Hotspot Hits for March, 2006

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

March 30, 2006

Find the best city for teleworking; Boingo adds 30 locations; Earthlink bags Milpitas, CA, deal; and much more

The same folks who rank the Most Unwired Cities in the United States — Sperling's BestPlaces, with sponsorship by Intel — today announced the "Best City for Teleworking" as Washington D.C., based on factors like average commute time, fuel prices, and broadband availability. The study defines teleworking as the ability to have work come to you wherever you are, not just the standard telecommute of staying at home (and of course they note that more people can do that because of wireless technology such as Intel Centrino Duo Mobile Technology in laptops). They rated 80 metro areas and ranked them by "extra large" (Boston, Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco, among others), "large" (San Jose, Baltimore, Denver, San Diego, Indianapolis), "medium" (the Bridgeport area in Connecticut was #1) and "small" (Boulder, Colorado). Ratings were based on the percentage of office workers in each area, and how much gas and hours of labor could be saved per year with more telework. Washington businesses, for example, could save over $1 billion by letting office employees work where they want. The city of New York could save $3.2 billion.

March 29, 2006

The free municipal Wi-Fi mesh network of New Orleans — which the city's CIO calls "the lifeblood of so many businesses" in the town still recovering from the wake of Hurricane Katrina — was supposedly threatened with a shut down. Turns out the emergency Wi-Fi network, which was set up after the storm through use of previously installed equipment as well as new volunteer efforts with donated equipment, ran afoul of a Louisiana law prohibiting free, municipal broadband networks that run at 144 Kbps or faster. Who cares, right? By all reports, BellSouth did, and wanted the network shut down. USA Today reports that BellSouth claims it hasn't challenged the network at all. That's directly the opposite of how the city CIO, Greg Meffert, interpreted BellSouth's intentions when he spoke to them. Hopefully, it won't matter either way: New Orleans has called EarthLink in to take over running the network. The ISP will spend $15 million on it over the next three years to go citywide. With the municipality no longer providing the service directly, it won't be in violation of the state law. Everyone wins (except maybe BellSouth). Today, 10,000 people use the New Orleans Wi-Fi regularly.

Bryant Park in New York City — one of the first in the country with free Wi-Fi for visitors, and the first with service sponsored by Google before it started applying for citywide projects — now has a form of secure access through Wibiki. Users can still log in for nothing, or they can download the Wibiki software for Windows or Macintosh and use that to get a secure connection without all the hassles of keys and authentication names. The main Wi-Fi service of the park is provided by the Public Internet Project.

Boingo Wireless has announced a major expansion of its virtual hotspot network. The company added 30 locations in Indonesia through Centrin Communications (including McDonald's restaurants), and 60 venues in Thailand through MilCom Systems, including three airports. In Belgium, Boingo is working with Telenet NV, which has 1,000 hotspot locations, including airports, train stations, conference centers and hotels, even gas stations. And back home in North America, the roaming network has 25 new airports online, including big city international terminals like Chicago's O'Hare and Midway, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, Indianapolis and Montreal. Boingo now has 125 airports in its network in North America, 225 airports worldwide, and a grand total of 25,571 venues worldwide.

Burleson, Texas will have a new citywide Wi-Fi network soon, courtesy of Chevron Energy Solutions and RedMoon Broadband. It will be used, at least to start, in a trial of automatic meter reading (AMR), specifically on 30 water meters retrofitted with wireless transmitters. 

Verizon Wireless says its BroadbandAccess EV-DO network is now available in all five boroughs of New York, after it recently finished deployment for Staten Island. Cost is $60 a month with a two-year commitment.

March 22, 2006

EarthLink has bagged another customer: the city of Milpitas, California. The city, on the south end of San Francisco Bay, will have a 6.5 square mile mesh network (likely installed by EarthLink's preferred vendor, Tropos Networks, though it isn't mentioned in the release). As with other announced networks, EarthLink will let other providers get access to sell services over the network. EarthLink also has a similar deal with Anaheim, California, and of course with Philadelphia. Milpitas is a close neighbor to the Silicon Valley cities of Cupertino, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, all of which are getting metro-scale Wi-Fi from MetroFi to be provided free if you look at ads. To date, EarthLink hasn't announced any free options with its wireless broadband plans.

It's not enough to use your Wi-Fi on a plane to surf the Internet while you're traveling — think about the gaming possibilities. Connexion by Boeing has, and through customer Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) (and with partner Intel), it's today hosting a flight filled with gamers going from Copenhagen to New York for the Global Gaming League's AmeriCup vs. EuroCup competition. While in the air, the gamers will use laptops to battle each other live while at 30,000 feet in games like Quake 4 and Counter-Strike. Connexion says in the announcement that its service is on 133 planes traveling 170 routes every day.

TengoInternet has signed a contract with Outdoor World to put TengoZone Wi-Fi network service into the latter's 15 campgrounds found in states up and down the eastern seaboard (and Illinois).  That state, plus New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia, are all new locations for TengoInternet, giving it a presence in 28 states and Mexico. TengoZones cost $3 to $7 per day or $13 to $15 a week for access depending on the campground, though serious travelers can get monthly on up to annual roaming prices: $35 a month or $240 a year to use any TengoZone you want any time.

Infonetics Research of London says the future of wireless networks is mixed. Not that it won't be great, just that it will mix all sorts of wireless technology, from Wi-Fi to WiMax to EV-DO, etc. The study says that 18 carriers in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific spent $2.9 billion on such networks last year, and that will go up almost 41 percent by 2007 to $4.1 billion, all in hopes of replicating the success of the wireline broadband days. 3G and WiMax will probably see the most dramatic growth.

March 20, 2006

St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean is home to a new wireless mesh network hotspot. Installed by local provider Choice Communications using equipment from BelAir Networks (and back-end software from Airpath), the network provides broadband around Havensight Mall, covering about a square mile, including nearby businesses and the docks for cruise ships, so travelers and crew can use it to go online.

Earlier this month, Laguna Broadcasting Network (LBNet) switched the hotspot in downtown Laguna Beach, California to a free model (they used to charge $20 for 500 minutes). They say it's relatively low-speed and requires viewing advertisements, but they still offer high-speed with no ads for $15 a month for residents or those who just hate commercials.

March 17, 2006

ABI Research thinks that metropolitan Wi-Fi networks of the world will go from the piddling 1,500 square miles of coverage they had in 2005 to 126,000 square miles — that's 325,000 square kilometers — by 2010. Note, that's bigger than the entire state of New Mexico. That deployment will require 1 million mesh routers to ship in 2010, resulting in revenues of over $1.2 billion. That is, of course, assuming that mesh doesn't get supplanted by WiMax or some cellular type of technology, but the report focuses on the mesh equipment providers new and old like BelAir Networks, Cisco Systems, Firetide, MeshDynamics, Motorola, Nortel Networks and others. says the city of Rome, Georgia has awarded an RFP to Gibson Technical Services (GTS) to install a Wi-Fi hotzone in the downtown area. GTS plans to use equipment from Tropos Networks and Pronto Networks, with Internet service from Air Infinite.

March 13, 2006

T-Mobile Germany is going to be the first provider to offer seamless roaming across disparate wireless networks such as HSDPA, GPRS and Wi-Fi. The capability, set for launch in the summer, will be deployed by Nortel Networks using Azaire Networks' IP Converged Network Platform (IP-CNP). Azaire calls it an "integrated hybrid network," and says it's more cost-effective for operators who've already invested in one type of network. T-Mobile will be able offer SIM authentication for secure roaming, plus completely integrated accounting and billing for enterprise customers. The companies demonstrated the technology at CeBIT in Germany last week. SingTel Optus in Australia will also be using IP-CNP for its Optus Wireless Connect services. Azaire says it is the only fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) technology vendor with actual customers deployed instead of just trials.

March 8, 2006

Not all the McDonald's restaurants in the US have had their Wi-Fi from Wayport turned on yet. For example, the 40 locations in the city of Austin, Texas get high-speed wireless with fries on March 13. Cost is $2.95 per day, but exclusive to residents of Austin, they can sign up for a $5-a-month membership that has no annual commitment, with no charge for the first month. Each paid Wi-Fi connection until June 16 will also mean one dollar donated to the Ronald McDonald House being built in 2007 at the Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas. (Wayport says it's still installing service at McDonald's locations at a rate of 100 venues per week.)

The non-profit Toronto Hydro Telecom (a subsidiary of Toronto Hydro Corp., which is in turn owned by the city of Toronto) announced this week its plans to turn Canada's largest city into a metro-sized hotzone. The network will launch in five phases, each covering different areas of the city, and each will have 100 percent coverage when completed. Phase one will cover the Bay Street financial district. Access will be free for the first few months, and later, charges will be competitive with local broadband services. Toronto Hydro is paying for everything, but no word on who the integrator or equipment supplier is yet, as the RFP only went out on February 8. The nearby city of Hamilton, Ontario is applying for a $400,000 grant to do the same thing downtown.

March 7, 2006

Madison, Wisconsin's Mad City Broadband project, which Georgia-based Cellnet is installing for use by citizens, businesses and first responders, will be powered by mesh equipment from Cisco Systems (the 4400 Series WLAN controllers with Aironet 1500 Series dual-radio APs). By the end of this month, they expect to have 150 access points in place covering a 10-mile radius around the capitol building. The network is another municipal install that cost the city nothing, and will be sold wholesale to other ISPs who want to provide service in Madison.

Nintendo says it has signed up 1 million unique users on its wireless gaming service for the Nintendo DS handheld game system, using Wi-Fi connections at home and in hotspots such as McDonald's. Nintendo says it's an all-time gaming record. Also, two new Wi-Fi enabled games are out for the platform: Tetris DS and Metroid Prime Hunters.

Hotzones could be a good investment, at least if you have the right tools: RoamAD claims that the Perth, Australia metromesh network run by aCure Technology has already made a 100 percent return on investment (ROI) after only nine months of operation. RoamAD runs the software in the background of the network, which metromesh says saved them 60 percent on upfront costs.

The cops, firefighters and EMTs of Plano, Texas will soon be on the wireless horn with each other, thanks to the city's plans to deploy Motorola's Motomesh equipment along with Motorola Canopy for long-distance wireless backhaul services. 200 police cruisers will have full-time wireless data communications running in the 4.9GHz band, which is reserved by the FCC for first responders. First phase will have access points deployed in specific areas, with the second phase completing a wireless cloud over the city.

March 6, 2006

Want free access at T-Mobile Hotspots (like those found at Starbucks)? Well, you can, on weekends. But only if you're a user of a T-Mobile cellular phone plan. Just visit any of their 6,500 locations on Saturday or Sunday (until 3am ET on Monday morning) and open a Web browser to enter your phone number. T-Mobile will send your phone a text message with a code you enter in the browser to get your free access. Try it while you can; T-Mobile says it’s a limited promotion.

Tropos Networks — poised to provide mesh equipment for big deployments in Philadelphia and elsewhere — says the city of St. Cloud, Florida is the first in the nation with 100 percent free citywide wireless coverage for all residents and businesses. The network was installed by HP and MRI. St. Cloud expects to extend the network from its current 15 square miles to 24 over the next decade, serving 74,000 residents.

March 2, 2006

Portland, Oregon-based VeriLAN has taken in some extra funding, and will use it toward a new proposal submitted to Long Beach, California for a citywide network. VeriLAN is a finalist to provide similar service in its hometown.

The Associated Press announced the financials of the Wireless Philadelphia deal that was finalized this week. EarthLink will rent use of 4,000 light poles in town (at $74 per pole per year, that's $296,000 annually) to cover 135 square miles with a mesh network and subsidize cheap access for low-income families ($10 per month). EarthLink will pay Philly $2 million up front, an advance on the first two years of revenue sharing, which the city will use to buy laptops for the poor. With Philly only contracted to get 5 percent of EarthLink's revenue, that means the company is expecting to make around $20 million per year. The WISP expects as many as 80,000 signups in the first two years, with the city government getting 3,000 accounts gratis or on the cheap. None of this happens, though, until EarthLink sets up a 15 square mile test network. says Miami-Dade County in Florida is considering a county-wide wireless network that would cover 2,000 square miles. It would be done sans taxpayer money, and the final cost, while not yet determined, would be "roughly the price of current dial-up," according to the site. The current plan calls for pilot programs to be running by November 2006 and the entire county covered by 2007, but if you consider how long it took Philly, add a few months to a year to that final date.

March 1, 2006

Craig Settles reports that the mayor of Philadelphia is in a press conference today to say that all the negotiations between EarthLink and the city are resolved — time to start deploying a major citywide Wi-Fi network. Settles says, despite telco naysayers on the financial viability of the project, the city stands to save $2 million a year by not having to pay said telcos for network access in city operations.

ICOA's iDockUSA has installed Wi-Fi service at several new marinas in the California cities of Brisbane, Martinez, Catalina Island and Corona del Mar. A few other new iDockUSA venues are becoming part of the total footprint of 50 locations through acquisition of services that are being rebranded.

New and forthcoming Barnes & Noble bookseller locations that are coming equipped with SBC FreedomLink Wi-Fi service can be found in Mankato, Minnesota; Buffalo and Colonie, New York; Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Lahaina, Hawaii; Sugar Land, Texas; Fairbanks, Alaska; and San Jose, California at Eastridge Mall.

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