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Phone Lines That Boost Wireless Signals

Wireless networks get a boost from phone lines.

Wi-Fi networks are getting stronger and covering greater distances, but they can still be problematic when it comes to getting a signal into every nook and cranny of your work space.

Solid walls in old buildings and more transitory indoor obstacles can put a damper on your business network. Wireless extenders, repeaters and add-on antennas are some ways you can boost wireless signals to get coverage in hard-to-reach places. Another is to use the wires already in your walls. For example, SercoNet is developing a technology that sends Wi-Fi signals over your existing phone lines without affecting their use for voice or DSL internet access.

SercoNet's WirePlus solution works with 802.11 Wi-Fi, plugs into existing telephone outlets, and requires no software and minimal configuration. It essentially moves the radio signal from the Wi-Fi access point through the copper wires and retransmits it where needed on the other end. The receiver on the other end broadcasts the signal with virtually no loss of bandwidth. Dead spots can be eliminated without the need for complex hardware additions. Multiple units can be installed if there are multiple coverage problems.

This technology could be especially useful as bandwidth-hungry VoIP over Wi-Fi applications become more common. Serco-Net is licensing the technology to manufacturing partners, and units should be arriving on the market by the time you read this.

Need directions?
With GPS on your PDA, maps are in the palm of your hand.

GPS and PDAs make sen-sible partners. You get the navigation capabilities of a GPS system in an extremely portable, multipurpose handheld device. For those who don't have PDAs yet, a couple of models have built-in GPS. The Hewlett-PackardiPAQ hw6515 Mobile Messenger is a $599 (all prices street) Pocket PC smartphone available with Cingular Wireless service. Asus, BlackBerry and Garmin also make PDAs with GPS receivers. Expect devices to run $500 to $700--this may sound pricey, but it can be more cost-effective than adding GPS later.

If you like your PDA and just want to add GPS capabilities, you have several options. The $299 TomTomNavigator 5 is a Bluetooth hardware and software package that works with many Palm and Pocket PC devices. Features include spoken instructions, 3-D maps, PDA address book integration and touchscreen navigation. If your PDA already has a GPS receiver, a software-only package is available for $150. ALK Technologies, DeLormeand Pharosalso make add-on receiver and software sets. Expect to pay $200 to $300 to add GPS to your PDA, and of course, check first to see if the GPS manufacturer supports your particular PDA.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the June 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Mixed Signals.

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