Hotspot Hits for May, 2006

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

May 31, 2006

Chicago issues RFP; Florida city says no thanks to Wi-Fi; Philly gets closer to contracts; and much more.

Chicago’s RFP for a citywide Wi-Fi-based broadband network is in the wild, asking companies to describe how they’d build such a network for $18.5 million. Winner will get a 10-year contract with the city. Responses are due within four months, and it will take another 18 months to install after a winner is picked (but who knows how long that could take). The winner will run the 234 square mile network, and is expected to provide access on a wholesale basis to other providers. They don’t necessarily say it has to be free, but they want to make sure to do some “digital divide” bridging with “creative pricing models promoting availability of the Network, including those that would provide access at low or no cost,” according to the RFP.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) will be expanding Wi-Fi access, according to the Baltimore Business Journal. BAA USA, an airport concession provider, will be operating the service, which will be installed throughout the summer. Service is going to be free to end users.

Proxim says its ORiNOCO(R) AP-4000MR outdoor wireless mesh equipment will power the Wi-Fi Internet acccess and VoIP service at Bronk's Corners in Joliet, Illinois. The retail space is about 275,000 square feet, making it the largest hotzone in the state. The network will even be used by merchants there for secure transactions. ITP Wireless is the WISP installing it.

May 25, 2006

Earlier this month, a company named M2Z Networks applied to the Federal Communications Commission to get free use of the radio frequency band found between 2,155 MHz and 2,175 MHz for the next 15 years. The goal: to use those radio waves to provide free "broadband" wireless (384Kbps download speed) to the masses of the country (with advertising) within a decade. In return for the free use of the airwaves, M2Z would pay 5 percent of its revenue back to the U.S. government. Read the 127-page proposal (PDF) and see if you think it will work, then keep in mind they've got some deep venture capital pockets backing them, so maybe anything is possible.

Speaking of big money, AnchorFree wireless says it has its first influx of venture cash, in the amount of $6 million. It plans to use the money "to support its rapid growth and proliferation of free wireless Internet access," according to a statement.

The Oregonian says Wi-Fi access across the downtown area of Sherwood is delayed, but that access should be live this week at City Hall and the new McCormick Building, and maybe even in Snyder Park. The eventual goal is to again cover downtown— it used to have Wi-Fi, until City Hall moved to a new building — and maybe even across the city. Over in Salem, city officials say a Wi-Fi network is a possibility, but they won't vote on it until June. And in Hood River, the city is entering a trial with Embarq, the Sprint Nextel offshoot. For 90 days, access to the network via any Wi-Fi device is free, though you'll only find it in select neighborhoods like around City Hall, parks, the port and downtown.

Can you imagine a city that actually said no to a citywide wireless network? You can if you picture Deltona, Florida (halfway between Orlando and Daytona). City commissioners were given a presentation on how such a network would save them money (by, for example, not having to pay for Internet access for city employees any more) but the city IT guy said it wasn't a good idea due to the city's topology. All this, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, came under the heading of "priorities," of which Wi-Fi was not one.

Earlier this week, AT&T said it was expanding the footprint of its Wi-Fi access  — which incorporates the former SBC FreedomLink network too — through a deal with WeRoam of Switzerland. This gives travelers with AT&T  Remote Access Wi-Fi accounts access in spots in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Hungary, Ireland, France, Israel, Brazil, Japan and Taiwan. The company has 33,000 hotspot locations worldwide.

May 19, 2006

BelAir Networks is happy to say that Islington, a borough of London, will be expanding its "Technology Mile" hotzone run by Cityspace with BelAir equipment. It will shoot up to four kilometers now. It's already getting up to 1,000 users per week, and businesses along the route are using it for different kinds of applications (they cite one dry cleaner using the wireless to monitor surveillance cameras).

Elsewhere in the United Kingdom, The Register says BT wants to install citywide Wi-Fi networks in six municipalities. Cardiff in Wales and London's borough of Westminster are both well underway. Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds and Liverpool round out the list. BT is working with Intel on the deployments, which worked with BT on the first round in Westminster as well. They hope to cover wireless for homes and outdoor hotspots in the BT OpenZone brand. Look for them by early 2007. Six more cities will be announced later. Up in Scotland, the city of Dundee wants to be a "city of wireless innovation," and is starting with a service on the campus of the University of Abertay Dundee through the combined efforts of Abertay's School of Computing and Creative Technologies and Britain's LastMile Communications.

With 500 square miles to cover, the officials of the city of Phoenix, Arizona doubt they'll get border-to-border Wi-Fi coverage, but they're moving ahead with a series of hotspots in community and senior centers, convention halls, libraries and elsewhere to reach as many residents as they can, according to the Arizona Republic. It's free for now, but likely to cost folks in the future. Meanwhile, the city of Sahuarita, almost at Mexico's border with Arizona (south of Tucson), is looking to hire an integrator for its own citywide network. The city would own it and offer it free of charge to users.  

The city of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania is looking to Airport Infrastructure Management (AIM) to deploy and run a Wi-Fi network for the city and for other parts of the county (Luzerne) over the next 10 years. It would run 802.11b/g for client connections and 4.9GHz for public safety use. AIM will pay for the deployment, along with partner BeyondWire Technologies, so the city doesn't shell out a dime. Revenue to the city will go to a non-profit group, Wire Free Wilkes-Barre, to support educational programs and upgrades of equipment to "bridge the digital divide."

May 16, 2006

What's up with citywide wireless in NYC? Well, nothing. But the New York Times does have a report on the city parks department pushing for free Wi-Fi Internet access in various city parks sooner rather than later. A Central Park network could be running by July; it will be installed by Wi-Fi Salon (if they blow the deadline, the city may get another contractor). Other parks on that schedule include Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (Queens), Prospect Park (Brooklyn), and Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx). Previously, parks like Bryant (sponsored by Google and PIP), City Hall, Bowling and Wall Street Parks all got Wi-Fi through private groups, many working with the non-profit NYC Wireless community group. This all follows attempts by the city to get third-party companies to bid and build networks in the parks, which Verizon was going to do but backed out. Since then, Wi-Fi Salon took over and even completed deployment in Battery Park last year — but missed the deadline on others. Thus the extension to finish Central Park and several other parks by August. The city won't get any revenue from the park access (despite early hopes) and is going forward with that model, with Wi-Fi Salon and others putting Wi-Fi in spots like Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Columbus Park, and the plaza near the United Nations. It's all just a drop in the bucket, though — the city of New York has over 1,700 parks and recreation facilities.

May 12, 2006

The contracts between the city of Philadelphia and future citywide Wi-Fi provider EarthLink are approved and on the way to the mayor and city solicitor for signatures. The city council unanimously gave the network the go-ahead. They expect to have the 135 square mile network deployed by September 2007. EarthLink has 10 years to run the network, but will start with a 15 square mile test network in the north and south of the city. While it seems like a lot of time has gone into this process — too much, according to some — analyst Craig Settles says that "cities would do well to realize that Philadelphia sets the gold standard for its thoroughness in planning."

Clearwire, the wireless broadband provider, filed yesterday with the SEC for an initial public offering on the NASDAQ. The company wants to raise $400 million to build out its pre-WiMax-tech network, and to buy up spectrum to use in the future. Clearwire plans to start using actual WiMax technology with equipment powered by Intel (also an investor). Last year, the company reported a $140 million loss.

May 10, 2006

AT&T is working with MobiTV to bring TV programming to AT&T's hotspot network. MobiTV will make 15 channels, including news, sports and music, available to customers logging in at the 7,000 hotspots in the AT&T footprint, if they pay $12 for a month of unlimited access, or $6 for a 24-hour session. Those prices are over and above paying AT&T to get Internet access at the hotspot. There are 11,000 hotspots in AT&T's network, which now incorporates what used to be SBC FreedomLink. You can find them at, for one example, Barnes & Noble bookstores.

May 9, 2006

Who's next on the list of cities looking to unwire? How about Phoenix, Arizona? It's already in the middle of that Arizona belt o' Wi-Fi provided by MobilePro/NeoReach, after all. The Downtown Phoenix Partnership, working with the city, Maricopa County and Arizona State U., wants to start with an area running 90 square blocks by next year. Their RFP is out, looking to find a tech consultant to get them started.

Are Google's city Wi-Fi plans (some in conjunction with EarthLink) on the skids, or a major threat? London-based analysts at visiongain say the search giant "will increasingly pose a threat to US mobile operators" in a new report, which also touches on the company's power in mobile search. The caveat is that Google needs to convert its advertising model to include local ads as well, which will make their free Wi-Fi services a major attraction. At the same time, though, Business 2.0 said that the network Google is installing in its hometown of Mountain View, California (without EarthLink) has glitches in coverage, which is going to require more access points, a move that could "change the economics behind Google's free Wi-Fi plans."

Speaking of free Wi-Fi, AnchorFree Wireless was offering free hotspots in San Francisco long before Google thought of it. AnchorFree lost out on the bid to unwire the whole city, but the company is still working at it. Today, they announced the purchase of the Web site, an online community and directory of 10,000+ free hotspots around the world. The company has also updated the wiPod utility, which provides a list of free hotspots that you can carry right on your iPod.  

Boingo Wireless has tacked on a whopping 14,000 new hotspots to its footprint via  a roaming deal with KT of South Korea. Locations on KT's NESPOT network include Incheon International and Gimpo Airports in Seoul, plus restaurants (Hard Rock Cafe, House of Blues, McDonald's) and hotels (Hilton and Intercontinental). This pushes the total count of Boingo venues to around 17,000 in Asia, and 45,581 worldwide.

If you're lucky enough to be at the world's loudest tradeshow this week — the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3Expo) in Los Angeles from May 10 to 12, where the speakers are always set at "11" — stock up on the 25,000 free coupons Mickey D's is handing out. They're good for an hour of free Internet surfing using the Wi-Fi (powered by Wayport) at the 7,000 McDonald's restaurants. Oh, and Ronald and friends are sponsoring the Wi-Fi network for all 60,000 game fanatics at the show as well.

Pomona, California says it has finished installation of a pilot Wi-Fi hotzone downtown. Installed by city IT provider Affiliated Computer Services working with Cheetah Wireless Technologies, using equipment from  Tropos Networks (all hooked to T1 lines!) and Nomadix, network coverage spans one square mile and will be used by residents, the city hall, first responders, Western University, and many more businesses. The mayor says that "wireless access is only the tip of the iceberg in Pomona's digital advancement goals," and that they're looking to expand the network to more city agencies, school and others.

May 5, 2006

Maybe Philadelphia won't be the only big city in Pennsylvania providing citizens with Wi-Fi. The city council in Pittsburgh has approved use of light poles and other property for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership to make a downtown hotzone — the fee is waived if the provider (US Wireless Online will run the network) puts access into areas with low-income families. Eventually, it could go citywide.

Speaking of Philadelphia, the Associated Press says the city may finally sign contracts next week to get EarthLink started on deploying their much ballyhooed citywide network. Since they announced the contract award last year, they've been haggling, but earlier this week it was announced that the technology and information services and public property and public works committees pushed things forward for a vote after making sure that businesses owned by women, the disabled and minorities would be able to participate in the deployment. EarthLink has a contract to run the 135 square mile network at an estimated cost of $22 million over 10 years.

Non-profit WinstonNet of Winston-Salem, North Carolina has issued a draft request for proposal (RFP) for building out a citywide (at least -- covering 109 square miles) or (possibly) countywide wireless net (at 402 square miles). A final RFP goes out next week. WinstonNet controls over 25 miles of fiber optics that can probably be put to use in the network.

The campus of Denison University in Granville, Ohio is joining the world of wireless with a deployment of 5G Wireless Communications' cellular-style base stations. The equipment will keep the 1,000-acre campus bathed in Wi-Fi signals.

UK-based Wi-Fi service provider iBAHN did a survey of 150,000 people, and found that 55 percent of business travelers are concerned about Wi-Fi security. 30 percent are concerned about hotspots in hotels and airports and the like, while 20 percent don't like using any unfamiliar Wi-Fi. A full 68 percent said they use Wi-Fi devices today.

May 2, 2006

If you're a city that's been devastated by a disaster, and you used a free wireless LAN to help communicate afterwards and also as an incentive to get people to come back, isn't it only natural that your incumbent telcos would want to shut that down? Welcome to New Orleans, where the local weekly paper CityBusiness says that on Saturday a vote will take place to decide whether or not to allow the free metropolitan wireless network to continue. The telcos, specifically BellSouth, say it's unfair, since the government can "cross-subsidize" by taking money from one area to pay for the network, and that's why Louisiana has a law against such networks where local governments compete with private companies — municipalities are limited to providing slow 144Kbps download speeds. The new bill would allow wireless Internet networks to continue in New Orleans and elsewhere in the state because they're used to ensure public safety and security. It turns out EarthLink is ready to sink as much as $15 million into a permanent wireless infrastructure for the city if the new bill passes — and EarthLink would pay it all and run the network. Of course, BellSouth and Cox Communications don't like that option much, either.

Several new Barnes & Noble bookstores have opened (or plan to open) around the US, and all will come equipped with Wi-Fi service from AT&T (formerly the SBC FreedomLink service). Locations include: Magnolia Mall in Florence, South Carolina; Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Oregon; Pearland Town Center in Pearland, Texas near Houston; The Promenade at Sacramento Gateway in California's capitol; Metropolis in Plainfield, Indiana; Southlake Town Square in Southlake, Texas; Silverdale, Washington near Seattle (plus one at Seattle's Northgate Mall); Montclair Plaza in Montclair, California; Blue Back Square in Hartford, Connecticut; Mall at Turtle Creek in Jonesboro, Arkansas; and at Fairlane Greene in Allen Park, Michigan. The cost is $4 for two hours or $20 a month for unlimited access. AT&T has 10,700 hotspots in its network.

May 1, 2006

ICOA has signed a roaming agreement with Trustive, a hotspot aggregator out of Europe. Now, anyone with a Trustive account can surf on the ICOA hotspots found in airports, marinas and elsewhere in the United States. Trustive's footprint now spans 11,000 hotspots in 49 countries.

Vendors and providers have until September to respond to the request for proposal (RFP) issued by Wireless Silicon Valley (whose real name is Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network) late last week. The group has been working since 2004, and the 75-page document spells out what they want from the 1,500 square mile network, which should cover the areas between Daly City, Morgan Hill and Santa Cruz. The plan, as usual, is for a private company to shoulder the burden of deployment and management. Among the possible contenders are MetroFi and EarthLink -- though even AT&T might be interested.

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