RealTime IT News

Hotspot Hits for January, 2006

The San Jose Mercury News reports that MetroFi of Mountain View, California is dropping all its fees for the 25 square miles of Wi-Fi service it operates in the Silicon Valley cities of Santa Clara, Cupertino and Sunnyvale. However, there's no such thing as a free hotspot: users will have to watch advertising, which could be targeted based on where the user logs in. To avoid the ads, they can still pay the $20 per month subscription fee. MetroFi also has bids in to expand the hotspot operations in downtown San Jose.

Boingo Wireless has added three-year-old PT Wi-Fi (a division of Portugal Telecom) as a new partner. This expands the company's virtual network of hotspots, the Boingo Roaming System, by 840 locations in Portugal. Venues include McDonald's Restaurants, Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS), Hotel Ibis, Le Meridien, Holiday Inn, Hotel Altis and Hotel Dom Pedro, and many more. Boingo's network now spans 25,551 hotspots.

TheStreet.com says that satellite TV rivals DirecTV and EchoStar might be teaming up to launch a nationwide wireless broadband network  — all the better to compete with the cable operators in offering not just TV but also phone and Internet services. This follows some cryptic words from DirecTV owner Rupert Murdoch a few months ago, saying he had plans for broadband. Broadband Reports says the network would use WiMax, though what flavor of WiMax and what spectrum it would use are a mystery.

FireTide's mesh hardware is in use by AWA, a WLAN network operator in Spain, as part of a deployment of 12,000 access points (4,500 at gas stations) that will be used for public Internet access and VoIP services. The networks will also run on the Meru Networks WLAN controllers.

TeliaSonera says that with its buyout of Danish YesIHotspot, it has "reinforced its position as the leading supplier of hotspots in the Nordic region," effectively covering the Swedish company's entire home market. This gives the company 180 more hotspots, as well as a nationwide EDGE mobile broadband network across Denmark. In total, TeliaSonera has 1,100 hotspots in the area. Users can roam on 25,000 total hotspots worldwide through the company's roaming agreements with other hotspot partners.

January 30, 2006

MobilePro's NeoReach, which is already unwiring Tempe, Arizona, will do the same for next-door neighbor Chandler, Arizona. Once again, it will do so with multi-radio mesh equipment from Strix Systems. Chandler has 240,000 residents and 19,000 businesses as potential customers. The network (including Tempe) will cover 110 square miles, making it the largest in the United States, at least until big cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco get networks running. (Speaking of Philly, the Associated Press says the contracts with EarthLink have finally been signed, but now they need the okay of the city council sometime in February. Remember when they said this would be done in '05?)

The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan has issued an RFP (request for proposals) about building a vendor-neutral muni Wi-Fi network. The city will hold a "pre-proposal conference" at the city hall on February 16. The timeline looks for proposals by April 4, finalists selected a month later, agreement by June 15, and kicking off the project by September. (In the real world, this will probably take about double that amount of time, but there's nothing wrong with shooting high, Grand Rapids.)

The Digital Collegian says State College, Pennsylvania could be getting a wireless network that would cover the town and extend into the Penn State campus. It's all up in the air, but there is talk by some officials of rolling such a network out street by street, and using it for things like parking meters that take credit cards. The town currently has hotspots in several downtown cafes including Starbucks, as well as parts of the library. They're nowhere near to an RFP yet; the council wants to do some educational workshops first to make sure everyone is up to speed.

January 25, 2006

Wi-Fi Networking News points out that the Seattle Public Library has free Wi-Fi service available at seven branches, including those at Ballard, Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, Green Lake, Greenwood, North East and Rainier Beach. These are in addition to the Central branch, which has offered wireless Internet access since May of 2004. The library staff even wear Vocera Wi-Fi badges to stay in voice contact with one another.

AnchorFree Wireless, the WISP providing free wireless Internet access throughout the San Francisco Bay area, thinks it has a new way to promote its hotspots. The company has signed onto the MySpace social networking site "to inform people in the Bay Area about our free Wi-Fi service (and to build community)," according to Communications Director Denis Hiller. The company went from 1 to 80 "friends" in its first day on MySpace (122 as of this writing). Perhaps most interesting is that that the AnchorFree profile describes the company as a 99-year-old single woman born under the sign of Virgo... The San Francisco Chronicle lists AnchorFree (and San Francisco's other 360+ free hotspots) as a top reason the city is #1 on JiWire's list of domestic cities offering public Wi-Fi services.

January 24, 2006

There are 100,355 hotspots in the world. Or, at least, that many are listed in the database at JiWire, which is a pretty good indicator (figure in a few more, though, to cover those iconoclastic hotspots that  refuse to be categorized). Seoul, South Korea has the most per city, while San Francisco is on top domestically. The United States has the most per country, followed by the U.K., South Korea, Germany and Japan. Over one quarter of the hotspots JiWire lists are in hotels. The growth in the database from this time last year is 87 percent.

January 23, 2006

Wondering who the big cities are that plan to install a wireless municipal network this year or next? Muniwireless.com has posted a list of those who have awarded contracts (such as Philadelphia, Sacramento, Tempe and more), as well as the much larger list of those who have RFPs either in the running or with finalists under consideration -- or those just thinking about an RFP in the future.

Corvallis, Oregon's Gazette Times says the central western city of 50,000 is "exploring the possibility" of deploying wireless for use by first responders. The network might be used for public access as well. The city is signed on with Intel's Digital Communities initiative. Meanwhile, local ISPs are investigating building their own wireless networks. Alyrica Networks of Philomath has already started. Corvallis already has a limited wireless network downtown for use only by police.

Redline Communications says its WiMax products will be used by Deutsche Telekom company Hrvatske Telekomunikacije d.d. to build out a wireless broadband network in the Cakovec area in the northern part of Croatia. Since the company's RedMAX products were recently certified by the WiMax Forum, they say this makes Croatia the first European country to have a deployment of interoperable WiMax.

Visitors to the Applebee's locations in the state of Wisconsin can take advantage of Wi-Fi connections courtesy of hardware provider Netopia and the Wisconsin Hospitality Group (WHG), which runs  most of the restaurants. They picked Netopia's product, they say, because of the "Family Friendly Surfing" feature that prevents access to objectionable content.

January 11, 2006

Wi-Fi comes to the grocery: ICOA will put hotspots into the higher-traffic stores in the Stop & Shop chain, which has 360 locations in the northeastern United States. First story is in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Stop & Shop gave it the okay after trying it all last summer in their corporate waiting room.

Is no one using Connexion by Boeing's in-flight Wi-Fi service? The company is cutting prices for access from $30 to $27 for a six+ hour flight. Hourly prices have been simplified as well, with, for example, a 3 hours or less going from $15 down to $10. The prices kick in on January 31. Starting a week ahead of that, all the Connexion equipped plans will also offer live TV programming to laptop users. Programs come from BBC World, EuroNews, Eurosportnews, CNBC and MSNBC.

January 10, 2006

The British are in revolt— against not having Wi-Fi in Parliament. News.com reports that the U.K. Houses of Commons Administration Committee is calling for wireless access to be installed in the Houses of Parliament areas where it would be most useful... especially since all members get a laptop with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth integrated, but disabled. The finding is based on how 123 new members reacted when arriving there for the first time last year after the election.

One we missed over the holiday break: GlobeTel Wireless says it will install wireless in 30 cities in the Russian Federation. The service will cover use of broadband Internet, voice over IP and even cellular-like DECt (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) for phones. The deal is with Moscow-based LLC Internafta. They'll pay $600 million for the installation, starting with Moscow and St. Petersburg. GlobeTel will run the network and keep a 50 percent stake in it. Look for three deployment stages, with 10 cities in each stage, over the next couple of years.

Here's some hotspots civilians will probably never get to surf on. Telos has been contracted by the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC) to install Xacta Secure Wireless Local Area Networks in three Air Force Bases (AFB): Barksdale, Whiteman and Nellis. The ACC will even use the network as needed past the base perimeter. Xacta -- a subsidiary of Telos — will run the network, which will be used by aircraft maintenance personnel who run around with ruggedized Itronix computers (part of the usual Xacta deployment). Eventually, the plan is for all maintenance data systems to go online to reduce the amount of keyboard entry time currently required.

January 6, 2006

It's not enough for ICOA Corp. to offer Wi-Fi access and back-end tools to make that access easier. The company is now going to get into the ad-driven content business, served up on its network of 1,500 hotspots in the United States. The company's partner in this is OOH! TV, launched by the people that sold Wise Technologies to ICOA. It will power the OOH! Mobile service, which will be in trials at only a few ICOA locations starting in a few weeks. Users will be able to get on the network for free to watch video programming (thus the ads... just like that old-fashioned TV box we all watched before video iPods came along).

At next week's MacWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, attendees can use the Wi-Fi network to stay social. IDG World Expo will be offering Jambo Network's "social networking" software to make users aware of others users in their proximity with similar interests or backgrounds. To use it, users have to download the application to their PowerBook or iBook laptops.

January 4, 2006

330 hotspots in Singapore, run by Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), are now part of the footprint offered by the Airpath Provider Alliance. Members of the alliance can now let their customers roam in those locations without paying extra. Venues include Starbucks, Delifrance, Spinelli and Burger King, as well as libraries, hotels, hospitals, shopping malls — even the Singapore Supreme Court building.

Skyhook Wireless is teaming with Tele Atlas to combine the former's Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) with the latter's geographic data. Skyhook uses a database of existing access points around the nation to pinpoint a person's location, but working with Tele Atlas, the two can provide "a combined street navigation, geo-coding and location database.  The two companies will jointly target the E911, local search, fleet management, personal navigation and telecommunications markets," according to a spokesperson.

According to the BBC News, The Cloud in the United Kingdom has plans to build citywide Wi-Fi networks in at least nine areas to start: Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Oxford, Cambridge, plus the London boroughs of  Islington, Kensington and Camden. The design calls for making VoWi-Fi calls on those networks as well as just using them for Internet access. Initial service providers offering access will be BT OpenZone, O2, SkypeZones and Nintendo Wi-Fi, but The Cloud wants to sign more.

Downtown Scottsdale, Arizona is getting a hotzone. Wildfire Broadband Wireless Communications is building it for the city with mesh equipment from BelAir Networks. They'll start near City Hall and the business district, offering access with a download speed of 6Mbps (2Mbps up). Best part: WildFire is working with a software company to set aside an hour or so a day when kids can use the network for free just to play games.

Wayport says it broke records in 2005 with the number of connections made to its network of 12,000 hotspot venues. 10 million connections were made in those locations, up 83 percent from 2004. This was helped along by roaming agreements the company signed last year, including deals with Cingular Wireless and Sprint/Nextel, plus the deal with Nintendo to provide service for the users of the wireless Nintendo DS handheld game system in 6,300 McDonald's restaurants in the U.S.

Growth in the Wi-Fi services market for the Asia/Pacific region is expected to jump from $213 million in 2004 to $1.29 billion (U.S. dollars) by 2010, according to a new report from In-Stat. South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and China are the lead markets. Both business and consumer sales will double (with consumer expected to be slightly stronger).