Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wee-Fi: CSIRO's Billions, Spokane's Decline, SF Boating Network

CSIROs Billions, Spokanes Decline, SF Boating Network

The folks at Australia's science and technology agency could reap a billion AU$ for the country's coffers: CSIRO, a government agency devoted to promoting and advancing research, patented some of the fundamental aspects of OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing), which is used in all Wi-Fi flavors except 802.11b, as part of WiMax's OFDMA, and in other wireless networking technologies. An analyst expects the agency to collect AU$1 billion in royalties, based on recent settlements with computer hardware makers and current suits against mobile carriers in the U.S.

I've read CSIRO's patent and its amended form that covers 802.11 specifications, and I would have thought it couldn't have survived a challenge. CSIRO has won battles in the East Texas district (a patentholder's venue of choice), but most firms have settled without testing the patent's strength in court and on appeal. CSIRO reportedly collects only pennies per adapter, and manufacturers may have simply decided to eat the cost instead of losing costly judgments.

As a consumer tax, CSIRO's fees likely have taken a buck or two out of your pocket for all the Wi-Fi gear you own that's covered.

CSIROs Billions, Spokanes Decline, SF Boating Network

Spokane's long-running hotzone is crawling to a close: In 2004, Vivato set up a large hotzone across downtown Spokane using its then-revolutionary phased-array antenna gear. Vivato could never make its system work in production, and the hotzone has gone through multiple operators and partners.

The network hardly works any more and has nearly no usage: only 204 KB (not MB!) were used in March, apparently. The network will likely disappear soon

The company behind Washington's ferry system launches San Francisco Bay Wi-Fi and WiMax: I'm a little confused by why Milt Gregoy spent $2m and risked life and limb to build a network without a specific business plan in mind. He favors the large audience available, but it seems like boaters are likely to also have 3G cards and phones, and thus be less interested in a monthly fee unless the speed and reliably are substantially better than 3G.