Cometa Rolls Out Seattle Hotspots

Cometa Networks on Tuesday stepped up its quest to become the nation’s largest hotspot operator, announcing plans to launch 250 new hotspots in Seattle.

The San Francisco-based startup, which was formed last year by tech giants AT&T , Intel and IBM , said that it will roll out more than 100 hotspots in Seattle on Sept. 25 as part of the Intel-sponsored “One Unwired Day” event. The remainder of the locations will be active by the end of the year.

The initial hotspots will include McDonald’s and World Wraps restaurants, Barnes & Noble bookstores, Tully’s coffee shops, and office buildings in Seattle and Bellevue, including Seattle’s tallest building, the Bank of America Tower. Cometa said it will also install Wi-Fi “zones” at University Village and Bellevue Square, which will cover wider areas, and plans to announce additional locations in the coming weeks.

Pricing for the service will be determined by the various providers, which include AT&T Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and iPass.

The Seattle launch is the first implementation of Cometa’s business model and back-end service, which is to provide wholesale Wi-Fi network access to carriers. The company also rolled out hotspots in around 70 McDonald’s restaurants in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but CEO Gary Weis said that those deployments were done before AT&T’s public wireless LAN service was operational.

“The New York situation predates the production model,” he said. “It was an early learning experience.”

Weis said Cometa picked Seattle “because it’s the right size city and has the right demographics.” According to a survey by Cometa and Intel, after the launch Seattle will have more hotspots per capita than any other U.S. city.

Cometa has pledged to create a nationwide network of 20,000 hotspots over the next few years. Research firm Datamonitor predicts that the number of hotspots worldwide will reach 135,000 by 2006, up from 31,580 hotspots in 2003.

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