April 18, 2005
Two promising companies, one doing voice over Wi-Fi, another using cellular accounts to help pay for hotspot access, are having problems.
Sources are indicating that companies Excilan and TeleSym may be no more.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says that TeleSym, of Bellevue, Wash., laid off 40 people on Friday last week. The company received $18 million in venture capital when it began, including money from Intel.
The company made software meant to turn Wi-Fi enabled hardware, in particular PDAs, into VoWi-Fi phones. The company won several awards for its technology, including at DEMO. The company's CEO, Bob Hart, told the paper that the underlying technology of Telesym "wasn't up to the task" of a full-scale deployment. This is disputed by the founders, who were let go from the company in 2003.
Ultimately, the company's board of directors decided to let the company expire rather than face the task of rewriting the software from the ground up to get past working just on PDAs. The company hopes to sell the intellectual property to recoup money still owed to investors. The company's Web site appears to be shut down, and only says to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Meanwhile, Luxembourg-based Excilan has apparently filed for bankruptcy and halted service, according to Wi-Fi Networking News. E-mails to CEO Sean O'Mahoney went unanswered at press time. The company offered a service for hotspot providers that would allow surfers to enter a number on a sign-in Web page and get a call back confirming that they could go ahead and surf. All charges would then come out of the user's cell phone account.
In an e-mail to Wi-Fi Planet dated March 17, 2005 in response to a story about Pronto starting a competing hotspot authentication system for cellular carriers, O'Mahoney said, "I remain convinced our system is the fastest, most convenient and most customer-friendly in the world today." According to the company's Web site, which appears to be fully active, the service was available at 3,600 hotspots worldwide, with another 6,244 under contract.