Hotspot Hits

The latest in public access Wi-Fi: airports in Phoenix, Grand Rapids and San Luis Obispo add Wi-Fi; Maine looking to go statewide with wireless; Carlisle, PA owes hotspots to student request; and more.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is now offering free Wi-Fi service, installed by the city council and airport officials. The signals are found in retail areas, either side of the security cordon, and near the gates.  Installation took about a year and cost about $200,000 to hook up 40 access points

Speaking of airports, ICOA Airport Networks has expanded into airports #26 and 27: Gerald R. Ford International Airport of Grand Rapids, Michigan  (second busiest in the state), which has free access for surfing in all passenger areas,  and San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport  on the central coast of California. No word on charges there.

Nortel and Option say they have successfully tested an HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) (define) data card (with a Qualcomm chip)  on a test network in Châteaufort, France to get a data transmission rate of 3.6Mbps. HSDPA, an upgrade to current UMTS networks,  is a competitor with 3G services like EV-DO, and maybe even Mobile WiMax (which promises to be faster, but is still a couple of years away).

December 21, 2005

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a story saying that the state of Maine might be looking at being the first to go statewide with a wireless network. The governor is proposing that a service be installed by the year 2010 to cover 90 percent of the communities there with more than five people per square mile. It's part of the Connect Maine initiative that also would provide statewide cellular phone coverage by 2008.

The city of Diamond Bar, California is the first to implement the NextZone Connectivity Solutions of NextPhase Wireless, which combines Wi-Fi with Broadband over Power Line (BPL) and structured cabling. The service is for city officials only while they attend meetings at city hall.

PennLive.com says the city of Carlisle, Pennsylvania owes its limited downtown hotzone service in three restaurants to a proposal made by a 15-year-old high school student who wanted to surf the Web while downtown on North Hanover Street. The service was set up by PA.Net of Mechanicsburg. If it sees a lot of use, the network could be expanded into other businesses downtown, at no expense to the venues. The WISP also has Wi-Fi service at the Bosler Memorial Library.

The regional Manchester Airport in Great Britain and its service provider Telindus are using a Trapeze Networks WLAN Mobility System to provide Wi-Fi services to the public and operations personnel of the busy airport. The public service is "in association with T-Mobile," so any T-Mobile Hotspot subscriber can get access at any point in the terminals where signals are available. T-Mobile access is also available at at Nottingham East Midlands, Bournemouth and Humberside airports, which are all run by Manchester Airports Group.

NEC Infrontia of Japan is using Proxim Wireless equipment —  a specially-designed version of the ORiNOCO AP-4000 access point supporting Japanese frequency bands —  to unwire all the locations of two major retail chains in that country. The network will be used to put in hotspots plus point-of-sale features for the retailers. The total number of APs needed will run up to 20,000 access points. No word on who the retailers are, or what, if anything, they'll charge shoppers for access.

Rioplex Wireless of south Texas has installed a 5,000 square mile broadband wireless network there using BreezeACCESS VL products from Alvarion. The network is built on licensed radio frequencies —  Rioplex owns it all, even down to the last mile. Target audience for the service is businesses and "high bandwidth consumers," according to the company.

It wasn't enough to put wireless service throughout the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place's 800 rooms in Chicago. Now Chicago's Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) is expanding that service —  which uses IP3 Networks' NetAccess equipment —  to cover the entire McCormick Place convention center and historic Navy Pier. Total size of the network is about 6 million square feet along the Lake Michigan shore. The network will support 3,000 simultaneous users.

December 16, 2005

The city of San Francisco has narrowed down the choices to five companies to provide the wireless network for its citywide TechConnect initiative. They are: EarthLink, Google, HP, MetroFi and Skytel/MCI. All would provide open access for all providers, except for SkyTel/MCI; most would also provide free access in parks and public spaces, though MetroFi and Google would be free throughout the city, albeit at limited data rates. 26 companies replied to the request for proposal (RFP), though only the five above were complete turnkey proposals with all the details. Others included Cisco, AnchorFree and Cingular.

NextPhase Wireless says it has extended the reach of its pre-WiMax wireless broadband network into Riverside County and San Bernardino County in California.  The company recently bought Blazen Wireless, and is on track to provide service to as many as 135,000 potential southern California customers this year. They charge $299 for T1-like service, and claim they can get things installed in less than five days after an order is placed.

December 15, 2005

The big bookstore chains love to provide for-fee Wi-Fi. Here's the latest openings (with a preponderance of them in Texas):  Barnes and Noble has new locations at (or coming next year to) Highland Village, Texas (near Dallas/Fort Worth); another in Dallas itself; at Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave, Texas (near Austin); Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Carle Place, New York on Long Island; Fenton, Missouri; and Williamsburg, Virginia. All will feature SBC FreedomLink Wi-Fi service for $4 for two hours or $20 a month. Borders Books & Music, meanwhile, is opening a store near NASA's Johnson Space Center in Baybrook, Texas, as well as in Scottsdale, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Everett, Washington; Suwannee, Georgia; and, coming in 2006, a new store in New York City's Two Penn Plaza. Borders' Wi-Fi is courtesy of T-Mobile Hotspots. Cost is $6 per hour, $10 per day, or $40 for month-to-month service.

France Telecom-owned mobile carrier Orange is ready to go Wi-Fi, planning a hotspot network for businesses that will combine the use of 802.11, 3G and GPRS technologies to give laptop users access to the Internet. The network is actually provided by partner BT OpenZone, which has about 12,000 hotspot locations in Europe. Cost is £6 an hour, and is accessed by using a username/password combination received by text message. Wi-Fi service will launch on Dec. 19, with a Business Everywhere package targeting mobile workers to follow by January 2006.

Lee County in Georgia is planning a major wireless initiative across the county using pre-WiMax equipment installed by service provider Camvera Networks of Dunwoody, Georgia. The network will provide broadband for residents and businesses, as well as first responders and county personnel, even in areas without DSL or cable. The service is called Camvera Connects, and is a public/private partnership. It should launch in February 2006. As of the 2000 census, Lee County had a population of just under 25,000 people; it covers 362 square miles.

December 13, 2005

Boulder City, Nevada is the latest city on the municipal mesh wireless bandwagon. It's working with Triad Wireless to install a dual network, using 4.9 GHz for public safety mesh and 5.8 GHz for mesh backhaul, with equipment from SkyPilot Networks. Triad bases its 4.9GHz S.P.I.R.I.T. (Secured Public Integrated Radio Infrastructure Technology) system on equipment from SkyPilot, saying it provides "improved performance and carrier-class reliability." The city expects to use the 4.9 network for everything up to video surveillance transmission in the 45-mile circumference around the city.

More additions to the Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess network: the Memphis Tennessee area now has EV-DO  in Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Cordova, Germantown, Horn Lake, Kerrville, Lakeland, Millington, Olive Branch, Rosemark, Southaven and West Memphis.

Is it possible there's a location in Korea without wireless? Apparently, there was one in the Suncheon train station. But Air Broadband Communications had one of their Airobatics WLAN switches installed there, and fixed that problem.

SmartVideo's video on demand service will soon be available at all 1,500 hotspots operated by ICOA, including the LinkSpot and iDock locations in RV parks and marinas, respectively. This isn't the first deal for SmartVideo at hotspots — it has deals with HotPoint WirelessWireless Oceans, and even Pronto Networks as part of its UniFi Digital Communities Grid program as well.

Wayport's latest hotel with broadband: the Doubletree Hotel Bellevue in Seattle near the Meydenbauer Convention Center now has 353 guest rooms and 28 meeting rooms with high-speed Ethernet, and Wi-Fi in all the public areas.

5G Wireless continues to line up higher education customers for its cellular-like Wi-Fi service. The latest is Westchester Community College in Valhalla, New York -- one of the many colleges in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. 5G hopes this will be a testbed to get them into the other 63 schools in the system. Westchester will cover its 218-acre campus using a single base station on a roof and a few indoor units.

December 12, 2005

Verizon Airfone says that if it wins the auction next year of 4 MHz in the 800MHz RF band from the FCC, it can have services like CDMA and Wi-Fi in airplanes by 2007.  The company got permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to install Wi-Fi equipment in June of this year. However, WiFiNetNews points out that other contenders include AirCell, Connexion by Boeing and OnAir. Airfone already uses the 4MHz in question for its in-flight phone service, but would have to cut back to 1MHz if someone else wins.

The Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess and VCAST services, running on high-speed EV-DO (Evolution Data-Optimized), are coming to more towns  in Virginia: Norfolk, Newport News, Portsmouth, Hampton and Poquoson; the northern portions of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Suffolk; and parts of Williamsburg, York County and James City County. This brings the number of metro markets up to 171 cities plus 69 airports.

December 9, 2005

A hearing was held by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for the public to give input about TechConnect, the city's proposed Wi-Fi network.

The Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg said earlier this week that it's using two Vivato base stations and ten microcells in buildings to cover the campus with Wi-Fi, the first Penn State U to do so.

Airspan Networks has been working with BEC Telecom S.A. in the Dominican Republic to cover that country's rural areas with broadband, part of the Rural Public Telephony Phase II Project to reach 1,750 communities in 18 provinces there. BEC-TEL is using Airspan cellular and point-to-multipoint radios, and will be doing field trials with Airspan's WiMax/802.16-2004 equipment when available.

December 7, 2005

The city of Portland, Oregon, already one of the most unwired cities around, is shooting for citywide Wi-Fi. The Oregonian said this week that finalists for installing and operating the network, called Unwire Portland, are down to three: EarthLink (the big winner already of Philadelphia), MetroFi (who this week also announced it would do free Wi-Fi for the 130,000 residents of Sunnyvale, Calif.), and local company VeriLAN. Portland's network will provide broadband for residents and businesses, and it will also be used by the municipality for emergency services and data collection on things like parking meters. All three vendors expect to charge about $20 a month for access, but will offer options for lower-income users: either half-price, free service with lower speeds (VeriLAN), or free service with ads (MetroFi— that's how they're doing it free in Sunnyvale, or you can pay the $20 a month there to avoid the ads).

MobilePro's NeoReach division — which got bumped out of the running for Portland — has plenty going on to keep it busy. This week, it announced that the City Council of Farmers Branch, Texas has asked it to install a Wi-Fi network to cover the 12 square mile town. The company also revealed that it's using Pronto Networks UniFi Managed Services to control its wireless networks, starting with the recently-launched Tempe, Arizona hotzone. NeoReach uses Strix Systems hardware in its deployments.

Ugliest rumor in the Wi-Fi grist mill this week is that BellSouth has withdrawn an offer to build a new police headquarters building for the city of New Orleans — all  because New Orleans wants to build a free Wi-Fi network. According to the Washington Post report, it depends on who you talk to, as the city says the withdrawal happened, but BellSouth says the offer is still on the table. BellSouth, however, has a habit of fighting muni networks in Louisiana.

Airpath's WiBOSS Lite product — specifically used by providers that don't want to charge customers for Wi-Fi access — is powering hotspots in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, at City Hall Common and the Union Station transportation center.

Nortel says it's in the process of installing the first WiMax network in Canada. It's working with the Alberta Special Areas Board and WISP NETAGO Wireless to make sure rural areas get the 3.5GHz-based fixed wireless broadband service. Once it's complete in the summer of 2006, they expect it to cover 8,000 square miles (21,000 square kilometers) in the southeastern part of the province.

Quiconnect is helping extend access for Sprint Nextel hotspot users. Now, travelers can get on 800 hotspots operated by PT Wi-Fi in the country of Portugal, and Sprint is also going to use the virtual network access that Quiconnect lined up with Hub Telecom throughout France earlier this year.

JiWire reports that, according to their database of hotspots, there are 92,474 active sites worldwide — so, considering all those that don't bother to get listed, we're probably well over 100k. South Korea has the most after the US (32,350) and the UK (12,608), but Seoul moved up the list past London to become the number one city with 1,918 hotspots all by itself. With numbers like that, who needs citywide Wi-Fi?

The new Hard Rock Hotel San Diego in the city's Gaslamp Quarter will be designed for jet-setting rock stars who can afford the suite rooms in the condo hotel. A night will start at $400, but each room has the following: "state-of-the-art lighting, an ultra-tech entertainment center featuring an LCD television, CD/DVD and iPod connections, a martini bar, plush feather-top bedding, an oversized workstation, Wi-Fi Internet access and a laptop safe." Martini bars and laptops make a great combination, don't they?

December 2, 2005

The Billings Gazette says that TCT West, using subsidiary Yellowstone Wi-Fi, has launched various wireless network trials in the town of Cody, Wyoming. They started deploying a year ago, and turned it on last summer in a soft launch. By next summer, they expect to start a marketing push aimed at tourists. The network covers the regional airport and reaches the rodeo grounds, using about 30 APs mounted on light poles (they don't say whose equipment is in use). TCT West is paying Cody $1 per pole per month for the rights, after spending $100,000 to deploy the system. They'll charge $30 per month or $6 an hour to end users.

There are 84 hotspots in operation now in Bucaramanga, Floridablanca and Girón, all cities in Colombia. They're run by Colombia Telecom's ISP, Telebucaramanga, which began rolling them out in June. They hope to have 105 locations by the end of the year. Access is free to start, but they'll begin charging sometime in 2006.

December 1, 2005

MobilePro's NeoReach subsidiary has two more cities on the unwiring docket: Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, both in Ohio. The cities plan to eventually cover their entire area with Wi-Fi (28 square miles for Cuyahoga Falls, 62 in Akron). NeoReach usually uses equipment from Strix Systems in their deployments — such as the Tempe, Arizona launch of what it says is the first true citywide (not town-wide) hotzone. The networks will need final approval from the city councils. Each will start with a portion of downtown getting Wi-Fi. Once the networks are complete, users will be able to roam between the two cities, which are only about five miles apart. Neoreach is also setting up Wi-Fi for the city of Sacramento, California.

It's not exactly a hotspot, but Skyhook Wireless' Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) uses existing Wi-Fi — hotspots, home networks, corporate networks, whatever it can find — to pinpoint a person's location, just like GPS satellites or cell towers do. This week, the Boston-based company said the service is now active in 70 U.S. metro areas, up from the 25 it had at launch earlier this year. The list of cities is online.

Norwegian mobile phone service provider Telenor is letting subscribers get free access to 400 hotzones. All they do is use their mobile number in place of a user name, and the password they use when accessing their account on the Telenor Web site. The company has a coverage map of the 400 Telenor hotspots online. While the access is free, the downloading is not, as the announcement's fine print points out: "Subscribers only pay for the amounts of data transferred, regardless of whether this is e-mails or web page access."

5G Wireless says its "cellular-style Wi-Fi" is going to power the 33-acre campus hotzone at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland. 5G is going the extra mile to camouflage their hardware when it's mounted on buildings so it will blend in, due to "cosmetic concerns."

This article was first published on Wi-FiPlanet.com.





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