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A private firm with city and university support has installed free Wi-Fi: The Italian town benefits from the interest in experimentation, with the local university and foundations named after Marconi—it’s his home town, after all—contribute to the effort in exchange for testing ideas. The network, built by HI-TEL Italia working with local ISP Acantho uses RoamAD equipment.
BT will compete with The Cloud on unwiring UK cities: The telecoms giant said that they will be working with Intel to unwire 12 cities, starting with Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, and Westminster; six others haven’t yet been named. The company says they will work closely with local councils to focus initial rollouts on areas the cities deem important, such as deprived areas. Other cities may want handheld video for municipal workers. The first phase will be up and running by Feb 2007.
With BT’s emerging UMA focus—that’s unlicensed mobile access, or a seamless merge of Wi-Fi networks and cell networks for phone calls—offering more Wi-Fi over large areas offers them more opportunity to serve more calls at lower cost, and possibly with higher quality. Cell service, UMA, and metro-scale Wi-Fi all go hand in hand. BT currently offers a limited cell plus Bluetooth service, but will add Wi-Fi to some cell phones and plans in third quarter.
BT’s group director of mobility is quoted in this story about the interest by smaller towns. They were “inundated” with requests and will be “happy to work in partnership with them.” Some cities may co-invest with BT on providing service.
The Cloud, a hotspot network, announced plans in January to cover nine city centres with Wi-Fi, including the City of London, Manchester, and Birmingham. Birmingham has scored two goals here: they’ll have local Wi-Fi competition.
In Edinburgh, there’s particular interest because it would be the first city in Scotland to have city-wide coverage.
BBC’s Mark Ward writes about the social change that ubiquitous Wi-Fi might bring: The UK is booming with wireless networks, with the latest announcements offering seamless coverage across The City of London and Canary Wharf. There’s a growing expectation that ubiquitous high-speed Internet access will transform how companies work. Telecommuting versus mobile computing, let’s say. Likewise, customers will soon be computing everywhere, too, changing what companies need to provide to them.
Accompanying the main article is a separate piece defining some terms, but including two great graphics: one shows how a hotzone works. The other identifies areas in England and Scotland and within London that have or are planning to add hotzones.
Cute headline, I know, but it’s significant for The Cloud and the Square Mile: The Cloud will install extensive Wi-Fi service across the City over the next six months providing folks in bowler hats with the latest in mobile wireless data access. hrumpf.
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.”
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 city of Londonderry will have a metropolitan Wi-Fi next by spring: The Belfast paper suggests the city will be among the first in Europe to have full coverage. A Chesire-firm, Evolution Systems, will use Tropos Networks gear. Costs to end users aren’t noted, but the project is underwritten by a European economic development fund that’s trying to rejuvenate the economy of Northern Ireland.
The Westminster City Council will extend its municipal-services wireless network for public access: The network was originally built for city services (remote cameras, known as CCTV or closed-circuit television) and city employees with an eye towards Internet access for all-comers. The network covers Soho and will expand to two housing estates.
Ireland Offline needs a new spokesperson: John Timmons, the broadband advocacy group’s talking head, said in this article that all of Ireland could be served by just 50 mobile WiMax base stations using technology that should be available by 2008.
The article has other problems, mostly from uninformed opinions quoted directly. For instance, on Philadelphia:
“The local authority was going to set it up themselves but didn’t have the technical knowledge,” said Stephen McCormack, alliances director with Bitbuzz, an Irish wi-fi provider. “They had to contract private companies to do it for them. This increased the costs of the project and will make it more expensive for consumers.”
Oddly, EarthLink’s winning bid a few weeks ago requires the company to cover all expense and meet the proposal’s pricing structure. As far as I know, Philadelphia always planned to contract this out, too.
The article does bring out a usual complain that’s been hampering the growth of competitive wireless networks: putting up masts (or poles) on which to mount antennas. Real estate rights remain a key challenge in metropolitan-scale deployments.
An association of municipalities in Italy and a Wi-Fi company are offering a solution to small Italian towns: The organization and company are offering a package that includes an access point with satellite backhaul for 6,000 euros. What’s missing here is what these municipalities should expect to pay on an ongoing basis for the satellite connection, which is usually a very steep cost.
Westminster Council’s Wi-Fi network is being opened to the public through a deal with BT Openzone: The council built the network in parts of the city of Westminster and has been using it for council applications such as CCTV and staff use. In April last year when the Register first covered this network, a council spokesperson said they’d like to open the network to residents for a fee but that a different regulatory framework would be required to allow the council to operate a commercial service. Perhaps this arrangement with BT allows the council to comply with such regulations.
BT Ireland opened ten public hotspots in Drogheda, a town just north of Dublin: This article notes that BT Ireland (which officially changed its name from Esat BT in April) plans to make this Ireland’s first Wi-Fi town, but in March, Cork launched a network. The Drogheda launch sounds a lot like many small towns in the U.S. that have introduced Wi-Fi in their city centers. In the U.S., city governments vaguely say that they hope the Wi-Fi will attract businesses to town. I can’t really see how a free Wi-Fi network can help. Few businesses would rely on that connection for all of their Internet and email needs, if only because it would be insecure. The US Ambassador to Ireland, who helped launch the network in Drogheda, also thinks the network will help entrepreneurs who work from home. However, I’m doubtful that any “entrepreneur” would rely on a free Wi-Fi network for the same reason a business wouldn’t. I’m not trying to criticize free Wi-Fi networks because I personally would love to see a free network covering Dublin, but I think that cities are misguided when they suppose that building such networks will attract new businesses to town. If a city has some specific offering over the network that is attractive to businesses, the network could be a draw. But the network itself won’t automatically draw businesses to town.
Apparently, threats breed interest in municipal networks: If the UK had telcos screaming about unfair competition, there might be more interest in building municipal networks, according to this amusing piece.
Smart Telecom launched a Wi-Fi network covering the city of Cork, Ireland: The network covers a 1.5 square kilometer area. The service is initially free but very soon will require payment for access. It is apparently a mesh network but it’s not clear who the vendor is. Smart Telecom said it is talking with four city councils in the country about building similar networks in other cities.
Smart Telecom seems to be quite aggressive recently in its approach to the Irish market. It offers some pay phones, at least around town in Dublin, and it recently started offering DSL service in Dublin. Smart also offers local phone service.
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.
A BT executive said that BT isn’t interested in following in the footsteps of its U.S. counterparts in trying to limit municipal wireless projects: He says that BT is fully supportive of the community wireless projects that have brought innovative services mainly to rural areas. Such networks are fairly widespread in the UK. A networking group submitted a report to the UK government yesterday noting that there are at least 550 small scale wireless networks operating in towns across the UK.
Hopefully BT will sing the same tune once networkers start targeting the big towns. A group called Wireless London was formed earlier this year, aiming to promote free wireless networks that span the city.
An area of Italy as large as 220 square kilometers is being covered in Wi-Fi: The effort is part of an attempt to encourage locals of the area’s mountain towns to stay in the region, rather than move elsewhere.
Small towns around the globe are hoping that Wi-Fi or at least Internet access might convince people to stay. It’s already worked in Bardi, Italy where residents brought Internet access and turned a 16th-century theater into a multimedia center.