Hotspot Hits for August, 2006

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

August 30, 2006

Minneapolis considers city-wide Wi-Fi; Culver City, CA, protects its users; Connexion dies but service could continue; and much more.

Springfield, Illinois is going with AT&T to get citywide Wi-Fi service covering as many as 30 square miles, all (as usual) without the need of taxpayer contributions (pending city council approval of the deal). Service will be free but ad-sponsored up to around 250Kbps speed, with faster connections around 1Mbps for those willing to pay. The network will also be used by municipal employees. AT&T told Reuters there are at least a dozen other cities it's pursuing to install similar service.

August 28, 2006

The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota is the latest big municipality to pick a partner for installing citywide Wi-Fi. US Internet will, according to StarTribune.com, build and run the network at a cost of $20 million. The charge to consumers — the city has 168,000 households — will be about $20 per month, and will be capped at that for at least a decade to get 1 Megabit per second download speed. Businesses can pay more to get more. City facilities will get full use of the network as an anchor tenant, though the city has to pay $2.2 million up front and then $1.25 million a year to US Internet for the access. Unlike a lot of networks, they're going to guarantee indoor coverage, as much as 90% — though that guarantee requires purchase or rental of a "wireless modem" (MuniWireless.com says it’s the Ruckus Wireless indoor bridge). Outdoor coverage will be 95%, with free access in some areas. US Internet beat out EarthLink to get the deal, which goes to the city council for a vote this week.

August 24, 2006

Historic Occoquan, Virginia will be offering free Wi-Fi to residents, visitors and businesses with a service from World Airwaves built using mesh equipment from SkyPilot Networks. The whole thing has come together in less than two months since a new mayor took office on July 1 (albeit following some pre-term consortium meetings with local businesses and including IBM Global Wireless). Access will extend from the town to shoreline for use by boaters. They want to have it installed by Sept. 23 for the Fall Arts and Crafts Festival.

The hotzone planned for the ski resort town of Vail, Colorado (announced earlier this month by provider CenturyTel) will use mesh equipment from SkyPilot. Free access will be 300 Kbps, with speeds up to 3 Mbps available for pay plans. The network is the first public/private partnership of its kind for the state.

Bookstore Wi-Fi growth continues, since Barnes & Noble and Borders both keep opening new stores all the time. The latest B&N locations cropping up in the United States by May 2007 will include: Lincolnshire Commons in Lincolnshire, Nebraska; Garden State Park in Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Bridge Street Town Centre in Huntsville, Alabama; and The Market Commons in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (that last one won't open until 2008). Borders Books and Music has some more immediate store openings on the way: Westfield Capital Promenade in Olympia, Washington; Westfield Shoppingtown Century City in Century City, California; Wayside Commons in Burlington, Massachusetts; Crossgates Mall in Albany, New York; Plaza El Segundo in Manhattan Beach, California; Riverdale Crossing in Riversale, New Jersey; and in Northfield at Stapleton in Denver. B&N carries service from AT&T Wi-Fi (formerly SBC Freedomlink) while Borders hotspots are provided by T-Mobile.

August 22, 2006

A topic not often covered as municipal metro-sized networks proliferate is: how do you prevent users from doing whatever they want? Piracy, porn, criminal activity can all potentially transmit on a laptop right next to your kids and grandparents at the park. Culver City, California's answer on its own free wireless system is to use Audible Magic's CopySense Network Appliance. It filters "problematic content" — namely, it tries to stop trading of copyrighted materials like music and video, both pornographic and not. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is all for it, as Culver City (pop. 40,000)  is home to three picture studios. Can other cities afraid of litigation, let alone questionable online activity, be far behind?  

August 21, 2006

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says that the Wi-Fi network in the Golden Triangle area is complete and ready for a trial run this week. US Wireless Online runs the service, which will offer two hours of free surfing at 512 Kilobits per second before charging -- though it sounds like there's also advertising on screens. It's not going to work indoors, at least not with any guarantees, unless you buy a wireless gateway from them for $39 a month ($69 for businesses). After the two hours, prices will probably be $8 a day, $15 a month and $120 a year for unlimited use.

If you're sad about the demise of Connexion by Boeing's in-flight Wi-Fi Internet access (and really, who isn't?), there might be hope yet. A company named ASiQ says it will offer a replacement system to airlines that will be much lower in price. ASiQ says its stuff is lighter and a fraction of the cost of the six year old Connexion tech, making it much more attractive. ASiQ combines a satellite link using Inmarsat broadband with an access point that is compatible with networks already on board. They say it could cost the airlines as little as $15 per flight, and would likely translate to big savings to end users. Connexion was charging around $30 per flight just to get Internet access. They'll show it at the World Airlines Entertainment Association conference in Miami next month and make it available in early 2007. (In August, the company announced a similar plan to offer service called "SafeCell" that allows in-flight phone calls using existing mobile phones.)

Rockland and Thomaston in the state of Maine have both rolled out wireless broadband. RedZone Wireless of Rockland is the provider, which built the networks with mesh equipment from SkyPilot. Subscriptions range from $20 to $50 per month. RedZone wants to service towns with less than 50,000 people, and already has another 50 municipalities in New England down as potential customers.

August 15, 2006

If you'll be at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, maybe you'll feel safer knowing the Public Security Bureau there uses a wireless network for communications. The mesh network is being deployed throughout the Xicheng district (population 800,000) for now, but will expand citywide. It's being installed by value-added distributor Silicon Star using both indoor and outdoor Strix Systems Access/One products. The installation started in September 2005 along main roads by the future Olympic venues.

Congratulations to Wayport on 10 years in the industry. Starting with Ethernet and moving to Wi-Fi was a smart move, as evidenced by their numbers — 13,000 hotspots, more than half of which are found in McDonald's restaurants.

Philadelphia's loss is the private sector's gain: Dianah Neff, the former CIO for the City of Brotherly Love who was the driving force behind the wireless network that EarthLink will eventually install there, has joined Civitium. She'll be a senior partner leading the international practice at the firm, which consults with all manner of municipalities regarding wireless broadband.

August 11, 2006

MetroFi has announced that it will set up a citywide Wi-Fi network in Corona, California, east of Los Angeles. The deployment will start in the fall, and will take a year and a half to complete. MetroFi will pay $18,000 a year for the rights to use the light poles in town to install 10 to 20 APs per square mile, around 500 in total. Service to end-users will be free with limited speed and commercials, or they can pay $20 a month for faster service with no ads.

August 10, 2006

The ski town of Vail, Colorado plans to get a municipal Wi-Fi network. It signed with CenturyTel to build and operate the service after taking bids. The network will supposedly go online by the end of the year, with free access for anyone at speeds up to 300 Kilobits per second (Kbps) for one hour at a time. You pay to get faster speeds, up to 3 Megabits per second (Mbps). Paid plans aren't finalized, but will include daily, weekly and monthly rates. The network will be mesh (no word on the vendor) and will extend to the town limits.

The city of Springfield, Massachusetts is performing a feasibility study to see if municipal wireless is worthwhile there for building the economy and improving quality of life for citizens, according to MuniWireless.com. The three-month study will cost $30,000. The city covers 32 square miles.

Lycos has launched a hotspot finder Web site specific to hotspots in the United Kingdom. It currently lists 10,000 locations, and the data can be downloaded for localized browsing on your computer.

AT&T working with MetroFi to set up the network for Riverside, California is not a done deal as we previously thought/reported on July 21. The town is still looking over as many as six proposals, including some from Verilan, Cisco, Seakay and IBM (some in combination). To up the ante, WiFi-CityWide (owned by Baja Wireless), InfiNet Wireless and Lockheed Martin will be building a pilot network in Riverside to show how they can meet the city's requirements for Wi-Fi and 4.9GHz for public safety (the latter run by the Lockheed Martin Information Technology, Public Safety Services group). Charter Business, part of Charter Communications, is backing the play.

August 4, 2006

A new batch of Barnes & Noble bookstores is open (or, in some cases, about to open), all with AT&T's Wi-Fi hotspot service ($4 for two hours or $20 a month with a one-year commitment). You can find them at: The Avenue Webb Gin in Snellville, Georgia; Sherman Plaza in Evanston, Illinois; Alamance Crossing Shopping Center in Burlington, North Carolina; on Clarkson Road in Chesterfield, Missouri; Outdoor Village at Genesee Valley Center in Flint, Michigan; Coconut Point Town Center in Estero, Florida (near Bonita Springs); the Atrium Court at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, California; and soon at the Stamford Town Center in Stamford, Connecticut.

Strix Systems equipment is powering guest access services at the 650-acre Mt. Buller Alpine Ski Resort in Victoria, Australia, 250 kilometers northeast of Melbourne. The network was installed by SnowSports Interactive using its whispair wireless system, based on the Strix Access/One products. The whispair site lists prices as $5 for 30 minutes, $8 for an hour, or $13 for two hours if staying a weekend; prices are lower if you're using it all week, month or season.

The Caltrain rail that runs the 40 miles from San Francisco to San Jose (through Silicon Valley) is in the first throes of trying Wi-Fi. Intel, Nomad Digital, and mesh router equipment provider Sensoria demoed "proof-of-concept" Web surfing and streaming video on an 80-mile-per-hour train last week, though they didn't let media or the general public give it a go. The train uses WiMax for backhaul to Redline Communications' base stations found along the track.

Wireless Silicon Valley has narrowed down its potential network providers from a list of seven to three. Those left? MetroFi, VeriLAN, and the Silicon Valley Metro Connect Team consisting of a team-up of Cisco, IBM, SeaKay and Azulstar. One of the above will be recommended in September. From there, they'll enter final negotiations.

August 1, 2006

EarthLink has been picked by Pasadena, California as the potential citywide municipal network provider, assuming everything goes well with the negotiations. EarthLink has proposed a 1Mbps download/upload capable Wi-Fi mesh network for the city, helping push a "digital inclusion" program with reduced access costs to qualifying low-income residents. Pasadena is the old EarthLink headquarters, and the company still has 400 employees there after relocating 10 years ago (corporate HQ is now Atlanta, and has been since EarthLink merged with MindSpring in 2000 to make an uber-ISP to fight AOL). The network, like EarthLink's others (including the only one deployed, in Anaheim) will be open to third-party providers who want to provide service over the mesh. Pasadena itself will be a network anchor tenant to provide connectivity to employees in the field. The network, when complete, should cover 23 square miles.

Speaking of EarthLink, its subsidiary PeoplePC says today it's the first value-priced ISP to offer municipal Wi-Fi packages, and it does so specifically over EarthLink's network in Anaheim (expect it in just about every city EarthLink installs with Wi-Fi). Cost is $17.95 a month for home use, or $21.95 for mobile use in Anaheim. Speed is 1Mbps both up and down, and users get eight e-mail addresses and 100MB of online storage with each account. Anaheim, while up and running, won't be complete until the fourth quarter of 2006.

The Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca track near Monterey, California is going entirely wireless thanks to a deployment of a Trapeze Networks Mobility System. The Trapeze release says that "tens of thousands of Wi-Fi users push through Laguna Seca's turnstiles on a daily basis" (because everyone takes a laptop to the races -- or maybe they will once they have access). There are 25 access points inside, and 18 more outside; they'll provide Internet access for fans, and also for the crews, staff and vendors.

The state of Florida is going to put Wi-Fi in every turnpike plaza and rest stop — 50 or 60 total — by the end of the year. The state DOT will roll it out, working with Austin, Texas-based Coach Connect. It provides similar service in the Northeastern U.S, and it'll do so at no cost to Florida. The hotspots are paid for by advertising. The DOT does worry about what people are watching, and plans to put filters and firewalls in place to prevent watching things like pornography while you're at the rest area; there will also be a 30-minute cap on use. The service will also run 40-inch plasma screens at each stop that will spell out information and conditions about the roads ahead. The first hotspot will be on the I-10 near the Leon and Gadsden County line.

Telabria is part of the largest metro mesh network in the United Kingdom. The city of Norwich has 200+ of Telabria's mSystem APM-300 mesh devices for a hotzone, plus 28 more in South Norfolk for hotspots. Synetrix deployed the equipment, paid for by the County Council and East of England Development Agency (EEDA) to the tune of  £1.1 million. The coverage is currently 30 square kilometres (about 11.6 square miles). The network is live today, and is expected to expand over the next two years as more equipment is added. Access is free, with a speed limit of 256Kbps.

Telkonet's Microwave Satellite Technologies' (MST) NuVisions broadband will power Wi-Fi services for the Trump Organization's residents in buildings like Trump Tower, Trump Palace, Trump Parc and Trump Parc East (as well as providing DISH satellite HDTV and VoIP services). Residents can pick what services they like a la carte. Telkonet also has the iWire system, which uses IP over powerlines to turn every outlet in the buildings into a potential data port.



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