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Carrier WiFi

Wanadoo Wanders SOHO

France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE) is to break into the SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) wireless LAN market through its ISP subsidiary Wanadoo SA in a move that analysts have hailed as the next phase of European carrier involvement in the nascent industry (see Wanadoo Launches WiFi).

From next week, the carrier will offer a wireless LAN broadband package for consumers and small businesses based on 802.11b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) equipment supplied by French hardware vendor Inventel. The service will be available to ADSL subscribers within its home nation, with plans afoot to extend coverage to other European countries where Wanadoo has a presence.

“We have plans for further European rollout in the U.K. and the Netherlands, although this will depend on the success of the service in France,” says France Telecom spokeswoman Caroline Ponsi.

"Overall, most ISP's have been slow to market with WiFi until now, and this marks a beginning, as one of the most visible pan-European ISPs is targeting the SOHO space," comments Nicholas McQuire, European analyst at Pyramid Research. “It represents the next stage of evolution for wireless LAN development that is focused on the enterprise and home networking, rather than the public hotspot space."

The move is expected to further strengthen the carrier's attempts to become a key player in the European wireless LAN market and is in line with its initial strategy set out earlier this year (see FT Outlines WLAN Plans).

Evelien Wiggers, senior analyst at IDC, says the move is a natural progression for France Telecom, following its plans to launch 900 hotspots in Accor-owned hotels via its national Orange France (Paris: OGE) subsidiary (see France Tele Hits Hotel Hotspots ). “Since Wanadoo is closely working with Orange it is a good way to promote public access as well,” she comments.

In light of the Accor deal, the Wanadoo package is expected to be fully compatible with Orange’s hotspot services. “They will be unique in that they can offer an integration of their public hotspot services with the SOHO networking arena,” says Pyramid's McQuire.

Despite the carrier’s ambitions, claims that the Wi-Fi package is the first of its kind in this market are unjustified, according to McQuire. He avers that Austrian wireless ISP eWave, a subsidiary of that country’s cellular carrier ONE Mobil, currently offers a number of enterprise deployments focused on off-the-shelf packages similar to the Wanadoo offering.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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