High-performance public wireless local-area networks (PWLANs) might soon dot more cities across Asia. Andrew Ma, Juniper Networks product marketing manager for the Asia-Pacific and Japan, said these hot spots would feature increased security and 'transform today's disparate, operationally intensive PWLAN offerings from commodity Internet access to a profitable, value-added service model'. Juniper's confidence stems from its portfolio of dominant network operators in the region. 'We supply broadband edge routers to all the incumbent carriers in the Asia-Pacific,' Mr Ma said. Juniper also is pitching a quick, inexpensive upgrade. The firm's PWLAN system is based on its E-series routers and SDX-300 service deployment system. 'The current approach to building PWLANs uses underpowered and feature-constrained microprocessor-based gateways deployed, configured, and managed at each hot spot, which is a situation that restricts the service to basic Internet connectivity,' Mr Ma said. At present, commercial hot spots are found in airports, coffee shops, hotels, train stations, and select residential buildings. Most of these use the mobile Internet connection standard called 802.11b, also known as Wi-Fi. Mr Ma said existing Wi-Fi systems sold by other vendors were enterprise products 'retrofitted' to the PWLAN market. 'These systems lose out in performance as demand scales to hundreds and thousands of hot spot users. Being managed at each location also makes them operationally prohibitive to identify complex user and service management functions on which service providers base their business models.' Juniper offers a networking scheme built for service providers to achieve a cheaper and more rapid deployment of PWLANs. 'By consolidating the user authentication and service creation functions from many hot spots into a single, hardware-based platform, service providers can readily scale the hot-spot network and assure their users' experiences, layer new services, and reduce cost of operations,' he said. Its E-series enables PWLAN providers to offer additional differentiated services such as guaranteed bandwidth, virtual private networks, added security, and controlled access to premium content. Its SDX-300 provides simple Web-based login via service portals customised for specific users and locations, and dynamic self-selection of the PWLAN services through personalised Web portals. 'Juniper Networks is unique in its ability to offer this network-based PWLAN solution at the service provider edge,' Yankee Group senior analyst Sarah Kim said. In Hong Kong, Mr Ma said PCCW-Netvigator was testing its purpose-built PWLAN system. Research firm Gartner said the main driver for service acceptance across the Asia-Pacific is the improving coverage, especially in Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Melbourne.