Hotspot Hits for June, 2006

EarthLink has announced its first wholesale partners (outside of Google in San Francisco) that will piggyback on EarthLink Wi-Fi infrastructure like the network launched yesterday in Anaheim, California. Expect to get more disks in the mail from AOL in those cities, as AOL Broadband will be one. DirecTV is another. PeoplePC is another — but they’re owned by EarthLink, so that’s a given.

June 29, 2006

The BART/Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), which runs the passenger trains between Sacramento and San Jose, California, has four contenders for installing Wi-Fi service (in response to an RFI they put out in March that got 11 proposals). No surprise to see EarthLink on the list. Concourse Communications — soon to be owned by Boingo Networks — usually does airports, but this could be a change. Also on the list is U.K.-based Nomad Digital, and a “consortium to deliver bi-directional satellite Internet service” called ATCI. Each will install equipment at its own expense with help from CCJPA to test on the 171-mile service area. Services they have to support include the usual Web and e-mail access, but also VPN, VoIP, CCTV surveillance cameras, electronic ticketing and train diagnostic info transmission. Competitive bid process based on trial performance will be in the first quarter of 2007.

Speed2go of Teaneck, New Jersey announced installation of a hotspot in their hometown, on the restaurant row of West Englewood Avenue. Speed2go is a partnership of the co-owners of the ChopStix kosher Chinese food restaurant and the co-owners of the IT solutions business NetworkDR. The signal covers ChopStix as well as Chubby’s, Pasta Factory, Sushi Metsuyan, Rabica’s, Dougie’s BBQ and many others, using FireTide mesh equipment. Access is free, but users have to look at advertising for local businesses.

June 27, 06

iPass will be the first roaming partner allowed to send users to the Thames Online network. As of July, iPass users can get Internet access via the “mesh network of Wi-Fi hotspots at venues such as HMS Belfast, the OXO Tower, the Tate Modern, Tower Bridge, the Millennium Eye and piers at Westminster, Millbank, Wapping, Waterloo and Canary Wharf,” according to a statement. It also is used by commuters on ferries. Regular Thames Online subscribers pay £2.95 an hour or £9.95 a month.

The Baltimore Sun says its home city of 2.6 million, the largest in the state of Maryland, is in the early stages of drafting a request for information (RFI) to vendors for ideas on creating a citywide wireless network. The 16-page RFI will go out from the mayor’s office to about 20 companies. Principal goal is to provide affordable Internet access for low income families in particular, though service would be expected for residents, business and government employees as well. As usual, no taxpayer funds will be used, but the city says it’s attempting to be hands-off, letting vendors and non-profits figure out the best way to build and run such a network. The RFI is running late; they wanted to get it out by May. Responses are due by August 30.

June 26, 2006

Honolulu’s Chinatown district is going to get free Wi-Fi. EarthLink, in a public/private partnership with the city, will install the network as a test case; the Mayor’s office says it’s part of a plan to revitalize the area. The network will also be put to use by the  Honolulu Electric Company for special applications, as well as for testing new tech for public safety officials. The service should remain free for at least one year.

Concord, California is the latest MetroFi customer. The company installed a pilot program with access for a mile around Todos Santos Plaza with speeds as high as 1Mbps. There’s also special access for city workers and police. If it all checks out, it should lead to further deployment later this summer.

June 21, 2006

Southwest Florida’s Herald Tribune says that the Downtown Unplugged project of Sarasota could soon expand to cover the local Siesta Public Beach and Lido Beach (plus the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall). The project for free public access Wi-Fi is a joint development of 82 Degrees Tech, Southeastern Communication Service (SECS, which made the hardware) and Sarasota County. Access also covers Siesta Key beach, home of the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix boat race.  

MuniWireless has posted the RFP issued by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. They want to find out if New York really even needs wireless municipal broadband — and, if so, if it’s even feasible to install. The city basically wants a consultant to tell them what to do. It’s a careful and measured approach, compared to some cities that just claim they know they need wireless broadband and that’s that. (MuniWireless, along with DoceoTech, will be presenting “expert classes in major markets” in the U.S. to train people on deploying municipal-scale mesh networks.)

SkyPilot Networks’ equipment will power the unwiring of Foster City, California by MetroFi. The network will be free to all 30,000 residents (if they watch the advertising) in the three square mile city. It will also be used by Foster City public works and safety. Those not willing to suffer advertisements can pay $20 a month for premium service when the network is done.

Wireless Washtenaw, which wants to unwire the county of the same name in the state of Michigan, has accepted a bid from local WISP 20/20 Communications of Ann Arbor. They, in turn, will work with Siemens and CenturyTel for services. The bid still has to go through the advisory board.

SiriCOMM, with an update on its Wi-Fi network for U.S. truckers, says it now reaches 450 locations with hotspots spread across 41 states. This completes the rollout with partners like Pilot Travel Centers, Petro Stopping and Love’s Travel Stops. Wireless access at each location goes by the InTouch brand, which they’re going to trumpet in a new marketing campaign.

June 16, 2006

The Poughkeepsie Journal says that Dutchess County, south of New York City, is forming a nine-member panel to examine the feasibility of county-wide Wi-Fi. The county covers 800 square miles. Sounds like they’re doing it because, as noted by a legislator, “many communities around the country are already further ahead on creating their own networks.” No word on if/when an RFP would come out, or if the county would try to do it themselves.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais cited a study from IWE-X claiming there are 6 million users of Wi-Fi networks in that country, mostly in the major cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, and Bilbao (Wikipedia lists the total population at 45 million as of the January 2005 census, so that’s 13 percent of the population using Wi-Fi). Those five cities alone have 2,450 commercial hotspots, half of which are in food and drink outlets. They say Barcelona alone has 20,610 access points, but only 955 of them are commercial. Swisscom is the primary hotspot provider in the country.

June 14, 2006

The San Jose Mercury News says that hometown San Jose is ready to expand its downtown hotspots. It’s working with MetroFi to install new service in parks and elsewhere by August, instead of trying a citywide deployment. This is one of those advertising-supported networks where access is free, and if you don’t want ads, you pay $20 a month to get speeds up to 1Mbps. MetroFi also has networks in nearby Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Cupertino, and soon will open in Foster City; Mountain View’s network is coming from Google.

Speaking of California cities going Wi-Fi, Sacramento, as predicted, isn’t giving up even after MobilePro pulled out of the agreement to set up a network there when the capitol asked for a tier of free service. A new RFP will be ready in a few weeks, and may request not only free service, but mobile WiMax support as well.

Rome, Georgia is still planning to debut downtown Wi-Fi live this week despite some last minute glitches, according to the Rome News-Tribune. They are having issues with getting the Internet connection live at city hall. They doubt it will be accessible from indoors. This pilot project was funded by a $22,500 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

European hotspot aggregator Trustive is now the preferred hotspot provider for SFR, the second-largest mobile phone operator in France. Customers of SFR now get access to 8,000 hotspots around the world in the Trustive virtual network. In return, Trustive customers of all types (retail and wholesale) now have access at French hotspots such as Paris’ La Defense business district, Cannes’ Palais des Festivals, and the Toulouse and Bale-Mulhouse Airports.

June 9, 2006

The first phase of the Wireless Waikiki Project is finished on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. The network, which covers the Kuhio Beach County Park, was set up by local WISP Shakanet, is totally free, and doesn’t even have advertising to ruin your day of Web surfing while on the beach (at least, not yet it doesn’t). Shakanet also runs the Wi-Fi service at the Honolulu International Airport and in various O’ahu hotels.

Bologna in northern Italy now sports a free Wi-Fi network for citizens of the city as well as the 100,000 students and faculty of the University of Bologna — Europe’s first university (born in 1088 A.D.) — thanks to Auckland, New Zealand-based RoamAD and integrator HI-TEL Italia, with local ISP Acantho. It’s called the Iperbole Wireless project, and is the first to cover a historic district in Italy. Marconi invented radio there, so all this Wi-Fi stuff is his fault, really.

June 7, 2006

T-Mobile Hotspot has its first new partner in a while with the announcement that  the 10 hotels run in the United States by Sofitel are joining the network. T-Mobile will install access in guest rooms and common areas. The first location is the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower Hotel, which also doubles as the 7,000th hotspot in the T-Mobile network. Sofitel properties are also found in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Houston. Other partners include Starbucks and Border’s Books & Music stories.

The outdoor Wi-Fi network of Dickenson County, Virginia (pop. 16,000) has moved from one of just public safety support to providing wireless broadband to homes and businesses. The network is run using equipment from Proxim (a subsidiary of Terabeam), including EtherAnt Wi-Fi CPEs in homes. The county-funded Dickenson County Wireless Integrated Network (DCWIN) was created to deploy and run the network over the 175 square mile county.

June 2, 2006

New Requests for Proposals (RFPs) issued this week for citywide Wi-Fi networks: Alexandria, Virginia, with a 16 square mile area, wants service for local government  workers (for free) as well as the general public — free access is expected in some public areas, and the price for residential wireless broadband will be limited to $20. Anyone who wins the bid will have to enter separate negotiations with the local power company to get the right to use street light poles for mounting equipment. Summit, New Jersey wants a commercial partner to install and run a network for its 21,200 residents. It will probably kick off with downtown hotspots. 4.9GHz will be used for public safety connectivity. And Mesa, Arizona opened the bidding for its own network that will, like most, have no cost to the city. Nearby Surprise, Arizona (northwest of Phoenix) is already looking through its own stack of proposals, according to the Arizona Republic.

Down Under with Airport Wi-Fi: the Auckland International Airport in New Zealand has rolled out its first public-use hotspot, found around the food court and departures retail area. Gates 29, 30 and the lounge at the Qantas terminal also have service, all using Cisco access points and a Bluesocket gateway. Over in the Australian cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, business travelers using the Virgin Blue discount airline (a Qantas rival) can get free Wi-Fi access through Telstra. The service is found in lounges called The Lounge, according to ZDNet Australia. They’re hoping to limit access to Virgin Blue customers, which is hard when it’s wide open.  They’ll still offer a for-fee faster service with an annual price of $349 (Australian dollars) plus a $199 joining fee; Qantas charges $685 per year.

Cisco Systems says its mesh equipment — the 4400 Series Wireless LAN Controllers and the Cisco Wireless Control System to manage Cisco Aironet 1500 Series Access Points — will be the power behind the citywide service installed in Farmers Branch, Texas by MobilePro. This is the first time the company has gone with someone other than Strix Systems to install a Wi-Fi mesh. First phase will include a free hotzone going up this summer; later expansion to cover the city’s 12 square miles will mean a move toward monthly fees for residents and businesses. The install will require about 300 Cisco mesh APs.

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