FootLoose Steps Up

By Eric Griffith

December 10, 2002

Hot on the heels of the Cometa Networks announcement, Wireless Retail -- the in-store reseller of cell phones -- has announced a new subsidiary that will build out a national Wi-Fi hotspot network.

Wireless Retail, Inc., of Scottsdale, AZ, a leading retailer of wireless phones, service plans and more via the MobileGateway store and mall kiosk chain and 'store-in-a-store' staffed kiosks at retailers like Sam's Club and Wal-Mart, has announced the launch of FootLoose Networks. This new subsidiary exists to facilitate the creation of a carrier-agnostic, Wi-Fi network the company hopes will span the entire United States.

Joe Truscelli, president at FootLoose Networks, says of the new venture, "We've done a lot on the retail side, [by] offering choice for consumers. We want to do the same for the Wi-Fi customer. You don't want the door [at the hotspot] to have seven different logos on it. It's an easy way for us to create a standard."

With the background of Wireless Retail working with the major wireless carriers, Truscelli feels FootLoose can leverage that experience and the distribution channels they have with major retailers.

The company logo features a large footprint icon that doubles as an exclamation point at the end of the name in their logo that reads "FootLoose... and wire free." Eventually they hope that same arch and give toes will be found in and on various hotspots established around the country. The goal, ultimately, is "to work with carriers to roll out their Wi-Fi," say Truscelli. "We believe in the shared network. We think it's the only way people can make it work."

That means helping the current crop of cellular carriers roll out a hotspot network akin to what T-Mobile has done with their Starbucks deal. FootLoose wants to work with the other carriers, such as Verizon, Cingular, and others, in making the major deals with national chains to get the largest footprint possible.

FootLoose would then handle billing and authentication for the Wi-Fi end users, using a flat rate pricing structure shared across all the carrier hotspots. Each carrier still has their own billing plans, but the end user would use it for not only voice on their handset but also data on the laptop (and eventually even Wi-Fi data on the handset).

No official announcements have been made yet on who FootLoose will be working with, but the company hopes to release something soon.

Truscelli feels the current model, where everyone has their own network and no two have the same way of doing things, won't work, and that it alienates end users.

"The clients need to feel the can go anywhere to use it," he says. "We intend to create a standard."

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

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