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Nokia, Lucent and 3Com have formed a new group to push ubiquitous wireless networking. And significantly, one of the other founder members of the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) is Symbol Technologies, which produces wireless networked industrial handhelds based on 3Com's Palm Pilot. The objective of the group is familiar; by defining and testing common standards for wireless Ethernet the companies intend to speed deployment and to achieve interoperability between their product lines. One particularly intriguing area where this could apply is between Palm devices and Sybian-based ones, including Nokia smartphones. Ultimately the companies intend it to be possible for users to use wireless connections to link seamlessly into networks wherever they go, extending the campus networking model to the world in general. By defining common standards, they should be able to encourage wireless service providers to add data networking capabilities to their networks. Transportation however is the $64,000 question. A few years down the line it might be possible for wireless data networks to use the Bluetooth standard. But at the moment Bluetooth is being positioned as a cheap, robust local connectivity system - effectively it's now a substitute for cables and/or IRDA, and doesn't have the speed or support for full-scale data networking. But it is intended to be universal, and to allow devices to communicate seamlessly whenever they move into range of one another, so conceptually there's overlap with ubiquitous wireless Ethernet. Or there's GPRS (General Packet Radio System), the wireless data system that's beginning to be rolled out in Europe on the back of GSM. That would likely benefit from the efforts of WECA, but the addition of data networking standards and concepts would probably require that service providers adopt new pricing models. ®

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