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Using WiMAX To Replace a Phone?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the secretly-replaced-with-folger's-crystals dept.

Cellphones 169

vigmeister writes "I've decided to explore the possibility of using a netbook/MID as a phone while eschewing the services of a cellphone provider. Now that Atlanta (where I live) has WiMAX from Clear, I ought to be connected to the Internet everywhere within the city (once I sign up). Theoretically, this should mean that I will be able to use my netbook as a cell phone. Of course, there are some very real issues to overcome and I am simply putting this experiment together to see if it is something that is realistically possible. This could possibly extend to uncapped 3G connections (if they exist any more) as well. Are there any obvious problems you would foresee? Is there anything I have missed or any other questions I should attempt to answer in this 'experiment' of mine? A major issue is, of course, the fact that my pseudo-netbook has to be carried everywhere and always left on."

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911 Service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28114355)

A lot of voip services don't support 911 calls, which is something you can ignore 'most of the time' but would certainly want in some situations.

Re:911 Service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28114381)

lol, if push comes to shove, there will be a regular phone around...

Re:911 Service (2, Informative)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114569)

lol, if push comes to shove, there will be a regular phone around...

I'm sure you won't be laughing when you need 911 and you realize you were wrong.

Bigger problem: Do you think Clear is honest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28117175)

A bigger problem is that the VOIP telephone may not work because of poor internet service.

Clear is owned 51% by Sprint. In my experience, Sprint is not a company that takes honesty seriously.

Last Sunday I tested Clear's 768 kilobit service with the DSLReports.com speed test. Clear was providing a little over 200 kilobits, even though there are very few subscribers. There is no law that says internet service providers must be honest, so they aren't honest.

Re:911 Service (2, Informative)

rshimizu12 (668412) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114551)

If VOIP is being offered a as service then the voice provider is required to implement 911.

Re:911 Service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28114787)

or state that 911 calling is not available

Re:911 Service (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115229)

Yes, but it need not be e911 which is what would be needed to enable the location of a mobile device. Of course I don't think e911 works all that well at all. The other day I called 911 because some idiot was towing a car at very slow speed without warning lights at midnight, I spent several minutes explaining where I was and where I last saw the offending vehicle despite having a brand new Blackberry with e911 capabilities. I was talking to the highway patrol dispatcher which you would assume would be the first group to get e911 capabilities.

Re:911 Service (3, Insightful)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115011)

If you're mobile, you wouldn't care if 911 is supported - the operator wouldn't have your location. You'd carry around your old cell phone with no contract or service for that job.

Re:911 Service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28115471)

Actually a lot of them *do* provide 911 services. Besides VoIP providers recently being granted interconnection rights for PSAP access, which solved many of the initial problems, basic 911 access is now required on consumer VoIP lines and any differences from wireline 911 must be disclosed:
        http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/voip911.html [fcc.gov]

In metro Atlanta he's likely to have full access to an appropriate PSAP, so his only real limitation is that they will get his home address rather than his current location. That may be annoying if you're not in a position to communicate your location, but it seemed to be good enough for cell phones for several decades -- it's only recently that any mobile voice service provides detailed, up-to-date location information for emergency calls. And depending on the provider and capabilities of the netbook it may even be possible to provide location updates on a regular basis to ensure that his current location *is* transmitted to the PSAP.

You're delusional (3, Informative)

realmolo (574068) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114377)

You don't *honestly* think that you're going to get WiMAX coverage everywhere you go, do you? WiMAX isn't magic. It has most of the same limitations that regular 802.11 b/g has. It's an *improvement*, but you still aren't going to get good signal inside of most public buildings.

Re:You're delusional (3, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115291)

Uh, no. WiMax is being implemented in the same sort of frequency range as TV and cellular, not the multigigahertz range where 802.11(x) are.

Re:You're delusional (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 4 years ago | (#28117503)

There are many people with Clearwire in Seattle would beg to differ... plenty of my friends live on Lake Washington, etc, etc, and Clearwire, not so good I am afraid.

Re:You're delusional (4, Funny)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115361)

you still aren't going to get good signal inside of most public buildings.

Isn't that like the company motto of most cellphone providers?

Re:You're delusional (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28116375)

No, the average cell-telco company motto is:

you still aren't going to get good signal

Re:You're delusional (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28116385)

Actually Canada has a WiMAX network that covers just about the same network as cell phones. Each cell tower (from Rogers and Bell) is also part of a nationwide WiMAX network.

Unfortunately you have to use their proprietary modem or usb dongle.

Problems (3, Insightful)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114387)

Are there any obvious problems you would foresee?

How are you going to dial 911?

Re:Problems (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28114431)

First, you press the "9" key. Then, you press the "1" key. Finally, you press the "1" key one last time.

Dialing isn't the problem, it's getting connected to the operator that is the problem.

Re:Problems (1)

FinchWorld (845331) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114553)

Though I am not an american, neither do i live there, I do believe many VOIP type apps don't dial 911, on the basis they can route you through to a local 911 call center, or something along those lines. So doing what the parent said wouldn't work.

Re:Problems (2, Informative)

Nick Number (447026) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114783)

Snark aside, under extreme stress (such as that which might prompt a person to call 911), dialing can indeed be a problem.

A chapter of Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink examines how people can make seemingly obvious errors in situations where they feel threatened. Their "animal brain" kicks in, and higher functions are pushed aside. As a result, would-be callers often hit the wrong numbers, forget to hit Send, etc.

One expert recommended that everyone spend some time practicing dialing 911 so that their brains are adequately prepared to do it under stress. It's an odd image but it might be a good idea.

Re:Problems (2, Funny)

Zordak (123132) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114871)

One expert recommended that everyone spend some time practicing dialing 911 so that their brains are adequately prepared to do it under stress.

You may want to unplug your phone from the PSTN before trying this.

Re:Problems (2, Informative)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114877)

First, you press the "9" key. Then, you press the "1" key. Finally, you press the "1" key one last time.

Dialing isn't the problem, it's getting connected to the operator that is the problem.

While you are being sarcastic (and knew exactly what he meant) you should try to also actually inform him of the problem:

In order to "dial 911" over VOIP and get connected, the VOIP provider needs to be able to route your call to a PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point). The challenge is knowing which PSAP actually applies to you. You need to inform your VOIP provider of your location so they can choose the appropriate PSAP. Of course, that is if they even offer E911 service at all. Most VOIP providers don't seem to offer it at all right now. When you sign up for service, you need to be aware if they offer it. Most of the time it seems to be just a dollar or two more.

I would expect the vast majority of the so-called "free" SIP providers don't even offer E911. Which I would also expect would be the most popular choice for people choosing this method of communication as "cheap" seems to be the whole reason they are doing it.

Your other challenge is that you are wireless in this scenario. There is a scheduled deployment, and progressive requirements for cell phone carriers to provide accurate location information to the PSAP when they connect the call. They obviously know which one is closest since they known which cell tower you are communicating to. That's how they get the correct PSAP for you. However, the PSAP wants to know WHERE you are much more accurately so they can send an ambulance right to you instead of forming a search party.

In this scenario, you are not connecting to a cell phone tower that can triangulate your position automatically or choose the appropriate PSAP. You are using a netbook, or some other device, connected to a wireless Internet connection. AFAIK, there are no technologies or methodologies in place for you to transmit your current location (assuming you even have GPS on the device) to your VOIP provider, which would then provided to the PSAP.

If you contract for E911 service with a VOIP provider in San Fransisco, use your San Fransisco address with E911, and then make an emergency call while in Los Angeles.... you will be connected to a PSAP in San Fransisco.

So the first challenge is just getting the E911 service with your VOIP provider. The PROBLEM is going to be getting accurate location information transmitted to the PSAP when you are connected, or connected to the appropriate PSAP in the first place.

Logic would tell you that while talking to the emergency operator you can just tell here where you are. Unfortunately, if you are 100 or 3000 miles away from him/her it is going to be quite difficult for them to transfer you to the appropriate PSAP. It would certainly take some time, which most people talking to 911 don't have.

Dorian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28114391)

I believe there will be too many retransmissions on Clear's network to make mobile voice a good choice unless they are somehow prioritizing the packets for you.

Fixed voice may be workable though...fewer reflections and no roaming.

Pack an extension cord (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28114403)

Even the most frugal netbooks don't run a whole day on battery power if a wireless network module is in active use. In my experience, 3G is a little less heavy on the battery than 802.11g. It still cuts the battery life of my Asus 901 by 20%.

Wrong tool for the wrong job. (4, Insightful)

eudaemon (320983) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114407)

Unless you barely use your cellphone, you'll find that the netbook's battery is
your biggest limiting factor. Particularly if you use a bluetooth headset so you aren't walking around
with a cabled headset plugged into the netbook. There are 802.11 based SIP phones that can serve the same purpose.

Re:Wrong tool for the wrong job. (0)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115385)

The real question to be asking is, are there any WiMAX SIP or Skype handsets? I know there are WiFi SIP/Skype phones which look like cell phones, but use Wifi instead. Is there any reason someone couldn't come out with same thing, but with WiMax?

I tried googling for a few different combinations of terms, but didn't come up with anything. Still, seems like such a beast should be possible, and maybe could have better battery life than a netbook?

Re:Wrong tool for the wrong job. (4, Interesting)

svnt (697929) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115439)

It depends. I live in Portland, Oregon and tried this with Clear, Skype, and call-forwarding.

For me personally (and I assume at least multiple other people reading this website), I primarily use my cell phone at home and at work. It works reasonably well in this situation assuming you have good coverage at both ends. The battery life is a non-issue because it is primarily plugged in. I don't answer my phone when driving anyway, so most of my friends will leave a voicemail.

The biggest issue is network latency. It is like having a conversation over (forgive me) NAT-blocked Xbox Live. There is a very noticeable lag in the conversation.

When going out, I used my cell phone for texts. You can have Skype transcribe your voicemails and SMS you with their contents [skype.com]. Then you can respond via email/SMS.

All in all it worked decently, although it was fairly involved to set up. I stopped using it in the end because of the lag, the fact that Clear wouldn't support the Nokia n810, and finally I got tired of lugging the netbook around. It was an interesting experiment and you could probably make do with it, but it is not very practical just yet.

Re:Wrong tool for the wrong job. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28115789)

I primarily use my cell phone at home and at work

Which leaves... ?

Re:Wrong tool for the wrong job. (1)

Klinky (636952) | more than 4 years ago | (#28116859)

...at a park, at a restaurant, in front of a movie theatre(not in please!), on vacation, on a train, near a plane, on a boat, cleaning a moat, eating a root beer float, talking to the pope... bahh...

Re:Wrong tool for the wrong job. (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115999)

It could work well as a semi-portable, meaning the rig goes in a small briefcase between home and work, so you get free long distance in both locations and can downgrade your cel to pay per use.

That's exactly what I take on tour with my band. I just hook up my VOIP adapter through my laptop* and I have my landline at every venue and hotel room with wi-fi. I just use my cel as a pager and for texts. I'm 2000mi from home right now, and I just got off the phone with my mom over a lousy 1Mbps connection, no problems.

* Often the VOIP adapter needs to be patched through an ethernet switch or router to cooperate with the laptop, no big deal though.

Batteries and power (1)

wsanders (114993) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114421)

I think you are going to find that, compared to cell phone makers who have pretty much figured out power management, the netbook makers are still figuring it out. But YMMV, I've only used Asuseseses and Dellses.

Forwarding (4, Informative)

Aram Fingal (576822) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114427)

I think an important thing to consider is the ability to forward your number. I'm thinking of doing that in general. If I have one number which I can forward different places, I can give that out to people who want to call me and I can have it forwarded to a prepaid cell phone, my work phone or other devices as needed at any particular time. It makes your idea much more practical and I think it's how people will do things in the future. It also helps enable more competition in the market for mobile phone devices.

Re:Forwarding (1)

priam the protector (1389973) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114953)

You can do this with google voice [google.com] already. It used to be GrandCentral and this works just like you mentioned for the call forwarding. It also will transcribe your voicemails for you to search them.

Battery Life (2, Informative)

StarWreck (695075) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114433)

Having to leave the netbook on with an ACTIVE WiMAX connection. Enjoy your cell phone with a 2 hour battery life, when not using it to talk.

Re:Battery Life not a problem (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 4 years ago | (#28116495)

You forgot, he's probably got a motor/generator connected to the beanie propeller on top of his head. So, battery power isn't a problem. If there's not enough wind, he runs around in large circles.


Answered your own question (2, Informative)

SashaMan (263632) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114459)

You say:

Are there any obvious problems you would foresee?

and then a sentence later:

A major issue is, of course, the fact that my pseudo-netbook has to be carried everywhere and left always on.

I would consider this a pretty big obvious problem.

Ubiquity (4, Insightful)

Erich (151) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114471)

Why don't you see phones that only support the 3G protocols?

Because they're not ubiquitous. You will end up somewhere where coverage isn't so great for your new protocol. If you can handoff to an older protocol, you will keep your connection. So this is why even a few years ago you could get Verizon phones that still supported AMPS, why every phone that supports EV-DO also supports 1X (and older standards), and why every phone with WCDMA/HSDPA/HSUPA/etc still supports plain old GSM/GPRS/EDGE.

It's also why it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a WiMAX only phone. You need at least WiMAX+GSM, or WiMAX+CDMA1X. You need to be able to hand off to the older interfaces. And probably you want to support everything... WiMAX when it's available, HSDPA or WCDMA when that's available but WiMAX isn't, or GSM/GPRS/EDGE when that's all that's available.

Or maybe you never leave downtown Atlanta. Then maybe WiMAX-only would be fine, assuming you trust the reliability of the relatively new network.

Re:Ubiquity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28115437)

Slashdot reader since 1997

I've been not RTFA & RTFS since I was born.

Re:Ubiquity (1)

n6gn (851311) | more than 4 years ago | (#28116813)

Another way to view this fundamental wrong-tool-for-the-job issue is in considering the information rate you need to support for a phone call, by comparing a 2-way audio channel at ~10 kbps with a 3G data channel at whatever you call 3G but lots more than 10 kbps. This "3G overhead" in both up and downlink directions requires a better radio path than for the same audio call, everything else equal. Less energy needs to be transmitted for the audio call. While protocols can play games with this fundamental fact (as does EVDO by forking over the *entire* base station carrier to one user at a time and time-slicing (oversubscribing)) the fundamental service, there's no free lunch. Your limited battery and antenna size limit the range at which you can communicate with a given hot-spot/cell-site and requires that there be higher site density to serve a given user base. This means that a WiMax solution will fundamentally be more expensive than an old voice-only solution. In the end (whenever it all catches up with the user) this will be more expensive. Simultaneous higher data rates to all users (3G) takes more capacity/coverage than 2G. You can borrow coverage from capacity and vice-versa but someone has to pay and in the WiMax case payment will probably be initially in the form of reduced coverage area and more expensive plans. If it hasn't already hit the wall as in the case of 3G (notice how US coverage is only a few percent of the geography compared to 2G?) it will definitely do so with 4G. WiMax can throttle down to something around 1 Mbps but not a lot lower. There's 100:1 (20 dB) difference in energy delivery requirements between these two rates. This fundamental system cost is going to keep it from being an effective replacement for audio-only communications. n6gn

Coming Soon (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114485)

I guess I would first and foremost look at their coverage map for Atlanta, and see all the sections, even in the middle of the city, that are marked as "coming soon", and make darn sure that I would get a signal in the areas I needed it. One thing i've noticed with sprint(who owns a big chunk of clear), is their coverage maps (and I'm assuming all the companies do) Lie on the maps. just cause the map says its good signal there, doesn't mean it really is.

May want to wait (2, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114493)

To use a netbook as a true phone replacement, you need battery life of 24 hours (what happens if a call comes in while you are switching battery packs?) Also, what is the battery life of your bluetooth headset? In addition, I believe most netbooks shut themselves down when the lid is closed; you need to either figure out a way to defeat this or figure out a way to carry it around with the lid open.

Re:May want to wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28114541)

If you are on slashdot, you should most certainly know how to alter your power settings so that your netbook does not shut down when you close the lid.

Re:May want to wait (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114699)

If a call comes in as you are switching batteries, same thing happens as when you are in a blackout spot with regular phone. The caller doesn't get through and they call back later. I don't think something like this would be used as an always on, get a call every half hour type of phone. But more as a replacement for people who are on pay as you go service, who may only use it for outgoing calls, or may only receive 1 or 2 calls a day.

Re:May want to wait (2, Insightful)

harryandthehenderson (1559721) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115529)

In addition, I believe most netbooks shut themselves down when the lid is closed; you need to either figure out a way to defeat this or figure out a way to carry it around with the lid open.

You mean like going to the power management settings and unchecking the box that says to sleep when closed?

Re:May want to wait (1)

SocratesJedi (986460) | more than 4 years ago | (#28117507)

True enough, but you still might run into overheating issues. Pretty much every laptop I've ever worked with has gotten pretty hot if it's left operating with it's lid down for any length of time. YMMV though (perhaps I've just dealt with oddball laptops).

Does Clear allow VOIP? (4, Informative)

Sean0michael (923458) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114495)

I use Clearwire's regular wireless internet here in Seattle. They block Skype traffic to promote their own VIOP plan for an extra $10-15/month. They might not let you use your netbook as a cell phone without ponying up extra $$.

Re:Does Clear allow VOIP? (3, Informative)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115161)

They block Skype traffic to promote their own VIOP plan for an extra $10-15/month. They might not let you use your netbook as a cell phone without ponying up extra $$.

Well first off Skype sucks. Not trolling, I promise. It just really sucks for quality and that is my own experience and that of several others. Skype also does require you to "pony up" more money to connect to "regular" phones. So it's not as free of a solution as one might think and I believe the person in the article wants to connect to the regular or traditional phone systems.

As for the blocking the easiest way to bypass that is VPN. All of the VOIP setups I have created and maintain use VPN for all the SIP/AIX traffic between the branch offices and the provider. Assuming this person has a computer that he can leave on at home, setting up his Netbook/MID to route the traffic across the VPN and then ultimately to the VOIP provider is not terribly difficult.

I realize that would require some expertise, and not everyone would have another computer or network to VPN too, just pointing out the blocking can be bypassed.

Re:Does Clear allow VOIP? (1)

pcolaman (1208838) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115259)

Having worked for Clearwire Tech Support in the past (less than a year ago) I can tell you this is complete garbage. They used to filter the ports that VOIP used, but even then you could call up Clearwire and ask them to unblock them for a 3rd party VOIP service, but unless something drastic has changed since I left (I doubt it), they stopped filtering VOIP ports for 3rd party VOIP over a year ago.

Having said that, I can also tell you that 3rd party VOIP did not work well in many cases with Clearwire's legacy service. Of course, it may work much better with WiMax, but a lot of that depends on how good of a signal you get, and this can vary quite a bit in a particular market.

Re:Does Clear allow VOIP? (1)

Sean0michael (923458) | more than 4 years ago | (#28117219)

Thanks for the extra and updated info. When I tried using Skype, it was at least a year ago, maybe two. If that has changed since then, that's great and probably good for the submitter!

In my defense, the post wasn't "complete garbage" in that it was true. The fact that you could apparently get the VOIP port unblocked by calling customer service was not well known or promoted by Clearwire, while most customer service forums had numerous complaints about blocked traffic. My post could use some more up-to-date info though, so thanks for fixing that for me.

Done it (4, Informative)

technicalandsocial (940581) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114579)

The CP Lawn Bowling Club in Victoria, BC has done this. WiMAX -> Buffalo AP -> Linksys PAP2T -> SIP provider. Bringing the monthly bill from $54/month with Telus on copper pair, to $35/month for unlimited long distance and broadband/wifi as well. http://cplawnbowling.org/ [cplawnbowling.org]

Re:Done it (1)

kindbud (90044) | more than 4 years ago | (#28116749)

I am interested in your proposal and would like to subscribe to your CP Law 'N' Bowling newsletter.

lots of problems... (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114599)

Are there any obvious problems you would foresee?

Battery life is going to be a big one. Netbooks have better battery life than, say, full-size laptops... But it still isn't much compared to your average cell phone. Especially since you're going to have to keep the thing powered up at all times. No sleep, no hibernate, nada. And wireless connectivity typically drains the battery faster.

You'll want some kind of headset/earpiece/whatever... Unless you're just going to do the speakerphone thing all the time. If you go with bluetooth that will be another wirless connection, which will drain your battery faster.

Dialing 911 will be an issue. I don't know what you plan on using to terminate your end of the call... Skype? Some generic SIP provider? But you'll want to make sure they've got some way of handling 911 calls.

Also, depending on who's terminating your end of the call, voicemail and whatnot could be an issue. If you wander out of coverage, or run out of batteries, or drop your netbook down a flight of stairs what'll happen? Will people get voicemail? Or will it just ring forever?

And that raises the question of coverage... You indicate that there's city-wide WiMAX now... But cell phones can roam nation-wide. If you travel much this could be a real issue.

Problem? Naaaaaah (4, Funny)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114625)

Are there any obvious problems you would foresee?

"Oh my god, someone call 9-1-1!"

"Hang on, let me get my computer out of suspend...

And put my headset on...

Ok, I am dialing...

Hello, yes, emergency-- What? You are the 9-1-1 dispatch center where? Tulsa?"

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28114945)

Luckily you can make 911 calls from payphones.

Now if only there was still a payphone somewhere.

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115035)

911 is overrated.
The chances that you are going to really, life-or-death, need it are pretty small.
Maybe if you live with a bunch of people who've already got medical conditions - maybe.
But I'm pretty confident that even in almost all of those cases, a delay of a couple of minutes wouldn't make a bit of difference.

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (1)

pcolaman (1208838) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115369)

Tell that to anyone who lives in or near the downtown area of any major city. My wife works as an MT (Medical Technician) near downtown in a city that only has a population of about 200k people, and they get gunshot and trauma victims all the time based on 911 calls (because they are informed by the 911 people that the ambulance is enroute, and they are the priority trauma center for this county) and most of the time these people live. It's the random off the street victims who stumble into the ER where 911 isn't called that die, usually by bleeding out while trying to make it to the hospital rather than having an EMT get them into a state where they can at least survive long enough to get into the capable hands of a trauma surgeon.

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115831)

and most of the time these people live.

And, as I emphasized in my original post, how many would have died if they were just 5 minutes later getting to the hospital?
That's the key - is the cost and worry about all the infrastructure really worth the results?

The choice is not between emergency services and no emergency services, it is between getting emergency service and getting emergency service a few minutes sooner.

None of the pro-E911 information I could find ever bothers to frame the question in that manner, its always one-sided statistics about all the calls that came in or at best all the cases where an ambulance took someone to the hospital. Never is it about the actual trade-offs that have been made in the real world.

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (1)

pcolaman (1208838) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115951)

Well, if someone has an uncontrolled bleeder, 5 minutes usually makes a difference between life or death. I'm not talking about the "Oh my god I broke my leg" situations but the "Oh my god my boyfriend stabbed me in the fucking stomach and now I have an uncontrolled GI bleed." Trust me, it's all too fucking common (which is why my wife wants to get a job with the city's only private hospital that is not a trauma center).

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115405)

Agreed, the 911 fixation is a pretty lame objection. What's the chance of being in an emergency situation where there is nobody else and no other phone around? In my many years I sure haven't seen it. I think this obsession with 911 availability that always crops up in voip discussions is just another consequence of the TV news-driven mass hysteria that's taken over the US psyche. The world really ain't that scary, folks.

Now, the battery life and the ungainly size, those are serious problems and I'd think they'd make it an obvious non-starter right out of the gate.

I have a netbook with wimax, and I use it when I go down to the corner bar to shoot the shit with the local drunkards but need to stay in touch with work (since work is an international call away and voip is cheaper than using my cell phone). The limited battery life is actually a good thing in this case; when the battery dies, it's time to pay up and go home.

Lots of people laugh at it but sitting at a table in a comfortable space it's fine. Trying to use it walking down the street or in a crowded shop would be absurd. You'd need a very particular kind of life to make this your primary phone.

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115947)

You're describing the same sort of stupid thought process that leads people not to vaccinate, "everyone else gets vaccinated so I don't have to since the disease won't hit me". The problem is if too many people get service that doesn't provide 911/don't get vaccinated then the coverage starts to break down and you get to a tragedy of the commons result which is that everyone is relying on a shared good but unwilling to pitch in to support that good.

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (2)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 4 years ago | (#28116129)

Good point. Perhaps we should also all become heart surgeons, midwives, and bomb disposal technicians. After all, if every single person doesn't do every single thing to prepare for every single rare possibility, we are all totally and irrevocably doomed. DOOMED!

How do you feel about people who dare leave the house without carrying a cell phone at all? They are also unable to call 911. Do you spit in their faces as they pass, or just silently seethe at them, knowing they'll burn in hell for their negligence?

P.S. I don't believe any voluntarily non-vaccinated person had the thought process you describe. They don't do it because they think it'll make them sick, or that it will let the CIA read their thoughts.

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 4 years ago | (#28116101)

The 911 fixation is a real concern for mass replacement of a existing technology that had 911, no concern for just a few people wondering around a big city, they'll likely run into a cell phone user often. Obviously once VOIP looked to be replacing a significant amount of phones, 911 needed addressed to move forward there.
Since most in-active cell phones can dial 911, it is a free solution to keep the old cell charged in the car, small compromise for a person willing to lug around a laptop 24/7.

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (1)

areusche (1297613) | more than 4 years ago | (#28117393)

Use an unactivated cell phone that uses traditional services (CDMA, GSM, etc). Use that to dial 911. Also why can't a VOIP client look at say a client's IP to figure out their location? I have banner ads letting me know that singles are in my area and I should act immediately.

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (1)

shakah (78118) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115589)

FWIW, I work for a telephony provider and we see approximately 1 call per day to emergency services per 1k lines.

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (1)

atraintocry (1183485) | more than 4 years ago | (#28116943)

The chances that you are going to really, life-or-death, need it are pretty small.

Yeah, but when you do, it's life-or-death.

Or to put it in Slashdot terms: I don't keep backups because I expect my hard drives to crash all the time, I keep them because just one crash would be very, very bad.

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (2, Insightful)

asynchronous13 (615600) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115179)

Hello, yes, emergency-- What? You are the 9-1-1 dispatch center where? Tulsa?"

Or just dial 404-658-6666, which is the direct line to City of Atlanta 911. (Useful to know when your cell phone happens to connect to a tower outside the city limits, and 911 routes your call to the county emergency services, but the county won't send anyone to your address, because you live inside the city limits, and your call is disconnected when the county operators attempt to transfer you to the correct call center ..... four times in a row ..... )

Re:Problem? Naaaaaah (2, Funny)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 4 years ago | (#28117141)

"Hang on, let me get my computer out of suspend...

And put my headset on...

I'm going to put on my robe and wizard hat...

Wimax phone (2, Interesting)

rshimizu12 (668412) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114683)

I like this idea, but I am more enamored by the idea of a Wimax enabled phone. HTC will be offering a Wimax Android phone soon I believe. This is cool, because the it's carriers can't lock down the phone since it's OSS. A even cooler solution would be deploy your own Wimax router at home and have free Internet/Voip service miles from home. When you are out of range you could use a prepaid phone.. I do think laptop Wimax Voip solution would be good especially for outgoing calls.

Re:Wimax phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28114899)

Of course, you'd need to spend thousands of dollars to deploy your own Wimax Basestations..

As a desktop phone, sure (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114703)

But I would use the Google Voice service to try your laptop first and then fall back to a cheap pay-as-you-go cellphone number, for all the times when you don't have your laptop conveniently available.

MID? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28114731)

I wasn't familiar with MID, so I googled it. I have my doubts that your Modesto Irrigation District will function as a telephone, and anyway it doesn't look very portable.

Latency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28114847)

Is there a possibility of latency issues?
I (my workplace) uses one of the local wireless internet providers and I've seen ping times (3 pings, average time recorded, done every 5 minutes to the default gateway, www.yahoo.com, and www.google.com ) and the extremes go from 50-60 ms to 3000 ms over the course of a day. (Yes, all three increase and decrease at the same times). You can tell when there are more people active (late afternoon to about midnight) because the ping times go to crap (500+ regularly, those times are were the 2000-3000 show up), and when people go to bed (2:00 to 8:00 are the lowest normally).

I've looked at our bandwidth use and there is no correlation between in/out and ping times. (Yes, that was my first thought when the high pings showed up. I've looked and our bandwidth doesn't seem to have an effect on the ping times.)

Average ping times over the course of several days is around 120 ms IIRC (been a while since I've looked, might have been 90ish, but it was kinda high in any case) as opposed to my local home which is using a DSL connection which averages 40-50 ms. (Min about 35-40, max about 400) (High uploads are most likely to effect the ping times at home, although some QOS on the firewall has fixed that)

WiMax isn't as 'full coverage' as you might think. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | more than 4 years ago | (#28114989)

Portland, Oregon, also has WiMax through Clear. There are decently large sections of Portland (including my house,) that do not have WiMax coverage; and larger sections with very spotty coverage. Admittedly, Portland is a much "hillier" city than Atlanta, but it only stands to reason that some parts of Atlanta would have coverage that leaves much to be desired, as well.

The 911 problem others mention can be resolved by picking a VoIP provider that has 911 service; or by manually bookmarking your local phone number for emergency dispatch.

WiMAX was designed for this, implementations lag (5, Informative)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115105)

WiMAX was designed to handle VoIP traffic, and has specific traffic categories on the airlink for isochronous flows, like RTP and other VoIP payload streams. Unlike something like Ethernet, which is CSMA/CD (carrier sense multiple access, with collision detection), traffic is scheduled by the carrier network. For uplink data, your WiMAX card goes through a process of requesting bandwidth on what amounts to a hailing channel, and then gets a bandwidth allocation it can use. In theory, a small but constant amount of bandwidth can be allocated for VoIP at the airlink level, resulting in low jitter, low latency, and low frame loss.

There are a couple of problems with this.

The first problem is that not all WiMAX cards on the market today (in fact, quite possibly none of them) have sufficient sophistication in their device drivers and microcontrollers to send the RTP (or Skype, or whatever VoIP protocol you're using) packets on an isochronous service flow while the balance of the packets travel on a general-purpose service flow. As a result, the RTP (etc) packets have to compete with whatever else your machine is doing, either stuff you're initiating with the browser, or background things like checking email or updating the Vista weather widget, or checking for updates of one kind or another. It doesn't help matters that no operating system has a network stack that implements the service flow concept.

The second problem is that low-speed isochronous flows over the WiMAX OFDMA airlink depend upon sharing a fairly large timeslot with other users transmitting simultaneously on the uplink using a different set of carriers, at least if the system is going to be economically feasible for the carrier. Allocating an entire timeslot often enough to keep the delay below half a second or so would result in considerable wasted bandwidth, so the idea is to have users share a timeslot by have each one use only a fraction of the available carriers. Decoding the resulting burst at the base station then depends upon maintaining orthogonality between OFDM carriers, which means that exact frequency synchronization is required between multiple users. While each user's WiMAX card synchronizes its clock with the base station, doppler shift due to changes in speed or direction or a changing multipath environment can change the received frequency at the base station enough to compromise orthogonality and make the burst impossible to decode.

The result of all this is, from your perspective, is that your VoIP traffic could be jittery and have long delays and high packet loss, especially when the carrier's network is heavily loaded.

Wireless is STILL quite unreliable (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115145)

Wireless technologies depend too heavily on environmental conditions for good quality of service. I don't know how reliable WiMAX is in actual deployments, but every wireless data technology I have seen so far suffers from a variety of problems associated with being wireless. I can't say that WiMAX has managed to overcome the problem of being wireless, but I seriously doubt it. My point here is that trying to do VOIP over a wireless link will not likely be reliable or acceptable.

Re:Wireless is STILL quite unreliable (1)

svnt (697929) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115479)

Wireless technologies? Such as those used by the cellular companies?

Re:Wireless is STILL quite unreliable (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115641)

Yes, those wireless technologies. You have never had interruptions of calls and service? Never had some jackass with a CB radio broadcasting with such intensity that every magnetic speaker in a 100 yard radius is affected along with everything that operates on any radio frequency? And what of problems associated with variations in strength among various active transceiver towers? The problems go on and on.

It is radio after all.

there are a few limitations (1)

snoig (535665) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115223)

I thought the same thing when I saw that my PPC phone supported wifi. However, the battery on the phone has a very limited life when I have both wifi and bluetooth running. I'm lucky if I can get half an hour out of a fully charged battery. Also, the problem with non-EVDO wireless ISP's is that they are really designed for fixed wireless, not roaming. If you think you see to many dead zones with your cell phone, wait until you try WiMax.

Too many naysayers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28115251)

I may be wrong, but it doesn't sound like they're ready to cancel their cell service. This seems like a great experiment, and you should definitely go for it. You'll run into some of the limitations described above, but this could be a viable solution down the road, with the right modifications. Do it, document it, and have fun with it.

It wouldn't be that bad (4, Insightful)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115277)

It seems like the arguments against this can be put in 3 categories. 911, battery life and coverage.

I would think that if you are viewing this as a "cell"phone replacement then it would obviously fail on all 3.

I remember being able to live without a cellphone. In fact, I miss it. I find it very annoying that in our cellphone enamoured society my friends and relatives feel "entitled" to talk to me whenever, wherever I might be. I don't want to talk to someone as I go through the checkout line in the grocery store. I find it annoying to try to understand someone who will not speak up when I am driving my Jeep. It's loud in there. Let alone the safety issues! I'd rather call people back when it's convenient for me. Just like I would have with an answering machine and a landline about 12 years ago. Does this make me old? I am only 29.

That in mind I too have considered what the author is asking though I would use a more portable form, some sort of PDA rather than a netbook.

I would keep separate power adapters in my office at work, one at home and a third in my car. Most of the time I would be in one of those places and could plug it in. Don't want to be tethered to the plug? Use bluetooth! If I don't get a signal in my car then oh-well. I know how to change a tire! That about takes care of the power problem. It just doesn't have to be on every moment I am not in one of those places. If I need to make a call, that's when I would turn it on and use the battery.

As for coverage... wifi at home and work are easy. Your mileage will vary at work but I doubt many on this site don't have it at home. Anywhere else it works... that's just a bonus.

Think you have too much of a social life to not be always connected? Do you think you will miss too much because you're out? I think not... you are on Slashdot! Seriously though, I was a college student with one of the busiest lives I knew just before I got my first cellphone. Missing calls didn't stop me, if I missed it then I was already busy! If I missed too many calls then maybe I would have ended up at home, but then I wouldn't miss the next call. See how that works?!

Now, 911. This issue has been brought up against every form of VoIP since the begining. I have to ask... does it really matter that much? Honestly, I don't know the answer to this but don't the 911 operators have the ability to transfer to one another quickly? If not then this is a problem the public should be crying to see addressed! What if a call was coming in via radio or some other third party method where the person making the call is not in the same local as the emergency. Hasn't there always been a need for 911 calls to be transfered?

Re:It wouldn't be that bad (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#28116965)

Now, 911. This issue has been brought up against every form of VoIP since the begining. I have to ask... does it really matter that much?

Trust me on this one.

It matters a lot - and this is a lesson you do not want to learn the hard way.

"Ingested Foreign Object."

I was on the line - but I couldn't speak.

"Carbon Monoxide Poisoning."

I was on the line - but I couldn't think.

Nothing like a phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28115309)

I've always theorized that there's nothing like a good, old-fashioned PHONE. I've known people want to get rid of their phone lines because "I'll just use Skype and the neighbor's wi-fi".

One word here: reliability. I don't want my phone line to be reliant on either [1] the electrical main working at my home, or [2] my computer being powered on and working.

Back in my landline-only days, I always had a cordless and corded phone, so I could make and receive calls during a power failure. Now that I'm cell-only, the problem is taken care of, as long as I keep my phone charged.

"Honey, call 911! The neighbor's house in on fire!"

"I can't! I've been mooching their wi-fi and the fire already destroyed their WAP, so I can't Skype!"

Re:Nothing like a phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28115477)

Same Anonymous Coward here, and I must add on to this. Some people use a multi-pronged solution to save money: "I'll use MagicJack for long-distance and international calls, my landline for local calls, and my prepaid cell phone for when I'm not home."

OK, so you have three phone numbers.

I used to have two phone numbers: landline and beeper. In 2005, I ditched them both and had the landline number transferred to a cell phone.

One phone number. One way to get a hold of me.

The best part is short-circuiting some folks' brains, especially your grandparents:

"I'm at work."

"But I called your home phone number."

"It's a cell phone now."

*sound of brain exploding*

Re:Nothing like a phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28116187)

Even phone lines that are disconnected can call 911 can't they? At least I'm pretty sure that's the case here in the uk (though it's 999 rather than 911)

Latency? (2, Informative)

BlueScreenOfTOM (939766) | more than 4 years ago | (#28115407)

I'm surprised I'm seeing not a lot of comments here about latency issues. I live in Baltimore and I also happen to live in an area where we're stuck with a single provider for broadband internet (a condo with an exclusive contract to a horrible, horrible ISP. No, not Comcast or Verizon... MDU Communications). Before WiMAX came along, I had no option but to stick with the horrible ISP or deal with dial up. When I found out WiMAX was available where I live, I was excited. I went to one of their booths at a mall and played with it, but I was a little concerned with the latency. I was pinging google and wasn't getting a response for ~250ms. This isn't horrible for such a service, but even MDU gives me less than half that for most sites.

You might want to stop by a WiMAX booth in a mall like I did and try and make a few calls and make sure everything works as expected. They let me do pretty much whatever I wanted (in fact, the sales guy pretty much left me alone).

Re:Latency? (1)

mahohmei (540475) | more than 4 years ago | (#28116575)

In 99.9% of the apartments and condos around here, residents can get a landline [thus, DSL] and Comcast hookup right into their unit. A few apartment complexes offer high-speed Internet included, but it's typically something like a 768 kbps DSL shared by 200 residents--and provided by some third-rate company like MDU. Residents wind up just getting cable or DSL because of that.

There is one student-only apartment complex here with an interesting arrangement:

- It's physically off campus.

- It's managed by the university's housing department.

- The CATV drops go to the campus CATV headend, which just re-modulates all of Comcast's channels and adds several campus-only channels. So you can't get cable Internet.

- The phone drops go to the campus PBX, so no DSL.

- The Ethernet drops, instead of being connected to the holy-crap-fast campus network, are managed by Third Rate Internet, Inc. And the residents have zero alternatives.

The on-campus dorms have super-fast Ethernet through the campus network. Ironically, if dorm residents want landlines, they get a copper pair straight to Embarq, so on-campus dorm residents could get DSL if they wanted, but I'm not sure why they'd want to.

Coverage, battery, QoS and Telco policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28115647)

Across the air interface - WiMAX can support VoIP calls without problems. There are two scheduler types that are good for this - UGS (Unsolicited Grant Service best for G.711 codecs and no voice activity detection) and ERT-PS (Enhanced Realtime Polling Service - good for compressed codecs that do silence supression). Even with an unloaded WiMAX cell the Best Effort scheduler type isn't so hot due to the SS BW-request, BS grant, SS transmit sequence for uplink traffic which means there is a fair bit of one way latency and jitter in the uplink direction. All scheduling activities get controlled by the Base Station which is good, however most service providers will over subscribe the best effort data queues meaning that you probably want to avoid BE traffic.

If configured to do so, the WiMAX network can support dynamic service flow creation, so when your SIP message says that a call needs to be set up, the controller will find out if the user's profile supports QoS and whether or not there is bandwidth available on the air interface, a service flow for the RTP stream can be created for the duration of the call - however it is unlikely that the service provider would allow that for competitors voice calls and things like Skype would be battling other customers traffic in the BE queues, giving a richer experience if you use the network providers voice services.

WiMAX is smart enough to change which radio modulation scheme is used (QPSK 1/2, QPSK 3/4, 16QAM 1/2, 16QAM 3/4 in the uplink direction for instance) depending on packet error rate (mainly impacted by signal quality though signal strength is also impact) so in poorer conditions a more robust but less efficient scheme is used. Even so, there may be a point where coverage just isnt reliable enough for a phone call to work even with signal coverage (some of this may depend on codec selection)

It is unlikely that WiMAX will give ubiquitous coverage, so having a netbook as your primary portable communications device may not be a good idea if you always need to make/recieve calls on the fly. That said, with client based Mobile IP and multiple access technologies WiFi/WiMAX/CDMA your applications can be unaware of which connection is in use at the time which might be good enough for some purposes (continuous shell sessions), however it would seem unlikely that such a thing would be good for voice with acceptable quality.

Use 3G. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28116019)

I've been considering this, and through my research. Most capped 3G connections (data plans) are still cheaper than cellphone service if all you want to use is voip. Skype doesn't use too much bandwidth. 2000 minutes of talking on skype is about 1GB.

nokia n810 (1)

uncreativeslashnick (1130315) | more than 4 years ago | (#28116287)

You might get more milage out of a nokia n810 than a netbook. Mine has a battery life similar to that of my cell phone. And there's a skype client for it.

Easy... works great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28116627)


Of cause there is Skype as well (Skype-In, Skype-Out) and Gizmo

Nope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28116711)

No I can't think of any problems. Reportedly ~60ms pings, and plenty high enough speeds. If it delivers as promised -- if the coverage isn't as good as promised, well, then you'll have phone service with all these gaps in it. Do realize, a lot of wimax is deployed in the 1700/2100mhz spectrum, and I think Clearwire had some 2.5ghz too, the in-building penetration will be more similar to 1900mhz service than to 850.

Why bother? (1)

ukoda (537183) | more than 4 years ago | (#28116729)

When I heard about WiMax I was excited about the idea of long range WiFi as that's what the name and technology implied. But reality killed that when I found it was licensed space so could not be freely used like WiFi and name was a classic case of false advertising. I'm not sure who owns the spectrum where you are but the cases I have heard of are all telcos are buying the rights. Given the screw every cent you can out of the customer attitude of telcos in this part of the world it's clear that WiMax will offer nothing that G3 doesn't already. I couldn't care less what happens to WiMax, it's just another acronym in the soup of big business.

Your Atlanta WiMAX is from Clearwire (1)

tlambert (566799) | more than 4 years ago | (#28117199)

Your Atlanta WiMAX is from Clearwire:

They charge an extra $25/month to unblock VoIP, and they are currently only trialing in Portland, Oregon right now:

        http://www.fiercevoip.com/story/clearwire-tests-wimax-mobile-voip-phones/2009-03-20 [fiercevoip.com]

If you want VoIP from their service, you will need to use their routers and their software, which apparently makes a TCP connection to a back-end server, and then VoIPs from there (this also lets them comply with CALEA wire-tap orders from the authorities by making sure your connection is in the clear, the same way it is for AIM internally to the AOL servers).

For the people talking about 911, the 911 service in Mobile phones is on a different, higher-power, prioritized frequency supporting triangulation of the signal source, rather than trusting a GPS in the phone. Since Clearwire is talking to handset vendors about hand-off between WiMAX and the proprietary cell networks, it's pretty clear that they are not intending to position themselves as a cellular service competitor, which probably means both vendor agreements and that the VoIP-enabled handset, when used to dial 911, will go through the standard cellular network.

The most likely vendor agreement would be a "network sparing" agreement that kept you off VoIP if a cellular network was available to be used instead, which would be used to lock you into a cellular service contract, just like any other cell phone (why would they give up their business model if they didn't have to?).

If your Netbook runs Windows, then you might be lucky enough for it to run Clearwire's proprietary VoIP software; if you are on Linux, you are out of luck (the articles I read on this didn't mention Mac OS X, so using the "corporate rule of lazy", that's probably not supported either.

-- Terry

The devices for this are coming to market (+links) (1)

Ryandav (5475) | more than 4 years ago | (#28117505)

I was at CTIA this year looking for Wimax enabled devices and release schedules, here are some relevant links from people I saw on the show floor:

http://www.runcom.com/sitefiles/1/3310/19046.asp [runcom.com]

Go to the part about Wimax Phones. There are also Wimax video IP phones and wimax based surveillance systems shown there, see a product announcement here from Feb.

https://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewiStockNews/articleid/3042555 [istockanalyst.com]

I don't see details on their site, but the handset I have a flyer for was called the Sting, and was dual mode Wimax/GSM.

Also saw one called the wiofone: http://www.wimax.com/commentary/blog/blog-2008/wimax-blog-wimax-desktop-phone [wimax.com]

Placeholder website here: http://wioline.com/ [wioline.com]

Samsung was also present displaying a number of devices with embedded Wimax chipsets in them, intended to use VoIP as part of the connectivity, such as the PDA (SCH-M830 and M8200), an UMPC or 2 (all of which were Windows based devices), and some standard laptops with wimax chipsets in them.

It's a chicken-and-egg problem still, since the devices will become more common when there's more coverage, more markets, and more possible subscribers, but people will fund the growth of the network when there are devices available which use it. It seems pretty obvious from investments that Intel/Motorola et al are both trying hard to lock in a future where many devices will have embedded wimax chipsets simply included as bluetooth and wifi chipsets are today. And not just laptops, but cars, washing machines, refrigerators, anything that would benefit from network access.

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