Hotspot Hits for December, 2006

Happy holidays for the Big Easy: As anticipated, EarthLink announced the official opening of its New Orleans Wi-Fi network today. Muni Wi-Fi analyst Craig Settles calls it “a pretty good day for the good guys considering how much that city had to fight the Evil Empire in New Orleans’ darkest hour.” (That Evil Empire in this case would be BellSouth.) Currently the network is 20 square miles in the Orleans parish, but it will be spreading. EarthLink is providing free access to all up to 300Kbps, but to get 1Mbps speed costs $22 a month (and includes all the usual EarthLink extras). Wholesale service from other providers is expected, but right now the only announced “partner” is PeoplePC, an EarthLink subsidiary.

InfoWorld and others report that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing a nationwide wireless network for public safety officers. The radio spectrum would come from the 700MHz band, which is effective as moving through walls and over long distances.

The Philadelphia Inquirer says two counties in southern New Jersey are contemplating wireless broadband. Camden and Gloucester counties will do a feasibility study to see if a network can handle the 800,000 people living within their combined 550-square-miles. Camden County just launched its first free hotspot near the city hall in Camden this year, and later opened more at parks. Each were about $55,000 to set up. The counties would prefer to have a third party pick up the cost of deployment, of course.

FON continues to spread its unique form of Internet access via Wi-Fi. It already sells its La Fonera router for $5, and now it will give them away — to any friend invited by a current Fonero (the company term for registered members who share/sell access). This is valid for users in the US and Europe. Sign up as a new member after an invite to get the router free of charge, including free shipping. Once you’ve registered the La Fonera router, you can go online (with a secure WPA-encrypted connection) via that unit or any other FON router. FON claims to currently have 200,000 registered users in 200 countries.

December 20, 2006

Boingo Wireless is expanding its partnership with The Cloud. Now retail customers and those who use Boingo hotspots through Fiberlink and Verizon Business Access can all utilize The Cloud’s European locations, not just its hotspots in the United Kingdom. The Cloud has 8,500 hotspots in Europe (7,000 in just the UK) and is now creating city-wide hotzones. There are 625 Cloud hotspots in Germany, 440 in Sweden, and several in Norway train stations. Boingo also has several new roaming partners found in the Netherlands (Wjoy with 240 hotspots including Amsterdam International Airport, and Mobilander with 40 locations), Germany (GlobalAirNet AG with service at Munich airport and hotels and Hotspot Deutschland with 350 venues and 180 AOL-branded Wi-Fi kiosks), Spain (AWA with 600 hotspots with 4,000 more to come) and on the Mediterranean (FORTHnet’s 72 hotspots in Greece, including 34 Starbucks). Boingo’s virtual network now spans 60,801 venues globally.

The recently completed and city-owned Wi-Fi network in Corpus Christi, Texas is for sale… to EarthLink. The Caller-Times reports that at least part of the network is close to being sold after the city council voted its approval earlier this week. The cost would be $9.01 million for EarthLink to purchase the equipment (Tropos hardware) outright. The buy places responsibility for upgrades on EarthLink, the requirement being that Corpus Christi gets the equivalent treatment of what EarthLink is providing elsewhere. The city gets 5% of either Wi-Fi access fees or “all other receipts,” whatever is larger. The deal should close in January 2007. The Corpus Christi network covers 147 square miles and cost the city $7.1 million to install.

GigaOm reports that EarthLink’s man in charge of MuniFi, Don Berryman, says the company hopes to finish negotiations with San Francisco this week and that it will launch its New Orleans metro Wi-Fi network as of tomorrow. EarthLink wants to have 20 to 25 signed contracts with municipalities by the end of 2007, and 40 to 45 contracts by the end of 2008.

December 19, 2006

The Milpitas, California, city-wide network run by EarthLink was launched today with a wire cutting by the mayor. Starting today all residents and visitors can try the service for free for 30 days; after that it costs $22 a month, which comes with all the usual EarthLink tools like a spam blocker, or you can pay $4 per hour or $16 for a three-day pass. EarthLink also continues to wholesale its network for other providers, so you can go through PeoplePC (a division of EarthLink) for different service. The network stretches to about 10 square miles using hardware from Tropos Networks and Motorola. Milpitas has a population of about 63,000.

Pepperell, Massachusetts, northwest of Boston almost to the New Hampshire border, has decided to use Proxim’s Tsunami PM.11 point-to-multipoint base stations and subscriber units as the basis for a “community-wide” network. Initially it will just connect two buildings. Proxim partner Direct Network Services of nearby Littleton will handle the deployment, so the town can avoid installing land lines to various locations. It will also support alarms, sensors and cameras used for security.

The private Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) in Manchester is using Aruba Networks hardware to unwire the campus. The network consists of 128 access points set up to provide access from every classroom seat as mandated by SNHU (previously only seven classrooms had wireless access) as well as in areas like the student center and library; enough for 2,000 students a day and 1,000 in the evenings. All students are required to have a laptop.

December 14, 2006

Today BT announced BT Fusion, it’s entrance into the fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) space to let UK customers get seamless handover from Wi-Fi to GSM networks using a single, dual-mode phone. It’s targeted at small businesses. Two phones are currently available: the Nokia 6136 and the Motorola A910. Samsung’s P200 will be added next month. Cost, when combined with the BT Business One Plan, is only £15 to start (though the BT Web site says $12.50/month with 24 month contract) including the handset. When connected via Wi-Fi are 5 pence for a 60 minute call; calls to other BT phones are max of 15p per hour, calls to other UK mobile phones are 25p per hour. BT has 2,000 Openzone-branded hotspots in the UK.

The city council of Osseo, Minnesota, (pop. 2,500) voted unanimously to let RoamAD install a city-wide Wi-Fi network over its one square mile. The service will be actually be run by Unplugged Cities of nearby Fridley (both are northern suburbs of Minneapolis). Cost is $15 per month for 128Kbps, $20 a month for 1Mbps ($25 for businesses), and $30 per month for the deluxe with 3Mbps ($34 for businesses, plus professional install for extra $130). Businesses will also get a static IP address. Anyone interested can register now at

MobilePro’s Kite Networks says it has finished phase one of deployment in Longmont, Colorado (pop. 80,000) — a phase covering most of the city’s 22 square miles with Tropos MetroMesh routers. Kite owns and operates the network which the city is a tenant of for public safety and municipal use. The Tropos nodes connect to a fiber optic ring owned by the Longmont power utility company. Commercial launch won’t take place until 2007. Cost to Kite to build this net? About $2 million.

InformationWeek reports that the 20,000 users of the 3,000 AP Wi-Fi network at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) can now utilize a social networking system called iFIND. It helps them “keep track of friends and increase serendipitous connections,” according to the director of MIT’s SENSEable City Laboratory. Users get complete control of who tracks them and how, using any device.

A 150 square kilometer area of Bahrain will soon be unwired with equipment from 5G Wireless through a contract with AngelWireless of Beirut. They expect to install as many as 25 5G clusters to the tune of $6 million to make a network supporting the 700,000 person population of this Persian Gulf island kingdom, which is connected to Saudi Arabia to the West by a causeway. The wireless network will be used for data and voice.

The Airwave Wireless Management Suite is running the show for a 1,600 node Wi-Fi networks in France. Hub télécom  uses the software to run service at seven airports there as well as in two exhibition halls and 40 hotels. The airports include Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly; the network is used also by airport services and the airlines themselves.

December 7, 2006

Boingo and Skype have a partnership going back to mid-2005 that allows Skype users (indeed, almost any mobile Wi-Fi devices) access to Boingo network hotspots on the cheap. They pay $7.95 a month just to talk, rather than the full price users pay per month for full Internet access on a laptop. It’s part of the Boingo Mobile program. That deal is now moving to the new generation of Wi-Fi Skype Phones. Belkin is the first to announce that its $180 Wi-Fi Phone for Skype can use Boingo hotspots, also for $7.95 a month, just for talking. Belkin added that the phone will be available in Europe, Asia, and Australia shortly. Currently it’s only in the states. Boingo has 60,000 hotspots in its world-wide network.

In the “That didn’t take long dept.”: Portland, Oregon’s advertising-supported Wi-Fi network (Wi-Fi from MetroFi, ad network by Microsoft) has already been “hacked” to skip the ads, according to the Oregonian. The culprits are the Personal Telco group that first started bringing hotspots to the city years ago. On the simple end, the article says using the Firefox browser and the right extensions will blot out the ads. MetroFi says it can see who blocks ads and could thus block the users— but it probably won’t, as this isn’t much of an epidemic.

The San Francisco Examiner claims that a deal to finalize EarthLink and Google’s installation of city-wide Wi-Fi could come next week. This after ten months of sometimes contentious negotiation. Estimated cost to build it by EarthLink? $15 million over the next decade. The article claims that some Board of Supervisors members feel the city would be better suited by owning the network itself.

December 6, 2006

MetroFi unleashed the first stage of its free city-wide Wi-Fi for Portland, Oregon, this week, with a launch party at the Pioneer Courthouse Square. The gathering featured the mayor and various MetroFi personnel including the CEO. The network currently has coverage downtown, bleeding into the east site from there, but will go to a promised 95% of the city by 2008. It’s free for those who watch advertising and costs money to avoid the commercials. The local ads come courtesy of Microsoft’s MSN.

Corpus Christi, Texas, has come a long way wirelessly. A couple of years ago the city experimented with a mesh network using Tropos gear strictly for AMR – automatic meter reading. It works so well that the city this week celebrated completion of a $7.1 million project to cover 147 square miles of the city for Wi-Fi-based wireless broadband. Unlike a lot of other big city-wide Wi-Fi networks planned these days, Corpus Christi still owns and operates this network. And it will still do meter reading, which Tropos spokesman Bert Williams calls “a pretty crappy job”  for humans.

Brookline, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb of 58,000 people, is getting a combo Wi-Fi and 4.9GHz network installed by Galaxy Internet Services in nearby Newton, using equipment from Strix Systems. The 4.9GHz is, by law, used only by public safety personnel. No word yet on when it will be done or the cost to the users for access.

December 5, 2006

Wi-Fi Networking News has the scoop on Devicescape’s move from making software to go inside Wi-Fi products to providing a service (which they apparently also call Devicescape) that hotspot users will appreciate. It wants to become your one-stop sign-in authority for any public Wi-Fi. Sign up, put the Devicescape software on your device (currently limited to XP notebooks, Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphones, the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, and the Linksys WIP300 Wireless-G IP Phone, but with more to come), and tell the company what networks you use. Then go to a hotspot on that network and automatically connect without having to enter a username or password. For now Devicescape supports T-Mobile Hotspots, AT&T Wi-Fi, FON, and Google’s network in Mountain View, California, but promise it is always adding new services. This doesn’t get you out of paying for the for-fee networks like T-Mobile — it just automates the sign-on procedure. The long-range plan is to become an aggregator for hotspot access, but without working against other virtual network aggregators like Boingo or iPass.

December 4, 2006

Helsinki, Finland now has a fully operational central-city Wi-Fi network called FiFiWiFi (say it five times fast) courtesy of Israel’s InspiAir and Helsinki’s own  Omni-Directional Communication Products Oy (OCP). InspiAir uses an 802.11-compliant-yet-proprietary technology called Virtual Transmission Manager (VTM) instead of multiple mesh hops to extend range. It took 14 access points to unwire central Helsinki with throughput speeds promised at 6 Mbps and hand-off for mobile users of less than 7 milliseconds as they move from AP to AP. Cost for access will be around $2.70 per day or $20 (15 Euros) per month.

The Toronto Star reports that Via Rail has finished installing Wi-Fi on all its trains running between Windsor, Ontario and Quebec City, Quebec, where previously it was only available in first class. Unlimited access per ride is $8.95 CAN, but users can pay by the minute ($3.99 for 15 minutes) or by the month ($46), as well. Wi-Fi networks connections are also found in all the Via stations on the route, too. Next up, they will build an “entertainment program” to run on the network, including things like games, local news, and syndicated TV shows. Eventually, the plan is to have service on all Via trains in Canada no later than 2008.

CONXX of Cumberland, Maryland, will be adding about 120 WS410 spatially adaptive access points from Wavion to the Allegany County Network (AllCoNet). The units will specifically increase speed of the network in the 10 square miles of Cumberland where it’s utilized by homes and businesses for broadband, as well as for wireless meter reading. Each WS410 has six radio transceivers and six antennas and uses advance beamforming to extend its signal.

December 1, 2006

BT plans to build Wi-Fi networks in cities across the United Kingdom. And to get started, it has picked at least one major partner. Motorola will “design, deploy and manage city-wide Wi-Fi networks” — specifically, mesh networks — built under the BT Openzone brand. The companies will begin with six out of 12 planned cities, including Birmingham and Newcastle. The six other cities, including Westminster, will expand use of Cisco equipment already in place, but BT has yet to reveals who it will work with. Of course, not everyone is happy about BT’s plans. For once it’s not people who think Wi-Fi makes them sick, the other growing wireless trend in the U.K. This time, it’s just good old-fashioned vendor rivalry. System integrator React Technologies told TechWorld it’s upset that these very public-oriented projects were not put out to the market for bids. React works with mesh equipment from Strix Systems. BT says it didn’t want to delay things, but may do a formal public tender for services in the future. Other providers, such as CitySpace (which will unwire 3 square kilometers of Bristol and expand the “Technology Mile” section of Islington), attack the BT deployments for not being free. The Cloud accuses BT of lacking openness by limiting the applications users can run on the networks. Overall, the BT expansion will help them further push a fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) service called Fusion.

Green Bay, Wisconsin, will be trying out free Wi-Fi on its riverfront, between Main and Walnut streets on both sides of the Fox River. This is a pilot program before going city-wide, according to the mayor, quoted in an article from the Green Bay Press Gazette. The network will be installed by Cellcom and The Answer.

The city ISP of Southaven, Mississippi, (pop. 40,000) plans to unwire 36 square miles of the town. MagnoliaWave already has some equipment installed, providing free Internet access in recreational areas, including the park used for regional baseball tournaments which can get as many as 25,000 visitors per weekend. Service will eventually be fee-based for residents, and will also be used by municipal employees including first responders. Deployment by local company GTS, using Tropos MetroMesh hardware, will start in full in early 2007.

News Around the Web