Here's something to think about: What if wherever your cellphone worked you also could set up a high-speed Internet network? We're not talking about...
Here’s something to think about: What if wherever your cellphone worked you also could set up a high-speed Internet network?
We’re not talking about conventional Wi-Fi here. Wi-Fi is great till you leave the wireless cafe or motel or airport lounge.
We’re talking about a wireless network using cellular, which works just about everywhere (um, most of the time). So instead of needing a cable or DSL connection to hook a wireless router into, you only need a cellular service account.
Till recently, Internet service over cellular has been a slug. Even so, bleeding-edge types have for years been using cell networks for Internet connections on laptops equipped with wireless PC cards. Slow, yes. But better than the alternative — nada.
The good news is that cell networks are getting faster. Two protocols, EDGE and 1xEV-DO, are broaching broadband speeds in select metro areas. Availability is limited right now but continues to expand.
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Enter a little green box, about the size of a videocassette, called the Junxion Box. It grabs a wireless cell connection and turns it into a Wi-Fi signal (it also outputs Ethernet). The result: instant high-speed network.
Based in the University District, Junxion is a tiny, four-person company that includes executives from now-defunct Monet Mobile Networks, a pioneer in broadband mobile data services.
As one indicator that Junxion’s product has a lot of potential, I was sitting with a company rep outside a North Seattle wireless cafe. The green box was getting a lot of curious stares. Finally, a guy stopped and asked about it. Bingo! He knew exactly what it did. It was as though he’d been waiting all his life for such a device.
The reaction is similar at trade shows and conferences. Most people have heard of Junxion before they’ve seen it. Crowds gather. Questions fly.
So far Junxion has been used primarily by enterprises needing networks on the fly. A Federal Reserve Board bank visitation. CalTrans (California’s Department of Transportation) construction or maintenance crews.
Google is using the little green box in ways it won’t quite nail down. But one is believed to be powering mobile Internet access on Google shuttle buses in the Bay Area.
Sun Microsystems likes Junxion for its Sun Ray technology, which uses thin clients attached to network servers as a security boost (thin clients have other advantages, but security issues have become information technology’s curse). No sensitive data resides on the client computer — but that means you need a network connection pretty much anytime, anywhere.
Buses, trains, light rail. You see the allure. Under the right circumstances, even airplanes could use Junxion Boxes. Junxion also makes a great backup when the DSL line goes down.
What gives Junxion the advantage over PC cards is that the latter are Windows-only, are expensive for enterprises to buy and maintain, and are a nightmare when it comes to upgrading. Junxion is the open solution to the cellular high-speed network hairball.
Junxion has caught on faster with the client population than with cellular providers. Unfortunately, the attributes that make Junxion attractive for users give pause to wireless providers.
True, providers make money on cellular access and data services. But they also want to make money on hardware and customer lock-ins. That’s why you typically — and outrageously — have to buy a new phone when you switch networks.
But Junxion has the enterprise sector — and the end user — on its side. As providers ramp up on high-speed wireless Internet, the Junxion genie will be out of the bottle.
“All the technical pieces are in place now,” said Mason Uyeda, Sun Ray marketing manager. Adoption will become an “unstoppable trend,” he predicted, “once the market understands a viable alternative exists.”
Paul Andrews is a freelance technology writer and co-author of “Gates.” He can be reached