By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
So-called 802.11b "hot spots" are expanding beyond the confines of airports, coffee shops, and hotels to multi-block "hot zones" in cities, potentially eroding the demand for 3G data services.
Startup Wi-Fi Metro, a wireless internet service provider (WISP) based here, has launched wireless Internet access for mobile users in two six- to 10-block hot zones in San Jose and Palo Alto. The company also offers service with a range of 150-300 feet in more than 50 hot spots, including airports.
Privately held WiFi Metro, which launched service in October 2001, plans to expand its hot zone and hot spot services to 14 markets nationwide by year's end from the current three: San Diego, San Francisco's Bay area, and Seattle. Users can also roam into other hot spots in about 50 major markets at a higher cost.
In the California Hot Zones, WiFi Metro partnered with a fixed-wireless broadband carrier, Gatespeed Broadband, which uses 802.11b technology to deliver high-speed wireless Internet access to fixed locations in the San Francisco Bay area. Gatespeed targets small and medium-size businesses and SOHO locations.
Metro and Gatespeed plan to launch up to 20 more hot zones in the area by year's end.
In other markets, Metro will install the wireless infrastructure and use another telecom company's wired backbone.
Metro's all-you-can-eat service costs $19.95/month. Roaming charges are typically $6 to $10 for unlimited usage during a single 24-hour period.
Metro GM Arturo Pereyra said the company plans to partner with a CE or PC manufacturer to co-market service and to set up in-store displays at retail. The company currently markets direct and through other channels.
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