7 August 2002 A Canadian telecoms company has demonstrated a system that enables mobile device users to roam between wireless local area networks (WLANs) and public mobile telecoms networks.
Organisations deploy WLANs to create an online office environment that does not require cables or wires. The idea is that anyone with a laptop computer and a WLAN plug-in card can access data networks, including the Internet, at speeds of up to 11Mbits/sec.
Rogers AT&T Wireless, a Toronto, Canada-based mobile telecoms operator, integrated a WLAN into a general packet radio services (GPRS) mobile data network using software from Mobility Network Systems, a San Jose, California-based supplier of mobile network software. GPRS has an optimum speed of 144Kbits/sec. Rogers demonstrated its capability at a Toronto college campus.
Using this technology, mobile operators may now be able to offer seamless connectivity between a WLAN and GPRS. Operators could then charge for both services on the same bill.
Initially, analysts thought WLANs – especially those being made available to the public – would prove a threat to the take up of GPRS and third generation (3G) mobile services. This is because WLANs provide a much faster rate of data transfer than GPRS, for example, and more importantly they are also much cheaper. The downside is that use is restricted to an antenna and a fixed line connection.
But if operators can offer cheap rates for integrated WLAN and GRPS connectivity, this might increase demand for GPRS and 3G phones.
WLAN adoption is growing strongly in the US. A new report by the Yankee Group has suggested that 700,000 US businesses invested in WLANs in 2001 – about double the previous year. In addition, businesses such as airports and coffee shops are starting to provide their customers with WLAN connections, called public WLANs.
Mobility says the software will be available before the end of the year although pricing is not yet available.