Pronto, Tropos Ink Metro Agreement

By Ed Sutherland

August 03, 2004

It's a sign of the growth of metro-area wireless networks when a hotspot management company signs on to work with a leading mesh equipment provider.

In a sign of the growth of metropolitan Wi-Fi networks, hotspot management company Pronto Networks has announced a partnership with metro-scale wireless system builder Tropos Networks.

The partnership "is an affirmation that this is a growing market," says Bert Williams, vice president of marketing for Tropos. Williams says that a year ago, companies were not paying attention to metro-scale wireless deployments.

Unlike Wi-Fi hotspots, which are usually limited to a café, bookstore or park, metro Wi-Fi creates a wireless 'cloud' providing broadband coverage to a city, either in sections or entirely. Examples range from Cerritos, Calif. on the West Coast to a proposed Wi-Fi network in New York City.

The agreement "allows municipalities to carve out the network logically for different users and constituents, from public safety employees to community residents, and from private enterprise users to visitors in public areas," according to a statement from Jasbir Singh, president and CEO of Pronto Networks.

Pleasanton, Calif.-based Pronto brings to the table its Operations Support Systems (OSS) software for broadband wireless networks, and its Hotzone Gateway. The addition is expected to improve both the front-end user experience as well as the back-end tasks of managing a large wireless network.

Tropos provides its 802.11-based 5110 Wi-Fi cell mesh router and Tropos Control element manager.

The non-exclusive partnership between Pronto and Tropos provides metro Wi-Fi networks "the necessary components," says Williams.

To date, the joint solution from Pronto and Tropos is being used in a 16 square mile area of Chaska, Minn., and the more than eight square mile metro network in Cerritos, Calif. The two cities have deployed metro-scale Wi-Fi installations to provide city workers and public safety employees with a broadband connection. Business members and city residents are also offered access.

While unwilling to be specific, both Williams and Pronto marketing director Mary Melecki Roach say "other joint deals are still in the pipeline."

Along with improved security, the agreement adds several features for users of metropolitan Wi-Fi networks.

"Once our joint solution is deployed, we are able to offer additional services on top of Wi-Fi for municipalities, such as VoWLAN, subscriber management, and localized branding within a hotzone," said Singh.

"Pronto's technology allows for the customization of the citywide hotzone splash page as well as localized 'street corner' branding of splash pages within a hotzone," says Roach.

Pronto says the additional management will allow cities to sell local businesses access to the metro network.

The agreement "allows municipalities to sublet the hotzone network to Virtual Network Operators (VNOs) who would want to offer their own services on the municipalities' Wi-Fi infrastructure," according to Roach.

As well as handling the billing tasks for metropolitan Wi-Fi networks, Pronto's agreement to assist Tropos provides the ability for cities to establish differing levels of service for public and private users.

City employees can be authenticated using their individual Wi-Fi devices, while public users will be able to connect using login and password identification. Likewise, a city will be able to allocate features.

"Employees can be given best quality of service guarantees over public users," says Roach.



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