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UK-based The Cloud hotspot network will use Tropos mesh nodes for municipal mobile deployments: The deployments announced in early January cover London and eight other city centers in England. The Cloud has been aggressive in reselling its existing hotspot network through many other U.S. and international hotspot aggregators and integrators.
Chris Rittler, Tropos’ vice president of business development and product management, said, “They already have these roaming partnerships, and they have major service providers who are leveraging their networks.”
Mobility is the focus of these city center networks at least in the initial phases. Rittler said, “What they’re looking at is the part of the business case that’s the mobility part, so there’s an opportunity to get municipal workers—or anyone who’s really mobile—onto this network. And also make it more attractive as a hotspot service, too.”
Islington in London is to get a mile long free Wi-Fi network starting tomorrow: BelAir Networks, which offers a mesh solution, supplied the network. Users can access the network with 802.11b clients and BelAir uses 802.11g for backhaul. There is some inconclusive discussion in this article about how the free network will coincide with the commercial hotspots offered by BT. There are some vague quotes here from Phil Belanger at BelAir about how existing BT Openzone customers are likely to continue to subscribe to that service and that the free network is available for “other reasons” than to compete with the BT network. I would conclude that the free network could steal the minimal potential customers who might exclusively need hotspots within the one mile stretch. Otherwise, BT Openzone will still appeal to customers who rely on hotspot access throughout a broader territory.
This is a bit of a no-brainer, but IDC is saying that mesh networking will be the next step in Wi-Fi development: Motorola and Nortel are offering mesh solutions and IDC expects other major network vendors to follow suit.
As IDC notes, North America has already been building mesh networks, particularly to cover city centers. But interest is starting to grow in Europe. IDC’s research is backed up in a press release issued by Tropos which mainly just brags about Tropos deployments. But the announcement includes a statement from Esme Vos of MuniWireless noting that the site has seen a growing interest in municipal networks and that Tropos, which uses mesh technology, is a leader in deploying such networks.