New competition for the many online hotspot directories (including our own HotspotList.com) is out in … paper? Don’t discount it, since it is the Zagat Survey mini-guide of 2003 Wi-Fi Hotspots. It is part of the Sept. 22 issue of The New Yorker, and lists 50 Zagat top-rated hotels and restaurants with hotspots in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. The guide is sponsored in part by Intel, as further promotion for next week’s One Unwired Day (Thursday, Sept. 25, means free access at these and other hotspots). Intel has a PDF version of the guide online.
Also ready to participate in One Unwired Day are: iPass, which provides access for enterprise users, and Telerama, the Pittsburgh based WISP with 100 hotspots in its home town. Telerama will go a bit further than some with information tables set up at select hotspot locations to provide information to passersby; they’re even drafting some local college students to help spread the word.
Sprint loomed large in the hotspot world this week. First, it announced the official launch of its PCS Wi-Fi Access service. The company is shooting to have 2,100 hotspots accessible to subscribers by 2004. Cost for access is $6.95 per 24 hours until Dec. 31, 2003; then it goes up to $9.95. No monthly plans have been announced, though Sprint says eventually usage charges will go right on the bill of PCS cell phone customers. It’s offering PCS Connection Manager Software to facilitate easy connections at its hotspots.
The carrier also signed a roaming agreement with Wayport that allows customers of the PCS Wi-Fi Access service to log on at any Wayport network location (600 hotels, 13 airports, McDonald’s in San Francisco, etc.).
Finally, Sprint opened its own hotspot covering the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn. The Mohegan Sun infrastructure is provided by InnerMobile, which provides in-building antenna systems that can be used by various wireless technologies, from Wi-Fi to cellular. They provide complete coverage of the resorts’ convention and conference area.
BT is the latest mobile operator to announce plans to turn payphone booths into hotspots. The British operator said that it would install BT Openzone access points in more than 200 kiosks by Christmas, and 4000 by summer 2004. Initial spots will be near hotels, cafes or restaurants. To promote the new hotspots, BT is offering free usage for the first 90 days to anyone that buys a Centrino-powered Dell notebook computer. Earlier this year, Verizon and SBC announced that they would install Wi-Fi in payphone sites in the United States.
Meanwhile, Australian Telecom giant Telstra said this week that it is not interested in becoming a big hotspot player, and does not plan to expand its public wireless LAN network. The operator, which launched its hotspot service in July, said cost and security were two main factors in the decision. The company indicated that it would continue to support its existing network, hinting at new products that will allow roaming between its hotspots and GPRS network.
Denver’s luxury Hotel Teatro will be using coaXmedia of Duluth, Georgia, to get high-speed Internet connections in its rooms via Ethernet, and to provide Wi-Fi in the hotel’s public areas. coaXmedia has reportedly installed high-speed Internet in 5,000 hotel rooms this year alone with its Series 6100 system of broadband gateway with access appliances for hotels and multi-dwelling unites (MDUs).
In other hotel news, Starwood Hotels and Resorts has expanded its Wi-Fi rollout to its W Hotels. All 16 U.S. W Hotels now offer high-speed wired Internet access in guest rooms and meeting rooms, and all but the Honolulu property offer 802.11b wireless networking in common areas. The chain’s flagship, the W Times Square in New York, is wireless throughout the entire hotel, and the company said that Wi-Fi would be available in guestrooms in all of its U.S. hotels by the end of next year.
San Mateo, Calif.-based metro-mesh networking supplier Tropos Networks is playing nice with the cops in its home town. This week, the San Mateo Police Department showed off how it will be using a Tropos-powered network so officers can get data in the field. This hotzone connects cops directly to a county-wide Intranet called LAWNET, which provides access to things like the Amber Alert System, DMV records with photos, a Sex Offenders database and other databases. The mesh consists of 17 Tropos Wi-Fi cells, only two of which actually connect via wires back to the wired network.
Case Western Reserve University’s non-profit OneCleveland project , which says it has opened the “largest Wi-Fi hotspot in the nation” in Cleveland’s University Circle, consisting of 1,230 Cisco access points, launched this week with six major partners. They include ideastream (which runs a TV and radio station in Cleveland), the City of Cleveland itself, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, and the Cleveland Municipal School District. They expect to sign up a couple dozen more in the next few months, all of which will merge their networks with Case Western’s to help spread free Wi-Fi across the city.
In Bangkok, Thailand, the Kasetsart University says it has one of the largest academic wireless nets in all of Southeast Asia. Called KUWiN (Kasetsart University Wireless Network), it covers 43 buildings on the Bangkhen campus. The school used Cisco Aironet 1100 Series and 350 Series access point products, controlled by Cisco Catalyst 3500 Series switches, exclusively. The campus already has a wired networked (called NontriNet) that provides VoIP services and connects it to three other campuses. Eventually those other campuses will also get a version of KUWiN, providing wireless access to a total of 30,000 faculty, staff, and students.
One more school going Wi-Fi: Hackettstown, N.J.’s Centenary College claims to be the first school of higher learning in that state to be “100 percent wireless.” All full-time undergraduates with laptops have been provided a dual-band equipped IBM ThinkPad laptop with access to the Internet and college systems over the Wi-Fi network, which was created in partnerships with IBM, InfoTech, and TekConnect.
PGA pros enjoyed wireless access courtesy of SMC Networks as they teed off at the 84 Lumber Classic this week in Farmington, Pa. The company set up a wireless network at the host Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa that extends to the players tent. Hotel staff are using the Wi-Fi access to order services and make reservations for players, officials and guests from the tent. The resort said it plans to use the network to support future events as well.
As Wi-Fi continues to catch on, there will be the equivalent of a wireless gold rush as providers compete for the most desirable hotspot locations, according to the META Group. The Stamford, Conn.-based research firm says that by late 2004, hotspots will become a viable addition to enterprise remote-access strategies, and enterprises will be able to purchase Wi-Fi access in bundles with cellular and other services.