Hotspot Hits for October 2006

The MuniWireless State-of-the-Market Report is out (in time for the MuniWireless ’06 conference in Minneapolis)  and it predicts that $3 billion will be spent in the United States from 2006 to 2010 by municipalities that want Wi-Fi. $235 million will be in 2006 alone, an increase over the previous forecast of $177 million. It’s not just about Internet access, as many communities — specifically, those looking to provide service county-wide — will use it for economic development, digital inclusion and public safety communication.

October 23, 2006

You think it’s easy to be a big city that wants Wi-Fi? The headlines say otherwise. For example, in San Francisco, the delays in the EarthLink/Google co-sponsored citywide network have come from the bureaucracy — and now from the populace. Town hall meetings with the political locals have apparently brought out some crazy suggestions — like Google should use its buses to transport kids to the zoo. New York — which only had ambitions for installing Wi-Fi in city parks — seems to be derailed. The New York Post says only ten parks are live after two years. The Parks Department is taking the blame from a city councilwoman and the volunteer group NYC Wireless, because it won’t take the contract away from Wi-Fi Salon. The Post blames the whole thing on “bureaucratic bungling, incompetence and old-fashioned greed.” And while not in the same category, it’s sad to note that the free Wi-Fi installed in the city of New Orleans by volunteers pre-Katrina will be going bye-bye once EarthLink finishes installing its own 20-square-mile citywide network. That network had previously run afoul of Louisiana state law as well. The Times-Picayune says the former CIO for the city wanted to keep it running, but the policy has changed to avoid interfering with EarthLink’s offering.

RoamAD equipment is powering the multi-city network being installed in the Dominican Republic by local WISP DR Telecom. The deployment launches in Santo Domingo in February 2007 (some multi-band radios are already being installed). It will offer voice and data services for pre-paid customers, plus video surveillance and other applications as needed. Eventually, DR Telecom plans to cover 59% of the urban population — 1.17 million homes — in the major cities on the island.

October 19, 2006

The Oakland (CA) Press ran a story this week to describe why a pilot Wi-Fi network for the city that was expected last year has been delayed. Blame light poles, or the lack of access to them. Wireless Oakland, as it’s known, will be a county-wide, 910 square mile network. Plans are to complete it by the beginning of 2008 at the latest. The pilot will involve the towns of Troy, Birmingham, Pontiac, Royal Oak, Madison Heights, Oak Park and Wixom. The group in charge also wants to distribute cheap or free computers to the poor.

MetroFi’s network in Foster City is now up and running. Access is free (but you have to look at advertisements unless you pony up $20 a month). The net is also in use by the city and some first responders. This is the sixth city in the San Francisco Bay area to get MetroFi service. They’ve also got contracts for Portland, Oregon and Aurora, Illinois, and…

Speaking of MetroFi: Riverside, California will be the largest deployment yet for AT&T of citywide Wi-Fi (though being the largest doesn’t mean much, as it’s only the second muni contract AT&T has landed… Springfield, Illinois was the first). The company is working on it with MetroFi. The network will be used by both the municipality and residents. City light poles and other fixtures will be made available for the deployment, and AT&T will run it all, install it all, and handle all the customer service. No word on cost to end users, if any, if MetroFi is involved; service should start sometime early next year.

NTT Group in Japan will be using mesh products from Strix Systems to provide access for the Internet and VoIP in many cities in Japan, mostly for business customers — something around, oh, 50 million potential customers when it’s fully deployed. The products use the 802.11j standard specific to Japan, which runs in 4.9 and 5.0 GHz.

October 13, 2006

We recently reported on Helio’s move to offer EV-DO access (through Sprint’s network) to customers who buy its new Helio Hybrid card for laptops. The service costs $85 a month (which also includes access via your laptop’s own Wi-Fi to Boingo hotspots). For that, you’d think it would be “unlimited,” right? Well, no. Wi-Fi Net News uncovered the truth by delving deep into the terms of service, and found it’s limited to 160 MB of usage per month — which barely covers watching a couple of QuickTime movie trailers, let alone surfing multimedia-heavy pages on YouTube or MySpace. PC Magazine asked Helio about it, and the company said it wouldn’t enforce the terms — unless there is abuse. What constitutes abuse? Who knows. Luckily, the terms don’t impact the use of the Boingo Hotspots… but why pay $85 a month when you can get a Boingo account for $22 a month and not have to worry about going over at all?

October 12, 2006

Got a Sony mylo Wi-Fi equipped handheld but aren’t sure where to use it? We can tell you one network that’s open: T-Mobile. From the moment you first connect with a mylo at a T-Mobile Hotspot (found in Starbucks, Borders, FedEx Kinko’s and elsewhere), you get 12 months of complimentary access (but you have to connect sometime in the next 15 months, before December 31, 2007). The connection will require a download of special T-Mobile Hotspot software to the mylo, which should be available soon. The handheld itself is $350.

October 10,

IBM, Cisco and Azulstar will be installing and running the citywide network for Winston-Salem, North Carolina and outlying communities (they also have the contract for Silicon Valley). The group was picked by the WinstonNet Wireless Initiative. It’s time to start talking about the contract and the details, such as whether access will be free for users — plus they have to negotiate with the local power utility for light pole access.

Dublin, Ohio is going wireless with mesh equipment from Cisco Systems installed by local provider DHB Networks. The new network will connect to the existing fiber (called DubLink) for backhaul, and will be used by police and city employees for video surveillance, data access and communication in the field. Local businesses and residents will get service under the Airwirz brand, but other ISPs will get wholesale access to the network to resell services. Phase one will cover four square miles in the city center, before it goes citywide to serve 39,000 people in a 25 square mile area.

Wireless ISP VeriLAN is closing up shop after failing to land any big contracts in its chosen field — the muni Wi-Fi market — outside of some small pilot projects. Wi-Fi Networking News points out it didn’t even win in its own hometown, Portland, Oregon, instead losing to MetroFi. VeriLAN blames a lack of investment money.

October 5, 2006

Residents of Rochelle, Illinois can now get Internet access from the Rochelle Municipal Utilities. The company has installed Strix wireless mesh equipment, 35 nodes so far, to provide free Wi-Fi-based Internet access downtown and to residential customers for $25 a month. Eventually, they’ll also provide public safety officers access to the 4.9 GHz band for communication. Video surveillance will be used to monitor railroad track intersections that today keep cops guessing as to whether a train is looming or not, letting them plan a new route.

What’s better than a Wi-Fi hotspot? A hotspot with lots of books around. That’s why the two biggest bookstore chains in the U.S. put hotspots in each new location. Borders Books & Music is opening up stores in the next month or two at the San Francisco Centre; Nut Tree Village in Vacaville, California; Westfield Shoppingtown Meriden in Meriden, Connecticut; The Shops at Atlas Park in New York’s Glendale-Queens area; Merrymeeting Plaza in Brunswick, Maine; the Newbury building in Boston’s Back Bay; in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside; Lycoming Mall in Muncy Township, Pennsylvania; and at the Plaza at Rosedale Center in Roseville, Minnesota. Borders all offer Wi-Fi service from T-Mobile.

Not to be outdone, Barnes & Noble booksellers with AT&T Wi-Fi are opening at the following new locations in 2007 or ’08: Dakota Square Mall in Minot, North Dakota; The Avenue Murfreesboro in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Legacy Place in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; First Colony Mall in Sugar Land, Texas; Lake Sumter Landing in The Villages, Florida; Westgate City Center in Glendale, Arizona; Valley View Mall in Roanoke, Virginia; and Midtown Shopping Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

October 3, 2006

Firetide will provide mesh equipment to North Carolina’s Sky Catcher Communications to build out broadband in under-served rural markets nationwide using satellite backhaul. The service is called Dirt Road High Speed, and will also feature a SkyVoice VoIP option. They’ve already installed a couple of networks near the Blue Ridge Mountains (including one for the Center for Intercultural Training in Union Mills, NC) and have another planned for a Colorado ski resort. They’ll also provide 4.9GHz services for public safety agencies.

The entire 25-acre campus of the Viewpoint School in Calabasas, California has a new wireless system. The 1,200 student & faculty facility is the sixth largest of the California Association of Independent Schools. They replaced an existing network with the Wi-Fi Array hardware from Xirrus, 12 units of different configurations, plus a remote power system. Each array has the capacity for three classrooms with 400 notebooks (75 per node max) and six print servers.

Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada is the site of a now-finished 12-month test of a hotzone run by WebNet Converged Wireless Network (CWN), which also has offices in Las Vegas. The company says 12 more Canadian territories have signed up to go online soon, and there are 125 “lucrative markets” it has an eye on in the U.S. and Canada, mostly those it finds with dark fiber and a pent-up demand but no actual broadband. It plans to make a big splash next week at WiMax World in Boston.

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