RealTime IT News

Hotspot Hits for December, 2004

Week of December 20-24, 2004

  • Government Computer News is reporting that the non-profit Open Park Project's free wireless around the Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., is getting ready to expand. Congress and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration are both supporting the expansion, which will move next into the National Mall and Smithsonian museums. The Wi-Fi is provided using mesh equipment from Tropos Networks.—December 23, 2004

  • The 53 locations of the EZ Lube oil-changing chain will soon have Wi-Fi in place for waiting customers. The company is setting up the network itself, using equipment from SonicWALL that links each wireless location back to the central HQ in Santa Ana via a VPN connection. Wireless Internet access for EZ Lube patrons will be available for free. —December 22, 2004

  • MuniWireless has the scoop on a "model bill" that is being sent around to various state legislatures. By sticking in the name of the state, this bill could be used to instantly make a law like the one Pennsylvania's governor just signed, making it illegal for municipalities to put in broadband networks (including wireless) that compete with incumbent telcos. Questions have been raised as to whether the group behind the papers is made up of representatives of companies that would benefit at the expense of taxpayers. —December 22, 2004

  • NEC is working with iPass, using the hotspot aggregator's service to offer a service called WelcomeSpot in Japan. iPass says the deal blends their roaming services (which lets carriers resell the iPass footprint of hotspots) with its wireless LAN roaming (which lets corporations incorporate their own networks into the iPass software to provide employees with easy access). Thus the WelcomeSpots can by used by the general public or by employees of any WelcomeSpot venues, whether public or not. —December 22, 2004

  • Toshiba says it has extended its MyConnect hotspot service (powered by GoRemote) to 500 new locations. Service is $39.95 a month, and there's a two-week trial available through the Web site. —December 22, 2004

    Week of December 13-17, 2004

  • Five state parks in Texas are experimenting with Wi-Fi service. They are, according to provider TengoInternet, Choke Canyon State Park (Calliham) near Three Rivers, Blanco State Park near Blanco, Balmorhea State Park near Toyahvale, Goose Island State Park near Rockport, and Ray Roberts Lake State Park (Isle du Bois) near Pilot Point. The service was started this month to see what demand is like, but full service should be launched by January 1st. It will be free during a trial period, going to a for-fee model in the spring. TengoInternet is working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to set this up. —December 17, 2004

  • SiriCOMM, which as reported in November is working to launch Wi-Fi hotspots in 255 truckstops operated by Pilot Travel Centers, says its InTouch hotspot network is now up and running. Anyone from truck drivers to individuals in cars can use the 802.11g-based service, paying through one of three service plans: $5.49 per day, $22 per month, or $150 for a full year. —December 17, 2004

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer, following the continuing saga of Philadelphia's almost-blocked-by-Verizon citywide Wi-Fi network, said this week that the mayor received a report stating that the plan—which calls for getting the network installed in less than a year—is doable. The $10.5 million project also shouldn't cost taxpayers a dime. Instead, it will be funded by private donations and "small user fees," though no details were released regarding the fees. The network is supposed to be free in many areas. —December 17, 2004

  • Speaking of Pennsylvania, on the other end of the state in Pittsburgh, hotspot provider Telerama Wireless says it has struck a deal with private real estate firm Oxford Development Company to put Wi-Fi into the 45-floor high rise at One Oxford Center, one of the city's major business and shopping centers. —December 17, 2004

  • The Palm Springs Unified School District of California (PSUSD) is going wireless, at least for backhaul connections. The million-dollar deployment, connecting the schools with 25 wireless links running 200Mbps connections, is using equipment from DragonWave, installed by Airlinks Networking. The PSUSD serves over 24,000 students in 26 schools throughout six cities. —December 15, 2004

  • Is this what's holding things up? According to USA Today, the FCC voted today to allow United States airlines to put high-speed wireless Internet access in domestically flying planes. (They also discussed allowing cell phone usage, but didn't vote on it). And here I thought it was because all of the airlines are broke. The FCC still hasn't decided, however, how many companies will be allowed to offer the service. Boeing (of Connexion by Boeing fame, in this case), along with AirCell, said more is better, but Verizon—proprietor of the much-hated AirFone, the only fone (sorry, phone) service left on planes—says one carrier means better quality of service. Chances are that domestic flights won't have Internet service until 2006, no matter what. —December 15, 2004

  • Intel is working with the quickly-becoming-unwired Westfield Shoppingtowns in the U.S. to provide "Intel Digital Experience Zones"—basically, a shopping showcase at the mall to get people to realize that wireless home networks are cool. Other partners in the Zones include Sony, Microsoft, and Gateway. Westfield Group has a deal with Wireless Facilities to put Wi-Fi into all 66 of its shopping centers in 14 states, 30 of which are done. 24 of those malls currently have Experience Zones running. They'll be live until January 3, 2005. You can find a list of them at Intel's Consumer Events listing.—December 15, 2004

  • Hotspot equipment maker Sputnik has added new modules to its management software so that providers can now allow end users to pay with their PayPal accounts (they're for more than just buying swag on eBay), plus a module that works with the CRM and billing system run by Aria Systems, which can take credit cards, bank account payments, and more. Sputnik's previous modules include a RADIUS server module and a prepaid card model to restrict use to users who buy an access code. Third-party developers can also make modules—there's one from OurWebPortals that does pay-as-you-go with PayPal right now, though it doesn't integrate directly into the management software. —December 15, 2004

  • Quantech Electronics' DimiTel subsidiary is starting a VoIP hotspot pilot program in London. Users can use DimiTel telephony software on their laptops to make calls while at several locations in the city. Wi-Fi handsets, if available, will also be supported. —December 15, 2004

  • The Pacifica Hotel Company is giving away the Wi-Fi, unlike many other lodgers. The chain, with 23 locations between the Bay Area and San Diego, will have wireless service (installed by SkyRiver Communications) in all rooms and public areas, including the pool. They say it's in keeping with giving free amenities like local calls and fax services. Most of the locations are unwired now and the rest will go online shortly. The company is also going to provide loaner Wi-Fi cards to customers with laptops that don't have 802.11 capabilities. —December 14, 2004

  • The Pleasant Harbor RV Park in Peoria, Ariz., 15 miles northwest of Phoenix, is the latest to join the ranks of recreational vehicle/camping areas to provide Wi-Fi service. The area, which also includes a marina for Lake Pleasant, will have 1.5 miles of 802.11b signal in all directions from a base station supplied by 5G Wireless Solutions—it will even extend out into the lake.—December 14, 2004

  • Vivato's phased-array Wi-Fi panels have been installed at two more universities. It covers the entire 1,133-acre campus of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, which serves 21,000 students, and Pennsylvania's Lincoln University will use Vivato's Wi-Fi to cover all the areas which don't have dedicated Ethernet, such as parts of the library. This brings the total number of Vivato-powered institutes of higher learning to 25.—December 14, 2004

  • CNET says that Continental Airlines will provide free Wi-Fi in all 29 of its President Club locations in airports around the U.S. (except in Chicago's O'Hare, for some reason). They will take it to international locations by the end of the year. Other clubs like United's and American's charge for Wi-Fi, as the service is provided by for-fee hotspot vendor T-Mobile.—December 14, 2004

  • Wayport's latest hotel deal: the all-suite Ramada Plaza Suites and Conference Center in Pittsburgh. $12 million is being spent to turn the hotel into the Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh City Center by next summer, and part of that money goes toward putting Wi-Fi in the 316 guest rooms, plus 60 rooms that will have a combo of wireless and Ethernet as needed. Wireless will, of course, be available in the common areas as well, including the 12 meeting/conference rooms.—December 14, 2004

  • The Carnival Valor, the newest ship in the Carnival Cruise Line, which sails out of Miami for the first time this week for a two-day trip to the Bahamas, is "100 percent bow to stern" wireless. The floating hotspot carries 2,974 passengers who can use the Wi-Fi connection found in all public areas and 1,487 staterooms. The system was installed by shipbuilder Fincantieri, using equipment from Cisco Systems . —December 13, 2004

  • SBC FreedomLink will be moving into several new locations: the company has a deal to install the hotspot service in 144 Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations in California, Arizona, and Nevada. They expect all the venues to be unwired by early 2005, with some live before the end of this year. Service is $19.95 a month for unlimited access at all FreedomLink locations, or $3.95 per day.—December 13, 2004

  • BT OpenZone is now an open zone for subscribers of the iPass service. BT's 1,500 hotspots throughout the UK in everything from airports to rail stations to hotels and beyond will join the iPass Global Broadband Roaming network. iPass says this gives the company access to 12,554 active hotspots in 46 different countries around the globe.—December 13, 2004

  • All 25 buildings on the campus of South Carolina's Charleston Southern University have been connected using a new wireless network powered by equipment from Proxim . In 2001, the school first installed APs in dorms, and included a Proxim Wi-Fi PC Card as part of the residence hall package for its 3,000 students. The success of that program led to installing the network campus-wide. An under-construction science building will also be outfitted with Proxim AP-700 units for next year, and outdoor hotspots are in the offing for common areas.—December 13, 2004

  • The battle for what town has the biggest big-city Wi-Fi network continues, and it looks like Atlanta is in the lead. MSNBC says the city hall is ready to launch, and by March other downtown and airport areas will be live. It will evolve from there. The city isn't putting this in themselves, though. While it's labeled "Atlanta FastPass," the network is being installed by Biltmore Communications, and they even link in other third-party hotspots, including those on the Georgia Tech and Georgia State campuses, to create the overall network.—December 13, 2004

  • MuniWireless.com is reporting that the city of Madison, Wis., is going to put in a citywide Wi-Fi cloud that will cover the city, the airport, and other municipalities. They're currently looking for proposals from vendors. Wisconsin, however, is one of the states now with a law on the books restricting towns from competing with telecom companies, but there are some loopholes, such as not providing service directly to users—instead, the city could allow multiple providers to use whatever network they install. —December 13, 2004

  • Some locations with citywide Wi-Fi networks will soon be getting the benefits of voice over that wireless. Ecuity has teamed up with Azulstar Networks (a division of Ottawa Wireless) to be the primary VoIP provider in the cities of Rio Rancho, N.M., and Grand Haven, Mich. Both should get access to voice services sometime in 2005.—December 13, 2004

    Week of December 6-10, 2004

  • Palm Springs International Airport joins the FreedomLink network run by SBC this week. There are six hotspots at the airport, installed by local payphone provider Q3 Telecom. Service is free until April 15 of next year to SBC DSL customers, then goes to $1.99 a month. Regular FreedomLink subscribers pay $19.95 per month for unlimited access to all of the network's locations. Day trippers can try it for $7.95. SBC also runs hotspots at Bob Hope International Airport in Burbank, Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport in Evansville, Ind., Cleveland International, Little Rock National, and Northwest Arkansas Regional. —- December 10, 2004

  • Latest partner for Connexion by Boeing is Vodafone, which plans to start a trial this month on Lufthansa flights. If it all works out, Vodafone customers will get to roam onto flights using Connexion, and have the billing appear on their Vodafone account.—Friday, December 10, 2004

  • The Seattle Times says that Wi-Fi on the various passenger ferries in the Puget Sound area will be taking off soon, adding the Edmonds-Kingston route soon and the Seattle-Bainbridge Island route by the end of the month (it's already live on the Townsend-Keystone run). However, due to the inability to get antenna rights out on Blake Island, the Seattle-Bremerton ferry—the longest route—won't get any Wi-Fi. The service will be free for a few months to trial it, and if it works out, the ferry service will pass administration on to a third party which might be able to get the rights on Blake Island. Or, then again, it might not.—December 10, 2004

  • Kista Mobile Showcase is apparently a citywide showcase of just what mobile wireless can provide. It's located in Kista Science City, outside Stockholm. The network consists of 110 access points covering areas like the Gallerian shopping mall, IT University campus, Kista Science Tower, and others. Visitors get a Wi-Fi device, and the showcase uses location tracking to serve up info depending on where they are—you get menus when near restaurants, timetables when near the train station, etc.—December 9, 2004

  • TowerStream continues to deploy in big cities. The pre-WiMax fixed wireless broadband provider says it has secured space on the top of downtown Chicago's John Hancock Center. Combined with their presence on the Aon Center and elsewhere, this gives them "a wireless ring high above the city's skyline," the company says. TowerStream also has service installed in other big cities, including New York, Boston, Providence/Newport, and Los Angeles. —December 9, 2004

  • Wi-Fi Networking News is reporting that Truckstop.net's Wi-Fi service has, apparently, stopped. The network of hotspots at highway truck stops was powered by Sprint, but reports from Omaha World Herald say that Sprint cut off service after Truckstop.net filed a lawsuit claiming the equipment doesn't work properly. The court paperwork says Truckstop.net went from 45,000 subscribers down to 6,000 due to inconsistent connections—this after it paid $6 million to Sprint. Sprint says it can't replicate the problems.

    Truckstop.net has to wait for a court ruling before it can contract with another provider. Some truck stop venues are going directly to Sprint, asking to get service turned back on.

    Meanwhile, Flying J, which operates its own truck stops and runs a Wi-Fi service out of them, says it will let truckers use the balance of what they are owed by Truckstop.net—some paid for a year in advance—to get access through the Flying J TON service, which has 285 active hotspots. —December 8, 2004

  • Connexion by Boeing spelled out its current service offerings in an announcement today. Basically, Lufthansa has flights from Munich to Charlotte, Tehran, Tokyo, and Los Angeles, plus another from Frankfurt to Denver, all in service. All Nippon Airways has service between Tokyo and Shanghai. Coming this week on Japan Airlines will be the Tokyo to London flight (basically, you can't go too wrong out of Tokyo), and next week, Lufthansa adds Munich to Miami and San Francisco. Scandinavian Airlines has various routes out of Copenhagen. This isn't counting recent announcements of future partnerships like the one announced yesterday with Singapore Air.—December 8, 2004

  • America West Airlines says that three of its America West Clubs in the Phoenix, Ariz., Sky Harbor International Airport have been set up with hotspots as a club member amenity. —December 8, 2004

  • A faster Sprint is coming—they've renewed a contract with Nortel Networks to get updated equipment across their current Nortel-powered footprint that would include 3G wireless and potentially CDMA2000 1xEV-DO technology in key markets. The company is shooting to have it in several areas by 2005. The contract is worth $1 billion over the next three years. —December 7, 2004

  • SMC Networks is shipping new hardware for hotspot owners. The EliteConnect 2.4GHz 802.11g wireless Hotspot Gateway Kit includes AAA services on a router with SPI firewall, and comes with a point-of-sale (POS) ticket printer and a DSL/Cable modem gateway. The package sells for $900.

  • Wireless School Days:
    • Chantry Networks' BeaconWorks equipment is powering the entire WLAN of Colorado's Adams 12 Five Star School District, which has 36,000 students, staff and faculty across 47 schools. Not only do they use it for wireless Internet connections in classrooms and labs, the lunch ladies use it to do POS debit transactions in the cafeteria.
    • Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., is using Proxim APs and a Tsunami long-distance radio (to connect with off-site offices) to cover its campus of 3,500 potential users. Local service provider Conterra deployed the network.
    • Trapeze Networks says that Institut Le Rosey, Switzerland's oldest private school, will be using its Mobility Points and Switches to unwire the school's campus in Rolle where students meet in spring and autumn, and also for winter classes held near the ski resort in Gstaad—where skiing is required. Those poor students. The network, installed by Telecom Systems, will be used mainly for surfing, however, which is much safer. —December 7, 2004

  • If you're visiting the Dubai International Film Festival as press, guest, or moviegoer, look for the wireless network. It's being provided by Single Digits. Hotspots in the area will have extra information for those attendees that log on, so they can find all the movies on the schedule as well as extra information on the city of Dubai. —December 7, 2004

  • Singapore Airlines has signed an agreement to offer Connexion by Boeing in-flight Wi-Fi. It will use the network to bring "live international TV on board, beamed through Connexion by Boeing to the passengers' laptops" by mid-2005 (starting with news channels, later adding sports) in addition to the usual e-mail and Web surfing. Internet pricing will be $30 for six+ hour flights, $20 for three to six hours, and $15 for less than three hours. —December 7, 2004

  • The Charlotte Arena, future home of the NBA's Bobcats and the WBNA's Sting, is using an in-building wireless system from InnerWireless to cover the 780,000 square foot building with signals for Wi-Fi and cellular, shooting for (get it?) no dead spots. The teams plan to offer fans such applications as ordering food and drinks on PDAs, Web surfing, and video instant replays on screen while in their seats. The wireless will also let the arena staff handle building controls such as temperature, lighting, and security. News media will be able to use the network to file stories while covering events in real time. —December 7, 2004

  • The Princess Cruise Line—that's right, the Love Boat!—now offers wireless hotspots on all 14 vessels. Access is 35 cents per minute. Some of the ships, including the Sun Princess, Dawn Princess and Regal Princess, have installed Internet Cafés, so if you don't have a Wi-Fi device, they'll give you some access. The networks are installed with V-Link Solutions as integrator.—December 7, 2004