RealTime IT News

Hotspot Hits for September, 2005

Must be nice to be a patient at the Century City Doctors Hospital  in Los Angeles (well, except for that whole "being sick" part). The medical center has been outfitted completely with a BelAir Networks mesh network that is used to provide not just high speed Internet but also digital satellite TV and movie on demand connections to flat screens in patient rooms.

September 27, 2005

Boingo Wireless continues to make deals that put its network in the hands of new customers. Recently, it announced a partnership with Birdstep where the latter would integrate the Boingo authentication software into its own connection manager. Today, it says the Boingo Roaming System will soon be available to customers of Tatara Systems' converged mobile services, used by carriers all over — again, building in Boingo's services and giving Tatara customers access to the 22,000 hotspots on Boingo's virtual network.

Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan has installed Nortel Wireless Mesh Network equipment to turn its campus into a hotzone, providing Internet access for 12,000 students. It's available in all buildings, from residence halls to classrooms. Another Nortel customer: Greeneville, North Carolina. The city is using Nortel's WLAN 2300 to provide secure access for mobile city workers, including voice and multimedia services. It's part of the company's new Campus Mobile Worker solution, which combines Wi-Fi, mesh, WiMax and wires as needed, including a new access point for indoors and a new bridge for point-to-point connections.

Associated Press reports that the state of New York is signing a deal with M/A-COM, a division of Tyco, to build a statewide wireless network to the tune of $2 billion (with a b) in the next five years; M/A-COM will manage it for 20 years. The network will be reserved specifically for emergencies and public services, all to avoid communication hassles during state emergencies such as tornadoes, ice storms and terrorist attacks. Apparently, the company had a similar system in New Orleans that went down for over a day after Hurricane Katrina struck and power was lost. The first region to go online is not announced, and won't be live for at least two years. While 65,000 workers will be on the network, New York City will not be covered by it; however, NYC services will be able to communicate with it.

Fed up with Wi-Fi hotspot tech support? Or the lack thereof, especially at free hotspots? Apparently, San Francisco's AnchorFree Wireless felt your pain. The company, with free hotzones in the City by the Bay and Silicon Valley, is now providing live chat-based support. I'm not sure how you get into a chat if your problem stems from not being able to connect... but at least they're trying.

September 26, 2005

Informa Telecoms & Media says in a new report that there were 84,283 hotspots in the world at the end of the second quarter of this year, and we're heading to more than 100,000 by January 1. Most of the growth will be in the Asia-Pacific area.

A study out from MuniWireless.com today says that $700 million dollars will be spent on municipal-owned broadband networks (wired and wireless) in the United States over the next three years. Growth is happening in large and small communities, with public safety the number one application for wireless. In fact, half of U.S. municipalities with wireless did it with public safety in mind. Look for WiMax and the 802.11s standard for mesh to "spur even higher growth rates in the market, should those standards be widely adopted," according to the site. MuniWireless will hold a conference in San Francisco starting Sept. 28.

Hotspot aggregator RemotePipes said last week it would reduce prices on its IP Roamer service by 27 percent, all over the world. Base price is $.09 a minute in 45 countries, and up to $.22 per minute in some premium locations (airports, mainly). The company says the prices are competitive, and the price drop is in response to a price drop by Verizon Wireless on its EV-DO-based BroadbandAccess network, but it apparently doesn't think of Verizon as competition. The press release says "IP Roamer services is ... a very complementary backup solution" to BroadbandAccess. IP Roamer access is availabe at 15,000 hotspots.

BelAir Networks has mesh equipment in use via integrator IT Global Solutions to provide broadband service in Mumbai, a suburb of Lokhandwala, India. Not only is it for accessing the Internet, but users can download the latest Bollywood (and Hollywood) flicks and local TV.

NeoReach Wireless, the division of MobilePro that's running the wireless in Tempe, Arizona, has also landed the contract to install metro-wide wireless in Sacramento, Calif. The deal is still pending approval by the city council within the next couple of months. The proposed network would extend over 10 square miles and would cover downtown, Old Town and the state capitol buildings. The deployment at Chavez Plaza Park and city hall is a trial. Subscribers to the final network would get access any time they can get a signal, with free access to the "network landing page" they see when first signing on, which will have city info and further instructions on connecting.

The 15,000 square foot Boston Billiard Club on Brookline Avenue has just become a hotspot. The first 300 people with Wi-Fi devices get vouchers for free access between September 30 and October 2 -- after that, the provider, Fusion ConneX, will start charging. Eventually, the club plans to expand the service to its five other club locations in New England. Available Fusion service plans include $30 per month for unlimited use at all its hotspots, down to $5 per hour.

Maine's Casco Bay has several islands such as Chebeague, Cliff, and Long Island, that are now connected via Wi-Fi. The network was installed by Ubiquitair, using Airpath's WiBOSS Metro for back-end support for billing and authentication.

5G Wireless Solutions has seen its Campus Wide Area Network (C-WAN) selected for providing wireless at a few more institutions of learning. Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio will have it installed by SpringNet CC, a WISP out of Dayton. A roof-based base station will make a hotzone covering most of the 14-acre campus, with expansion expected in the next few months. Likewise, the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois — with a whopping 34,000 students — will use 5G equipment, mostly indoors due to the number of multi-story buildings on campus.

September 20, 2005

Free Wi-Fi service is now available in the Akron-Canton Airport. That Wi-Fi isn't new, but it used to cost $2 an hour -- the charge has been dropped. Traffic on the network has grown as new low-cost airlines started offering flights. The airport is still in the middle of an expansion project, so look for the hotspot service to soon extend to all gates, thanks to local provider First Communications.

Not to be outdone, the Wi-Fi available at JFK International Airport in New York City is expanding. Concourse Communications has pushed coverage to all areas of the international Terminal 1 -- before, it was only in terminals 8 and 9. More expansion is expected there, and also in Concourse's setup at Newark Liberty airport in New Jersey.

On October 1, the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta will also turn on its airport-wide Wi-Fi network. It's a neutral-host network run by the airport, and several service provider partners can let users roam there at no extra cost. Names mentioned include T-Mobile and Verizon. The network was built by local infrastructure provider SITA, including a fiber optic backbone and an entirely new cellular antenna system, improving the cell phone reception there as well.

Finally, the Chicago Airports (O'Hare and Midway) are getting unwired. Concourse -- under the name Concourse Development Group (CDG) -- has the deal there, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Cost will be $6.95 per hour, unless the user already has a provider that has a roaming deal with Concourse. The provider has the contract for the next 10 years, sharing revenue with the city to the tune of $1 million per year minimum, and more if the revenue is high enough.

In-Stat expects that the revenue from Wi-Fi network services will triple between now and 2009, going as high as $3.46 billion. This is because the world should have 200,000 hotspots available by then, more than double what there is today. Prices are also going to fall. The biggest growth area, if you can believe it, will be in cafes. Half the hotspots in the world will be in coffee shops and restaurant-like locations by 2009.  

Boingo Wireless has signed to let Birdstep integrate the Boingo authentication software into its own Wi-Fi/WAN Access Connection Manager. Birdstep customers can then get access to 3G technologies (EDGE, UMTS, EV-DO, etc), as well as the full Boingo virtual network of 22,000 hotspots worldwide, without jumping through extra hoops to get signed on. Birdstep works with Nextel in the U.S. and several providers in Europe, including T-Mobile, Vodafone, TeliaSonera and Telenor.

AT&T's Enterprise Mobility Portfolio, a Wi-Fi service for business travelers powered by GoRemote, has expanded by 2,100 hotspots into areas of Greece (40 hotspots), China (1,330 hotspots), and Japan (800 hotspots), for a total of 13,000 venues in 42 countries. AT&T has a separate deal with Connexion by Boeing allowing existing AT&T users to sign onto in-flight Wi-Fi with their existing accounts (though extra charges do apply). The AT&T software will also support data connections on cellular networks if the user has the right kind of connection card.

The so-called "medieval" mountain village of Gordes in the Luberon region of France is the new home to a one square kilometer hotzone, which is good news for the 1.5 million tourists who visit each year. The RuralNet project was installed by Transumeric and Xavier Dalloz Consulting using equipment from FireTide, with backing from the government's Delegation for Regional Planning and Action.

September 15, 2005

Pronto Networks, Intel, SkyTel, and Tropos Networks have donated service and materials toward setting up  free Wi-Fi service in New Orleans, Biloxi and Baton Rouge for use by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), citizens and local governments in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. SkyTel (a division of MCI) is setting up the equipment, Intel is providing the Tropos mesh equipment for wireless coverage, and Pronto will run the back-end service out of San Jose, Calif. Provider GeoWireless is also in the Gulf States, using long-range Vivato base stations to provide Wi-Fi connectivity.

Traveling in Spain with your Boingo Wireless account? Good timing: Boingo has signed 24 hotspots run by WiSIDE in the northern Basque region of the country, for a total of 130 hotspots throughout Spain on its roaming network. Boingo claims 12,100 hotspots in 23 European countries, and 22,000 worldwide.

Verizon Wireless and Vodafone have teamed up to create GlobalAccess. Account holders get two cards, one to give them EV-DO access on VW's 61 BroadbandAccess networks in major U.S. cities, and a GPRS card for accessing Vodafone's 3G networks in 50 other countries. $130 buys unlimited use in the U.S. and 100MB per month in most of Western Europe. Traveling to areas of Asia, Australia or South America sets you back another $.03 per kilobyte. (No service yet in Canada or Mexico.) Infrequent travelers can try the pay-as-you-go plan. The cards cost extra: $280 if you get a two-year agreement, $380 with a one-year agreement. Existing VW EV-DO users can use their current card and pay $180 for the GPRS card (with a two-year agreement). On the other hand, for those going from Europe to the U.S., Vodafone is offering its customers a new version of the Smith Micro QuickLink Mobile software (called Vodafone Mobile Connection) to get those users on the EV-DO networks in the U.S. But they still need a separate EV-DO card in their laptop.

Aruba Networks says the installation of its equipment at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Trust -- covering eight hospitals, including the new flagship location in Sterling --  may be the "United Kingdom's largest single wireless network." The deployment consists of three Aruba controllers and 300 managed APs, used to push the hospital to going paperless for patient records and more over the next few years.

Israel's national telecom, Bezeq, has purchased WiMax-ready equipment from Tel Aviv-based Alvarion (a longtime partner) with plans to provide wireless broadband service to the southern city of Rahat in the Negev desert.

September 13, 2005

According to the New York Daily News, Wi-Fi Salon is going to set up Wi-Fi in 10 city parks in the Big Apple, including Central Park (at the zoo, the Delacorte Theater and the Boathouse Cafe), Orchard Beach, Flushing Meadows, Van Cortlandt, Pelham Bay, Prospect, Riverside, Union Square and Washington Square. They've already set up Battery Park.  And that might not be the only free Wi-Fi coming to the city. The Port Authority is working with new marketing groups to promote transportation via the area's airports, buses, and trains, and they mention in passing that "campaign elements will include... wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi and WiMax) Internet networks." (Someone really has to tell the world that no one, ever, calls Wi-Fi by the name "wireless fidelity.")

GigaBeam's WiFiber ("wireless fiber" running in 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz radio spectrum at up to 1 Gibabit per second) has been installed to serve as the secondary backbone of a network run by San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). It is both complementary and redundant to the leased lines they use for backhaul. SFPUC is one of the city departments working with the Mayor's office on the TechConnect program to put in a citywide Wi-Fi network.

Businesses in the greater Philadelphia area can get wireless broadband and VoIP from fixed wireless provider airBand today. The network was installed with Alvarion pre-WiMax equipment for point-to-multipoint connections.

This past weekend at the True Hope Church and Learning Center in San Francisco, County Communications (CountyCom) and non-profit partner  Jireh Technologies announced that they're installing a FireTide-based mesh network throughout the Bay View Hunters Point community.

Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi has a new WLAN install, courtesy of US Wireless (who we just profiled yesterday). The installation was done by US Wireless subsidiary AIR2LAN, using equipment from Aruba Wireless Networks. The first phase provides access at the school library, the College Center, the Bowl and Plaza, and the top two floors of Murrah Hall.

JiWire's latest report on the number of hotspots in existence (AKA, the number of hotspots registered in its directory): 72,360 in 103 countries.

Domodedovo Airhotel at the Domodedovo Airport Complex in Moscow -- yes, that Moscow -- now has Wi-Fi service installed by Russian IT company Comstar. It was deployed at the Airhotel in less than six months, which they call a "record short period of time."

September 12, 2005

Marconi is using Airspan Networks' WiMax products to deploy a major fixed wireless network in the Piedmont and Sicily regions of Italy. The AS.MAX hardware uses 802.16-2004 today, but has a software-defined radio (SDR) that will allow upgrade to 802.16e (mobile WiMax) in the future. Marconi was picked to run the trial by the Italian Ministry of Communications, the Italian Ministry of Defence and the trial coordinator, the Ugo Bordoni Foundation.

AirWave Wireless says its management platform (AMP) is running the show at 20 universities in North America. The list o' schools: Brookdale Community College, Centennial College, Northern Illinois University, George Mason University, LDS Business College, Madison Area Technical College, Oakland University, Pacific University, Purdue University Calumet, California State University at Northridge, San Mateo County Community College District, Southwest Research Institute, Tulane University, Northwestern College, University of Hawaii, Utah State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wytheville Community College, Central Connecticut State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This past weekend, McDonald's Corp. announced what it's doing for Hurricane Katrina disaster relief, such as donating $5 million to efforts. It is also turning off the charges for Wi-Fi use at over 250 restaurants along the Gulf Coast to "aid in electronic communication." Wayport provides the Wi-Fi network for 6,000 McDonald's locations in the U.S.

Vodafone is working with Cisco's Linksys subsidiary to to provide mobile data connectivity using 3G/UMTS for backhaul. The 3G/UMTS Router combines the  Linksys WRT54G3G Wireless-G Router with the  Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS data card. It will launch in Europe over the next few weeks, and other countries are to follow.

September 8, 2005

ABI Research says WiBro -- the Korean flavor of WiMax -- will be getting play outside of that peninsula. Since it is expected to interoperate with 802.16e when it's available, ABI says global acceptance is likely. Japan's government already has it listed as a candidate for a standard there. Korea's KT and SK Telecom plan to launch commercial services on WiBro in 2006.

iPass isn't the only remote access provider that's got access to the growing network of cities with EV-DO coverage in the U.S. Fiberlink announced the same thing back in May, and says as of this month 50 enterprise customers have signed on with them to provide mobile workers with EV-DO access. Fiberlink's Extend360 software also supports Wi-Fi and dialup connections. (Neither company is allowed to say whose EV-DO network they're using, but we all know it's Verizon Wireless... so, VW, why not take off the gag order, huh?)

The NY3G Partnership is planning a trial of pre-WiMax equipment in Manhattan starting in early 2006. Adaptix, which makes software defined, all-IP Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) wireless equipment, all based on 802.16e (the future "mobile WiMax"), is the supplier. The company's CEO says the network will be used for VoIP, data, video and gaming.

Got satellite TV but no broadband? Help might be on the way from WiMax. WiNetworks has patented what it calls HWDV -- Hybrid WiMax Digital Video Broadcast --  for satellite operators. It would allow existing satellite customer premises equipment (CPEs) like dishes to receive WiMax signals. The company is using Intel's WiMax chips. WiNetworks is also integrating the technology with NDS's VideoGuard Conditional Access System to secure the video streams against pirates. They will launch this 'Digital Broadcast Satellite (DBS) Triple Play Solution' this month at the IBC2005 Conference in Amsterdam.

The Wyndham Lisle / Naperville hotel near Chicago is the latest to get Wayport high-speed Internet access. It's a mix of wired and wireless in 242 guest rooms, with wired Ethernet only in meeting rooms (because, apparently, you're more likely to like wires in meetings). Wireless does extend to the lobby and lounges.

Deutsche Telekom's T-Com division is using Alvarion WiMax equipment in a field trial in Swisttal and St. Augustin near Bonn, Germany, to give 100 customers who can't get traditional broadband some wireless Internet access. T-Com is using the trial to test the equipment through March of 2006.

September 6, 2005

Gartner says that only 25 percent of business travelers from the U.S. and 17 percent from the U.K. have ever tried to take advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots. They cite "educational, cultural and financial reasons rather than technological apprehension" as the reason. End users apparently care even less about Wi-Fi in the air (bad news for Connexion), and would rather see better entertainment and more baggage space on planes. Those that do like using Wi-Fi on the road still hate the price (companies won't always pay the user back, even if they connect for work) and the fact that they can't always find it. As a result, Gartner says, 3G tech like EV-DO can still give Wi-Fi a run for its money.

September 1, 2005

The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi is not getting better quickly, so T-Mobile Hotspots will continue to provide completely free access to users in all three states, at least through Friday, Sept. 9. Around 66 locations in those states were unaffected by the storm.

Want to get some inexpensive access at thousands of hotspots aggregated by a big company? It's not just for corporate employees any more. Toshiba America Information Systems is offering subscriptions to its MyConnect service (powered by GoRemote) for $3.95 per hour with a $10 setup charge. After 30 days, the company counts the number of hours used, rounds up to the next full hour if there's an overage, and multiplies it by 3.95 to get the total owed. You can also choose to pay $18.95 a month for 30 hours of access, or $40 a month for unlimited access. Prices cover both wireless and dialup, and even some wired broadband locations (the Wayport network, for example, is included in the list). MyConnect/GoRemote counts 23,000 public hotspots on its network worldwide.

Boingo Wireless has added 36 new venues to its footprint of Wi-Fi hotspots. They include the Opti-Fi network of small airports in North America, with 30 locations including Albany, NY; Edmonton, Alberta; Hamilton, Ontario; Jackson Hole, WY; and others, plus access at Airtran Airways gates at many major airports like Atlanta, BWI, Midway, and Miami. (Opti-Fi expects to add about 28 more locations soon). The other six new sites are airports in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Oslo, plus Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim in Norway.

Over the next 90 days, all police vehicles in the seven police districts of the Navajo Nation in Arizona will have ruggedized laptops that will wirelessly connect back to the new mobile wireless network operations center in the Navajo Division of Public Safety. All 110 chapters (communities) of the area have pushed ahead with new computers and wireless satellite technology over the last two years, including installation of 350 hotspots. Some of the equipment is from Alvarion, purchased through a $6 million grant from the U.S. DoJ for the Community Oriented Policing System, or COPS.

After trials in Kent, a town in southeast England, Telabria is ready to launch the Skylink service for residences and businesses, offering both data and VoIP. They call it a "WiMax-class" network using microwave links to cover 1,300 square kilometers (850 sq. miles). The network should cover 675,000 households and as many as 60,000 businesses, and it should continue to expand well through 2006. Prices range from £25 a month for 1.5Mbps at home, all the way up to £369 per month for a 10Mbps business package—faster than the official SDSL found in the U.K. All packages have the option of telephony service that doesn't require traditional landlines, all the way up to a 10-line IP PBX for £100 a month.

Two more locations to add to the growing number of Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess markets (using EV-DO (Evolution Data-Optimized) wireless): Raleigh/Durham and Charlotte in North Carolina. This also includes the V CAST multimedia service, which costs $15 extra per month to play games and watch videos on an EV-DO equipped phone.

Coral Wireless is building out a CDMA2000 1X network in Hawaii to support both data and voice, using equipment from Nortel Networks. The network will cover the island of Oahu, and will serve a potential 900,000 customers. Customers will be charged $50 per month for unlimited service. Commercial service should launch in early 2006.

Riverside in southern California (pop. 300,000) has expanded its free Internet access in downtown to a 35-block area from 5th to 11th Streets, now including the entire Main Street Pedestrian Mall. The project includes a change from 802.11b (at 11Mbps) to 802.11g (at 54Mbps). The city had a grant from SBC, plus money from local businesses and non-profits, to play for the expansion. The city says the downtown network has had 22 percent more users per month since its launch in January 2004.

Softbank BB and Japan Telecom are merging their separate hotspot networks (Yahoo!BB's Mobile Zones and Japan Telecom's Mobile Points, respectively), under the new name of BB Mobile Point. The network will cover 820 venues across Japan, starting in October. Japan Telecom has been a Softbank subsidiary since 2004. Subscription cost is expected to be 315 yen ($2.84) per month plus a fixed-line charge.