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« Denver Suburb Wi-Fi Provider Has City Commitments, Needs Money | Main | In-Flight Broadband (not Wi-Fi) Vulnerability? »

January 6, 2008

Kite Networks Shut Down in Arizona

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.


Good afternoon, Glenn -

I've been using the Kite network for about a year in Tempe, for internet connectivity to a remote site. At 1614 hours on Friday the connection was lost - when I drove over to check on it, I found that the pole-mount APs are still on the air, issuing IP addresses, but there's no internet connectivity, nor could I ping the DNS or gateway servers. Too bad, it was a necessary network for my little operation there.
But on a larger scale, one of the significant issues I saw with this network and its lack of clients was the absolute lack of advertising. While I only work in Tempe, and live in Scottsdale, I had never seen an ad, a radio blurb, anything for the network. It reminded me a little of the disaster that became of Metricom back in 2001, when it had arguably one of the best mobility networks around yet their advertising program left most of their potential customers clueless as to the availability or utility of the network.
I was paying $12.95/mo for service, and it was well worth that for my needs. Now, it looks like I'll have to set up a backbone link from the site to somewhere with an internet tap, and do it myself.

On a positive note, maybe plain vanilla WiFi will work better in Tempe now, when the hundreds of APs that Kite owns go off the air! It was hard to open a network browser in the city limits without seeing a dozen Kite Networks/WAZTempe/WAZASU APs on every possible channel...

Thanks for the article - it's the only information I've been able to find.
Sincerely, Jon

Darn it.

My experience is the same as Jon's. I noticed that I had no Internet access at my office, and went through the ritual of rebooting everything and STILL no connectivity.

So, I went "wardriving" with my Fujitsu U810, stopping at 3 KiteNet AP's in the area - they're all still transmitting (there's no way to shut them off - they're all hardwired into the power on municipal lightpoles), dishing out AP's but not connected to the Internet.

Damn shame, as my office is in an area where the only other alternative to dial up is BlueWave. I guess I'll be contacting them shortly.

Hell of a way to run a business - just shut everything off and walk away...guess I'll need to contact my credit card provider and tell them NOT to authorize any charges from KiteNet - they have my credit card number!

Thanks for the info - I was pretty sure things had gone south when their support phone number started only ringing once and then rolling into a faux "busy signal".

I can still get an automated response at 480.736.2875, but when I press 1 for support, it connects me to the 866.929.9434 number and I get the busy signal again...

Same Problem. I just got subscription just few days before this problem started, I never guessed that it would be out of service as soon as i sign up. The worst thing is is relentlessly tried to fix my computers all weekend thinking something was wrong with them. Obviously one with not much knowledge about wifi would assume that computer is to blame when it says connected to the network and can't access anything.

We have been KITE customers for over a year. We knew from MobilPro's November 10Q that its future was rickety! When we lost the signal Friday, we sent an e-mail to MobilPro which was forwarded to Telscape. We also contacted Dave Heck, Tempe's Deputy IT Manager. Later on Friday we received a call from Tad Neeley, Telscape Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer, who said he was in Phoenix trying to arrange for an emergency server so that service could be restored. This temporary arrangement would be pending Telscape's decision whether to acquire KITE, which depends on negotiations with MobilPro, Gobility, and the city of Tempe. So far (4:30 pm, January 7) KITE hasn't come back up.

My name is Ted Strong and I am a Major Account Manager with Sparkplug HQ'd in Scottsdale. We service the valley via microwave with speeds from 1 Mbps to 200 Mbps. We are strictly a B to B provider. If we can assist anyone that has been affected I can be reached @ 480-258-2736.

Hello all, I am also a victim. My KiteNet went down Friday night exactly the time I was doing a phone system upgrade for work remotely from my house so I had to drive in god awful early the next morning to finish up. I thought I was going crazy, but I run Linux and Windows and neither could get to the internet, though they could get connected with a valid IP, So then I went into the config to see if maybe KiteNet had any other access points to connect to, of course all dead. I then called their support and received a fast busy signal on their toll free so I did a 1411 search and got their local number which still operates (until they dont pay the bill) but once I pressed 2 for customer service it went to fast busy. I will definitley be filling a fraud complaint with my bank as my service was sketchy last week and they informed me they would refund that month but never did and again they charged me for this month for service I cant use. Though I have had quite a few issues with the company through the 6 months I have had it, miss-shipped access point, incorrectly configured access point, service disruptions, and very terrible customer service (could never fix the problem on the first call they allways had to refer it to the network team which took 4 days), I still was willing to put up with it for 12.95. Oh and also their upload speed was terrible. I originally went to their service to get away from Cox, support the tempe initiative so it would spread, and save a few bucks, but now I guess I will have to go with AT&T and their wireless internet service since it doesnt look like this is going to be resolved anywhere but bankruptcy court.

I signed up for KiteNet monthly in early Jan (8th?) with my credit card. It worked only that day and has not ever since. I can't even reach them by phone to have them not charge my card.