Free Wireless Networks Take Root

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Date: Tuesday, August 28th, 2001, 13:49
Category: Archive


A new Infoworld article “‘Parasitic Grid’ Could Undermine Wireless Revenues” details the new trend in urban wireless networks: free personal 802.11b Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) that could begin to cut into revenues of large wireless carriers.


An underground movement is afoot to deploy free wireless access zones in urban areas, building on the increasing popularity of wi-fi or 802.11b technology — a standard for wireless Ethernet that works on an unlicensed portion of the spectrum. The movement, dubbed the “parasitic grid” by some, is already thriving in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, British Columbia and London.

The concept is based on community-minded volunteers, who offer other Internet users within a certain range — say 300 feet — a ”free ride” on their wireless connections. The trend is not going unnoticed by the large wireless carriers in these cities. “We are aware of the free services springing up and are considering 802.11b wireless access as well, not in place of currently scheduled rollouts but as an adjunct,” says an AT&T Wireless spokesman.

Meanwhile, so-called “aggregators” have developed software that resides in the mobile device that can find any available network and connect the user to it, creating, in effect, metropolitan-wide free networks that may ultimately compete with fee-based wireless services. ”It would even be able to say, ‘Here is a list of the networks found’ and indicate which are free and which charge a fee,” says an official at a company that provides 802.11b services at hotels and airports.

For more on this emerging trend check out our previous Go2Mac articles:

Free Wireless Internet Access – Coming Soon to a City Near You [Wed, 15 Aug 2001, 12:06]

Free Wireless Access: Caveat Emptor [Fri, 17 Aug 2001, 08:28]

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