Carrier WiFi

Cometa Closes

Cometa Networks Inc. -- the startup that launched with grand plans to hotspot entire cities in the U.S -- is closing down after less than two years in business.

A spokeswoman confirmed that the company is shutting down tomorrow, but couldn't offer much more in the way of detail.

"There will be an announcement tomorrow," she told Unstrung.

Everything looked much brighter for the company back in December 2002. Backed by undisclosed amounts of money from big names such as AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T), IBM Global Services, and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), the company announced plans to roll out at least 25,000 access points in cities across the U.S. and sell wireless LAN access wholesale to would-be wireless service providers (see Rainbow Unveiled).

But there were always rumors of trouble at Cometa.

The firm's original CEO left after less than four months on the job to spend more time working as a first responder for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) (see His Brilliant Career).

By July of 2003, it was clear that the firm had fallen far behind its ambitious rollout targets (see Cometa's Hotspot Hassles). And the company ended up using a "placeholder" billing system while it waited for software from AT&T and IBM (see Cometa Leans on Startup).

But what may prove to be the straw that broke the camel's back was Cometa's failure to win the lucrative McDonald's hotspot contract, which Wayport Inc. seized instead (see Wayport Macs Up).

Toshiba America Information Systems also decided to exit the hotspot game after losing out on the McDonald's deal and ceded its existing network to Cometa last month. (see Toshiba Hotspots Go Cold).

Cometa's flameout is likely to make many industry watchers once again question the viability of the entire hotspot model.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

fdacosta 12/5/2012 | 1:34:36 AM
re: Cometa Closes Cometa underscores the problems with doing wireless one hotspot at a time. It's just not the right approach. It does not distributing the bandwidth over a large enough area. Hotzones that cover large areas with a single Ethernet link is far, far more economical.

But the problem with Hotzones is that - to make it economically viable - you have to be able to distribute the bandwidth over very large areas. That should be a perfect application for mesh networks. And it is. Aside from the ugly secret about conventional mesh networks.

Conventional Mesh networks dont scale beyond 1-2 hops. The reasons are best explained under:


Here is a quick explanation:

1. Radio is a shared medium and forces everyone to stay silent while one person holds the stage. Wired networks, on the other hand, can and do hold multiple simultaneous conversations.

2. In a single radio ad hoc mesh network, the best you can do is (1/2)^^n at each hop. So in a multi hop mesh network, the Max available bandwidth available to you degrades at the rate of 1/2, 1/4, 1/8. By the time you are 4 hops away the max you can get is 1/16 of the total available bandwidth. So 4 hops down, a client cannot do better than 1/16 of the Ethernet Backhaul - provided there are no other clients on the network.

3. This is disastrous if you have 20 or more active clients on each hop of a 4 hop network. Consider the case of just 20 client stations at each node of a 4 hop mesh network. The clients at the last rung will receive -at best- 1/(256,0000) of the total bandwidth at the root!

4. Why has this not been noticed as yet? Because first there are not a lot of mesh networks around that do more than 1 hop connectivity ( not enough for hotzones) and second, they have not been tested under high usage situations. Browsing and email donGÇÖt count. Try video - where both latency and bandwidth matter - or VOIP where the bandwidth is a measly 64Kbps but where latency matters.

In my humble opinion. Cometa failed in part because they were trying to solve the wrong problem. Focus on Hotzones, not Hotspots is key.

Francis daCosta
Founder and CTO
[email protected]

Posted by: Francis daCosta May
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