Fri, May 24, 2002 - Page 17 News List

WLAN logo developed

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

Willy Liu checks out an e-mail photo using a wireless local area network at an outdoor cafe in Taipei's Breeze Department Store yesterday while his friend, Loise Chen, looks on.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Wondering where you can sit down with a laptop and a cup of coffee and get access to a wireless local area network (WLAN)?

Just look for the wireless logo, or so said the Ministry of Economic Affairs after they introduced their new mark yesterday. The ministry hopes locations that offer the wireless computer and PDA services will display the logo to promote the technology in collaboration with WLAN service companies.

Wireless networks are local area data communications systems that enable users to surf the Internet without cables via a radio-frequency.

"Although WLAN service has been available for a while, most people still have no idea how to use it or where to get service," said Sandy Cheng (鄭麗娟), a deputy director at the ministry's wireless communication industrial development office.

All that is required to connect at a coffee shop or while waiting at one of Taiwan's major airports is the installation of an NT$1,000 wireless network interface card into a notebook PC or PDA and an account with services providers.

Those companies -- Yaw Jen Technology Co Ltd (曜正科技), Yam Digital Technology Co (蕃薯藤科技), Far EasTone Telecommunications Co (遠傳), and Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信) -- currently offer the service at more than 400 locations in Taiwan, such as CKS International Airport, Taipei Sungshan Airport, Kaohsiung International Airport, Breeze Department Store (微風廣場) and the Evergreen Laurel Hotel Taipei (長榮桂冠).

In addition, coffee shops such as Barista Coffee, Coffee Beans and Kohikan Coffee have begun offering the service as well.

But one major hurdle facing these tech firms is the fact that users have to subscribe to multiple services to have access in different locations.

With plans to work on resolving this dilemma and to create an industry standard, the ministry said it will bring together service operators to form a WLAN special interest group.

"In order to stimulate market growth, cooperation is very important," Cheng said.

These hurdles will have to be overcome before the service can take off, she said.

If they are serious about selling the idea to consumers on a large scale, sooner or later rivals will have to discuss ways to make the service more palatable to consumers.

"If they can't solve the roaming problem between different service operators, consumers can't really enjoy the convenience of using WLAN nationwide," said Tsai Zse-hong (蔡志宏), a telecom professor at National Taiwan University.

With different WLAN services issuing different passwords, users may have to switch their personal identity numbers from location to location.

"We hope companies can cooperative to develop a universal authentication system or a universal password, allowing an individual to use one identification number to access all services," Zse said.

It may take some time, however, to reach such a goal.

"We've realized this problem ? but it involves some technological barriers and billing-system differences that will be difficult to solve," said Frank Jiang (江守國), president of IAVista Inc (全球領航), a wireless service company associated with Chunghwa.

"But at least we are moving in the right direction to make the technology more user-friendly," Jiang said.

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