Cometa's Hotspot Hassles
But seven months into 2003 the company has installed very few of these hotspots -- the company says it has 10 live sites in McDonalds restaurants and has "deployed additional sites that have not been announced."
Cometa refutes suggestions that the venture is falling behind schedule. "There is no delay in Cometa's plan," writes a spokesperson in an email reply to questions. "We will be making announcements of sites on a rolling schedule over the Q3 and Q4 period." However, analysts say that the company is not meeting its original rollout schedule.
"Clearly they have not executed on [the original plans]," says Meta Group Inc.'s Chris Kozup, noting that the San Francisco-based company "didn't even bid" on the contract to run a public WLAN service in the international airport in its hometown, a site now operated by T-Mobile USA.
I don't know the exact number [of hotspots installed] but I know it's not very many," says Yankee Group's Sarah Kim. "I think the number that they first announced was a little aggressive."
So what's taking Cometa so long to get up and running?
According to an executive from a wireless operating support systems (OSS) startup who didn't want to be named, the companies involved in the project have been at loggerheads over the best way to install and manage hotspot sites. IBM Global Services, which is nominally the partner tasked with setting up these sites, had wanted to build a management system from scratch. However, the other partners nixed this suggestion as too expensive and are now searching for off-the-shelf software to handle management and billing tasks.
Yankee's Kim thinks that possible delays with Cometa's rollout can only benefit operators like T-Mobile, which already has 2,000 WLAN sites around the U.S. The more time it takes Cometa to roll out a network, the fewer prime sites (airports, hotels, brothels -- the usual suspects) there will be available for it to plant hotspots on. "The longer it takes other players to get moving, the more it becomes a question of a lockout," says Kim. "T-Mobile has the first-mover advantage."
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung