Hotspot Hits for July, 2006

The River Palms Resort Casino resort on the Colorado River in Laughlin, Nevada is now a location-wide hotspot, courtesy of Wayport. All 1,003 guest rooms have Wi-Fi access, as well as the entire casino and all common areas, meeting rooms and events space.

MuniWireless reports that this week the 45 square mile area encompassing Brownsburg, Indiana is installing a Wi-Fi network using Moving Target Technologies as system integrator; they’ll also run it for two years. Service is free up to 128Kbps downloads, or you can pay for tiers of service at 512Kbps or 1.5Mbps. They’ll also have a 5GHz 802.11a network with 3Mbps speed. The Wi-Fi mesh is run on SkyPilot equipment.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says that Tully’s Coffee Company will start offering free Wi-Fi-based Internet access in 79 select locations in Washington, Idaho and California starting August 7, 2006. They want to bring in more customers by making wireless an amenity. Current price is $4 a day through service from NetNearU. Starbucks, the 800-pound gorilla of coffee chains, has Wi-Fi service from T-Mobile that costs $10 a day, and has no plans to change that.

July 25, 2006

One of the few truly citywide Wi-Fi deployments existing today is Taipei City in Taiwan, with 4,100 access points in place. Access to the WiFly network there is now open for use (though not necessarily free) to subscribers using Boingo’s Wireless Roaming. Boingo is also expanding service into Malaysia for the first time through a partnership with Maxis. The company operates 118 Wi-Fi hotspots in locations like the Kuala Lumpur Airport’s business center, as well as convention centers, hotels, cafes and more in Kuala Lumpur. All told, Boingo has 1,800 hotspots on its network in southeast Asia, including those in Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. The company has a virtual network of 45,581 hotspots worldwide. 

ClearMesh Networks announced today that its wireless optical mesh equipment is powering the network at the San Diego Westfield UTC shopping center. This includes a Wi-Fi hotspot as well as connections for point-of-sale transactions and as many as 70 surveillance cameras across the mall. The network is run by local provider Wireless Facilities Inc., better known as WFI.

July 21, 2006

AT&T is not exactly a stranger to Wi-Fi. The old version of the company was one of the names behind the flamed-out Cometa Networks. The current company (formed when SBC bought the former AT&T) has a Wi-Fi hotspot service found in locations like Barnes & Noble stores. Recently, AT&T put in a bid to become a provider of citywide Wi-Fi in various locations without luck. CNET reports today that AT&T has finally entered the muni wireless space by teaming up with MetroFi on the network to be built in Riverside, California. The two companies will design it together, MetroFi will build it and offer free access with 500Kbps downloads (less than it offers elsewhere), while AT&T will piggyback on that network to provide 1Mbps downloads for $20 a month to subscribers. MetroFi has previously announced wins with Portland, Oregon as well as San Jose and Santa Clara, California, among others. Some say AT&T in this deal validates the municipal Wi-Fi world after years of incumbents crying fowl. Or maybe it’s just a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” kind of situation…

Craig Settles has issued another municipal wireless snapshot survey, this time talking to 176 business owners and managers in such areas as Aurora, Illinois and Portland, Oregon, among others. He found that 34% wouldn’t use Web banner advertising on a Wi-Fi network no matter how successful it is, because that’s just not how they do marketing. Only 7% said they’d try it without qualms. Almost half (45%) spend less than $100 a month on advertising as it is. Would they even subscribe to a muni Wi-Fi network? Only if it’s highly secure and reliable, and it must get speeds over 512Kbps to be worth their while. Settles says the bottom line is that “there isn’t much strong support for buying ads on municipal networks,” even though “the ad-driven model is popular in places where it doesn’t seem to be practical as a primary revenue source.” However, he says, “muni networks can make money from businesses running mobile workforce and asset management apps over the networks.”

July 20, 2006

MuniWireless reports that Sacramento has issued an RFP for building a citywide Wi-Fi network that would include free 300Kbps access to the 435,000 people who live there. MobilePro pulled out of a deal with Sacramento in June because the city wants to provide that free access, something that’s not part of the MobilePro business plan. The network would also be used by the municipality for free. Submissions are due by September 29; the city wants to award the contract by December 5.

Nortel says testing is done and that it’s ready to provide upgraded EV-DO equipment to Verizon Wireless. The Rev A tech, as it’s called, will boost speeds up to 3.1Mbps for downloads and 1.8Mbps for uploads under perfect conditions.

There’s a Google Map hack showing the coverage of access points set up by Google throughout the city of Mountain View, California. Pick your street corner for the best free access while visiting.

July 19, 2006

The Arizona Republic says the town of Queen Creek, Arizona — right near Chandler, outside of Phoenix — has put out a request for proposal (RFP) to vendors to install town-wide Wi-Fi. A site survey shows half the town is under-served with broadband — not even the area zoned for industrial use can get it. They’ll be installing a fiber optic backbone as well. The decision is up in the air about whether the town would own the network or not.

Boingo Wireless has finished its buyout of Concourse Communications, first announced back in May. Boingo now runs neutral-host hotspot networks in major airports in New York and Chicago as well as 100 others, and says it will “continue to pursue new neutral-host network installations in large scale facilities.”

The Kansas City Star reports that Johnson County and three of the larger cities there (Lenexa, Olathe and Overland Park) are looking at building a county-wide Wi-Fi network, covering 20 communities in 460 square miles. They would share the cost of a study to examine if the public/private partnership they envision should go forward.

The first of The Cloud’s Wi-Fi hotzones is now live in Manchester, England’s city center (sorry, centre). They partnered with the Manchester Evening News to turn the paper’s Web front page into the gateway for user sign-ups and access. Access costs £11.99 for a week’s connectivity, or £11.99 per month with a one-year contract. ZDNet UK says other Cloud hotzones in Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Oxford and parts of London are up and running and usable by the public, but they won’t get an official launch until local partners are identified. Roaming agreements are in place for subscribers with BT Openzone, O2, SkypeZones, iPass and Nintendo Wi-Fi. The Cloud said this week it will be using the hotspot database from JiWire to power its new online Hotspot Locator.

July 13, 2006

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said this week that he is introducing a plan that would push federal resources to communities that want to install citywide (even county-wide) Wi-Fi. It probably won’t help just New York State. He’s going to the Secretary of Commerce to create federal standards for this kind of thing. He also plans to push for the Broadband Tax Enhancement Act introduced by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) so installation and connection to broadband could become a tax write-off, at least in underserved areas. The measure is still pending in Congress. Schumer says there are 797 hotspots in upstate New York. Meanwhile, WCBS-TV says the Long Island counties of Nassau and Suffolk have issued a request for information to vendors on how they’d supply Wi-Fi to the 3 million residents there.

Strix Systems has scored another overseas deployment for its mesh equipment. Kenya Data Systems (KDN) will use the Access/One nodes for both outdoors and indoors to provide Wi-Fi-based, for-fee broadband in the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret. KDN already has WiMax installed in some areas, which the Strix equipment will use for backhaul as needed. The coverage extends to business and residential customers amid a population of 4 million people.

July 10, 2006

The city of St. Petersburg, Florida has put out a request for proposal on a citywide Wi-Fi network that would, by decree, not use any taxpayer money for funding. The network has to provide coverage in 95% of the city, with 90% for indoor areas on ground and second floors of buildings. The network will have 1Mbps speeds, with a 3Mbps premium service required. Pole access may need to go through the power company with a separate negotiation. Proposals are due by August 16.

Last week, Orange Business Services of France said it had struck a deal with T-Mobile to allow its customers to roam onto the 7,000+ T-Mobile Hotspots found in the United States at locations like Starbucks, without extra fees. This gives the Orange Business users access to 35,000 hotspots in 60 countries total. (Orange Business is the name now for what used to be sold under the separate brands of  France Telecom, Orange, Equant, Etrali, Almerys, EGT, Expertel Consulting, France Telecom Intelmatique, SETIB and Solicia.)

In the U.K., there’s a deal between Vonage, The Cloud and Elite Devices to allow Vonage Residential Unlimited and Small Business Unlimited package subscribers to get full VoIP access at any of the 7,000 hotspots The Cloud runs (including the soon-to-launch city-center hotzones in cities like Birmingham and London). Eventually, Elite plans to offer not just the phones but also the VoIP service as well. Elite resells a number of VoWi-Fi handsets, including some from Samsung, Linksys, Hitachi and UT Starcom.

Similarly, reports that Taipei’s citywide Wi-Fi called WiFly will be supporting Taipei Easy Call, a project to bring VoWi-Fi to the area. They predict up to 200,000 users could sign on this year alone. The New York Times recently reported that just a fraction of that number are currently using the network for data. However, government mobile phones would all be switched to the service to utilize the cost savings.

July 7, 2006

U.S. Wireless Online will be the provider of downtown Wi-Fi for the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, according to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Anyone will be able to use the network for free for up to two hours a day at speeds of 512Kbps, or users can pay a fee for faster service (1Mbps for $8 a day, $15 a month or $120 a year). Service should be fully installed by September. Look for signals in the Central Business District/Golden Triangle, North Shore and the Lower Hill District.

EarthLink isn’t going to settle for just providing Wi-Fi in the cities it has contracts with. The company plans to introduce Wi-Fi phones, with a VoWi-Fi service plan costing between $10 to $25 a month, according to GigaOM. They haven’t yet named which phone they’ll use. They’re testing a bunch now on the recently-launched Anaheim, California network. The company will also be opening retail stores in San Francisco, Seattle and elsewhere, though mainly to support current landline-based VoIP plans.

July 5, 2006

Despite the fact that many individual municipalities in the Silicon Valley area have deals (if not deployments) of public wireless LANs, that’s not stopping the Wireless Silicon Valley Plan, a joint venture of local businesses and governments to unwire the entire area around the south San Francisco Bay, 1,500 square miles stretching from Gilroy in the south to San Mateo on the peninsula, and as far east as Fremont. They issued a request for proposal in April, and the initial list of potential suitors is in. The biggest surprise is probably that EarthLink is not among them — in fact, the company submitted a letter just to say they wouldn’t get involved. Names include the consortium of Azulstar, Cisco, IBM and Seakay, which also tried to get San Francisco under the name SF Metro Connect; VeriLan; and MetroFi. An RFP Selection Committee will now review the proposals and make recommendations to the 40 cities involved in the project.

U.K. provider The Cloud is delivering all-you-can eat Wi-Fi Internet access — called Ultra Wi-Fi —for a £12-a-month subscription, or £12 per week if you want it on a pay-as-you-go basis. The article points out that it’s not really ‘unlimited,’ as users can only move 1GB of data per month or week, depending on their subscription pick, to prevent commercial users from taking advantage. It’s still better than the previous pricing of £5 per hour, though. The Cloud plans also to have overlapping hotspots making hotzones this summer in the cities of Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham and Oxford, plus the London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Camden, and Islington. London itself allegedly becomes a zone by September.

Reuters says that the mayor of Paris, France would like to see 400 APs installed next year to blanket the city with Wi-Fi, at least in parks, libraries and other public areas. If the city council is for it, they’ll make decisions on the private firms to handle such a deployment sometime next year. The mayor’s plan calls for  providing free Wi-Fi in at least one city quarter once it’s installed and cutting taxes for companies deploying fiber optic lines, all in hopes of getting fiber in 80% of the city’s buildings by 2010.

Mobile Tech Today says that United Airlines is looking at a lot of communications plans for the day to come soon when Verizon Airfone is no longer on board. Wi-Fi is an option. In fact, the article claims some 757 aircraft are already equipped, though is useless to passengers without a telecom or provider giving it access back to the Internet.

Pomona, California announced that it had a pilot for Wi-Fi downtown back in May. This coming weekend, July 7-9, has been named “Wi-Fi Weekend,” and the network will offer free access to anyone with a Wi-Fi device, courtesy of providers Cheetah Wireless and Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), as well as equipment makers Tropos Networks and Nomadix. The weekend will include a “Wi-Fi Freedom Day” to educate the public on the city’s network, including demonstrations on how to connect at the Metrolink station and Mission Promenade.

News Around the Web