May 16, 2003
The Wi-Fi Alliance, an American-based industry association, is touring Europe in an effort to drum up support. Top of the agenda is getting more service providers to participate in its Wi-Fi Zone program, an effort to make it easier for people to find and connect to wireless LAN hotspots.
The program was launched last March, and 2,000 hotstpots in 25 countries are now listed in the Wi-Fi Zone’s database, according to Kirk Allchorne, marketing co-chair for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Europe is woefully under-represented right now. Only four hotspots in France, five in Germany, and seven in the Netherlands are currently listed. The U.K. musters a grand total of 39.
Europe’s Tier 1 wireless carriers are notable by their absence. Big-name players such as France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE), BT Openzone, T-Mobile International AG, and Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) have yet to participate in the Wi-Fi Zone scheme.
“The larger organizations are rightfully proud of their brand, and it takes a while for them to accept the fact that we are trying to establish another kind of brand that is not competitive to theirs,” observes Brian Grimm, deadly earnest communications director for the alliance. “We are talking to them, but it takes time.”
“The Zone project is useful,” says Michael Wall, wireless research analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “There are similar lists from aggregator companies like iPass Inc. and hotspot providers such as Boingo Wireless Inc., but these are often restricted to the players that particular provider is doing business with."
Wall voices concern, however, with the lack of control the Wi-Fi Alliance has over the quality of service provided in each location. “They could end up damaging their brand simply by providing a public service,” he warns.
Allchorne was unable to specify when certification for 802.11g (54-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) products would begin, instead reiterating earlier promises of “soon after” the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) has approved the final standard, expected in June or July this year (see 802.11 Security Issues Sorted?). According to the Wi-Fi Alliance representative, the approval of the g standard is to be debated at this week’s IEEE meeting in Dallas (see UWBers Get Busy in Texas).
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung
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