Hotspot Hits

Hotspot Hits

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Written By Eric Sandler

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

March 20, 2007

Bruegger’s adds Wi-Fi at restaurants; AT&T; lets residential Wi-Fi customers roam; Bay Area’s AC Transit buses offer wireless; and more.

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Better late than never to the hotspot party: Bruegger’s Enterprises (mmm… bagels) has pegged MegaPath to provide Wi-Fi access to customers at 250 bakery/cafes in 19 states. That’s actually just an extra — MegaPath is mainly focused on providing new and improved restaurant point-of-sale (with real-time credit card processing) and polling technology using wireless — they say 100% of the restaurants can now report in every night with sales and inventory data, which leads to better forecasting.

March 16, 2007

For a while, AT&T was only letting its AT&T Remote Access customers get online via its roaming partner hotspots. Now, the company will allow any AT&T residential or small business premiere Wi-Fi subscriber to roam. That opens up 34,000 new locations in 79 countries to travellers of all types. AT&T has 48,000 hotspots on its network in total, 12,000 of which it runs itself or in partnership with providers like Wayport. The Wi-Fi premiere plan costs $22 a month, though it’s only $2 a month if you’re already an AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet customer. says AC Transit’s 78 green transbay buses will be Wi-Fi equipped by next month. That gives the 11,000 passengers a day crossing the Bay Bridge, Dumbarton Bridge or San Mateo-Hayward Bridge access to the Internet while riding. There will also be 10 regular buses that cross the Dumbarton Bridge with the service — the green motorcoaches are special, with “cushioned seats and individual seat lights.” Access for passengers will be free; cost to AC Transit is about $138,000 for deployment, but there’s no word on who the integrator is.

5G Wireless continues to offer services geared toward resorts and timeshares. The latest include plans for the Kingfisher Inn and the Sea Watch Inn at the Landing timeshare resorts on the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach, Florida; the Daytona Inn Beach Resort in Daytona Beach, Florida; and Tybrisa at the Beach on Tybee Island on the Georgia coast. All will begin deployment no later than the first week of April, and all are using the G-Force 650 indoor unit, which 5G says provides five times the coverage of regular Wi-Fi APs. 5G expects that revenues from such ventures will garner them $10 to $12 per room per month; the largest of the above properties is the Daytona Inn, with 154 timeshare units.

March 14, 2007

Wi-Fi-FreeSpot, a directory of hotspots that cost absolutely nothing, today joined the JiWire Network. Now all the free hotspot listings are incorporated into JiWire’s 143,000+ directory. It appears that FreeSpot will continue to live on for those who don’t want to wade through the listings of paid locations. JiWire’s directory will also now be powering hotspot searches for Microsoft, starting with MSN Wi-Fi Hotspots.

March 7, 2007

As was first reported as a possibility in December, EarthLink has purchased the citywide Wi-Fi network in Corpus Christi, Texas. EarthLink will now own it, and the EarthLink Municipal Networks business unit will become the public network provider, working with the CC Digital Community Development Corporation, a company created by the city just to run the network back end. Any residents can try the new EarthLink service for free for 30 days before signing up as a customer for $20 a month; as usual, EarthLink will offer other providers wholesale access to the network.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) now has a Wi-Fi network courtesy of Concourse Communications Group, a division of Boingo Wireless, in partnership with BAA Maryland. Service is on concourses A, B, C, D and E, and will be coming by the end of March 2007 to the baggage claim and ticket counter areas.

Finland’s first citywide Wi-Fi is in Oulu, according to Strix Systems, which provided its Access/One 2400 Outdoor Wireless System for the deployment of the network, called panOULU. The network has been in operation of some sort since 2003 (after trials with Nortel). It will provide free Wi-Fi connections to the general public; there are already 675 APs live, with 60 specifically handling outdoor coverage for city buses and ferries. Another 210 Strix APs will go in by the end of the year.

The city of El Paso, Texas plans to use Cisco’s wireless mesh equipment to install an outdoor network, part of the Digital El Paso Project. Cisco has Intel, Accela and Panasonic (through the Digital Communities Initiatives) helping out. The network will provide access for residents, students and businesses.

March 5, 2007

Want to win a free Sony mylo handheld communicator (profiled here) or possibly a 17-inch MacBook Pro? Tropos Networks is sponsoring a contest to get a photo of the “coolest use of a citywide Wi-Fi service.” Send it in using the Web form by midnight on April 12, 2007. Vote on the best pics until April 30. Semi-finalists get the Sony handheld ($349), and a grand prize winner gets the Mac ($2,898) on May 1.

Villanova University in Pennsylvania has begun upgrading its Wi-Fi network using equipment from Meru Networks, replacing Cisco infrastructure from a few years ago. The Meru WLAN currently covers five dorms and two academic buildings in the School of Arts and Sciences, but will expand to the School of Engineering soon. Eventually, the college wants to have it campus-wide for its 6,000 students.

Trapeze Networks is the provider of choice at the The University of the Arts (UARTS) not far away in Philadelphia. Of course, UARTS has only 2,500 students, but its four buildings have 33 floors all needing a signal. The buildings are connected by a Gigabit Ethernet backbone. Future plans for the Trapeze WLAN include adding VoIP.

Nortel and Colubris Networks will be the equipment providers in another train experiment. This one, run by 4G Metro, will go live on the Trinity Railway Express line running between Fort Worth, Dallas and DFW International Airport this summer. 5,000 passengers a day will get Internet access (no word on how much it will cost). The install will be a mix of Nortel’s municipal wireless products that mix mesh, WiMax and optics along the 36-mile route with Colubris’s system onboard the train. The two companies say they’re committed to product interoperability, and already claim the Colubris bridges get a good signal even running at up to 62 miles per hour.

Parlier, Sanger and San Joaquin, California, all towns in the Central Valley southeast of Silicon Valley, are now unwired through the efforts of local provider DLS-IT using third-gen MD4000 equipment from MeshDynamics. To cover the three cities (with their combined population of 35,000), DSL-IT installed just over 20 nodes. They’re used for public Web access, as well as for some wireless surveillance cameras in a couple of locations.

ComputerWeekly says the city of Paris will be unwired by partners Alcatel-Lucent for deployment and  mobile carrier SFR for operation and monitoring. They’ll launch it later this year using about 400 access points citywide.

March 6, 2007

The  New York State Thruway’s 27 travel plazas, stretching from Yonkers up to Angola (south of  Buffalo), all now provide free Wi-Fi access. Service went live on Thursday March 1 and  will be available to patrons who come inside to the seating area; reaching the parking lot with an extended signal is on the roadmap for the future. Total cost to the Thruway Authority to install the network: $170,000.

March 1, 2007

LifeHacker reported earlier this week on Hotspotr, a new mashup of Google Maps with user input of specific hotspot locations. Users get to rate hotspot venues (the site only lists them as “cafes”) not just on the quality of the wireless connection, but also on how good the food and drink are, if there are enough outlets, and more. As of this writing, there are only 3,538 “cafes” listed.

IBM says the city of Brownsville, Texas has hired the company to consult on and design a citywide, WiMax-based wireless network to the tune of $4 million. The network will be used by the city government, utilities and first responders; IBM and Brownsville will create a nonprofit designed to create a network for use by residents. The network, when installed, would be maintained by Rioplex Wireless. The current design calls for three towers to provide the coverage.

Trustive now has a roaming agreement with Vodafone Netherlands. The latter’s hotspot customers can now use the 10,000 hotspots in Trustive’s virtual network around the European Union, all transparently.

February 22, 2007

Napa, California is getting a 12-square-mile Wi-Fi network from AT&T Metro Wi-Fi. It will be for use by visitors (it’s wine country, after all!), residents, businesses and the city itself for municipal and public safety use (via 4.9 GHz overlay for first responders). Full construction will start soon, with phase one covering a two-square-mile area by the end of the summer, then expanding through 2008. Users can expect to pay for 1 Mbps download speeds, but no price was announced; an advertising-supported version with 200 Kbps downloads will be available to anyone for 10 hours per month.

February 21, 2007

Toledo, Ohio’s Toledo Blade reports that the 88-square-mile city only got two proposals in response to its RFP for citywide Wi-Fi. One was from local Buckeye CableSystem, the other from MetroFi. And the story says neither met the requirement the city had to provide free service to the city government’s operations. EarthLink and several others decided not to bid. MetroFi, which prides itself on free service to the masses (with a $20 ad-free option for those willing to pay) would have still required a $2.2 million payout from the city over five years to become the anchor tenant, or more if they used a licensed spectrum for public safety. And public safety was listed as the main reason the city went after a network. Buckeye also said it would need the city as a paying anchor tenant to be able to afford the deployment to the tune of $11 million (minimum). The city isn’t commenting until they review the proposals.

The First Watch Restaurant chain is installing complimentary Wi-Fi in all 68 locations across several states. It specializes in breakfast, brunch and lunch; the network provider is Atlanta-based Wandering WiFi.

GlobeTel says it will form a joint venture with VPN de Mexico that will unwire major areas of Mexico. The two have a test network live in Pachuca, in the state of Hidalgo, that’s been live since October. VPN’s parent company, Grupo IUSA, says it plans an “aggressive implementation” of GlobeTel’s HotZone technology to help customers do away with reliance on dial-up.

February 16, 2007

Score another win for EarthLink (is it EarthLink week around here?) — the ISP-turned-WISP announced today that St. Petersburg, Florida has picked it to build a 60-square-mile Wi-Fi network to blanket the city on the Gulf of Mexico. The deal has city council approval, and EarthLink will now enter contract negotiations. Initial bid for the build-out is $6.8 million paid by the company, with a total investment of $9.3 million to cover maintenance. Free access in public parks is likely, as well as free access from any location to the city’s Web site and the Web sites of local schools. EarthLink will charge its usual subscription fees for residents and businesses, and will offer wholesale access to other providers (PeoplePC and DirecTV are, as usual, mentioned, now along with Vonage, who signed last month to start providing Internet service through all of EarthLink’s municipal networks.)

February 14, 2007

The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco has delayed the vote on whether to install citywide wireless using EarthLink as the provider. Some want it to be owned by the city (and some of them just hate the mayor, whose idea it was a couple of years ago to install a metro-scale Wi-Fi network). The vote has been pushed back to March 20. Once the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission says it’s okay for EarthLink to use its light poles, the supervisors have 180 days to figure something out, at the latest, or it could all just get scrapped and have to start over.

EarthLink may want to just turn its attention south, to Los Angeles, version 2.0. The L.A. Times says the mayor there has a plan to get citywide Wi-Fi installed by 2009. The Times says the average cost of a muni-Fi net is $125,000 per square mile; the City of Angels covers 498 square miles. Total cost: $62 million to build. (By comparison, Houston, which just picked EarthLink as a provider, is 600 square miles.) The mayor wants the network to be a public-private partnership; he hopes to start accepting bids this fall. They’ve already put out a request seeking a consultant on the project.

February 13, 2007

EarthLink has another customer. It will soon be entering into negotiations with Houston, Texas to build the 600-square-mile network they want. The company beat out five other respondents to the request for proposal (RFP). Municipal wireless network analyst Craig Settles says, “This is just the news the company needs after their fourth quarter earnings led to some questions in the media about their future. I believe they’re in a good position now to build some serious momentum, because municipalities are going to feel EarthLink is the ‘safe’ and competent bet.” It will be the typical open-for-wholesale-access network from them, with PeoplePC and DirecTV mentioned as potential service providers over the network. EarthLink will offer a discounted rate to 40,000 low-income households in the city of $10 a month, maybe lower.

February 8, 2007

A new/old controversy for EarthLink’s plans in San Francisco: InfoWorld says the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC) has sent a letter to the board of supervisors to say that EarthLink’s service (and Google’s planned piggy-backing free service) don’t do enough to protect privacy. This is just the latest salvo — in April 2006 the ACLU-NC, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s West Coast Office (EPIC West) all made noise when the San Francisco TechConnect picked EarthLink and Google. EarthLink still believes the San Francisco roll-out is a given, but didn’t comment on the ACLU letter. Something that is new: a coalition called Public Net San Francisco thinks the city should dump the Wi-Fi and use the existing fiber optic network backbone to make a faster and free public broadband communications system.

February 7, 2007

Wayport has purchased ResortWiFi, an ISP for the hospitality industry, particularly at timeshares. It has 40 service contracts with customers that include Fairfield Resorts and Monarch Grand Vacations, all of which will soon be integrated into Wayport’s network.

If you weren’t a Fonera before, because that $5 fee to buy FON’s “La Fonera” Router was just too steep, there’s no excuse now. The company, based in Spain, wants to spread in the United States in a big way, and is giving away 10,000 routers to US residents. It’s one per user per shipping address. The offer stops when FON runs out of routers, or on March 31, whichever comes first. FON only asks that if you don’t use it, you pass it on to someone who will, thus spreading the Wi-Fi community goodness. FON claims it has 18,000 Foneras ordered for the U.S.

iPass has offered 3G service of some sort in the States for 18 months, but today said it will offer the same in the UK now, at least for users of T-Mobile’s UMTS/HSDPA network. The network supports 1.8 Mbps downloads. iPass claims to offer access for users at 75,000 Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide as well.  

China’s western city of Xi’an (population 7 million) will be a Wi-Fi city eventually, according to the plans of ALONG Mobile Technologies. The company has a backbone network there, and wants to install 1,000 Wi-Fi nodes in key areas throughout 2007. The local universities will work with ALONG on expanding student Wi-Fi access at 50 locations.

February 2, 2007

Reuters says that BT and FON may be on the verge of a deal. Home users with BT broadband service could soon start sharing their connections via the FON Wi-Fi community. The home networks of other FON users (called “Foneros”) would then be made available to any and all BT subscribers. FON claims 250,000 such member locations worldwide. To be a Fonero usually requires buying specialized hardware (a $5 router) or updating existing hardware to support FON. BT is experimenting with unlicensed mobile access (UMA) tech on dual-mode phones supporting mobile and Wi-Fi — this deal would increase the Wi-Fi-based location options for those phone users.

Strix Systems said earlier this week that its Access/One Network Outdoor Wireless Systems (OWS) equipment will power the first citywide mesh in India, in the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay, pop. 18 million). Provider LifeStyle Networks already has 1,000 nodes in place, and plans to install 2,000 more this year. The Wi-Fi Alliance says the total market for wireless in India will go from $41.57 million now to $744 million by 2012.

Tropos Networks has pegged the town of Las Vegas, New Mexico as its 500th customer. The city (with integrator Solana Technologies) is installing a municipality-owned and operated Wi-Fi mesh for use by the police department; the net will cover seven square miles. Tropos says it added 200 of its customers in 2006 alone.

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