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AWA will deploy thousands of new hotspots for a total of 12,000: The company has 4,000 hotspots already deployed, and will use Meru and Firetide gear (via distributor Optical) to move to 12,000 within two years; 4,500 will be at gas stations. The hotspots will support VoIP via Qtek phones that handle both VoWLAN and GSM.
People in France, Germany, and the UK can buy Dell laptops with cell modems built in: Following on the heels of partnerships in the US, Dell is now incorporating a cell modem into high-end laptops sold in those three European countries. Service will be provided via Vodafone on their third-generation cellular network using HSDPA (high-speed download packet access). HSDPA offers speeds of a few hundred kilobits per second.
By incorporating the modem into the laptop, Dell increases its costs slightly, but reduces the cost of a PC Card cell modem for the consumer by $100 to $300 when purchased separately. It also dramatically reduces the subsidies required by cell operators to provide said PC Card.
While only some fraction of customers with the cell modem will actually sign up for service, the integration and scale makes it a more sensible option. It also leaves a PC Card slot free on these laptops (or PCI Express in future models) while avoiding an ugly external antenna.
There are a lot of partners to this deal that allows Sprint’s corporate customers to use The Cloud’s 7,000 hotspots in Europe: Sprint has a roaming network of hotspots that it resells. Quiconnect aggregates and manages this network on behalf of Sprint (and for other companies, too), much like iPass, but under Sprint’s name. (At one point, Sprint used iPass’s network and software.)
Quiconnect arranged the roaming agreement for The Cloud’s network via RoamPoint, which is itself a wholesaler of hotspots operated by other parties. These deals have become quite baroque.
In the end, the amount of interconnection, roaming, and bilateral access means that the hotspots available to any user on any network continues to grow. Most of these additions are metered, however: it’s a single login, single bill, but not a flat price, even if there’s an unlimited domestic or home-network rate.
Six solar-powered, Internet feeding lights will be mounted in Dundee: The lights will use LEDs, which use enormously less power for equivalent illumination with substantially longer lamp lives. Internet access will be powered by the same solar array. The company will install a whopping 4,000 more such lights later this year in a student village. It’s a fascinating idea for spreading municipal access through infrastructure that already has power and the right position.
The Cloud, a Wi-Fi hotspot network, will launch zones of coverage in 9 UK cities: London, Manchester, and Birmingham are among the first nine cities. They expect to pick up voice service and mobile users, but aren’t planning residential fixed access. Service will begin March 2006 and cover a population of four million residents.
The Cloud is a wholesale network operator, which means that this access will be available to its partners, which include iPass, Vonage, T-Mobile, and BT OpenZone.
Update: As commenters noted, this won’t be city-wide coverage. Rather, it will start in city centres. The press release notes this, too. However, note that the release says, “will begin with nine city centre areas.” This certainly means that they are expanding into other cities after the initial launch, but might also imply they would unwire areas outside High Street.