of sense, but we do have one warning: Many
are now wired with dozens or hundreds of wire-
Internet service providers (ISPs) donâ€™t like the
less access points so that students, staff, and
idea of you sharing your Internet connection
professors can access the Internet from just
without them getting a piece of the action.
about anywhere on campus. At UC San Diego,
Beware that you might have to pay for a more
for example, freshmen are outfitted with wire-
expensive commercial ISP line. Before you
less personal digital assistants (PDAs) to sched-
share your Internet connection, check your
ule classes, send e-mails, and instant messages,
ISPâ€™s Terms of Service (TOS) or look at the list-
and even find their friends at the student center
ing of wireless-friendly ISPs on the Electronic
(by using a locator program written by a stu-
Frontier Foundationâ€™s Web page (www.eff.
dent). Many folks are adapting this concept
org). The same is true of DSL and cable modem
when it comes to access in their neighborhood,
providers. Your usage agreement with them
setting up community wireless LANs.
basically says that you wonâ€™t do this, and theyâ€™re
Some creators of these community LANs have starting to charge high-use fees to lines that
taken the openness of the Internet to heart and have extranormal traffic (that is, those lines that
have opened up their access points to any and seem like there are a bunch of people on the
all takers. Thereâ€™s even an Internet subculture broadband line sharing the connection).
with Web sites and chalk markings on sidewalks
Chapter 16: Going Wireless Away from Home
Pretty soon, youâ€™ll even be able to plug into a Wi-Fi network on an airplane.
Boeing and Cisco have been teaming up to get wireless Internet access on
passenger planes. In fact, theyâ€™ve already got one plane â€” a Lufthansa 747
that makes regular trips between Frankfurt, Germany and Washington, DC â€”
already outfitted with the system. The system connects to a satellite ISP and
gives passengers a high-speed connection (up to 1 Mbps) in any seat on the
plane (even back in 52b, that awful middle seat by the lavatory!). Hereâ€™s a
cool aside about this system: On the inaugural flight, a reporter wrote and
submitted his story entirely online while flying on the plane.
The single biggest issue thatâ€™s been holding back the hot spot industry so far
(keeping it as a huge future trend instead of a use-it-anywhere-today reality)
has been the issue of roaming. As of this writing, no one hot spot operator
has anything close to ubiquitous coverage. Instead, dozens of different hot
spot operators, of different sizes, operate in competition with each other. As
a user, perhaps a sales person whoâ€™s traveling across town to several differ-
ent clients in one day, you might find yourself running into hot spots from
three or four different hot spot providers â€” and needing accounts from three
or four separate providers to get online with each.
This is a lot different, of course, from the cell phone industry, in which you
can pretty much take your phone anywhere and make calls. The cell phone
providers have some elaborate roaming arrangements in place that allow
them to bill each other (and in the end, bill you, the user) for these calls. Hot
spot service providers havenâ€™t quite reached this point. However, here are a
couple of trends that will help bring about some true hot spot roaming:
Companies, such as Boingo Wireless, are entering the market. Boingo
(founded by Sky Dayton, who also founded the huge ISP EarthLink),
doesnâ€™t operate any of its own hot spots but instead has partnered with
a huge range of other hot spot operators from little mom-and-pop hot
spot operators to big operations such as Wayport. Boingo provides all
the billing and account management for end users. Thus, a Boingo cus-
tomer can go to any Boingo partnerâ€™s hot spot, log on, and get online. (We
talk about both Boingo and Wayport in more detail later in the chapter.)
Cell phone companies are getting into the hot spot business. Led by
T-Mobile, cell phone companies are beginning to buy into the hot spot
concept, setting up widespread networks of hot spots in their cellular
phone territories. Although these networks arenâ€™t yet ubiquitous â€”
the coverage isnâ€™t anywhere close to that of the cellular phone networks
yet â€” it is getting better by the day.
Besides improving coverage and solving the roaming problem, commercial
hot spot providers are also beginning to look at solutions that provide a
higher grade of access â€” offering business class hot spot services, in other
words. For example, they are exploring special hot spot access points and
298 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
related gear that can offer different tiers of speeds (you could pay more to get
a faster connection) or that can offer secure connections to corporate net-
works (so that you can safely log onto the office network to get work files).
In the next sections of this chapter, we talk about some of the most promi-
nent commercial hot spot providers operating in the United States. Weâ€™re not
going to spend any time talking about the smaller local hot spot providers
out there, although many of them are hooking up with companies like Boingo.
Weâ€™re not down on these smaller providers, but weâ€™re aiming for the maxi-
mum bang for our writing buck. So if youâ€™ve got a local favorite that meets
your needs, go for it!
Using T-Mobile Hot Spots
The biggest hot spot provider in the United States today â€” at least in terms
of companies that run their own hot spots â€” is T-Mobile (www.t-mobile.com).
T-Mobile has hot spots up and running in over 2,000 locations, primarily at
Starbucks coffee shops in over 20 states. T-Mobile got into the hot spot busi-
ness when it purchased the assets of a startup company named Mobilestar,
which made the initial deal with Starbucks to provide wireless access in
these coffee shops.
T-Mobile has branched out beyond Starbucks and currently is also offering
access in American Airlines Admirals Clubs in a few dozen airports as well as a
handful of other locations. T-Mobile charges $29.99 a month for unlimited local
access (meaning at any T-Mobile location in your town) and $39.99 monthly for
national unlimited access. A monthly download limit is imposed; if you down-
load more than 500MB of data a month, youâ€™ll have to pay a small charge (a
quarter) for each additional MB. And if you donâ€™t have the national plan, youâ€™ll
pay 15 cents per minute of online time when youâ€™re using the service remotely.
T-Mobile also offers some corporate accounts (for those forward-thinking
companies that encourage their employees to drink quadruple Americanos
during working hours. . . Danny, are you listening?), prepaid account options,
and pay-as-you-go plans.
To try T-Mobile hot spots out for free, register on T-Mobileâ€™s site at www.
T-Mobile, like most hot spot companies, uses your Web browser to log you in
and activate your service. You need to set the Service Set Identifier (SSID) in
your wireless network adapterâ€™s client software to tmobile to get on the net-
work. (Check out Part III of the book for information on how to do this on
your laptop or handheld.)
Chapter 16: Going Wireless Away from Home
Using Wayport Hot Spots
Another big commercial hot spot provider is Wayport (www.wayport.com).
Wayport has made business travelers its number one focus: The company
has hot spots in over 475 hotels and in 10 major airports nationwide. Besides
just offering Wi-Fi access, Wayport offers wired Internet access in many
hotels and airports. (Youâ€™ll see Wayport Laptop Lane kiosks in many airports
when you scurry from your security strip search to the gate.)
Wayport, like T-Mobile, offers a range of service plans, ranging from one-time,
pay-as-you-go plans using your credit card to prepaid calling card plans. You
can sign up as an annual customer for $29.95 a month (if you sign up for a
yearâ€™s worth of service; otherwise, itâ€™s $49.95 for a month-to-month plan) to get
unlimited access to any of Wayportâ€™s Wi-Fi locations nationwide. Wayport also
offers corporate plans, so consider bribing your IT manager if you travel a lot.
Like T-Mobile, Wayport uses your Web browser to authenticate you and col-
lect your billing information. You need to set your SSID to Wayport_Access
to get logged onto the access port.
Using Boingo Hot Spots
Boingo (www.boingo.com) made a big splash in 2002 when the company
launched because it was the first company to bring a solution to the hot spot
roaming issue. Boingo doesnâ€™t own its own network of hot spots; instead, it
has partnered with a lot of other hot spot providers (including Wayport,
which we discuss in the preceding section). Boingo provides you, the user,
with some cool software, giving you access to all the hot spots of its partners
with a single account, a single bill, and not too much hassle on your part.
As of this writing, Boingo has over 1,000 hot spots up and running on its net-
work. Like the other providers, Boingo offers monthly plans ($24.95 for a plan
that allows ten connections a month; $49.95 for unlimited access) as well as
pay-as-you-go plans and corporate accounts. (Keep buttering up the IT man-
ager at work!)
The big difference between Boingo and the other services is that Boingo uses
its own software to control and manage the connection process. You download
the Boingo software (available for most Windows computers and also for
Pocket PC handhelds) and use the software to sign on to a Boingo hot spot.
This approach has its limitations: For example, not all Wi-Fi cards work with
the Boingo software â€” see a list of compatible cards on its Web site. However,
300 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
this approach allows Boingo to offer a more consistent user experience when
you roam around using its service. Boingo is also taking advantage of this soft-
ware to offer a Virtual Private Network (VPN; a secured network connection that
canâ€™t be intruded upon by others) service for business customers.
If you use a Mac laptop computer, donâ€™t bother with Boingo. The Boingo soft-
ware is only available for the Microsoft platforms that we mention earlier in
this section, and you canâ€™t get on the Boingo network without the software.
We talk a bit more about Boingoâ€™s software in the upcoming section â€śTools for
Finding Hot Spotsâ€ť because you can use Boingoâ€™s software to sniff out open
access points around you, regardless of whether theyâ€™re Boingoâ€™s.
Tools for Finding Hot Spots
When youâ€™re on the road looking for a freenet, a community hotspot, or a
commercial provider, here are a couple of ways that you can get your laptop
or handheld computer to find available networks:
Do your homework: If you know exactly where youâ€™re going to be, you
can do some online sleuthing, find the available networks, and write
down the SSIDs and/or Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) passwords (if
required) before you get there. We talk about these in more detail in
Chapter 10. Most hot spots donâ€™t use WEP (itâ€™s too hard for their cus-
tomers to figure out), but youâ€™ll find the SSID (and the WEP password, if
applicable), on the Web site of the hot spot provider that youâ€™re plan-
ning on using. Just look in the support or how-to-connect section.
Look for a sign: Those providers that push open hot spots have adopted
a standard logo that should be displayed prominently in a place where
you can log on.
Rely on your network adapterâ€™s client software: Many network adapter
software systems will give you a nice pull-down list of available access
points. In most cases, this wonâ€™t really tell you any details about the
access points, but you can do the trial-and-error thing to see whether
you can get online.
Use a network sniffer program: These programs work with your network
adapter to ferret out the access points near you and provide a bit of infor-
mation about them. In the next two sections, we describe sniffers from
two companies: Netstumbler.com and Boingo. (Note: In most cases,
network sniffer programs are used to record and decode network packets â€”
something the highly paid network analysts at your company might use.
In this case, weâ€™re referring to programs that are designed solely for wire-
less LANs and which sniff out radio waves and identify available networks.)
Chapter 16: Going Wireless Away from Home
We find sniffer programs to be quite handy because theyâ€™re a great way to
take a quick survey of our surroundings when weâ€™re on the road. For exam-
ple, Pat (one of the authors of this book) was recently staying at a hotel that
belonged to a chain partnered with Wayport, but Wayport hadnâ€™t officially
started offering service yet . . . and the hotel staff was clueless. No problem! A
quick session using the Network Stumbler software (see the next section),
and lo and behold! The Wayport access point in the lobby was up and run-
ning, and with a quick flip of the wallet (to pull out his prepaid card), Pat was
up and running on high-speed wireless Internet. Take that, dialup!
Network sniffer programs are also a good way to help you evaluate the secu-
rity of your own network. In fact, thatâ€™s the main reason why the developers
of Network Stumbler created the program. After you implement some of the
security steps that we discuss in Chapter 10, you can fire up your favorite
sniffer program and see whether youâ€™ve been successful.
The granddaddy of wireless network sniffer programs is Network Stumbler
(www.netstumbler.com), which is a Windows program (works with Windows
95/98/Me/2000/XP) that connects to the PC Card network adapter in your
laptop and lets you survey the airwaves for available Wi-Fi access points.
Network Stumbler will list all available access points, giving you relatively
detailed information about things such as the SSID and Media Access Control
(MAC) address of the AP, whether WEP is enabled, the relative power of the
signal, and more. You can even combine Network Stumbler with a Global
Positioning System (GPS) card in your laptop to figure out exactly where you
and the access point are located.
Network Stumbler users can upload their surveys to the Netstumbler.com
Web page and contribute to a database of available access points that the
Netstumbler.com folks maintain. You can see a map at www.netstumbler.
com/nation.php to get an idea of places where people have already used the
program. You can submit search queries on this Web page if you want to see
other peopleâ€™s survey results.
Network Stumbler wonâ€™t work with every Wi-Fi card. You can find a list of
compatible cards on the Netstumbler.com Web site.
Figure 16-2 shows Network Stumbler in action in Patâ€™s house, tracking down
his two access points. (Looks like none of his neighbors are wireless yet!)
302 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network