Klaus Ernst writes and images from New York City with his experience with the free CBS OpenZone network: CBS's outdoor advertising division launched the service in November 2007; Ernst finds performance is all over the board. "The 47th Street Subway entrance has the "CBS mobile ((ZONE)) surf the web here. Free!" orange banner (see picture) but there was no hotspot. Maybe next time." He tested across Broadway and found a couple more working nodes, although one lacked a banner, advertising, or a splash page for accepting terms of service--but it worked.
"Well, it's not hopeless, but CBS is definitely not blanketing the area with Wi-Fi the way they made it sound in the press release," Ernst writes. Ernest tests with an Asus and HP iPaq.
The map--click for larger image--is Ernsts's overlay of his tests with a Fon map of that part of Manhattan.
What's your experience, New Yorkers?
The boards use an EVDO/Rev-A-to-Wi-Fi bridge to provide service, with a mixture of Sprint and Verizon EVDO cards providing the EVDO side of the link. Problem is, that same EVDO connection is also responsible for all the housekeeping data needs of the signage, which keeps the EVDO link a lot busier than you'd think.
Plus, with Midtown completely saturated with EVDO users now, CBS Outdoor is lucky to be able to reliably REACH all the boards when they need to for administrative use, much less provide a lot of backhaul bandwidth for Wi-Fi users. The company that runs these for CBS Outdoor says they are lucky to get 56kb/sec during the day when the local cell towers that handle the link to the boards are loaded up with both hundreds of voice users plus a lot of EVDO users.
Sprint seems to have more network capacity for EVDO in Midtown, so CBS Outdoor is trying to migrate more boards to Sprint. Still, there isn't a lot of bandwidth left on a single EVDO/Rev-A link to provide Wi-Fi to even a handful of users at decent speeds. CBS Outdoor needs a better solution, like a hardwired network connection, which they are not interested in paying for.
The system does not use any Sprint or EDVO connection to deliver the WiFi.
The WiFi RF environment in Manhattan is the noisiest we have seen in the US and an IPAQ would get overwhelmed with the 100 or more WiFi access points it could see at anytime in NYC, not to mention the lower power of this type of device.
Aetheros, Intel, etc and others need to work on their client settings to grab onto a WiFi signal (like Ubiquiti does), that the user wants, when there are hundreds of WiFi APs in an area. With WiFi being an open standard there is no guarantee you will see a WiFi Access Point, even when you are beside it, when there are a lot of other competing access points that will drown the OS out unless you "power down" your WiFi client and "power back up".
Coming from the engineer that was responsible for deploying the system, I had to turn my laptop WiFi off and back on numerous times just to see the broadcasted SSID due to my Vista Operating System flaws in detecting the WiFi.
WiFi noise floor at -70 in NYC? Yes. Toughest place to deploy WiFi in the US.
However, nice to see the red "o's for the good coverage and the number of test points.
Tried to use it yesterday with my Blackberry Curve, couldn't get connected, details in the link:
This service is spotty at best. Some days you can log in any time and other days you can't log in long enough to check your e-mail.