Hotspot Hits for January, 2007

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune says the city’s municipal wireless network, being installed and run by US Internet, is ahead of schedule and could go live as early as April, at least in the downtown area. The $20 million project will provide consumers with 1 to 3 Mbps downloads for $20 a month; eventually, it will cover 60 square miles. The network is being built with mesh equipment from BelAir Networks. US Internet is in very informal talks to extend the network into St. Paul, and has settled on providing the new MetroFlex DX from Ruckus Wireless as a “wireless modem” to extend the network signal indoors. It will cost $5 a month to rent (on top of the $20-a-month service fee), but there may be a one-time purchase price which has yet to be finalized (the DX list price is $149).

January 26, 2007

If you’re taking the plunge and installing Windows Vista on your laptop, be sure to stop by Starbucks afterward. Any computer running Vista gets free access to the Internet on any T-Mobile Hotspot from January 30 until April 30, 2007. That’s three months of free service (a $90 value, give or take) at 8,324 locations in the U.S., including Starbucks, Borders books, FedEx Kinkos, and many hotels and airport lounges. The very annoying official Web site for this promotion, which inexplicably involves Jefferson Starship, is at

January 24, 2007

It may not be the biggest, but Toronto’s new municipal Wi-Fi network is laying claim to being the fastest. Toronto One Zone, operated by Toronto Hydro Telecom, uses BelAir Networks mesh equipment run by Siemens, using its [email protected] MR product family. Ken Biba at Novarum, a consultancy planning to measure the capabilities of all the muni Wi-Fi they can find, said that out of 41 networks in 14 cities tested to date in North America, “One Zone’s performance is better than my broadband connection at home and, on average, five times faster than any of the other networks we tested.” One Zone currently covers six square kilometers; it won’t launch for commercial use until November 7.

WebNet Converged Wireless Network is testing a mesh network with a couple of nodes in Las Vegas, mainly to serve as a testbed/demonstration network for prospective customers in the muni Wi-Fi world. Right now, WebNet is building services in 12 Canadian cities (the company HQ is in Vancouver, British Columbia). The equipment it uses is from Hopling Technologies. WebNet just placed an order for 400 of Hopling’s Xnet Viper mesh nodes, which can be configured to support 2.4, 3.5, 4.9 or 5 GHz, as well as 900 MHz radio frequency spectrum.

AnchorFree Wireless, provider of an online directory of free hotspots as well as free software for securing hotspot connections, is now providing some stats on the top wireless regions by state, based on AnchorFree’s directory as of January 1, 2007. Unsurprisingly, California is #1 with 1,851 free hotspots, and is growing at a rate of 22.1% a year (San Francisco is the #1 city). It’s followed by Illinois, which has only 546 locations — but that’s not bad considering, it has a third of California’s population. Chicago is the #2 city.

Russia’s Golden Telecom claims its network in Moscow is the second largest in the world, with 6,700 mesh access nodes (from Nortel) covering 800,000 households (Singapore’s is still the largest). The network, called Golden Wi-Fi, has 50,000 registered users, who sign up through the Web site or at 7,000 Moscow retail locations selling scratch cards or via “cash terminals” (ATMs, we assume). Unlimited access is 500 rubles a month, for “54Mbps” speeds, though they don’t list the actual download speed a user is likely to get (54Mbps is the data rate for 802.11g-based Wi-Fi, but is never seen in the real world). Golden’s CEO expects to have as many as 400,000 registered users subscribed by 2010.

Trustive expands its reach again, this time via a deal with Vodafone Italia, the second largest mobile operator in Italy. Customers of Vodafone can now access Trustive’s worldwide virtual network of hotspots (all through a page branded just for Vodafone), and Trustive subscribers can now sign onto Vodafone hotspots, including those in airports and hotels. Trustive has a similar deal with SFR, the second largest mobile telecom in France.  

January 19, 2007

The next phase of unwiring Portland, Oregon is underway. MetroFi will spend the next four months unwiring the following areas of the city: Pearl, Old Town, around Portland State University, Hosford-Abernethy, Richmond and Sunnyside. By May, the company expects to have 55,000 potential residential customers and 10,000 business customers in range of a signal. Indoor use usually requires them to purchase some customer premises equipment (CPE). After just over a month of business in the Buckman, Kerns, Lloyd and Pioneer Courthouse Square districts, MetroFi has 3,000 registered users (who surfed for a total of 17,000 hours). Eventually, by 2008, they hope to cover 95% of the city. MetroFi offers free access to all comers, but may require viewing ads served up by Microsoft.

New Jersey state bill A-3752 is out of committee and on the way to the full Assembly for a vote. What does that mean? It means New Jersey counties could build and run their own municipal broadband wireless networks. Which is a good thing, since Camden and Gloucester counties already started looking into it in 2006.

Earlier this week, the nonprofit Business Innovation Factory went public with plans for a statewide rollout of a wireless network in Rhode Island. The eventually self-sustaining Rhode Island Wireless Innovation Networks (RI-WINs) effort follows an eight-month pilot and market research study. It should cost about $28 million to install over three years. The network will be a mix of WiMax and Wi-Fi.

January 18, 2007

Hotspot aggregator Trustive now has a deal with hotspot network provider The Cloud. Trustive’s retail customers can now access the 8,500 hotspots The Cloud operates in Europe, including the London airports of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. This gives Trustive customers access to 20,000 hotspots in the EU. Trustive supports both pre-paid service (30 euros for 275 minutes access, on up) and subscriptions (15 euros a month for 150 minutes, on up).

January 17, 2007

Wayport passed another personal milestone with its hotspot network in 2006, reaching 14 million paid connections (30 million since inception). The company has 13,000 hotspots across the globe, with 2,000 added last year. Earlier this week, it announced an expansion of its roaming agreement with Swiss hotspot aggregator WeRoam, giving WeRoam subscribers access in 39 Hertz rental areas in U.S. airports. They already have access to all Wayport locations in hotels and airports (the McDonald’s hotspots are not included). reports that a request for proposal has been issued by Suffolk and Nassau counties in New York state to cover all of Long Island’s 750 square miles with wireless broadband. The counties want a private partner or consortium to build and run the network for the potential 2.7 million customers there. The counties may become anchor tenants of the network, but not for free — they’d pay their way, in addition to paying for access provided to Long Island schools.

Nothing’s ever easy for San Francisco’s Wi-Fi plans. The city came to terms with EarthLink after seven months of negotiation, but the agreement still has to be approved by the city’s Board of Supervisors. The company told Red Herring this week that it’s not sure it has the votes to get approval. They need six votes to pass, but only five supervisors are behind the deal, with three against — they want the city to own the network — and three or four on the fence. EarthLink is now in the middle of a campaign to “educate” the city populace on the network and raise support.

Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco, Keystone and Silverthorne in Colorado’s Summit County west of Denver are all going wireless as the network from WisperTel finishes deployment after two years of work. The network uses WiMax equipment to provide the area with 80% coverage on the first day, with the rest of the towns getting covered before the summer. A residential plan starts at $30 a month at 1 Mbps download, and goes up to $90 a month for 7 Mbps. The company provides service around Denver and Boulder as well.

Turns out there are still RV parks out there without Wi-Fi — but three fewer, now that Multiband Corp. has installed service at Ft. Myers RV Resort, Pioneer Creek RV Resort and The Springs RV Resort, all in Florida. This brings the company’s total number of RV park hotspot locations for Multiband (formerly Vicom) up to 25.

January 11, 2007

EarthLink is open for business in Philadelphia! Sort of. There’s a 15-square-mile proof-of-concept area now live east of Broad Street and north of Vine Street Expressway. Speed is 1 Mbps for downloads, and access is free for 10 days, until January 21. Just look for the “FeatherByEarthLink” network name and jump through some hoops in your browser to sign on. Monthly EarthLink customers can get access and use the time to get credit down the road. Cost will eventually be $22 a month, and will come with all the EarthLink software geegaws (spam blocker, eight mailboxes, etc.). Free access will continue all the time for users in Norris Square, Olney, Love Park and the Historic District. Wholesalers of EarthLink’s network include PeoplePC and Pennsylvania Online. Someday, the network is going to cover all 135 square miles of the city.

January 9, 2007

Vonage Networks — a subsidiary of the VoIP provider Vonage Holdings — has signed a three-year contract to provide Internet service through the municipal Wi-Fi networks set up by EarthLink (currently live in Anaheim and Milpitas, California, as well as New Orleans). Vonage will be one of many wholesale buyers of access, which it will resell to end users under its own name. So far, the only other confirmed wholesale buyer on the EarthLink networks is EarthLink’s own subsidiary, PeoplePC. Vonage will be doing a little extra, though, including selling a “next generation Vonage Wi-Fi phone,” as well as a wireless modem device to improve indoor signals, and software applications; the whole thing will likely be bundled with the Vonage VoIP phone service. No pricing is set yet. EarthLink has its own VoIP service, TrueVoice, which competes with Vonage, but the company espouses a philosophy of selling access to others, after years of being denied access by wired broadband providers, according to remarks made at GigaOM.

The Southwest Airlines Terminals (A and B) at Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Airport now offer Wi-Fi access, thanks to Concourse Communications (a Boingo property) and BAA Maryland’s Airmall retail program. The rest of the Terminals (C, D, and E) should have service by March 2007.

BT Fusion, BT’s entry into the world of consumer fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC), went live this week in the UK. It supports three Wi-Fi/cellular dual-mode phones — Nokia 6136, Motorola A910, and Samsung P200 — with support for 20 handsets expected by the third quarter of this year. The Wi-Fi part works on your home network or at any of the 2,000 BT OpenZone hotspots.

January 5, 2007

As expected, the word came down this evening that the city of San Francisco has “reached an agreement on the terms of the contract to build a citywide wireless network” with EarthLink. Strangely, Google — the partner usually in lockstep on this planned deployment — is not mentioned in the message sent out by EarthLink’s PR, with quotes from the president of EarthLink’s municipal networks unit, Donald Berryman. Don’t get too excited that this all means immediate Wi-Fi on every corner, though. This agreement still needs to get the approval of the city’s board of supervisors, which isn’t a done deal.

Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, near Chicago, has expanded its existing indoor Proxim ORiNOCO network to the outdoors using Proxim AP-4000MR mesh access points. They are deployed campus-wide by WISP integrator Fiber in the Sky. This covers the 350-acre campus, and will soon reach five satellite campuses in other towns as well.

January 2, 2007

MarketWatch is reporting that the negotiations between Google, EarthLink and the city of San Francisco are “very close” to being final. The original deal was signed nine months ago, but negotiations had to go on and be approved by the city board of supervisors. Apparently, a final contract could be announced this week. Or it could all fall apart at the 11th hour.

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