Breaker Breaker, Good Buddy: Unwires Drivers

By Eric Griffith

November 06, 2003

Sprint's latest vertical market of choice is powering's network at truckstops along the nation's highways, serving 4.5 million potential patrons looking for access to the Internet.

In a joint operation announced today, Sprint and -- a wireless ISP targeting truckstops and travel plazas along the nation's highways -- said they plan to roll out hotspot services to as many as 3,000 sites in the next few years.

The multi-million dollar agreement puts in the retailer role, selling services to customers and on to end-users. Sprint will be providing the infrastructure. Roaming agreements will let subscribers use other locations. charges $29.95 a month.

Sprint recently announced moves into the Wi-Fi hotspot industry serving consumers with its PCS Wi-Fi Access initiative, promising 2,100 hotspots by the end of 2003. However, the company is keen on staying with verticals as well. There it can take advantage of an almost instant audience of users rather than wait for sign-ups to trickle in.

"This type of transaction is a win-win for Sprint and folks we work with," says Bruce Friedman, director of the Spring Mobile Computing Services group. "It's particularly interesting because we can overcome the problem of not having a large enough community of users -- vertical markets like trucking is a closed community. At an early stage we can get people communicating with each other.

Sprint has installed Wi-Fi for other vertical markets like healthcare and more recently in private aviation, where they did not only data access but also have customers using the WLAN for security such as video monitoring.

Sprint will start the project with installing about 300 hotspots per month and installation has already begun with about 25 completed, including the Rip Griffin Truck and Travel Centers in the western and southwestern U.S.

Sprint is not revealing anything about equipment being used, but did say a variety of methods of backhaul are being considered, including fixed wireless. The sites will feature 802.11b connections.

"There's no doubt, as this grows to a size where its makes sense, we'll put this network on the Sprint roaming agreement, so users will have access not just at truckstops," says Friedman. "For now, our role is the engineering of equipment, circuits, and managing the infrastructure."

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