Wi-Fi cloud of hot zones planned for NYC

— July 12, 2006

With widespread public access to Wi-Fi slow to rollout in New York City, the nation's largest city is beginning to be covered by a unique wireless network, which is planned to eventually cover the Big Apple with a cloud of Wi-Fi "hot zones."

"We're building a true carrier-grade network," said Frank Matarazzo, president of Microwave Satellite Technologies, in an interview Monday.

Microwave Satellite's NuVisions operation has already fitted several buildings in the city with its gigabit Ethernet, which is then utilized to create a "Wi-Fi cloud" around each building. Subscribers to NuVisions' in-building broadband service " at $24.95 a month " can then use the company's Wi-Fi service without charge at any of NuVision's hot zones in the city.

"Every time we light a building, we can deploy Wi-Fi around the building," said Matarazzo. "The cloud gets bigger and bigger."

NuVision's hot zones already cover wide swathes of the city including the southern part of Central Park, Riverside Park from 60th to 79th Street , Dag Hammarskjold Plaza , the United Nations Plaza, and several Trump properties in the city. The service also covers Roosevelt Island in the East River .

Maintaining that its service is more robust than wide area WiMAX , Matarazzo said, adding NuVision's "rooftop to rooftop, high-power radios can operate across 360 degrees. Then we just drop into conventional Wi-Fi."

The service starts within buildings by enabling subscribers to connect to the service via any electrical outlet in NuVision-outfitted buildings. Matarazzo notes that the electrical wiring approach enables the company to avoid urban wireless problems presented by the difficulty of the services penetrating multiple walls.

Microwave Satellite calls its approach "walled-garden" network architecture. Matarazzo said the approach is well-suited to urban environments and the company is considering bringing NuVisions to other cities including Chicago and San Francisco . He said two or three thousand regular subscribers currently have signed up for the service while hundreds are utilizing the Wi-Fi features. "It's growing every day," he said.

"We're not basing NuVisions on a free model," he said, noting that the in-building service costs $24.95. He added that hundreds of individuals use free and paid NuVisions' Wi-Fi service daily. A 10-hour pass for the Wi-Fi service is available for $9.95 for anyone. Matarazzo said that feature was designed to compete with Starbucks Wi-Fi daily service, which expires after 24 hours. Users of the NuVisions service can take a month to use up their 10 hours.

In addition to the free hot zone service for in-building subscribers, there are some New York City municipal hot spots that are available free to all consumers.

Matarazzo calls the service "a virtual fiber optic network in the air." NuVisions plans to offer VoIP, video programming including live television, Internet gaming, retail shopping and interactive personal services in the future.

The NuVisions service is offered by MST, which is a subsidiary of Telkonet, which uses of electrical wiring for connectivity usage.

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