Solution providers examine ways to extend private networks
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Mobile solution providers are uncovering new sources of revenue from an industry movement to stitch together Wi-Fi "hot-spots" across the country.
As a variety of companies work to aggregate the low-cost 802.11b networks,providing central billing and connection services to hundreds of access points,solution providers are approaching their own clients about opening private networks for consumer services.
Ameranth Wireless, a mobile solution provider in San Diego that provides a wireless PDA-based restaurant ordering system, has begun approaching clients about adding Internet and other services for their patrons. In many cases, the Wi-Fi network is already installed as part of Ameranth's existing solution, so it's just a matter of opening the network for consumer use and working out a revenue-sharing plan, said Ameranth President and CEO Randy Stratford.
"We've approached some large restaurant chains and they are interested," he said. "For me, this could be a great competitive advantage to have."
The ITEC Network, Orlando, Fla., has similar plans for Wi-Fi networks it has deployed for local transportation industries, said ITEC President Marc Plogstedt. The company has set up audiovisual route information for transit agencies such as Orlando's citywide bus system.
In addition to providing vehicle location and stop information using a GPS and wireless access points positioned throughout the city, ITEC also delivers news and weather information to passengers.
In the next phase of the development, Plogstedt said, ITEC will work to add high-speed Internet access, entertainment and advertising for customers aboard the buses. A revenue-sharing agreement will be worked out with participating agencies, he said.
A key to providing such services will be the success of companies seeking to aggregate the Wi-Fi hotspots. Aggregators provide technical support, log-on software and one service plan that customers can use to access disparate wireless networks across the country.
At the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association's conference here last week, aggregators including Boingo Wireless, a Santa Monica, Calif., start-up launched by EarthLink founder Sky Dayton, and GoAmerica, Hackensack, N.J., announced deals intended to forward their business models.
Boingo reached an agreement with Hewlett-Packard wherein Boingo will bundle its service with the vendor's notebook computers. The company also signed a deal with service provider GoAmerica to add its network of hotspots to GoAmerica's roster of networks.
At the same time, GoAmerica announced an agreement to add Verizon Wireless' next-generation wireless network to its services.
The deals mean GoAmerica's corporate customers can migrate between CDPD, 802.11b Wi-Fi and CDMA networks, provided they have the right hardware, the company said.