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Cisco Systems has developed technology which makes it easier for a router, along with a network of connected IP devices, to access the Internet from planes or trains that are themselves on the move.

The capability, which has attracted the interest of NASA, comes from the addition of mobile IP functionality, called Cisco Mobile Networks, in Cisco's Internet Operating System software.

Mobile IP, which was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), enables an IP device to roam across networks and geographies while remaining constantly connected to the network or the Internet as if it is attached to its home location all the time using the same IP address.

A mobile LAN powered by Cisco Mobile Networks supports an "always on" connection to the Internet, for example, an aeroplane with a router running Cisco Mobile IP with the Cisco Mobile Networks functionality can fly around the world with all passengers continuously connected to the Internet. Passengers connect clients (such as laptops and personal digital assistants) to the router on a plane using traditional LAN technologies such as Ethernet or 802.11b.

There's no need for special software, hardware or configuration on client devices.

Cisco Mobile Networks is independent of the physical layer and operates over cellular, satellite and other types of communications networks.

NASA scientists at its Glenn Research Centre are working with Cisco to work out how to deploy the technology in low-earth-orbiting research craft, and believe it offers a far more flexible way to connect its craft.

As well as in space, Cisco believes the technology will allow wireless service providers to expand their offering into such markets as emergency management services, telematics, railroads and shipping systems, and automobiles.

Cisco's Mobile Networks functionality is available now in Cisco IOS Software release 12.2(4)T. Cisco began the support of Mobile IP itself in 1998. More information on the technology is available here. ®

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