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The complaints of an early combined Wi-Fi/3G user are typical for a first generation service, but maddening enough that operators need to start moving in the right direction: At this stage, hotspot operators and cellular carriers should really be doing a much better job of forming roaming agreements of the kind that make it seamless for users to walk into just about any hotspot and get online for a single, reasonable monthly fee. Subscription prices for individual operators are just too high and ubiquity too limited to expect users to sign up for service from multiple hotspot operators.
This user, who has a combined Wi-Fi/3G card from Vodafone, doesn’t realize much benefit from having the combined card. While he gets a single bill for his 3G access and use of Openzone hotspots, he still, of course, has to pay separately for access to other hotspots. He also has a lot of complaints about using the 3G network to access email and other online services as compared to using Wi-Fi.
This user also offers an interesting if unlikely call for hotspot operators to form roaming deals with mobile operators. He suggests that if hotspot operators don’t let their customer roam to 3G networks, using a SIM-based Wi-Fi card, they’ll lose the customer relationship because customers will instead sign up for the Wi-Fi access through their mobile operator, which will bill them. That’s likely the way it will work, however. The mobile operators are not going to lose that billing relationship with their customer so I find it unlikely that they’ll open their networks to roaming by Wi-Fi customers. The combined services will most likely originate at the mobile operator, who will bill for the combined offering.
A handful of car makers have received a grant from the German government to work on a standard for wireless communication between vehicles: The idea is to allow cars, trucks, motorcycles, and even bicycles to automatically trade information about traffic conditions, bad weather, and accidents. Their work will contribute to that of a consortium that is developing a standard for such vehicle communications in an effort to avoid different, incompatible systems being used by different car makers. The system is likely to be based on 802.11.
This piece doesn’t mention it, but I’ve read elsewhere about similar efforts that also aim to interact with traffic signals. Cars in line in a big backup on a roadway could cause a traffic signal to change, potentially alleviating the backup.
If such systems are primarily ad hoc, where cars mainly communicate with each other and not base stations, cities and countries can avoid the need to build extensive and cumbersome Wi-Fi networks. Apparently these groups are focusing on the ad hoc concept. So, perhaps base stations could be located only at certain traffic signals or other spots and the radios in cars could pass information from car to car until in range of a base station.
The auto industry typically takes ages to incorporate new technology into vehicles, so this sort of concept might take many years to pop up in cars. The technology first has to be developed, the auto makers have to agree on a standard, vendors have to make the hardware, and then the car makers have to incorporate the systems in their cars, potentially starting with only certain lines of vehicles.
IPass customers can now access BT Openzone’s 1,500 hotspots in the UK: This is a nice deal for iPass because it gives it a significant presence in the UK. IPass now has over 14,200 hotspots as part of its network.