about the claims of some of the manufacturers but recent news reports about new joint ventures between telecommunications firms like Motorola, Cisco, Microsoft, Qualcomm, NEC, Nextel and Netscape Communications are very intriguing.

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“Wireless Knowledge” is a venture created by an alliance between Microsoft and Qualcomm that will produce new equipment using wireless and wireline networks to deliver e-mail and information services to client LANs. A “virtual assistant” is under development by Wildfire Communications that may provide superior voice recognition for on-the-road telematics services. Lucent Technologies and SRS Labs have teamed together to create a VIP chip, (voice intelligibility processor) that can be used in noisy environments like airports or tradeshows. When a button on a cell phone is engaged, this chip analyzes the background noise and selectively alters the portions of the sound waves from the interfering noise levels that a human brain uses for cognitive thought. The result is supposed to be a “crystal clear” audio reception of the voice.

Although I have been critical of the GSM standard, the news from the New Orleans wireless meeting would suggest that it is alive and well. There are supposed to be 17 GSM service providers in North America with cellular coverage in over 2500 North American cities. One development that might encourage this growth lies in the introduction of the new Ericsson I-888 World Phone. By using a couple of accessories (the CF-888 or DI-27) it is supposed to be possible to simply place the GSM-cellular phone next to a laptop or a PDA and “beam” the e-mail or internet data from the phone directly to the computer without using a connecting cable. This is something the Road Wirer will have to see in person...

Mark Sedenquist
Pasadena, California
February 15, 1999