Hotspots aren’t enough as the days of citywide Wi-Fi begin inexorably rolling in. So it’s little surprise that an outfit like The Cloud, the biggest hotspot network provider in Europe, let alone the United Kingdom, is looking to move into the municipal wireless business. In January, the company said it would launch such networks in the cities of London, Manchester and Birmingham. Today, it was revealed that the future networks, which would be used for multiple services such as meter reading and video monitoring, would be powered with mesh equipment from Tropos Networks.
Tropos says the deployments The Cloud has planned are for city center Wi-Fi hotzones that will expand the footprint of The Cloud’s existing hotspots. It has not revealed specific locations yet, but expects “a number of European projects to be announced during the year,” according to a statement.
The Cloud is a network wholesaler, selling use of its networks to multiple service providers. The company says this is the first time service providers operating on The Cloud’s infrastructure can be behind not just the Internet access, but also the value-adds — imagine multiple providers bidding to offer meter-reading services to a city.
Last year, The Cloud bought out European roaming service Excilan via its RoamPoint roaming business. It also expanded service to 85 railway stations, moved services into Sweden, established partnerships with Skype and Vodafone, and launched what it billed as the largest public access Wi-Fi network in a business district in Europe, the wireless project at London’s Canary Wharf covering 96 acres.
Tropos continues to defy the critics that say its single-radio approach to mesh networking is inferior to the multi-radio approach favored by other startups (such as BelAir Networks and Strix Systems) and well-established companies (Motorola). That’s probably because, in comparison, the company’s MetroMesh equipment is inexpensive and easy to configure. Tropos equipment is involved in 300 deployments worldwide. Its equipment is the basis for the networks going into Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Anaheim, California, and it’s a finalist in the running to unwire Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, all through a continued partnership with EarthLink, the dialup service provider trying to reinvent itself as a public Wi-Fi provider for big cities.