NY Times brief on Sprint PCS Wi-Fi plans: I was only able to file a short amount on Sprint PCS's plan to roll out service at 800 Wayport and Airpath locations and, later, 1,300 of its own hot spots. Here's the rest of the reporting following on the brief linked above:
Sprint PCS will offer customers a software program, developed in-house, that allows access to either the 1xRTT cellular network or Wi-Fi hot spots in the Sprint PCS network. Charges for Wi-Fi services will be included on Sprint PCS cellular bills by the end of 2003. Although Sprint PCS was an early investor in Boingo Wireless, a company that packages access to 1,200 hot spots through a single bill, business marketind director Jason Guesman said that Boingo’s network was not part of the current plans.
Sprint PCS intends to support roaming among other hot spots networks aggressively, Guesman said. "No single operator will own all the tier one hotspots," such as hotels and airports, he said, and most of these venues will allow only a single operator. "A robust roaming marketplace is important to the long-term survival and health of Wi-Fi in the public space," he said.
Sarah Kim, a wireless industry analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, said, Sprint PCS is "relatively confident into trying to turn their customers from one type of business model to another."
But Kim doubted Sprint PCS's roaming plans. "While a carrier can resell from smaller carriers, like Internet service providers, from a competitive perspective it doesn’t make sense to resell to their direct competitors" such as AT&T Wireless, which operates Wi-Fi service under the GoPort name only in the Denver International Airport. For customers, Ms. Kim said, "What's important is that it’s at the right locations, at many locations, and the price is right."
As the appearance of high-speed third-generation or 3G networks have lagged, other cellular operators have built or announced their own hot spots networks as they pursue tests and trials of faster cellular data systems. Sprint PCS is "still in the lab" with its combined voice/data offering, Mr. Guesman said. "It's probably a technology that you’ll see in the next couple of years."
Verizon Wireless said earlier in the year that their customers would have access to Wayport’s network, and a spokesman confirmed that today. Jeffrey Nelson said the company has not set pricing or a date for start of service. Verizon Wireless’s parent company has plans to install up to 1,000 hot spots throughout New York City during 2003 for exclusive use by its DSL customers. Nelson said that no plans had yet been made to link the cellular and DSL hot spot networks. Verizon Wireless also provides unlimited 1xRTT service for $80 per month nationwide.
Nelson noted that Verizon Wireless would start trials shortly in San Diego and Washington, D.C., of 1xEvDO (evolution data only) 3G service, which he said could operate at several hundred kilobits per second. But Nelson noted that the company hasn’t yet committed to a national EvDO deployment. "We’re looking to prove out business cases to see what makes sense," he said.
T-Mobile’s HotSpot division has the largest footprint of Wi-Fi hot spots in the U.S., with nearly 2,700 locations as of today, mostly in Starbucks and Borders Books stores. The network currently allows no roaming or reciprocal arrangements with other hot spot networks. Kim said usage in Starbucks stores averages two users a day in most locations.
Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless’s plans may have been an attempt to neutralize T-Mobile’s hot spot advantage, Kim said. T-Mobile's cellular data option, GPRS, is slower and more expensive per than 1xRTT offerings and large-scale trials of a faster service known as EDGE been delayed, she said.