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Jim Sullivan at Wi-FiFreeSpot is in Europe, checking out the free hotspots as well as the sights: We met yesterday and it was fun to discover that we’ve had very similar experiences with Wi-Fi in Ireland. Free Wi-Fi is very, very rare here. Jim stumbled on a free hotspot in the pub attached to a B & B out west. As far as I can tell, there are no longer any free hotspots in Dublin.
There are also very few, if any, independent hotspots that are run individually by venue owners in Dublin at least. One issue here, as Jim mentions, is that Internet cafes are absolutely everywhere and they’re really cheap—2 euros or less per hour. Users can bring their laptops and either plug in via Ethernet or use a hotspot there, as Jim discovered. While it’s a different atmosphere than regular cafe, it works well if you are there to get work done. The other hurdle to individuals setting up hotspots in cafes is that broadband is a major pain to get here.
Jim promises to keep writing on his blog from the road and I’ll be interested to see how much free Wi-Fi he finds outside of Ireland. Already it seems like he’s having better luck—he checked into his hotel in Amsterdam and detected four hotspots. He has plans to stop in Prague and Estonia and many other places in between.
There’s not much information here, but it looks like a Russian library has just gotten Wi-Fi: The dateline is from Moscow, so the library could be there. This is reportedly the first library in Russia to get Wi-Fi.
James Enck at EuroTelcoblog offers a great, in-depth analysis of the BT Fusion launch: While the service initially will use Bluetooth, in the near future it will be based on Wi-Fi. There are a couple of great tidbits here. One is a potential loophole that Enck caught. Customers pay less when using the phone in their house. But the billing handoff doesn’t happen automatically. So users get billed according to where the call originates. Callers can initiate calls in their homes but then leave the house, continuing to be billed the house rate. This probably won’t make a huge difference to BT, but it is a bit like leaving money on the table.
Also, when you add it up, this really isn’t a particularly great deal, mainly because customers are essentially paying twice to use a phone at home. Since BT doesn’t offer naked DSL, customers pay a monthly fee for voice, a DSL subscription PLUS the subscription for BT Fusion. This amounts to £43.50 per month.
Enck also includes an interesting analysis of what he thinks is the potential customer base for the service, and in his estimation it isn’t very significant.
Two years after being introduced in the U.S., Cisco’s combined 802.11g and 802.11a home networking products are available in Europe: Cisco says that delays in certification held back the introduction in Europe. Generally, European regulators have been less aggressive at opening up unlicensed bands so I’m guessing that Cisco may have struggled with making sure all the relevant regulators OK’d the 802.11a 5 GHz component.
A few announcements over the last week indicate further growth in the European hotspot market: Vodafone is chasing T-Mobile territory by partnering with The Cloud for hotspots in Germany. The Cloud says it plans to build a whopping 10,000 hotspots in Germany over the next four years. Vodafone already has 700 hotspots in Germany, The Cloud has 350 there, and T-Mobile has 4,500.
In more marketing-related news, iPass customers will be able to use Telenet’s hotspots in Belgium and soon Luxembourg. Telenet is working towards a goal of 1,000 hotspots by the end of this year.
Here in Ireland, Bitbuzz continues to make deals that are likely to help grow traffic on its network. The operator just made a deal with Nokia where customers that buy the Nokia 9500 Communicator from O2 get 25 hours of use per month for three months. Bitbuzz also has a roaming deal with O2 archrival Vodafone. [Press release should become available here at some point.]
Swiss ISP Monzoon Networks signed up to use Airpath’s InterRoam platform: Airpath’s service makes it easier for hotspot operators to manage their relationships with roaming partners. Like many other companies in the game of assisting hotspot roaming, Airpath aims to make it easy for operators to set up roaming agreements without requiring the operator to reinvent the wheel with each deal.
A reader wrote us a quick note to say that after some work he found one of the few remaining Verizon pay phone hotspots that is still live: Verizon recently said that it would remove the hotspots it had set up from pay phones around New York City. Meanwhile, Eircom here in Ireland seems to be ramping up its hotspot activities. In addition to rolling out advertising that identifies which pay phones offer hotspot service, Eircom advertised heavily at the recent Ireland v. Israel World Cup qualifying match. Eircom ads touting its hotspot service (not specifically touting the pay phone service though) ringed the field. I was surprised to see such mainstream advertising for hotspots here in Ireland where the hotspot concept isn’t widely known. When the incumbent operator begins to invest in advertising for an offering, it can be good news for the whole market because it can generally raise awareness. [thanks to Klaus for the Verizon experience]
BT added some new roaming partners: Customers can now use hotspots from NTT in Japan, Orange in France, and Swisscom Mobile in Switzerland. Interestingly, the deal was reportedly brokered by the Wireless Broadband Alliance, a vaguely defined group that aims to generate awareness of Wi-Fi and also help develop roaming agreements. I wasn’t able to find a list of members on the site but the executive committee is made up of random operators including BT, T-Mobile in the U.S., China Telecom, Korea Telecom, NTT, Starhub of Singapore, and Telstra of Australia.
A group of open spectrum enthusiasts met in London last week: The Wireless Utopias meeting was organized by the Open Spectrum UK folks, who earlier this year got together when drafting a response to proposals from Ofcom, the UK regulator. The Wireless Utopias Web site has loads of interesting information and leaders of Open Spectrum UK promise to post a video of last week’s meeting on the site.
Other activities around the push to open spectrum on a license-free basis have also occurred. Article 19, a group that defends freedom of expression as a human right, published an analysis that generally outlines how licensing can be consistent with international human rights law. This paper builds on suggestions made earlier in Open Spectrum UK’s response to Ofcom which is likely the first time that human rights has been cited as a reason why governments are required to essentially default toward the license-free model.
The paper from Article 19 notes that historically the airwaves were mostly used by governments or big corporations using high-powered equipment and as such the practice of licensing such equipment was justifiable because of the risks of interference. But nowadays, devices operate at lower power levels (often because of regulations, though this analysis doesn’t note that fact) and have the capability to compensate for interference. “There is a risk that force of habit might lead some telecommunications regulators to over-regulate modern, low-interference devices,” the report reads.
This document from Article 19 could be useful fodder for groups working in developing countries to free up unlicensed spectrum.
We don’t typically cover personnel announcements but I think there is some significance to this one: Boingo hired a director responsible for expanding Boingo’s relationships with hotspot operators in the Europe, Middle East, Africa region. While Boingo has been accumulating deals with operators globally since early on, the company has the perception of being the big U.S. aggregator, as evidenced during a recent conversation I had with the head of Trustive. It should be interesting to see how successful Boingo will be in competing more aggressively with other European aggregators or service providers.