A Kite Networks subscriber alerted me to a lack of Internet access in Tempe and Chandler, Ariz.; a lack of phones being answered, and a dead Web site: Kite (under the name NeoReach) was one of the earliest entries into the metro-scale Wi-Fi market, and Tempe, Ariz., and adjoining Chandler at one point had the largest continguous area of Wi-Fi coverage in the U.S. Reports indicated that service was inconsistent, however, and published reports from local papers indicate that Kite ultimately tripled the number of Wi-Fi nodes originally planned (from 400 to 1,200). Tempe was not an anchor tenant, but was to receive thousands of no-cost network accounts for city employees as a trade for mounting rights. The network in Farmers Branch, Tex., may be out of commission, too.
Kite was known to be in trouble last summer, as filings by former parent company MobilePro with the SEC indicated. MobilePro had sold the Kite Networks division to Gobility last year, but with the proviso that Gobility raise $3m in a matter of weeks. They did not. In an SEC filing in November, MobilePro asserted that "Gobility has been unable to fund its operations including the payment of amounts due under a series of capital equipment leases and other equipment-related obligations." No news has come out since then except regional bilingual telco Telscape was interested in purchasing the network.
The Kite and WAZ (Wireless Arizona) Metro Web sites are dead at the moment, and Gobility has apparently removed all mention of Kite from its home page, but still notes its ownership on its investor information page. I have a query into Kite about what's happening, although it's a Sunday, so I'm unlikely to get official word (if any) until tomorrow--assuming that there are employees at Kite left to provide official details.
Kite was, at one point, one of the big three independent service providers bidding on municipal RFPs for city-wide networks. EarthLink and MetroFi were the other two. EarthLink has de facto exited the business despite their statements that they haven't: they're really working to wind down or sell the operations. MetroFi continues to move forward, but only on deals they have an advance "anchor tenant" commitment from a city with, and I haven't heard of new contracts being awarded lately. MetroFi's Portland, Ore., network, the largest they're working on, is operating but expansion is in abeyance until the firm raises additional capital. MetroFi has also built a network in Riverside, Calif., with AT&T, and that may represent their future direction.
A number of regional firms bid on and sometimes won the right to build metro-scale networks across the U.S. Many of those have faltered, had bids revoked, or are vastly delayed. US Internet in Minneapolis is the only example of a continued expansion of big-city Wi-Fi that I'm aware of. In some smaller towns, regional providers have built out networks that work.