Hotspot Hits for September 2006

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

September 29, 2006

San Francisco's muni Wi-Fi woes begin; Logan Airport loses fight; services from the ashes of Connexion; and more

Cingular has launched a 3G network supporting HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) in Cleveland, Ohio, under the brand name Cingular BroadbandConnect. HSDPA delivers download speeds of 70 to 135 400-700 Kbps and shares a common network with its lower-speed siblings GSM and EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution), with which it is backward compatible. The network also supports the Cingular Video on-demand streaming service on some phones. BroadbandConnect is found in 52 U.S. cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Tacoma and Washington D.C.

The state of New Mexico's wireless initiative is up and running, with equipment from Proxim deployed in 12 cities. The goal is to connect all the state agencies to better serve the taxpayers (and to save money over running T1 lines over or under the rough landscape). Access Technology is installing the equipment, which consists of Tsunami MP.11 point-to-multipoint fixed and mobile WiMax units, connected by Tsunami GX.32 point-to-point wireless Ethernet bridges. The MP.11 units connect city facilities like courts, cops, transportation and motor vehicles, up to 20 per city so far.

September 28, 2006

Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) in California was scheduled to have a "wire cutting" ceremony today in the Airline Terminal Courtyard to signify the launch of airport-wide Wi-Fi service from ICOA's Airport Network Solutions group. Service is $4 for 20 minutes (ouch) or $7 for a full day. The site is also a Boingo hotspot, through the hotspot aggregator's partnership with ICOA.

MuniWireless reports that Pierce County in the state of Washington is looking to launch county-wide Wi-Fi with CenturyTel as the provider, using mesh equipment from SkyPilot. They'll build some pilot networks first to get the permission of the intergovernmental group that represents 15 municipalities which will be part of the network. The full deployment will mainly serve as backup for first responders, with limited Wi-Fi service planned for others.

September 25, 2006

So where does the San Francisco Wi-Fi network stand? Just a couple of weeks ago, Google executive Chris Sacca said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that the city had a slow negotiating style causing little advance in the project: "Every meeting is like the first," he said. Google and EarthLink have been the chosen providers of the network since earlier this year, and had hoped to launch the network before the end of it. Today, IDG News reports that San Francisco claims progress has been made within the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), the county agency that oversees such things. So far, the agreement, which is not final, stipulates Google/EarthLink being contracted for four years, after which the city can shut down without cause if it’s a bust, or demand a tech upgrade. A two-square-mile test network is required before the full rollout. Also addressed are privacy issues (which Google/EarthLink has taken a drubbing for) stating they can collect user location info, but that users can opt out if they want. Data can only be held for 60 days. San Francisco wants 5% of the revenue of the network plus fees for using city-owned utility poles, with money going toward "digital divide" projects.

The Wireless Sacramento Regional Project (WiSac) Charter has been approved. MuniWireless says the document will guide the development of a wireless network for the California capitol area, including a full nine counties with 30 municipalities covering 12,000 square miles. Eventually, it could join up to the similar planned network for Silicon Valley. (EarthLink is currently installing a network in Milpitas in the Valley.)

It took a while, but Chicago’s Department of Business and Information Services has put out a request for proposal (RFP) to vendors asking for their thoughts on building a citywide Wi-Fi network. Chicago will not provide funds toward the project, which will have a 10-year contract with the winning bidder, though the mayor's office is offering $250,000 in grant money for good digital inclusion ideas. The final network, the RFP stipulates, should cover all areas of the city, including poor neighborhoods.

September 21, 2006

Last year, the airlines at Logan Airport in Boston were instructed by the Massachusetts Port Authority (MassPort) to turn off their Wi-Fi networks. They said it was causing interference, and that everyone should use the service MassPort installed -- which, of course, costs money. Continental Airlines didn't like that, and went to the Federal Communications Commission to intervene. And intervene they have. The FCC apparently plans to rule on Continental's behalf, following a previous ruling that said landlords at a venue can't say what unlicensed bands get used on their property by tenants.

September 20, 2006

The whole Wi-Fi industry died a little inside when Connexion by Boeing announced that it would go under before most of us even got a chance to try it. But a division of Panasonic may be stepping in to rescue the airlines that have planes loaded down with the wireless equipment. Panasonic won't commit to the takeover until it gets commitment in the next two months from airlines to retrofit 500 planes. 150 are already committed. Airlines have to make a five-year commitment to the service, and Panasonic will lower prices for them and provide priority bandwidth. Panasonic is strictly the system integrator here, though, and will work with a satellite Internet provider yet to be determined as the ISP.

The Oregonian says the wireless network that MetroFi and General Electric will be installing in Portland, Oregon has cleared a hurdle now that the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) has new rules allowing the mounting of Wi-Fi antennas on power poles. Construction could start in the first week of October, when the rules take effect. The network, with free access up to 1Mbps (supported by advertising) is expected to cover 95% of the city.

Sky-Nets Ltd. is a new company proposing a new Wi-Fi hotspot network geared toward Fixed-Base Operators (FBOs) at airports in the U.S. The networks would be sponsored and would cost nothing to the FBOs or to the customers accessing the Internet. The company is currently looking for interested sponsors. Sky-Nets believes the networks will help smaller airports get "more aircraft activity and visitors due to offering free wireless Internet access." Deployment on the first locations won't start until 2007. [The president of Sky-Nets is Eric Geier, a contributor to Wi-Fi Planet.]

September 19, 2006

Colleyville, Texas has a five square mile Wi-Fi network specifically for use by the city and first responders. The network was set up by MeshLinx Wireless, who turned it over to the city after six months of testing. It provides a wireless link between the fire stations and public works centers so they can connect to the city's backbone network for voice, video and data communication, both in the HQ and in vehicles. MeshLinx says as WiMax or 802.11n technologies become mainstream, it can upgrade its multi-radio equipment without service disruption.

If you're  preparing for a disaster in Florida and you buy the Emergency Deployable, Wide-Area, Remote Data Systems (EDWARDS) from TracStar, you'll be using Firetide's HotPort equipment as well. EDWARDS includes a mobile satellite communications terminal, a portable microwave link, and seven Firetide mesh nodes that can be set up to cover over five miles without cables (though Ethernet can be used to connect the nodes to field computers). HotPorts support unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi and the licensed 4.9GHz band reserved for first responders.

It's been a while since a sports complex debuted any Wi-Fi, but the network at Cardinals Stadium in Glendale, Arizona is now live courtesy of Cellular Specialties Inc. (CSI) using a technology-neutral, multi-carrier distributed antenna system. It'll be used by patrons (the stadium seats up to 73,000 people), staff and public safety. Cellular services in the park are provided by the major carriers: Alltel, Sprint Nextel, Cingular/AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

September 15, 2006

We thought the incumbents were finally over it... but the Albuquerque Journal says that both Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are suing the city of Rio Rancho, New Mexico because the city didn't hold Wi-Fi provider Azulstar to the same standards the mobile providers have, specifically regarding an ordinance that requires companies to get a permit and pay application fees to build or modify facilities such as cell phone towers. Azulstar has a right-of-way with the city to use infrastructure like traffic lights to place equipment; Verizon and T-Mobile say that's an unfair advantage, and they want the ordinance struck down. The city says they're being unfairly targeted, since the goal is to get rid of the ordinance in the long run. Esme Vos at MuniWireless.com believes the mobile telco will regret taking this to court, writing, "The wireline operators and cable companies have seen that this is not the way to go and are now bidding on municipal projects." She notes that T-Mobile in particular, with its own Wi-Fi service, is shooting itself in the foot here if it ever wants customers to roam (and thus pay T-Mobile fees) in Rio Rancho.

AnchorFree did a study with Harris Interactive and found that 51% of adult respondents have tried wireless, 63% tried it at a hotspot, and half of that thought the connection was "only somewhat secure." 26% were concerned about security; 22% weren't worried at all. The rest were "somewhat concerned." AnchorFree says this makes consumers "sitting ducks" for hijackers at public hotspots. (Naturally, AnchorFree offers software, Hotspot Shield, to help people connect with a secure, hosted VPN, and unlike the competition, they offer it for free.)

September 13, 2006

If you're traveling through the Philadelphia International Airport and don't have time to go downtown to try the citywide network, don't worry. There's now access in the B/C terminal food court at the airport -- and it's free, at least through the end of the year, and maybe into 2007. The network is run by the airport, the food/beverage program provider (MarketPlace Redwood), and AT&T Wi-Fi. Outside the food court, you'll pay $8 an hour or $40 a month for unlimited use through AT&T.

Speaking of which, LifeHacker.com points to an excellent resource now live at hotel review site TravelPost.com: the Airport Wireless Internet Access Guide. This printable Web page is a simple breakdown of the Wi-Fi provided at the top 141 airports in the United States. They break out the top 20 airports (including Philadelphia) and show who doesn't have it available (Miami and Dulles in D.C.), who has it for free (Las Vegas, Phoenix, JFK in New York, and Orlando) and the prices at the rest. Then they do the same for the full 141. Out of that number, about 56 provide free service. Only ten don't have Wi-Fi, so just don't go to those locations. We're talking to you, Chattanooga!  Uh, now we're talking to you, Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport! [Either we misread it, or TravelPost.com updated their table to show Chattanooga has a Boingo hotspot inside.]

September 11, 2006

Muniwireless.com's regular report is out on the number of cities and counties in the United States going Wi-Fi. There's 281 municipalities who have either deployed or are considering it (that includes everything from a hotzone to a multi-square-mile network, but doesn't count those who are considering it but haven't issued an RFP or RFI). The only type of network that's not growing appears to be those for use by public-safety or municipalities only, as most want to have a multi-use network. The number of muni networks up or under consideration has more than doubled since July 2005, when 122 were listed. Read more about it in the report (and let them know if they missed your city).

September 7, 2006

Philadelphia may be getting unwired outside, but that doesn't mean it'll reach into city schools. No child will be left behind, however, as Meru Networks (through a partnership with Avaya) has been signed by the School District of Philadelphia (7th largest in the U.S.) to install WLAN equipment in 278 schools serving 210,000 students. This is part of the School of the Future program started in 2003, when the school district partnered with Microsoft to "transform education using technology."

Aurora, Illinois' free Wi-Fi network from California-based MetroFi, announced back in March, should have a portion of the downtown area lit up in time for the Midwest Literary Festival next week, starting September 15. The Beacon News Online says five nodes are going in over the next week, covering the festival area. The goal is to have Aurora unwired across the city by this time next year. Naperville, Ill. has also signed on with MetroFi to get free citywide Wi-Fi.

The Lompoc Record reports that after many delays, this Friday marks the start of the $20-a-month LompocConnect Wi-Fi service throughout the California town. It's actually been in place for a year but had signal issues to overcome before it was usable. The city apparently runs the network (it's renting Wi-Fi cards for $5 a month if you don't have one), but no word on the equipment provider. The city also runs the local electrical utility; the mayor's office poo-poos Wi-Fi naysayers, saying people said the same thing about taking over electricity in the 1920s.

September 6, 2006

The city of Providence, Rhode Island this week unveiled a wireless mesh network from Motorola for use by first responders (police, fire and EMS). The $2.3 million network was built with federal grant money using Motorola's Mesh Enabled Architecture (MEA) technology, a proprietary tech going back to the days of MeshNetworks before Motorola bought it out. The city went with that rather than Wi-Fi or 4.9GHz, specifically so it could do instant ad-hoc connections (each client on an MEA network is also a router that can extend signal hops) and to have a single vendor to deal with, not to mention beating the deadline of their CDPD network shutting down. The network was a tough one to set up due to multiple levels of street overpasses, all of which needed coverage, and some decaying infrastructure that made mounting equipment difficult, according to Motorola. Providence has a separate 800MHz network used by first responders for voice communications.

Wayport's latest standalone Wi-Fi service is at the Tan-Tar-A Resort, Golf Club, Marina and Indoor Waterpark in Osage Beach, Missouri. It's a vacation spot for a lot of businesspeople who can't stop working. The Wi-Fi access is provided as an amenity in all 479 guest rooms.

ABI Research forecasts that by the end of this year, 285 million people worldwide will have subscribed to 3G services like CDMA2000 and W-CDMA. EV-DO is part of the CDMA family of standards. The study "3G Mobile Market Trends" covers 2G, 3G, and what they call 3G+ standards for mobile access to voice and data.

September 1, 2006

It feels like a long while since anyone announced a hotspot that wasn't part of a big hotel, a chain of restaurants or an entire city. But ICOA is happy to say it has installed Wi-Fi for the patrons of the Embers Grill microbrewery and restaurant in Alpharetta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. It's also the backbone of the in-house staff's network. ICOA has a Restaurants and Retail Solutions group that runs this hotspot, as well as the locations for Panera Bread, Au Bon Pain, Denny's, Bruegger's Bagels and some supermarkets. No word on what customers have to pay to get online. The service will be provided as a free amenity for patrons, according to ICOA's PR.

Parsons says it has landed a five-year contract with the Washington State Department of Transportation to put Wi-Fi into 28 rest areas on state highways.

MuniWireless.com says the city of Dayton, Ohio is in negotiations with Harborlink Networks - which already runs a downtown hotzone there — to install a 55 square mile Wi-Fi network, including the airport.

And after waiting for literally years, the city of Philadelphia this week actually started seeing the deployment of the Tropos mesh equipment that will power the citywide network run by EarthLink. The first phase will cover 15 square miles, reaching about 81,000 households. Eventually, it'll cover 135 square miles. PennLive.com says that AOL and DirecTV are both interested in reselling services over the network, which is part and parcel of what EarthLink wants to offer after years of being screwed out of the same privilege by incumbent telcos and cable providers. Price will probably be $20 a month for unlimited use at 1Mbps download speed.



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