EIM outlines strategy for wireless hotspot service

Emirates Internet & Multimedia has completed its first round of technical trials for wireless hotspot service.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  February 13, 2003

Emirates Internet & Multimedia (EIM), Etisalat’s internet business unit, has completed initial ‘proof of concept’ testing for a wireless hotspot service. The monopoly internet service provider (ISP) is currently developing its ‘go-to-market’ business strategy.

“The proof of concept testing has helped us learn about the technology and its implications on the infrastructure and our environment,” says Maan Al Sabi, marketing manager access, EIM.

“We are [currently] evaluating some technology and studying business models to try and position this service in a favourable way,” he adds.

The initial round of pilot tests, which were conducted either in Etisalat labs or office buildings, focused on the existing network standards for wireless technology. Particular attention has been paid to the security of wireless hotspot environments.

“From a security standpoint there are concerns, wireless data is a security risk — 802.11b as it stands does not provide the security that people are looking for,” warns Al Sabi.

“Other standards have come into play to specifically protect the wireless segment, but [we] are also looking at complete end to end security, right from the users appliance, from the laptop, to the PDA [or] phone, right up to the services provider’s service and equipment,” he adds.

EIM’s initial round of testing looked at several different security standards including IP Sec, ETLS and Cisco’s PIP initiative.

“It is going to be a challenge from an operator’s point of view because it seems that the battle for a standard in the [security] market has yet to be fought,” explains Al Sabi. “What we are trying to do is look at the most prominent protocols and implement them,” he adds.

However, the absence of standards isn’t holding back the monopoly ISP’s plans to introducing commercial hotspots. With the service introduction provisionally set for the third quarter, EIM is pushing ahead regardless of standards. The lack of standards is “something to consider, but we don’t believe that we are going to be put in a position where this will hold us up,” says Al Sabi.

According to Al Sabi, any network kit the operator invests in will have a guaranteed upgrade path that is line with the emerging standards.

EIM is currently examining the best way to introduce the service to the public. Although there are no specifics available, the initial service offering will be targeted at business users.

“It’s a real challenge would be in be in rolling out an infrastructure in a wide area,” says Al Sabi.

“Market [research] suggests that the early adopters will be the business users. So the service will have to facilitate the availability of hotspots in business [districts] as much as possible. Will have to identify the high areas of traffic, specifically those that will be visited by business [users],” he adds.

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