BellSouth Heats Up Netopia Hot Spot

Maury Margol, director of Wi-Fi strategy and product development for BellSouth, said the trial launched in March at Charlotte-area small businesses including Fuel Pizza, Caribou Coffee and Just Fresh Bakery. "We're doing a staged rollout to see if we can support these [hot spots] on the carrier-grade level," Margol said. "We've been impressed with the usage numbers so far and the amount of venues that want to take part in this."

Netopia's hot-spot solution, which officially launched May 3, uses the broadband products and services vendor's Wi-Fi 3D Reach gateways with built-in Wi-Fi access points and access controllers aimed at providing a single, low-cost platform for small businesses. Netopia, which also offers hosting, is making two models available to service providers: One incorporates an ADSL modem, while the other uses an Ethernet interface to connect to other types of DSL or cable modems.

Dano Ybarra, vice president of marketing for Netopia, Emeryville, Calif., said BellSouth is the first service provider to try out the solution. Netopia is also looking to attract other service providers with the flexible solution, which allows them to brand and customize services and set pricing based on the usage model that best fits their customers. "We're working to set up a sales force to work specifically with service providers," Ybarra said.

The first 100 businesses that sign up for the BellSouth FastAccess Hot Spot receive free BellSouth FastAccess Business DSL for one year, wireless equipment and software from Netopia, and installation and technical support. And while the plan is being offered only to existing BellSouth customers, others that are interested can purchase a BellSouth Internet service plan starting at $4.95 per month.

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Ybarra said starter-kit pricing for Netopia's hot-spot solution, which includes the gateway, is just under $500.