Posted by & filed under Android, Mesh, Network, Peer-to-peer.

Internet privacy has been in the news recently after leaked documents revealed PRISM, NSA’s ongoing domestic surveillance program. Although most people do not have the time to think about attempting to counter surveillance, tools exist for those that are interested in anonymizing online traffic. Such tools won’t prevent Google from having a database of your emails or searches, but for example, can obscure your IP address for login sessions.

Specifically, the Tor Project supports a collection of alternative services that run over the Tor network and are built for aiding anonymity.

What is Tor?
From their website:

“Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet.

“Today, it is used every day for a wide variety of purposes by normal people, the military, journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, and many others.”

It is not used by the general Internet population because this process of sending traffic through a network of tunnels slows down the speed and at times significantly. Additionally, some user experience on websites is lost through the obstruction of your IP address. Most importantly, however, are the habit changes necessary to properly use Tor anonymously. Their download page warns:

You need to change some of your habits, as some things won’t work exactly as you are used to. Please read the full list of warnings for details.

For these reasons, it is common for people that like to use Tor, to run it for specific tasks like being tracked by particular websites or gaining access to websites that their ISP have blocked.  Attempting to use Tor for all Internet traffic can be cumbersome and at times insufferable especially when you need to be efficient on the Internet.  However in the end, where anonymity is particularly important Tor hidden services can be of assistance.

Configuring Tor to route traffic to the Open Garden network

If you do not already use Tor, I suggest reading through their website and that list of warnings. If after deciding you want to give it a try, install the Tor Browser Bundle and come back here to read how to point the client to route traffic over Open Garden.

If you already use Tor, simply change the proxy settings in Vidalia (desktop client) to point at 127.0.0.1 port 1080 on a SOCKS 5. Here’s the screenshot from the Mac client:

 

After changing those settings, Tor should point to Open Garden!  Easy as that!  Tor won’t work if these settings are in place and Open Garden isn’t running, but Open Garden is designed to stay running in the background anyways.

What about mobile?

Tor has an Android bundle named Orbot, but is unfortunately affected by an Android bug that doesn’t properly check for Internet connectivity.  We are currently in discussion with the Guardian Project folks (who have been quite responsive) about fixing this issue but do not currently have an ETA. Keep in touch via our Facebook Page, Twitter account or online community to stay updated!

 

**Update: An upgrade to Orbot was pushed today (August 19th, 2013) which enables pointing Tor traffic on your Android to Open Garden! To enable, you must change a couple settings in the Orbot app.  First of all, change the “Outbound Network Proxy” settings like you would on the desktop client.  The type will be “Socks5″, the host is 127.0.0.1 and the port is 1080 (no username or password). Then scroll all the way to the bottom of the settings under “Debug” and uncheck “Network Auto-Sleep”.  This will bypass the Android ConnectivityManager which says there’s no Internet when WiFi or mobile data is unavailable and keep Orbot running so Open Garden can be used for connectivity.

Posted by & filed under Network, Wireless Network.

Public Wifi Hotspot Security

As more Wi-Fi hotspots are established and open for everyone to use, they also become a target for hackers trying to illegally access private information on your device. Here are some tips for keeping your information secure as you use Wi-Fi hotspots.

Choose Legitimate Wi-Fi Hotspots

Often you will have a choice of hotspots in a given area. Make sure you only choose ones that you are sure is secure and legitimate. Malicious hackers may have set up peer-to-peer networks masquerading as Wi-Fi hotspots that have innocent names like “Free Wi-Fi” and “Airport Wi-Fi.” Once you connect to these networks and start accessing the Internet through their machines, all the data you upload and download will be accessible by the hacker. Also called the Evil Twin attack, you may compromise your passwords for accounts you access, or also be giving hackers access to all your files if you have file sharing turned on in your device.

Wifi Hotspot Security iPhone

 

Choose Secure Wi-Fi Hotspots

If you have a choice among all the legitimate hotspots, choose ones that are password protected. If you have a choice of Wi-Fi encryption methods among secure networks, choose the most secure one available. WPA2 is the most secure; WPA is less so; and WEP encryption is the weakest. It is less common to find unsecured networks in the public these days, but when you do, make sure its not a hacker-created network.

Choose Network Locations Setting

On Windows PCs, the “Set Network Location” pops up when you connect to a new network. It will prompt you to choose between “Home”, “Work” or “Public” network location. On public Wi-Fi hotspots, always pick “Public Network”. The Public Network location setting blocks file and printer sharing, disables network discovery, and hides the Home Group, which shuts off the most common avenues for hackers to access data on your device.

Wifi-Hotspot-Security-Network

 

Precautions To Minimize Damage from a Malicious Wi-Fi Hotspot

Don’t store passwords on your computer. If the hacker has access to your files, don’t let one of them be a list of all your passwords to your bank accounts and credit card sites.
Use websites with the HTTPS prefix or SSL turned on. Most banking sites and other sites which handle sensitive information are only available via HTTPS. But consider using HTTPS for all the sites that you visit.

Summary

Paired with technologies such as Open Garden, the ubiquity and portability of Wi-Fi usage is exploding. Through four blog articles, I reviewed the basics of mesh networking, Wi-Fi Hotspot standards and innovations, usability and security issues with Wi-Fi Hotspots. I hope you now have a better understanding of how Open Garden fits into the larger evolution of Wi-Fi accessibility.

Posted by & filed under Network, Wireless Network.

Wifi Hotspot Usability

 

Wi-Fi Hotspots are exploding worldwide, turning stores and coffee shops into virtual offices. Businesses such as Starbucks and McDonalds offer Wi-Fi hotspots as a marketing tool to attract customers. However, as usage expands beyond the technically savvy set to the mass market users, some usability issues have come to the fore.

Login Required

Many users often don’t understand that Wi-Fi hotspots require logging in via a web page. And if they don’t launch the browser, the login web page won’t show up, even though the device manager (the wireless symbol) indicates that the device is already connected. People may have a pre-existing browser page open, or they may be trying to access their email client, which won’t work because they haven’t logged in.

Wifi Hotspot Usability

Time Limits

To ease network congestion, businesses such as Starbucks often put time limits on access to free Wi-Fi Hotspots. Similar to the login issues above when starting to use the service, users may get logged out due to time limits without any warning. Again, the wireless availability indicator on the device will continue to show that the device is still connected, and users may not realize they’ve lost their connectivity until its too late.

Manual Login to Hotspots

As Wi-Fi Hotspots become commonplace, most users forget that there is a lot of complicated device recognition and authentication that occurs in the background. Often the complexity is masked by automation of these processes. However, when the automated connection does not occur, the manual steps required to establish a connection can be daunting for all but the IT specialist. A manual connection may require the user to open the device’s connection manager, select the service set identifier (SSID) of the network, launch the browser, enter the URL, and enter credentials. This is one of the big pain points of user complaints and help requests related to Wi-Fi login at hotels.

Wifi Hotspot Usability

Hotspot selection

At some spots in an urban area, there are often more than a dozen Wi-Fi hotspots that shows up as choices for the device to connect to. There can easily be multiple networks with the same name and users may unknowingly connect to the wrong network. There may be a risk that this gives strangers access to their devices if they are not careful.

Connection speed

The Wi-Fi connection speed depends on several factors:
1) the type of Internet connection that the hotspot offers
2) number of users trying to access the same network
3) bandwidth usage by users on the network
4) interference from neighboring networks, whose channels can overlap and hinder performance and range
In many crowded cafes and Wi-Fi Hotspots in densely populated urban neighborhoods, the Wi-Fi connection speeds can be so slow and spotty that it becomes hard to use. Given that many users are now spoiled by seemingly unlimited bandwidth at home and at the office, these problems hinder the perceived usability of Wi-Fi Hotspots.

Range and Signal Limitation

Wi-Fi connection is typically available within 200 feet of an access point. If a user is too far from the access point, his or her speed may drop or service may disappear altogether. Without new integration technology (like the Hotspot 2.0 initiatives mentioned in last week’s blog) users cannot achieve seamless handoff of wireless access from one access point to another.

Open Garden Solution

The Open Garden service addresses a lot of the usability issues above. With Open Garden on their devices, users will be automatically connected to the fastest connection and most powerful signal without manual intervention. Once connected, devices are part of a self-healing mesh network that will find new connections if a specific path is dropped. And finally, devices can be chained together so even if you move out of range from a hotspot, as long as one device has 3G or 4G access via a mobile data plan, the other devices can use that connection to stay online.

Next Week

We will discuss security issues that are being tackled to make Wi-Fi access in public secure and protected from malicious intent.

Wireless Next Generation Hotspot

Posted by & filed under Network, Wireless Network.

Hotspots use Wi­-Fi technology and offer wireless broadband network services to mobile visitors through a wireless local area network (WLAN). These hotspots are found in coffee shops and various other public venues throughout the world.

 

Need for Next Generation Hotspot 2.0

Wi­-Fi usage is expected to explode from 4 billion connections in 2010 to 120 billion by 2015. There are 800 million new Wi­-Fi-enabled devices entering the mobile market each year. To accommodate this demand, the global number of Wi­-Fi hotspots is also expected to triple by 2015 with some 1.2 million venues Wi-­Fi ready. With such a crush of increased demand, the network operators are racing to build capacity, but can’t avoid the potential for ever-­worsening network congestion.

The operators believe that one way to alleviate this congestion is to promote the interconnected use of Wi­-Fi networks rather than limit a user to one subscriber-only network. Wireless providers are now beginning to work together to let users roam onto one another’s Wi-­Fi hotspots so they do not need to rely on just one operator for hotspot coverage. There is a financial incentive for the operators as well. Once the technology is established and enabled, there may be Wi-­Fi roaming charges just as there are mobile data roaming charges.
 

WFA and WBA

Wireless Next Generation HotspotWireless Next Generation Hotspot

There are two organizations that are helping to coordinate this effort among network carriers: the Wi­-Fi Alliance (WFA) and the Wi­-Fi Broadband Alliance (WBA).

WFA is a trade association which promotes Wireless LAN technology. It imagines a new approach to public access Wi-­Fi with Hotspot 2.0, also know as HS2 and Wi-­Fi Certified Passpoint.

WBA promotes the Next Generation Hotspot (NGH). The aim of the NGH is to offer a public Wi-Fi network that is easier to use and more secure than current Wi-­Fi hotspots.
 

Hotspot 2.0 and Next Generation Hotspot

Hotspot 2.0 and Next Generation Hotspots are complementary initiatives that together make seamless Wi-­Fi network access a reality.
Wireless Next Generation Hotspot Hotspot 2.0
 

Hotspot 2.0

Hotspot 2.0 (HS2) enables mobile devices to automatically join a Wi-­Fi subscriber service whenever the user enters an HS2 area. It removes the common login portal that appears when a user attempts to access a hotspot.

HS2 is based on the IEEE 802.11u standard, which was developed to automate how mobile devices connect to available Wi-Fi networks.

The 802.11u standard includes a number of features designed to make the wireless connection completely automated, including:

  • Automatic authentication: no more portal page requesting acceptance of the conditions of use and/or authentication
  • Automatic selection of the best available nearby network
  • Roaming: transparently passing from one network to another
  • Automatic and seamless transition from 3G to Wi-Fi
  • Auto­discovery of configuration settings
  • Ad network type (private, public free, paying public) and notification services available.

 

Next Generation Hotspot (NGH)

The NGH is a complement to Hotspot 2.0. While HS2 makes registration and authentication seamless, NGH extends that connection to the operator’s backend systems. This has the benefit of allowing operators to take advantage of technologies developed for mobile data 3G and 4G networks such as:

  • data sessions and voice can be passed along from cellular to Wi­-Fi seamlessly
  • operator services like wallet and media streaming subscriptions can be maintained on Wi-­Fi
  • carriers can track data usage for Wi­Fi data consumption.

 

Hotspot 2.0 and the Digital Divide

While most of today’s discussions around these technologies are confined to network operators and their partners, these changes will affect the everyday usability and accessibility of Wi-­Fi and broadband data coverage. As more and more public venues offer Wi-­Fi for free or near­-free and the poorest users have increasing access to mobile devices, the digital divide will continue to shrink.

Posted by & filed under Mesh, Network, Peer-to-peer, Wireless Network.

As services such as Open Garden open up ad hoc wireless networks to consumers, it becomes important that the underlying concepts of the technology are understood by non­technical audiences. Here is the first in a series of blog articles to talk about technologies that power Open Garden in a consumer friendly manner.

Wireless Mesh Networking DiagramRemember how the movie Terminator 3 ends? Instead of a happy ending, the protagonist, John Connor, is unable to shut down Skynet, the evil AI because Skynet is not a single supercomputer, but a software that exists over a distributed network of millions of computers.

Mesh networking is like Skynet, except it can be used for the forces of good like more efficient routing of wireless bandwidth, or a robust communication network during a natural disaster.

It has these properties:

  • Each node/device captures data (input)
  • Each node/device disseminates data (output)
  • Each node/device serves as a relay for other nodes/devices (propagation)

Advantages of Mesh Networking

Robust: If one link becomes unusable, it does not incapacitate the entire system. It can also be self­healing, such that the network can be programmed to automatically take up the slack when parts of it are down.
Scalable: As you add more nodes/devices, it becomes faster as you can optimize over a larger number of devices. Reduces network traffic problems.

Disadvantages of Mesh Networking

Complex: Requires installation of networking “software” or hardware on each node or device.
Expensive: Can be expensive if there is hardware required to connect each link (e.g. I/O ports and cable).

Wired vs. Wireless Mesh Networking

Wired: One of the most important technologies to provide connectivity to the Internet is 802.11. It typically involves an operator to provide infrastructure support, namely access points connected by wire to a backbone. Providing wired infrastructure is very costly and takes months for carriers to set up.

Wireless: Wireless Mesh Networks on the other hand enable communication between infrastructure components without wires and cables. It also allows the dynamic addition and subtraction of nodes without any physical cable additions and removals. Wireless networks remove the “expensive” nature of mesh networks.

Full Mesh vs Partial Mesh Networks

There are two general types of mesh networks.


Full Mesh, 
which requires that every device have a dedicated point­to­point link to every other device. If you have 6 devices you need connection from and to each device in the network. In this topology, some or all nodes may be a router and some or all nodes may be an end point. It’s rare to achieve a full interconnection like this with most networks.

Partial Mesh, on the other hand, only requires some nodes be connected to a source which can then supply the remaining nodes. Open Garden’s mesh network belongs to this category, where only one device is required to be connected to the Internet and from there, data can be efficiently transferred to many others.

Flooding and Routing

Finally, there are two ways data can be sent through a mesh network: flooding or routing.

Routing sends data along a dedicated path, jumping from one node to node until it reaches its destination. In this scheme, any node can be a bottleneck or broken path, so there needs to be a mechanism for the connection to be maintained via a self­healing protocol where broken links are repaired by substituting nodes.

Flooding involves distributing data from the source node to rest of the nodes in the network hierarchically. Unlike routing, it does not depend on every node to be alive to function, but it does have the potential to be inefficient as transmission of data from one node may not produce a duplicated or determinable output to the next.

Next Article

Now that we’ve covered some basic facts about Mesh Networking, we will follow up with posts about next generation hotspot technologies, usability and security in the coming weeks. Let us know if you think these articles are helpful!

Posted by & filed under Android, Android OG, Mesh, Network, Peer-to-peer, Wireless Network.

Here at D2D we cover a lot of ground from apps to small cells, from mobile ads to small cell backhaul. We know that our readers come from many different backgrounds and not all of our content is relevant to all our readers. So for the network- and equipment-heads out there thank you for reading this far, we now have something for you. And if you are a softwarrier stick around this may interest you to. We promise there is an app in here.

In the last two years carriers have made real progress in improving their network capacities in recent years, bottlenecks still exist. (Most Improved Award goes to AT&T in the Bay Area. Thank you, your work is appreciated.)  Despite this, bottlenecks still exist. There are only so many places to install base stations and we mobile consumers are very greedy for more bandwidth. More. More….

Part of the solution to this will be small cells, but these are still a few years away from commercialization (see D2D #1 for more on this). So we were very interested to learn of privately-held Open Garden. They have revived the idea of “mesh networks”. This seems to be the “Back to the Future” issue of D2D as Mesh Networks are a concept that have been trolling around wireless for a long time, only to fade away as development proved difficult.

The idea of a mesh network, or more specifically an ad-hoc mesh network, is that mobile devices not only talk to a base station but also to each other. This allows devices with better access to the core Internet to serve as a bridge for other devices in the mesh. With current cellular architecture, the more phones in one area the weaker the connection for everyone as all these devices have to share bandwidth from a single base station. Think Fenway Park when the Yankees are playing – a crowded and hostile network. In theory, mesh networks offer improved capacity as the number of devices grow. Devices have more ways to share core access. This is especially true if the mesh can merge connections from multiple wireless carriers and Wi-Fi.

Part of the reason this idea has faded is that it is fiendishly hard to do.  Devices have to keep track of many more connections and know who to share what with. Fortunately, smartphones are now reaching the point that they have the processing power to do all this.

Open Garden has taken advantage of this to develop a true mesh networking solution. They have figured out numerous ways to both detect and share Internet connectivity across pretty much any kind of radio you can think, and probably a few more. Their app is now available on Google Play where it is prominently featured. (We promised you an app in this article.) For all the network aficionados out there this is heady stuff.

This is more than tethering your tablet to your smartphone. Using Open Garden, you can build and share networks among family members, friends, and co-workers. It is not hard to envisage some interesting combinations here. To make up an example, tie Open Garden to social networks and let all your friends share Internet access when they are close to one of your connected devices. There are many more possibilities.

Of course, all of this carries some meaningful complexities. How do you ration access on a limited data plan? What role will the carriers play in all this? What is the best way to distribute the Open Garden software. As an early-stage start-up, Open Garden is not sharing all its magic just yet, but it is clear we are in early days of something that could prove very important.

Posted by & filed under Android, Wireless Network.

The word platform gets used often in this business. It is a heavily loaded term, which gets bandied about a lot, up there with ‘cloud’ and ‘open’ in terms of repeated, heavy usage.  Despite this linguistic abuse, there is still a lot of value in having an actual platform. Businesses seek to build platforms to create some form of lock-in. Use one platform and it can become hard to move off it, creating repeat business for its owner. A platform can block out competitors, bind customers in and create valuable partnership opportunities.

In the mobile industry, the most widely known platforms are probably the operating systems for smartphones, like iOS and Android, where we commonly speak of ‘platform wars’. However, we think there is another layer of platforms a bit further down the stack that is equally if not more important, the mobile baseband.

Basebands are to mobile phones what CPUs were to PCs, they are the key piece of silicon that end up driving most of the other hardware choices for a device. Technically speaking, a baseband is a modem and controls the communications between the phone and the carriers’ base stations. However, baseband vendors have pursued an integration strategy for many years. The end result of this is that when phone makers buy a baseband today they are also typically buying that baseband, the radio transceiver and increasingly the applications and graphics processor for their device as well.

The baseband vendors have created a platform from this one product. These vendors now commonly provide tools, testing and help with carrier certification. The transition from a product business to a platform business took place about ten years ago in mobile, largely coincident with the rise of 3G networks. It was this ‘platformization’ of the business that drove Texas Instruments, once the king of basebands, out of the market. Today, the best known baseband vendor is Qualcomm, and they designed and then reaped the benefits of a platform approach to handset silicon.

One of the key elements of building a platform is to include services that would otherwise have to be provided by someone else. This tends to transfer value and margin dollars from one segment to another. Again, the platformization of handsets makes a good example. Prior to Qualcomm’s arrival, much of the software that went into basebands (aka the protocol stack) was written by the handset vendors themselves. This required hundreds if not thousands of engineers, and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual expense.  Qualcomm did much of this software work, freeing up its handset customers to deploy capital elsewhere. And went on to become the leading handset baseband vendor by a wide margin for 3G phones.

However, the transiton to platforms continues. And while Qualcomm is the best known baseband vendor they may not be the largest anymore. That title arguably goes to Mediatek of Taiwan. Mediatek took the platform approach one step further and in doing so created one of the most important forces in mobile today.

Mediatek grew up in the one of the most competitive industrial landscapes there is – the consumer electronics supply chain in Taiwan and China. They sold chips for DVD players and optical drives for many years to low-margin assemblers of PCs and other electronics. Through some trial and error, clever thinking and luck they created a new business model for the cell phone industry. They recognized that their traditional customers had very limited engineering talent. These were typically companies with a few assembly lines capable of putting chips on a board and wrapping that board in plastic. None of these companies had the ability to design cellular phone software or build pretty user interfaces. These companies relied on their chip suppliers to provide basic software like device drivers and user interfaces.

So Mediatek took all that software work and bundled it into a complete package which they called a reference design for mobile phones. These reference designs were essentially blueprints for building a basic, 2G feature phone.  Anyone with an assembly line could buy a Mediatek chip and this would come with everything they needed to build a phone. Mediatek actually went a step further than Qualcomm. At the time, in the early 2000’s, most of Qualcomm’s customers were still large handset makers who had the ability and desire to build some of their own pieces of software. Companies like Motorola no longer had to build the protocol stack for their basebands, but they still wanted to customize each device in certain ways. Mediatek’s customers did not even want this much. Mediatek added device drivers, suggested specific components parts and laid this all out. Over time, they also added a huge range of software options that gave their growing customer base some ability to customize phones in certain ways like local languages, color screens, Java licenses or Bluetooth. This was far less customizaiton than the big handset vendors could produce but required almost no customer engineering.

Mediatek was just looking for a new product to sell to existing customers, but they opened the door for all these small assemblers to begin selling inexpensive phones. This group came to be called the ‘shanzhai’ or ‘grey market’ or ‘white box’ handset supply chain. Today, we call them branded Chinese handset makers, and they contribute over half of the phones sold each year.

We have greatly simplified the history here but we would refer you to the works of Professor Willy C. Shih of Harvard Business school who has written extensively on the Mediatek phenomenon.

In our experience, most people in the US and Europe still underestimate the size of the Mediatek ecosystem. By our  latest estimate, the major third party analytics firms still undercount Mediatek and its competitors by 300 million to 400 million units a year. This is a big number to miss, but it is hard to get an exact count of Mediatek’s customers as the ease-of-use means that the barriers to entry are very low, and there are ample new entrants (and exits) all the time.

Mediatek has not enjoyed this opportunity all alone. In China and Taiwan new competitors have popped up, notably Shanghai-based Spreadtrum and RDA Micro and Taiwan-based M-Star (which is now being acquired by Meditaek). Nor has this lesson been lost on Qualcomm which is actively building its own presence in this market with its own set of Qualcomm Reference Designs (QDR). Let us know if you would like to know more about the competitive dynamics of this market, but that subject is beyond our scope here.

There are three important implications of Mediatek’s business model.

First, they demonstrate that handset vendors do not have to own their own silicon. In the US, the success of Apple and its own A5 line of applications processors has created the impression that successful handset companies need to design their own chips. Apple’s A5 has all kinds of iOS specific functions burned into silicon which gives the iPhone certain performance and probably cost advantages. But Apple is, as always, a special case, few other vendors have the scale, or the margins, to do this. There are still thousands of Mediatek customers making a good business selling phones using off-the-shelf silicon.

Second, the handset business is now, more than ever, a race between time and innovation. The major handset vendors, other than Apple and Samsung, are generally lacking in profits. There is a yawning low-end tier of handsets. Companies that cannot innovate in some way will be relegated to competing with the Mediatek ecosystem, competitors who have very low labor costs and limited R&D budgets. If you think your business is competitive, imagine competing in a market where the average selling price for a feature phone is $20, retail.  This is particularly important now because Mediatek and Spreadtrum both began selling Android reference designs last year. We have seen a corresponding drop in handset prices in many markets and a surge in smartphone adoption globally. This is great for consumers but very challenging for handset vendors. And this is by no means a China-only or emerging markets phenomenon. Mediatek-powered phones are now common in Europe and steadily creeping into the US.

Third, Mediatek’s adoption of Android should be seen as a key shift in the industry’s balance of power. For years, one of the key attractions of a Mediatek reference design were its software and UI capabilities. This brought Java into many new phones, and is probably still a decent piece of licensing business for Oracle’s Sun unit. Mediatek and Spreadtrum adoption of Android gives that OS a virtual lock on the China handset ecosystem. We have witnessed first hand how other OS offerings have dropped this particular ball and now have little hope of fighting their way in. We detailed this effect in our blog recently highlighting the growth of low-end Android devices.

In our view, the volume that the China handset ecosystem now brings makes it a hugely important bloc in determining other, complementary segments of the industry. Mediatek and Spreadtrum, via their reference designs, wield the vote for that entire bloc in making software decisions going forward. This gives them considerable weight in the industry, but weight which has yet to be fully felt by industry players in the US and Europe.

Mediatek’s rise makes for an important study in how power and economics are shifting in the mobile industry. A lot can still change here. Qualcomm looks set to give Mediatek a serious run for the money. More handset vendors, notably Huawei and Samsung, are looking to build their own silicon and may yet succeed. Nonetheless, Mediatek and the whole reference design model is still in early days of reshaping the mobile industry.

Posted by & filed under Mesh, Net Neutrality, Network, Peer-to-peer, Wireless Network.

Today, Google announced plans to build out its 1-Gigabit fiber in Austin, TX, a vibrant city home to the popular annual SXSW conference and a rising tech industry. Their success in Kansas City, the first “Google Fiber City,” has sparked an energized startup scene and created a new model for broadband access: customers can pay monthly for the faster, 1 Gbps speeds, or simply pay a one-time installation fee for free service at slower speeds. Free public wifi, once but wishful thinking (and source of hacker bait) is finally becoming a viable reality in the United States.

Today, one third of Americans still do not have broadband access in their homes, despite the billions of dollars devoted to bridging the gap. In the past twenty years the U.S. has gone from #1 to #26 in studies measuring download speeds worldwide – well beneath countries such as South Korea, Romania and Bulgaria. And according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States pays the sixth highest price in the world for data. Why? 

At Open Garden, our humble mission is to expand and enhance Internet connectivity for every human being on the planet. We believe that unfettered access to knowledge is essential to equip future generations for the immense work they have in front of them. Encouraging a widespread mentality of sharing connectivity is one of many avenues to enabling access to knowledge. We’ve developed – and continue to improve upon – a software protocol for easily sharing mobile Internet among devices.

The amazing thing about mesh technology is the way it counters intuitive assumptions around resource scarcity: the more nodes there are in such a network, the stronger and more resilient the network becomes for every connected user. Beyond internet access alone, Open Garden enhances cellphone 3G/4G reception by utilizing the best available signal on the network. The software seeks out other devices with Open Garden installed, using multiple pathways and channel bonding to evenly distribute all available signals throughout the local network.

In a world of increasing Internet ubiquity, Open Garden is the next edge solution for creating the kind of network the Internet was originally conceived to be: One without walls or barriers to access, nor central points of control, but rather, distributed, decentralized and resiliently self-healing.

bitcoin

Posted by & filed under Network, Peer-to-peer.

As I write this, the value of one bitcoin (BTC) hovers just above $180 USD and those who once questioned its ability to penetrate the economy are beginning to appreciate it as a worthy competitive currency. While perception of utility is what drives the Euro, USD and assets such as gold, the Bitcoin protocol is designed for such utility and should be considered a legitimate alternative. Although the intrinsic value of a bitcoin is identical to that of a blank PDF or text document, you could say something similarly about the intrinsic value of gold being identical to that of aluminum. If utilitarian value is at the heart of any currency, then one based on a peer-to-peer framework is important to recognize for what it can possibly enable (or disrupt) within the system that already exists.

To illustrate the the utility Bitcoin brings to the table, I think it would be helpful to compare Bitcoin with the Open Garden mesh network as they are both p2p-based protocols: just as Open Garden enables a new way to exchange bandwidth between devices, Bitcoin enables a new way to exchange value (AKA money) between wallets. In this case, access to the Internet is to Open Garden as money is to Bitcoin. These concepts already exist and would continue to do so without either technology, but such innovations allow individuals to connect with less dependency on centralized structures.

Now is the time to start taking Bitcoin seriously and here at Open Garden, we embrace this international, peer-to-peer currency as an attempt at solving the monetary problems encircling the globe.

Donate to the Open Garden Foundation in Bitcoin.
Learn more about Bitcoin.

Posted by & filed under Events, Mesh, Network, Peer-to-peer, Wireless Network.

The Mobile Virtual Network Operator’s landscape is changing fast. The companies to watch that will change the landscape will be those that realize that “their community is their customer.” Firms who think this way about approaching their community, thinking through the values ‘shared and crowdsourced’ are Urban Airship, BMW and Facebook.

Traditional new entrants in the market like Ting, YourKarma, FreedomPOP, Republic Wireless and Netzero focus on offering mobile data and offloading to Wi-Fi while introducing the concept of social sharing. It is clear that their selling strategy is a cost model that focuses on online sales, social sharing and Wi-Fi. But how can they really compete against a Verizon or an AT&T offering when they primarily use the Sprint and Clearwire networks with all the implied consequences in terms of network availability and coverage?

One thing we have learned about building wireless data networks is that users, or even M2M applications, subscribe to a wireless network technology only if they can obtain really good coverage and a solid mobile data offering.

Everyone wants to be connected everywhere, the same as if they were at home. This is the reason Facebook is currently trying to give free Wi-Fi against check-ins. The check-in model certainly limits the use of these Wi-Fi hotspots as users always want to be seamlessly connected and of course, for free.

To succeed, all these MVNOs need to differentiate from even the underlying network. They need to become more independent, improve their coverage, user experience and data speed. They need a hybrid strategy to achieve their desired market expansion results. Hybrid means using 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi, but also using multiple carrier networks at once to provide a faster speed.

An MVNO combining Facebook social sharing features with the local Wi-Fi presence of Starbucks would most probably have a fast adoption and growth rate in the US market. It is certainly what all the new MVNOs are trying to achieve.

Open Garden is a network made of people and devices like smartphones, laptops and tablets. In essence, it is a virtual network that can sit on top of any carrier network, whether it is a cellular network (3G/4G) or a Wi-Fi network. It provides a faster network connection and extends the range of existing Wi-Fi networks and therefore provides stronger coverage, more opportunities to offload and savings on data costs.

  • FASTER SPEED

Today, users normally access the Internet using only one path. For example, when your phone connects to Wi-Fi, it no longer uses its 4G connection; if you are in an area with multiple Wi-Fi hotspots, you only use one. Open Garden is introducing a way to access the Internet over multiple paths at once, improving speed, reliability, and also eliminating configuration choices. You will no longer need to decide how you connect since Open Garden dynamically connects using for you using multiple paths.

 

 

  • ACCESS MORE WI-FI HOTSPOTS

When there is no direct Internet connection, devices will access the Internet through chains of other devices. Again, if necessary, chains will grow to reach the Internet.