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Launching: Mobile Operator Wireless LAN

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Agere Systems and Proxim Corporation have both entered into strategic partnerships with Swedish mobile solutions provider Ericsson in an effort to push Wi-Fi-based public access hotspots into the mainstream. The goal of the Ericsson Mobile Operator Wireless LAN: to integrate hotspots with mobile 2G and 3G cellular networks and allow roaming between the two types of networks.

All the solutions involved will be built on 802.11 standards and use the Extensible Authentication Protocol called Subscriber Identity Module (EAP-SIM), the authentication technology used in GSM mobile phone networks. The actual SIM module comes as a removable chip card the size of a postage stamp. It’s built into mobile phone handsets and generally holds user information — even, for example, the personal directory of the phone’s owner.

“This is an agreement where we’re providing technology to marry the Wi-Fi card in a PC or handheld with the SIM technology — the notification/authorization technology in GSM and GPRS phones,” says Tony Grewe, Director of Strategic Marketing For Client Systems at Agere. “We’re complimenting them at the client side so you can get data information through the cellular system.” There’s no talk at this point of utilizing the Wi-Fi hotspots to improve or increase the ability to roam while talking on a handset.

Agere will be doing the chipsets and modules for use in access points and client cards, and will take advantage of its current relationships with original equipment manufacturers. “We work with a lot of OEMs for PC and handhelds; I’d think they’d want to discuss this.”

Proxim will be working with Ericsson to develop SIM-based authentication and Ericsson will use Proxim’s ORiNOCO AP-2000 dual-slot access point for hotspots.

The products will start with 802.11b support, but will move to 802.11a and 802.11g technologies in the future.

The entire strategy is part of Ericsson’s “Always best connected” concept. Ericsson will push the Wi-Fi solutions out to mobile providers using its existing relationships. According to Per Nordlof, Director WLAN Program Office, Business Unit Systems at Ericsson, his company will provide the authentication server.

“It takes a number of parties to create this solution,” Nordlof points out.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

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