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« MCI Adds Boingo Hotspots | Main | Cork Launches Wi-Fi Network »

March 24, 2005

British Lampposts Go Wireless

By Nancy Gohring

Last Mile plans to equip lampposts with access points: It’s really hard not to draw comparisons between this idea and the ill-fated Metricom in the United States. Metricom hung its access points on lampposts and rolled out its incredibly well-loved Ricochet service. It later shut down but has re-emerged in a couple of cities. One of many reasons cited for Metricom’s failure was that it used proprietary technology for its network. Last Mile has a chance of overcoming that challenge if it is using Wi-Fi.

Last Mile also hopes to save information on flash memory cards inside the lampposts about local pubs and shops. People with special software on their mobile devices can connect to the lamppost and access the information. The mobile phone companies have been talking about location-based services, such as the kind that would inform users of nearby venues, for many many years. Without any sort of location pinpointing technology, they have asked users to input zip codes or other location information to serve up the data. While such services have surely proved useful to many users, I wouldn’t imagine them capable of driving loads of usage or revenue for a company like Last Mile.

I’m curious to know about Last Mile’s agreements with cities to secure access to the lampposts. That was another problem that faced Metricom—the company often had difficulties securing deals with municipalities for the access.

Using lampposts as locations for access points isn’t a bad idea depending on your goal. It’s a fine plan for a network that is meant to blanket a wide area and is meant to serve a specific group of people who have demonstrated a demand for access to data around town. Last Mile is in fact hoping its network may be used by emergency services agencies. Last Mile’s success may also depend on exactly what kind of technology it uses.

Posted by nancyg at March 24, 2005 5:52 PM

Categories: municipal networks

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