Hotspot Hits for April, 2006

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

April 28, 2006

Long Island's Suffolk County considers 900 square miles o' wireless; British GNER trains ready to surf; Concord, CA, lights up hotzones; and much more

Suffolk County on Long Island — home to everything from suburbs to horse farms — is planning a 900 square mile wireless network that would bring free service to 1.5 million people, according to the New York Times. It might even extend into the ocean for boater use. So far, the county has a 15-person committee working on the details. No word on when or if an RFP will be issued to vendors/providers who might build the network.

April 27, 2006

21 out of the 41 trains operated by GNER in Britain are now outfitted with Wi-Fi, according to the company. The plan is to roll it out to the entire fleet of cars traveling the East Coast. They expect to finish the project nine months ahead of time (by August 2006) due to customer demand. GNER uses roof-mounted satellite dishes and mobile phone antennas for backhaul. Access is free in first class, with pay-as-you-go fees starting at £2.95 for 30 minutes in standard class.

Time for some citywide network requests for proposal (RFPs): Chicago will post a draft of their RFP in May before it goes out to vendors, in order to solicit suggestions. The St. Petersburg Times of St. Pete, Florida says the seaside city next to Tampa is going to issue a Wi-Fi RFP. Not far away, Treasure Island City is thinking about a network for use by citizens, businesses and first responders. And Riverside, California, with 300,000 residents just east of Los Angeles, has approved plans to put out an RFP for public access and city usage (like meter reading).

The INFORUM building in downtown Atlanta is becoming the hub of a broadband wireless network. First Mile Communications is working with Southern Telecom on the project, which will provide access to 5,600 business around the 990,000 square foot building, with the signal stretching out over a radius of five miles.

April 26, 2006

If you're an employee of a corporation with iPass service for remote access, but you hate lugging around a laptop, you may be in luck if you have a Nokia phone. The iPassConnect client software used to get access to the 50,000 hotspots in its virtual network is coming soon to the Nokia 9500 and 9300i devices (by the summer), as well as the E series phones (by the end of the year). Nokia is going to start by trialing use of iPass for its own employees. iPassConnect also runs on Windows, Mac and Windows Mobile.

San Francisco TechConnect apparently didn't listen, and picked vendors without a decent privacy policy in place to unwire that city. Now the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Electronic Privacy Information Center's West Coast Office (EPIC West) want the Wireless Silicon Valley Task Force to consider those factors as well before they make a choice. The Task Force will be issuing an RFP later this week. The ACLU, EFF and EPIC want privacy wording in the RFP, but the Task Force has apparently told them the end user license agreements (EULA) from each provider should do.

PrePass weigh station sites, which number about 259 on U.S. highways, will soon be hotspots. The company signed up with SiriCOMM to deploy its network (which will now exceed 700 locations) at the weigh stations, as soon as PrePass has the okay from the various Dept. of Transportation offices it deals with.

April 25, 2006

Boingo Wireless continues to sign new overseas  roaming partners to its virtual hotspot network. The latest is 900 new locations in Taiwan through Chunghwa Telecom (including Taipei Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport and other domestic airports, plus restaurants like KFC and McDonalds) and 300 locations in France through mobile phone provider SFR. Most are in restaurants, but the additions include convention centers and  the Toulouse and Bale-Mulhouse airports. Even the Cannes Film Festival's home will be open for Boingo subscribers in the future. The company claims to have 30,581 hotspots in its footprint.

Late last week, Clearwire, a wireless broadband provider found in 200 select cities across the US, bought out six-year-old Winbeam of Pennsylvania. Winbeam will become a wholly-owned subsidiary and will continue to operate in its current markets in New York, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania using wireless equipment in the licensed 2.5GHz band.

The Associated Press says the month-old, 15-square-mile free Wi-Fi network in St. Cloud, Florida is already feeling a consumer backlash because there are too many dead spots. The network was set up by HP, but paid for by the city at a cost of $2.6 million plus $400,000 annually to run. The city expects to make that back by saving on fees when city employees use the free network for Internet access and voice communications. HP says the problem isn't that bad if you go by the number of help calls it got (842) versus the number of user sessions it's had (50,000 in 45 days).

The East Bay city of Concord, California is lighting up some hotzones, according to the Contra Costa Times. They'll start with two free "Internet portals" in the Todos Santos Plaza, and move to a citywide network next year. The initial network in the town square will be installed by local provider Astound Broadband; the citywide net will be installed by MetroFi, which provides free services with ads at a low download speed.

A hotzone is launching in Annapolis, Maryland, run by Annapolis Wireless using equipment from Nortel. There are plans to go citywide with the network over the summer; for now, it only covers the City Dock to West Street and Eastport. Like most of the big-city wireless networks planned these days, it will be built without taxpayer money, funded by selling advertising space to local businesses on the network's log-in splash page.

Sprint Nextel's EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized)  3G network, Spring Power Vision, has moved into western Oregon, including the cities of Portland, Salem, Eugene and about 17 others. Laptops can connect for $40 a month for 40MB worth of downloads, and it costs 1/10 of a cent per kilobyte after that (or $80 for unlimited use).

AT&T is lowering the price of Wi-Fi connections it got in the SBC acquisition at a couple of airports (Dallas Love Field and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport), and other Ohio spots (Quicken Loans Arena, hotspots on the Ohio Turnpike). The price will go from $7.95 down to $3.95 for two hours of connection time (which is still overpriced); monthly price is $20 for unlimited access to all AT&T hotspots, many powered by Wayport. AT&T customers who bundle the service with AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet pay only $1.99 a month more for the hotspots.

April 21, 2006

You know how Google says it doesn't plan to expand its wireless network plans beyond Mountain View (its home city) and San Francisco (which it is helping unwire with EarthLink)? Well, maybe not so much. Apparently, during the latest company first-quarter earnings call, co-founder Larry Page did not rule out bidding on unused wireless spectrum soon coming to auction, as Google looks for ways to expand Internet access for end users. Not hard to believe when AT&T wants to charge them extra for using their pipes. Why pay when they can use their $9 billion in reserve to become a provider?

In November of last year, a law was proposed in Westchester County in New York to force businesses to make sure their networks are secure. Apparently, the law, definitely the first of its kind, was signed yesterday -- and the details are a bit more clear thanks to a story from the Associated Press. The law targets networks that would store financial info (such as credit card numbers) in an effort to prevent identity theft — so that means even cafes where you pay with plastic. Businesses have to make sure they've got firewalls and aren't using default SSIDs on access points. Businesses with public Internet access like hotspots have to post warning signs suggesting users get software firewalls or other security measures (such as VPNs) installed on their laptops. Law breakers get a warning at first, and fines could be as high as $500 for a third offense. Free access at open APs in Westchester ends in six months, so plan accordingly.

Long Beach, California's marina has signed on with ICOA's iDockUSA service to get Wi-Fi service at the 4,000 boat slips there — a number that represents a full 20 percent of the service iDockUSA provides. The signal will also cover nearby businesses and retail outlets. The marina is home to the Congressional Cup, Transpac and Olympic trial races.

The San Antonio Express News reports that the Alamo City is going to look for bids to build a network for downtown and perhaps the rest of the city. Most access will be free, but details are unknown, even though city council says it could be done in a year. The plan is, no surprise, to provide free or low-cost broadband to all, and to let city workers use the wireless network to increase productivity.

Mesa, Arizona — a city in a state rife with citywide Wi-Fi already— is putting out an RFP to get a privately owned and operated Wi-Fi network. So says the Arizona Republic. Yuma, Arizona isn't wasting time and has already picked MobilePro/NeoReach to install a network, just like that found in the Phoenix suburbs of Tempe, Gilbert and Chandler. They expect to start slow, but eventually could cover the entire 106 square miles of Yuma. MobilePro has been crowing lately not only about the growth of use of its WazTempe network, but also that revenue there is growing.

Also well past the RFP stage is Foster City, California, which this week picked MetroFi to build a 3.8 square mile network for its 30,000 residents. Like other MetroFi networks, the service will be free with advertising up to 1Mbps downloads, or they can pay $20 a month for faster speed with no ads (a business plan that's quickly becoming the standard in muni wireless). They expect it to be live in about six months, at no cost to the city. MetroFi is also providing similar service to nearby Cupertino, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.

April 19, 2006

Fort Wayne, Indiana is the home of a new Wi-Fi hotzone. It's run by ISP Indiana Data Center, which is using Colubris equipment, including dual-radio access points. The network covers downtown, the airport, the convention center, the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, even parts of the public library and hospital. IDC is also powering hotspots in 25 other communities in the northeast of the state. Public safety access is free, as it is for most city government use. Access at the airport is free to all -- residents pay as little as $25 a month for wireless service if they prepay for equipment and installation.

The Bellevue Collection shopping areas of Bellevue, Washington, all run by real estate developer Kemper Development Company (KDC), are going wireless. The Collection's retail (250 shops) and entertainment centers (a 16-screen cineplex) include Lincoln Square, Bellevue Square and Bellevue Place; Lincoln Square is getting the first deployment of a MobileAccess Universal Wireless Network, installed by integrator Tri-Power Group. The network will be used by customers and businesses.

According to Brown University's Brown Daily Herald, the state of Rhode Island is poised to install a statewide wireless network (on which Brown is a partner and will run the pilot location). The non-profit Business Innovation Factory is leading the project.

Japan's ACCA Networks is going to deploy Alcatel's Evolium equipment in a WiMax trial in Tokyo. It launches in June and should include Internet access, video streaming and VoIP.

April 13, 2006

Portland, Oregon was labeled the "Most Unwired City" in the United States in 2003 based on the sheer number of hotspots it had... but it dropped to #4 last year. Now, Portland is ready to launch a citywide network. MetroFi has landed the contract to install it, using mesh equipment from SkyPilot Networks. The two companies are also partnered for networks in Cupertino, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, California; and in Aurora, Illinois. Like other MetroFi networks, access will be free if you're willing to look at advertising; otherwise, the price will be about $20 per month. The cost to MetroFi to install the 134 square mile network (sans any public funds, as is the norm) is expected to reach $10 million. This MetroFi win probably helps make up for losing the San Francisco deal to Google and EarthLink earlier this month, as EarthLink was one of the other Portland finalists.

The Jacksonville International Airport in Florida is now providing free, 24/7 Wi-Fi access to all travelers through a network installed and run by IBM. They promise the ability to handle 300 simultaneous connections; six million people pass through JIA each year.

April 12, 2006

North America's first mobile WiMax is coming in June to Muskegon County, Michigan. 802.16e equipment  (not certified by the WiMax Forum, but close enough for jazz) from Samsung will be deployed by Arialink Broadband (local to Lansing, Michigan). The installation is being funded by Arialink, a federal grant  and a loan from the state's Economic Development Corporation. The service will cost residents $19 a month to get 3Mbps downloads, with faster service for businesses and consumers. Deployment will start in Egelston Township.

iPass recently tacked on 8,000 new hotspots to its virtual network in Europe. This week it added a few thousand more in deals with The Cloud in the United Kingdom (over 6,000 hotspots and hotzones) and Swisscom Mobile in Switzerland (1,000 hotspots). The Cloud deal will include hotzones to be launched in cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, and the Square Mile Network in London. The Swisscom sites include airports in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Berne, plus many rail stations and hotels.

April 11, 2006

Clearwire, the wireless broadband provider using a proprietary, WiMax-like technology for service in about 200 cities in the United States, is now going to offer a voice over IP service. Stockton, California is the first market. The service was developed jointly with Bell Canada, and supports Enhanced 911 (E911) for emergency calls.

MobilePro says the usage of the WAZTempe hotzone after 60 days has been good, with 650 paying customers so far and many more using the Free Zone area. The 40 square mile Wi-Fi cloud covering 95 percent of the city launched in February. Also as of this month, all the WazMetro customers in Tempe and elsewhere will be able to get phone help, as the Tucson Wireless Broadband Call Center will be used for customer service (call 866-929-9434).

In January, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan issued an RFP for providers who could build a vendor-neutral, privately owned and operated wireless network. reports that 20 companies have responded including a couple of the usual suspects (EarthLink, Azulstar, Clearwire, MobilePro's NeoReach) and many others (4 G Metro Mesh, BroadBreeze Communications, MEI MAYLONE Enterprises,, AmeriNet, NetApex, Arialink, FreedomNet Solutions, Ricochet, AT&T, IBM, Pronto Networks, INS (Lockheed Martin), WiFiCITY, Blue Moon Solutions and Lakeside Wireless). The net will cover 45 square miles.

April 6, 2006

MobilePro and Galaxy Internet Services will be bringing the town of Brookline, Massachusetts into the wireless age. The town selection committee has picked the two providers to create a "border-to-border wireless network." It has yet to be approved by the city's selectmen, but the chances look good for a network including 802.11a/b/g and 4.9GHz for public safety to be installed, probably with equipment from Strix Systems, a MobilePro favorite on previous deployments in the state of Arizona and elsewhere. The town will be the first around the Boston metro area to have 4.9GHz for emergency services. The network is expected to support not only Internet connections but VoIP and video as well.

Citywide Wi-Fi is all the rage, but it's still not found where perhaps it's needed most: trains. (Just ask any commuter: they'll tell you.) A Request for Information (RFI) has gone out from the BART/Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCPJA), however, to find out how it can get wireless broadband on the trains running the 170-mile California Capital Corridor route, with an eye toward technical trials to see if it's even feasible. Wi-Fi will provide the connections inside, with backhaul as a mix of WiMax or 3G base stations along the route, as well as satellite connections. CCPJA wants it all for those using the network: Web surfing, VPN pass-thru, VoIP, video and audio streaming, and even using it for surveillance cameras and train diagnostics. No bids allowed until early 2007. (Those serious about wireless on the rails should check out the Train Communications Systems 2006 Conference coming to London, England in June.)

April 4, 2006

T-Mobile will be providing hotspot services at three Los Angeles county airports (Los Angeles, Ontario and Van Nuys). Cost will be $10 for a 24-hour period, though existing T-Mobile Hotspot customers can, of course, get access without extra fees. The contract with the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners goes for three years with options to add on years at the end, and T-Mobile will be ponying up 25 cents to the Los Angeles World Airports for each connection made plus a minimum annual $4.8 million each year for the first three years. Ouch.

The Lincoln, Nebraska JournalStar says the city council has taken the first steps towards wireless broadband. A work group is looking into the possibilities. Nebraska is one of the states with an anti-municipal broadband law, but they'll get around it like most do, by making sure the vendors and providers involved pay for it. (The paper says the city can barely come up with enough cash to fix the streets.) They also say an "important consideration" is that the system be compatible with WiMax, making it sound like WiMax is going to replace Wi-Fi in laptops.

Wayport has bought out a Scandinavian WISP named NetPower Wireless Solutions AS, giving Wayport another 60 venues on top of 200 already-established locations in in Europe. Service can be found in the Scandinavian Rica Hotel chain, the Radisson SAS chain, airports and restaurants. Wayport's European HQ is in Copenhagen.

Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess, the company's close-to-nationwide EV-DO network, just added northern California's San Benito County to its list of locations. The county covers from Sacramento down to Hollister, San Juan Bautista and Tres Pinos. Cost is $60 a month with a two-year agreement.

With all this wireless broadband happening, what will happen to dear old wired broadband? According to Probe Financial Associates, the DSL and cable guys are scared to death. Or at least they have "more to fear from wireless than has generally been projected," according to a PFA statement. It's part of a new report PFA has out, looking at broadband through 2010 and how wireless is going to "erode fixed broadband faster than anticipated" -- even faster than cell phones replaced landlines. Look for it to get serious by 2008 or 2009.

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