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Technology

A Discomforting Precedent For WiFi "Hot Spots" 121

Posted by timothy
from the ineffables-rule-the-day dept.
rob.sharp writes: "The BBC have some history lessons for wireless networks ...", pointing to an article about a wireless phone service called Rabbit, which relied on access areas similar in concept to the WiFi "hot spots" ISPs and business are experimenting with around the globe right now. ("Subscribers to the service, backed by Hutchison Whampoa, could make mobile calls when they were within 100 metres of a Rabbit transmitter.") Rabbit didn't work out well, though, and the article questions whether 802.11 access providers can do any better.
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A Discomforting Precedent For WiFi "Hot Spots"

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  • by Tall Rob Mc (579885) on Wednesday August 07, 2002 @09:34AM (#4024904)
    Its no wonder that the Rabbit system failed. Requiring a mobile phone user to be within 100 meters of a station is extremely limiting. The idea of a mobile phone is that you can use it far from the receiving antenna. There are cordless phones on the market that have ranges of nearly 100 meters from their base station. The Rabbit idea sounds horrible.
    • Guess where that technology comes from?

      In the UK at least DECT phones (digital cordless) are the direct descendant of the Rabbit phones.

      Remember this was 1989. Real mobile phones were cumbersome and very expensive. This was an attempt to make them more widely available - albeit in a less functional form.
    • If wifi multiplies like rabbits, and several dozen incompatible wireless networks are set up, and no one of them has enough users to pay the bills, they'll all die like rabbit did in the UK. People will be stuck with expensive hardware that doesn't work any more, much like cellular phones. I personally have two that can't be activated anymore from providers going belly up and being bought out. It hella sux!
    • Yea, 3-4x the distance is really a huge difference. 100 meters is crap, but 300 meters is doable.
      In addition, if a wireless isp created a semi directional antenta (4 of them, each covering 90 degrees), and was able to boost the signal on each of them, the we would be able to get probably about 600 meters or better out of it.

    • I chap I worked with had one all those years ago, and it was cheap and it worked. You couldn't receive calls (obviously) but you could make them from anywhere around one of the little Rabbit signs, and there were quite of few of them (particular shop chains signed up to have the receivers).

      He loved it and continued to mourn it's demise well into the period he enjoyed his first (proper) mobile phone, which was big and pricey in comparison!

      Yes, it looks hella dated now, but back then it was pretty damn innovative, and combined with a bleeper, better than the Cell Phones of the time.

    • Requiring a mobile phone user to be within 100 meters of a station is extremely limiting.

      Yes but the point of the article is that the same limitations may cause wi-fi to fail and you havn't spoken to that at all. One could equally argue that the idea of an ultraportable or PDA is that you can use it far from the receiving antenna. I don't see what you mean about the corless phones either. They may have a 100m range, but they're not portable. You can't take them with you and use them from a Starbucks.

      The question is: Will Wi-Fi end up being replaced by, for example, 3G in the same way that Rabbit (and Iridium) were killed by GSM and cell phones?
    • The London Underground had antenna on every station.

      This made Rabbit the only network that could make calls while on the tube.

      Rabbit had excellent reception in areas where physical topography blocked normal transmitters - too many tall buildings blocking the signal for example.
    • You're exactly right. It's almost completely apples and oranges.

      When I'm on my cell phone, I want to be able to walk, drive and basically go anywhere.

      When I'm on my wireless network, I want to be able to go from my desk to my couch. I might even want to walk down to the cafe and use my laptop there, but I'm certainly not going to be typing on my laptop as I walk to the cafe, and I'm DEFINITELY not going to use my laptop while I'm driving somewhere.

  • by moz25 (262020)
    I recall there used to be a rabbit-like thing in The Netherlands a while back with hot spots near train stations, etc. It kind of died as gsm phones provide global coverage. I don't think any hotspot-based technology will really survive, unless it's significantly cheap.
    • I think hotspots for wifi networks definetly will survive, especially in places like airports. Imagine being on a business trip and needing to upload something before you get to the office/hotel.
      • I think it depends. There are two general scenarios to consider:

        1) There is both a hotspot and global-coverage technology, offering about the same service, but the latter is (somewhat) more expensive.

        2) There is relatively cheap hotspot technology without a clear alternative even remotely comparable in price.

        It seems that at the present time, the second scenario is realistic. Since wifi meets a demand, there will be people using it. The question is, however, how this trend will grow if there are globally covered alternatives in a comparable order of price. Plenty of people might consider using a more uniformly covered service for the sake of ease and simplicity.

        If you assume GSM to be hotspot based (with very big spots) and compare it to Iridium phones, then you see that the price being at least one order of magnitude greater (and some other factors) leads to failure.
    • In the Netherlands it was called Greenpoint. D*mn that technology sucked. I remember KPN (dutch phone comp.) getting McDonalds to support it. So when you where near one of them yellow-Ms-on-a-pole you could use your phone. Suddenly a small number of very geeky people needed to make very important phone calls while eating BigMacs. Imagine how cool they must have looked. Those where probably the same people you now see walking around with headsets attached to there Cells and 2 pagers cliped to there belts.
  • The phones where basically like a cordless phone, and priced only a little bit more expensive, and could work in places like metros, shopping centres and train stations. Its failure wasn't spectacular because nobody noticed it. The phones where in the display of the national phone company (only had the one back then) and then all of a sudden they where gone. Only later with prepaid gsm did mobile phones take off. After in all the places that kermit worked you also had public phones. So the service was redundant. But how many public ethernet ports do exists? Outside airports I never seen them.

    I also think the article makes the wrong comparison. Considering the target audience arent wireless hotspots like the early mobile (car) phones? You know the ones like a brick that only worked in the large cities? They took of like the proverbial rccket. Wireless computing is aimed at the business men, kermit was aimed at the consumer.

  • Warchalking (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by webword (82711)
    What does this mean for warchalking [blackbeltjones.com]? Hmm...
  • by topham (32406) on Wednesday August 07, 2002 @09:37AM (#4024927) Homepage
    Read the article and you'll see that Rabbit failed because there was an always-on functional equivilent.

    Can anybody please point to the always on alternative to WiFi networks?

    Ok, now that you've mentioned G3, can you find it where I live? No. Ok, lets try again, oh CDCP? Sure, we have it, Lets see, its 19.2K (Higher with compression, WOW!).... WiFi is what? Up to 11Mbps?

    The article might be right, but only if something with equivilent speed is more readily available... which it isn't, yet.
    • But look what happened to that. Maybe now the time is right (Wi-Fi cards are cheap now, etc).
    • Can anybody please point to the always on alternative to WiFi networks?

      GPRS ? It will get faster and cheaper as more people start to use it.

      • Your funny. I have a bad enough time keeping my phone from switching to analog. (and no forcing it digital would just drop the call...).

      • GPRS ? It will get faster and cheaper as more people start to use it.

        If I'm not mistaken, GPRS uses ganged-together GSM bands. That implies that there's a fundamental limit to how inexpensive it can be, at least until someone comes up with a whole lot more spectrum, or starts building thousands and thousands of GSM microcells (very expensive).

        The advantage of 802.11 is that the base-station technology is cheap (given that it's roughly the same as the client technology), and that it's designed to operate over a fairly short range. This means it's not going to be the preferred solution for rural or even (possibly) suburban areas, but it'll be a much better investment than things like GPRS in high-density areas.

        I don't imagine that the final solution will actually be 802.11, but I think the Telecom companies will eventually adopt something that's more closely related to 802.11 than to traditional mobile systems, at least in the cities. Your phone (or PDA or computer, whatever) will be flexible enough to switch to a much slower, more traditional cellular network only when you're out of range.

    • You don't have G3 but you do have WiFi hot-spots everywhere. Wow, where do you live. UMTS will be fully operational and tested before anyone has covered even the major cities with WiFi access. So WiFi is 11Mbps, but still UMTS is 2Mbps. Do you need more on your laptop/PDA?
      • I don't know about you, but my initial use of WiFi is unlikely to be while I'm walking down the street. Unlike talking on a cell phone.

        As others have pointed out, The likely use for WiFi is to access information on the Internet, it isn't that I expect somebody to access my webserver. Again, this changes the equation a bit.

        If G3, GPRS, etc, etc actually take off and become affordable I might agree with you.

        Right now I think WiFi has a better chance. The nature of it right now is that it pops up at the locations people want it to be in.

        GPRS pops up in areas where the telecom companies are willing to outfitt all thier towers with the required equipment or they don't offer the service at all. (It isn't unusual for half the towers in an area to technicly support a service several months, or even years, before the service itself is offered as customers expect it to work everywhere... it isn't like that with WiFi.
      • UMTS will be fully operational and tested before anyone has covered even the major cities with WiFi access. So WiFi is 11Mbps, but still UMTS is 2Mbps. Do you need more on your laptop/PDA?

        1) UMTS cells are generally much larger than WiFi hotspots, meaning that the bandwidth may be shared between a larger number of people. Microcells are generally far less cost-effective than 802.11.

        2) UMTS is a much more expensive technology in general. The rollout costs are mindboggling, and they're going to be paid off by service fees. High adoption would mean better rates, but also more competition for the bandwidth.

        3) Where do I need coverage? If there are fast, inexpensive WiFi hotspots in a lot of the places I need to go, it might be not be worth the extra dough to get coverage in every nook and cranny.

    • Ok, lets try again, oh CDCP? Sure, we have it, Lets see, its 19.2K (Higher with compression, WOW!)

      A modern solution like CDMA 2000 or GSM offers 80Kbps or higher, which quite honestly is an entirely usable speed for wireless surfing, etc. Indeed, even CDPD's 19.2Kbps is entirely usable. In the case of ad hoc or banded together 802.11 systems, there is a very relevant competitor, and that is the nationwide phone carriers and their new technologies.

  • I remember rabbit (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tomsparrow (263122)
    It wasn't as bad as it sounds - if it weren't for mobile phones coming up fast at the time it could have been a great success.

    If I remember correctly, you got what was essentially a cordless phone and base station - you piad wired rates when at home, and mobile rates when elsewhere.
    The good was that anyone walking past your house could use your base station t omake 'elsewhere' calls (on thier bill, of course).

    You presumably got a sign in the pack to stick in your window, because there are still some left around in random places. (one in a flat down the road from me).
  • by blowdart (31458) on Wednesday August 07, 2002 @09:39AM (#4024945) Homepage

    Rabbit, et al, were implemented as CT2 technology at the end of the 1980s. Four operators were licensed to operate phonepoint (or equivalent) systems. When a user wanted to make a call from a mobile phone, they would lock onto the nearest low-power transmitter; with the aim to place transmitters would be in shops, tube stations, and so on and there would be few gaps in coverage in urban areas.

    There was no mobility, as once a call had been set up through one base station it could not be transferred to another, also you could not take incoming calls (unless you were at home, where it worked like a cordless phone).

    Rabbit failed because "proper" mobiles (albeit analogue) were taking off and moving from the brick car phone models, and they allowed incoming calls, and movement from cell to cell.

  • One major drawback (Score:2, Informative)

    by gnalre (323830)
    The one major drawback with the rabbit phones was that you could not receive incoming calls on them so making them basically useless(You do wonder who comes up with these ideas).

    This is not a problem with WiFi because emails onlike phone calls do not need to be handled at once. Basically it will allow you to read the internet and catch up with emails when you get to the station or airport. I can see that being quite attractive.
    • But the Rabbit phones were billed as an alternative to phoneboxes at a time when mobile phones were not so prolific. In this context, the fact they cannot receive calls is not that important.
  • by _LORAX_ (4790) on Wednesday August 07, 2002 @09:41AM (#4024959) Homepage
    Wi-Fi cards have many uses BESIDE use at a hotspot. If Rabbit allowed someone to go from airport to airport, home, work, coffie shop, ... ( Highway ). Wi-Fi is supported by a raft of inexpensive interchangable devices that can be used with any interoperable equipment.

    So if I already have a card and I wander into a hotspot I am much more likley to use it. This is much diffrent from purchacing equipment that MUST be used in specific locations.

    So Wi-Fi hotspots are taking advantage of what people ALREADY OWN. I can't wander into a coffiee shop or an airport nowadays WITHOUT seeing a laptop out if not a dozen. Comparing this to rabbit would be like trying hotspots in the early 90's, nobody really had the equipment and it would be doomed to fail.
  • The chances of anyone making money out of the wireless hotspots could be dented by the fact that many community groups and well-intentioned individuals are setting up networks anyone can use for free.

    This is how just about everything works on the internet, aside from most broadband connections. Regardless of what corporations are offering, someone else is offering it for free. The record industry wants to sell you CDs, but hundreds of people are willing to just send you a copy online. Subscription news sites, especially gaming ones like IGN and GameSpot, want to sell you their news and content, but Gameforms [gameforms.com], The Magic Box [the-magicbox.com], and GameFAQS [gamefaqs.com] are all giving the same stuff away for free. And now wireless internet companies are trying to sell you wireless internet access when the same people that are using P2P services are willing to just give internet access away for free.

    There simply isn't any way to compete with people that are giving away the same product as your company for free, at least not for a small startup industry that doesn't have the financial and political clout to legislate against the people giving it away for free or strongarm the supply side of the market.
  • Yeah, I dimly remember those. Used to be a rabbit point in Jericho near where I live. (That would be the Jericho in Oxford).

    At the time it seemed a little limiting to me, although I guess since you got a base station in your home, it was better than a regular cordless phone.

    These days I'll probably throw my land lines away when I get broadband, mobiles are so cheap and ubiquitous. Times change. Every time I Watch Lethal Weapon, the only thing in it that dates it is a mobile phone the size of a car battery.
  • My understanding was that rabbit was equivalent to the system that they use in Japan, but failed due to underfunding and low power... In fact the low power asepct shold have made it safer - less radiation - and resulted in smaller phones, as the power demands were less... Shame it failed really DK
  • We had something like that in the Netherlands as well (the phone thing, not WiFI hotspots)... I think it was called greenpoint or kermit or whatever... it was something greenish... Can't remember really.... And neither can anyone else... It failed horribly if I recall correctly.
  • I mean, the first attempts werent so hot..what makes these new kids on the block think their idea is any different.
    Only a madman would try something which others have tried and failed at!
  • This reminds me of the Dutch phone network Kermit [geocities.com] from the nineties (later renamed to Greenpoint because they did not want to be associated with a Muppet after all).

    It failed.

    Mainly because its transmitters were often installed next to public phone booths (argh), and GSM turned out to have a much better coverage.

    Nevertheless, I don't see what this has to do with WiFi failing or not.

    • But the Dutch PTT does [planet.nl][DUTCH]. In the link KPN states that it will not start providing wireless networks any time soon.
      It's mentioned that they may still remember the failure of Kermit (Greenpoint), what in my opinion mainly failed because it was only meant for outgoing calls, and most antenna's were placed near (on top off) public phones.

      Another reason not to provide the service will be the big investment KPN made in UMTS-licenses, and their recent introduction of i-Mode.
  • As long as the coverage of Wi-Fi is close enough to what we get with cellular it will be great. It doesn't even have to be that close, it just needs to be hotspotted in areas where people are prone to sit down with a laptop.
  • I use my mobile phone while I'm mobile. I use my laptop while I'm sitting down (else it wouldn't be a laptop, now would it?)
    It's always nice to recall where we've been, but comparing wifi hotspots to the Rabbit project is comparing apples [apple.com] to oranges [orange.co.uk].
    (Apologies for the analogy-links, I couldn't resist)
  • The plans suck, if we were like Ireland and had pay as you go minutes, more people would have them. Being locked in to a plan is the worst way to market a phone, but it makes the companys the most profit.
    Maybe a little off topic, but I think consumers would be a little more friendly towards cell service providers if the plans were better balanced.
    any thoughts?
    • "The plans suck, if we were like Ireland and had pay as you go minutes, more people would have them. Being locked in to a plan is the worst way to market a phone, but it makes the companys the most profit."

      Both the 'plans' and 'pay as you go' exist in Canada and the USA. The plans are more popular because the cost per minute of talking time is lower. Also with the pay as you go, you have to keep track of expiry dates and such or your rates go up if you don't refill it in time. The people would rather just have anto-credit card charges as opposed to more bookeeping.

      The profit is actually less for pay as you go and my mobile provider (Telus) sent me a letter recently trying to convince me to switch over. To get all the services I get for CAD$10/month on the plans, I'd be paying $40-50 per month (with of course a whole lot more talk time.) Why do you think they offer all kinds of rebates if you sign up on a plan (I could have saved $150 on my new phone if I signed on for 3 years) and nothing similar happens with pay as you go?

      Of course this still stinks compared to what's in Europe were you can often just pay one price per month and use it as much as you want and the only thing that can run out is the battery.

      • Of course this still stinks compared to what's in Europe were you can often just pay one price per month and use it as much as you want and the only thing that can run out is the battery.

        What are you smoking? Per minute charges for telecommunications services in Europe is par for the course. You may be thinking how if someone calls your cellphone (in Europe) they pay an elevated charge (above the normal landline to landline cost) to cover the costs of calling your mobile phone. So in many cases if you have people calling you they bear the extra costs for calling a mobile phone, so you can talk all day because only the person who initiates the call pays while the person who recieves the call does not.

        Who provides unlimited mobile calling (outbound) for one flat monthly fee to the public? I'd be willing to bet noone.

        • "So in many cases if you have people calling you they bear the extra costs for calling a mobile phone, so you can talk all day because only the person who initiates the call pays while the person who recieves the call does not. "

          Not entirely true - If someone calls a mobile, they know in advance what they are paying, as their network provider tells them. But if You, the person being called, take your phone abroad, They`ll pay the same price as before, as they are just calling your mobile, and cant be expected to know where you are, and You, the person being called, pays the difference. This caused an outrage a year or so ago (in the UK) but it was just yet another case of people not reading contracts before they sign them, and the situation has not changed since.
        • Who provides unlimited mobile calling (outbound) for one flat monthly fee to the public? I'd be willing to bet no one.

          You'd lose [boomerangwireless.com].

        • "Who provides unlimited mobile calling (outbound) for one flat monthly fee to the public? I'd be willing to bet noone."

          My experiences with this came from numerous angry europeans (from Germany in this case) who were enraged when I said that having a pre-determined number of minutes to use your mobile phone per month was not the same as a plan with no 'gotchas' and they told be about paying one price to use it as much as they want (for local calls) ... just like land lines in the USA and Canada.

          Also someone else mentioned http://www.boomerangwireless.com/ [boomerangwireless.com].

          • "Who provides unlimited mobile calling (outbound) for one flat monthly fee to the public? I'd be willing to bet noone."

            My experiences with this came from numerous angry europeans (from Germany in this case) who were enraged when I said that having a pre-determined number of minutes to use your mobile phone per month was not the same as a plan with no 'gotchas' and they told be about paying one price to use it as much as they want (for local calls) ... just like land lines in the USA and Canada.

            Also someone else mentioned http://www.boomerangwireless.com/.

            Oh, come on. That's nothing at all like what's available in Europe. Boomerang is only in a handful of cities, limits you to one kind of phone ( and you can't use your existing phone) and has only very basic features.

            Here's what I get from E-Plus [eplus.de] in Germany:

            • Flat monthly rate, no minute limit
            • I don't get charged when someone calls me (as long as I'm in Germany). If I'm outside Germany, I have to pay for the call to be forwarded to me via another carrier, but even then the rates aren't that bad.
            • My choice of phone (most any model from Nokia, Siemens, Ericcson, Sony, Motorola, Alcatel...), most of which are more advanced than those in the States anyway. FWIW I have the Nokia 6210, which is a real workhorse.
            • WAP, GPRS, HSCSD.
            • SMS (19 Eurocents per message) with e-mail function. (I just send an SMS starting with an e-mail addy to 0177-SMSMAIL, and it gets sent.)
            • 49 Eurocents per minute to anyone in Germany during the day, 9 cents per minute evenings and weekends.
            • 95% network coverage of all of Germany, with similar coverage in other European countries. (And, of course, it's all GSM, so I don't need to change cellphones at the border.) FYI, Germany is about the size of Minnesota and a goodly chunk of Wisconsin.

            There just isn't any comparison. Yes, Boomerang has a flat monthly rate -- but then they suck in just about everything else.

            And I have no "gotchas" with my phone...so, sad to say, American cellphones really do suck. I shudder when I visit my family in the States and see what stuff they are using.

            Then I salivate over their cable modem...ah well, you can't have it all. ;-)

            Cheers,

            Ethelred [grantham.de]

            • Yes, this is exactly why cell phone service in North America sucks.

              The phones themselves are OK (the GSM providers sell some of the nicer Nokias too) but the service terms are clearly not that good, probably because there is far more incentive here in Canada to use a land line than in Europe.

              And here's something ... my SMS price is lower than yours. I only pay the equivalent of 6.49 euro-cents (10c canadian) per sent message and nothing for received messages. Of course you'll save more than me on the talk-time anyway. And I do believe my phone [telusmobility.com] (which is one of a fairly-nice-but-not-as-nice-as-yours selection [telusmobility.com]) is at least as good as yours [nokia.com] as well.

      • The pay-as-you-go business in the USA is about 3 years behind Europe. Expiry of minutes and minimum top-up fees in the USA mean that effectively most so-called pay-as-you-go plans still require a minimum monthly payment.

        This is finally changing. Virgin just launched the first truly open-ended pay-as-you-go service [virginmobileusa.com] in the USA. $100 to buy the phone, 25c for the first 3 minutes each day and 10c/minute thereafter. Minutes never expire, and there are no long distance or roaming charges. Virgin is using Sprint's PCS network.

        The only other service that has come close to this so far in the USA is Tracfone [tracfone.com], which offers 365 days of continuous service including 150 minutes of airtime for $100 or so. Great for emergency use, but the price of additional minutes is high.

        The trend in Europe has been ubiquitous ownership of pay-as-you-go phones, used modestly. The trend in the USA has been to bundle huge amounts of night/weekend minutes into monthly plans to encourage heavy use. It will be interesting to watch the collision between these business models.
        • "The pay-as-you-go business in the USA is about 3 years behind Europe. Expiry of minutes and minimum top-up fees in the USA mean that effectively most so-called pay-as-you-go plans still require a minimum monthly payment."

          I won't argue with you that these european plans are well advanced compared to the north american ones that are really a 'hybrid monthly plan."

          I prefer the pay as you go because the lowest case scenario for my provider is $10 per month. And I'm using the phone every month anyway -- it's like having an ultra-cheap monthly plan.

  • This brings to mind a comparison of how cell phones work, where you can just drive around and maintain your coverage.

    Ultimately, I think something like that would be ideal for wireless, but I see lots of technical issues on something like that, never mind the political issues of developing coverage.

    Trying to do this while trying to maintian free access would be difficult.

  • it's too slow and too insecure. what we really need is pervasive ethernet ports in public places.
  • Hutchison launched the CT2 service in HK in 1992. A reason it did not take off was related to the lack limited range and no roaming. It was around the same time that GSM networks were launched in HK. Here's a timeline [ofta.gov.hk] of the various roll outs in HK.

    The major ISP's in HK are now wiring up the popular locations like coffee shops, malls locations where people can sit down with their notebooks and surf the net or VPN back into work. The best wireless service is provided by Netvigator [netvigator.com]. I've yet to see anyone hooked into the net with a wireless connection in HK.

    Anyways .. just a couple of pointers from Hong Kong for those who care. :)

  • I subscribed to Sirius a month ago. While driving around I think I'm actually finding locations of 802.11x networks, because my signal, normally strong, will just die regularly near some buildings. Maybe this is a way to find them, eh?
  • The thing with rabbit is that the inconvenience of having to use them in specific areas substantially outweighed the cost benefit of using them. With 802.11, hot spots would only be a questionable model if you could get comparable bandwidth through any other means.

    Currently the best wireless services that offer long range coverage provide sporadic service and far lower bandwidth. 802.11 doesn't provide the wide coverage, but it at least gives substantial bandwidth at the shorter ranges. In the long run you can expect that the standard mechanism for doing wireless will be to roam from hot spot to hot spot, using 2.5G and 3G systems to provide some bandwidth when not near a hot sport. Even as 3G systems get built out, the bandwidth capabilities of hot spots will increase to continue to provide value enough to make it worthwhile to people.
  • Here in the US a few companies are marketing basically a moblie home phone. You get unlimited local calls & are charged a per minuter rate for LD, just like your standard landline. The phones look like standard digital phones, but I don't think roaming is allowed. The coverage area is basically the whole town and surronding area, again like a standard landline. In Charlotte NC it's marketed as Cricket. Sounds like the same kinda idea as Rabbit, but using more modern technology, so the coverage is better.

    Not for me, I need national coverage, but it probably will appeal to people who rarely leave town.

  • ... as if it was bleeding edge idea.

    We got Bebop. A nice, cute little wireless phone that worked the very same way as Rabbit: spot a relay, get close enough, and you could make a call. Let me just say it was completely wiped out of the paysage by cellular phones.

    Now, could someone tell me how many time it gonna take for business to understand that if a product had no market because of technological deficiency ten years ago, it is not going to be more successful today?
    Same goes with Wap: the problem was not the speed, but the size of the device. 3 years later, they come back with even smaller devices... and GPRS. Duh!

    --
    Arkan
  • by jasonditz (597385)
    Study compares apples and oranges. Discovers oranges make bad pies. Finding none to encouraging for apple enthusiasts.
    • Funny you should say that. The company that marketed Rabbit was called Hutchison Wampoah. It gave up, bid for a PCN licence (digital wireless in the 1800Mhz range), got it, and formed a company to run the franchise... called Orange [orange.co.uk].

      So I guess with that, and with a certain hardware company [apple.com] pushing WiFi services, the article really is, literally, comparing Orange to Apple.

  • I lived in the UK too when Rabbit (and the other 3 licensees) were around. And as previously mentioned, it was an outbound call service only. In now way similar in any form to a cellular service -- more like a private payphone service.

    Now, WiFi access points might well take off. There's many times I'm at a restaurant or a cafe or an office building when I'd like to be able to get decent Internet access. I carry around an Apple TiBook -- so I've got built-in WiFi already.

    The usage profile of this sort of technology is very different from phone service. You want to reachable when you have a cellphone (predominantly), and you want to be able to *reach out* with WiFi -- to check email, send email, grab a copy of that report you forgot at the office, read Slashdot at the airport terminal etc.

    Funnily enough, I've noticed Spotnik have put in a WiFi access node in one of my favourite restaurants here in Toronto (SpaHa). Despite being quite a trendy restaurant, it's actually located on the University of Toronto campus -- probably a pefect place to attract both geeks and rich students with their iBooks who want to drink latte while surfing and pretending to write their papers ;-)

    -psyco
  • When you want to make a phone call, you want to make the phone call 'now', right? But if you want to check your email, the delay inherent in needing to pass through a hot spot to download your latest messages may not be a problem. Also how often are people walking down the street using a laptop? Stationary hot spots go well with the current practice of parking your butt somewhere for a while to do work.

    Of course if you want to be searching google all the time, anywhere, at the slightest provocation, you're out of luck...
  • by glh (14273)
    BT is reportedly considering prices of up to £85 per month...

    The chances of anyone making money out of the wireless hotspots could be dented by the fact that many community groups and well-intentioned individuals are setting up networks anyone can use for free.

    £85 per month seems high, but I suppose broad band isn't near as cheap "accross the pond" as it is here. However, free is a lot cheaper, and I'm hoping that there are some "well-intentioned individuals" that can help make that happen.

    It would be great to see a web site for freloaders dedicated to WIFI spots where you could enter your zipcode and then find out what is near you to get on, and what you must do in order to get on (hardware, settings, etc.). Anyone know of such a thing?
    • by yogi (3827)
      Consume.net [consume.net] does this in the UK. Click on the "nodes" link from the main page.
    • Re:Free? (Score:2, Informative)

      by iuyterw (255460)
      http://www.wifinder.com/

      http://www.shmoo.com/gawd/
    • The cheapest broadband connection in the UK is about £20 per month for ADSL (512k down 256K rate adaptive up)

      Cable modems are around £25 for 512k down and £35 for 1Mb down.

      It's most likely that BT are pricing this high to keep all and sundry from jumping on the not terribly stable or rolled out bandwagon.

      Just FYI.
    • by Canis (9360)
      I pay £20/month for cable here the UK. BT is being extortionate. As usual.

      TBQH, I think the article is correct in saying that commercial WiFi hotspots are unlikely to stick around for the long haul. A few specialist "captive audience" spots might work out, and in the short term the novelty factor might support coffee-shop spots for a while; but long term they're screwed when 3G rolls out. Right now though, WiFi is still at the top of my shopping list...

      WiFi itself will carry on. The fast roll-out for corporate networking, the convenience for home networking, and the opportunities for community networks [personaltelco.net] all count for a lot with me. Much more so than (yuk) Bluetooth. I think 802.11a/b formats have a rich future ahead of them.

      Me, I want to play with 802.15.4 aka ZigBee [commsdesign.com]. Sure, it doesn't have the ethernet-sized bandwidth but it's really cheap, low-power, and thinking about the possibilities of swarms of tiny ZigBee-enabled devices makes by brain hum. In a good way. :}

  • I tend to move around when using my phone, but most people using PDAs and lap tops are quite content to be in one place, and I think that hurt Rabbit.

    I do agree that the charging issue might make commercial WiFi fairly rare, but if prices keep falling I see a fairly large enthusiast group that will have free WiFi in a lot of urban areas, and I think that places like Hotels, Clubs with either admission/membership fees, Airports, and perhaps more exclusive coffee shops will be willing to spring for it as a way to attract/keep customers

    I agree with some of the other posts that WiFi will survive as long as there is no affordable, always on equivalent covering wide areas.(And for the forseeable future in America at least, there won't be....)
  • We had a similar system too Rabbit, called Kermit (and yes, the phones were greenish). It only worked around hotspots, which were located at trainstations, big busstations and large plaza's. Ofcourse it failed because coverage was limited. But it also, or even more failed because at the same time nationwide coverage by the then proprietary ATF-networks became cheaper. Not long after that the first GSM networks were deployed, making cheap wireless nation-wide covered calling available. So, if you ask me it's not only the limited coverage that counts...
  • Rabbit didn't fail because cellular/mobile phones overtook it. It failed because it offered no compelling advantage over a conventional payphone.

    Rabbit phones didn't take incoming calls, and were only usable close to a "hotspot" where payphones were plentiful. Call charges were similar, and payphone users didn't need to buy equipment.

    Payphones killed Rabbit, and now cellular/mobile is killing payphones. Two separate battles, 10 years apart.

    (One marginal benefit of Rabbit was the ability to use the same phone at home with your own personal base station connected to your POTS line, like a conventional cordless phone. This wasn't enough to sell the service though. After the service collapsed, Rabbit phones and home base stations were sold off dirt cheap as digital cordless phones, and very good they were too.)

  • At the time of the Rabbit phone, mobile phones were firstly a great luxury, and secondly not commonplace. Now, however, laptop computers and PDAs are widespread. The opportunity to have a high-speed internet connection available at various access points (railway stations, cafes, etc) seems a good idea.

    The thing that will differentiate the amount of success that such access points have is the fact that there is a captive market. Because mobile phones were not thought necessary back in the 80s, the Rabbit phone was not a success. Whereas, with 802.11, you have a large group of people who feel lost without their internet connection.

    All it comes down to is the convenience with which one can use the WiFi networks.

  • Rabbit was launched in the UK primarily as a solution to the lack of (working) public pay phones.

    It was not intended to be used as a mobile phone, rather it was a work around to the restrictions that prevented pay phones being installed in many locations, and the fact that most pay phones were vandalised constantly.

    Unfortunately, shortly after Rabbit was launched, the laws were changed to allow more pay phones to be installed (by companies other than BT), so it kind of under cut Rabbit.

    This combined with the fact that mobile phones became portable (as opposed to tethered to a car battery) meant the Rabbit didn't really stand a chance. Rabbit was really a case of too little too late.

    One point about Rabbit was that you got a base station to use in your home. This base station could also be used by other Rabbit users to make calls if they were in range. This meant that the Rabbit network got larger as more people became customers, just like current community WiFi initiatives such as Consume [consume.net] et al.

  • my dad got ahold of a couple of these phones cheap, we did have a "base station" in the shops nearby (further than 100m though) so we never actually used the phones as mobile phones. they made for good cordless phones in the house though. compact.
  • Rabbit can't be compared to Wi-Fi in very many ways at all, if any.

    Rabbit had to compete on the high end with cellular phones, giving seamles coverage over large areas.

    And it had to compete on the low end with pay phones - A MUCH cheaper alternative that it had few advantages over.

    What competes with Wi-Fi? There's no mobile equivalent, while 3G may be "fast", Wi-Fi is 10-100 times faster.

    Rabbit used a proprietary phone that became a paperweight if service died - Such unease makes customers hesistant. Wi-Fi uses standard hardware that you can use without any service, in your own home.

    The problem wISPs will have is "the network" - Coverage is what makes people switch cellular providers, coverage is what will make people switch/sign up for WiFi providers. The founder of Earthlink has found what I consider a pretty good solution to the problem of building a network - It's the exact same technique he used to build Earthlink into a nationwide dialup ISP - Don't build the network yourself, partner with a multitude of ISPs for maximum coverage, eventually buying them if it makes sense to do so.

    There's only one comparison to be made here - Just as Rabbit was a souped-up cordless pay phone, Wi-Fi is a souped-up cordless RJ-45 jack. The only decent competition I can see for Wi-Fi is a provider that puts Ethernet hubs in hot-spots to compete - An easy threat for a wISP to avoid - Simply be the one providing and charging for the Ethernet ports too. Once you've got an AP with a connection to the outside network (the hard/expensive part), adding wired Ethernet drops is easy.
  • While there are definitely some similarities between Rabbit and Wi-Fi, there are also some important differences.

    First, the model that I expect to be successful is non-commercial Wi-Fi networks. In some cases, Wi-Fi networks will be offered as a loss leader; to get people into a coffee shop, for instance. In other cases, universities will setup campus wide networks for students, which will probably be freely available to anyone on the campus. Also, some residences will allow people to piggy-back on their broadband connections. In each of these cases, the costs to the Wi-Fi provider are small, although there is the potential for abuse.

    Another reason the comparison between failed mobile phone networks in England and Wi-Fi may be irrelevent is the way in which these services are used. Mobile phone users are on the go. They are either walking or driving, but in most cases they don't want to be tied down to a 100 meter radius. On the other hand, the current generation of wireless users are primarily using laptop computers. Laptop users will generally prefer to park themselves at a table or bench. Of course, as PDA's and other devices start to become equiped with Wi-Fi capability, this behavior my change. But, before that really gains steam, I expect a lot of other changes to be under way as well.

    The main point is that Wi-Fi is not going to be driven by large corporations the way that mobile phones have been. Wi-Fi is more likely to be a grassroots movement because the price is right. On the other hand, grassroots Wi-Fi networks is not a one-size-fits-all solution and there will definitely be opportunities for the telcos to get their grubby paws in the game as well.
  • Would that work? Build some "special phone hardware" that can use current 802.11 hotspots to connect to the internet. This would be a nice incentive for people to put up more hotspots, and it would also mean free calls.

    We should probably use some free, existing voice-over-IP net so people could still call with their computers and stuff like that.
    • I had the same question. It would seem that this would be a viable application at least in densely populated areas with good WiFi saturation like NYC or SF.

      You should be able to do it with existing hardware, such as multimedia equipped PDA.

      Some of the drawbacks have been identified here as reasons why Rabbit couldn't compete with mobile telephony - such as receiving calls would be spotty unless you camped out at known hot spot. But if you worked in an office with a wifi network and had one at home most of the time you would have access most of the time anyway - but these are times when you already have access to the POTS telephone network as well.

      The other drawback is that without 100% saturation you would be constantly plagued with dropped calls if you tried to walk or especially drive while on the phone.

      For those reasons it would be hard to sell as a standalone service, but if billed with mobile Internet for your PDA which is already up and running, I can't see why people wouldn't pay say an extra $10/month to also get telephony if it meant throwing away the mobile phone and the $30-$40 month cost.

      • Yeah. My school has wifi so I thought this would be a good idea.

        Starting it as a grassroots movement would be great and for times when you're out in the country you'd connect to the internet some other way.

        ("Why do you sound so bad?" "Well, I'm calling over a modem.")

        We could start a cooperative making cheap phones for all who wanted, but, since the network would be free, also allowing pda/wireless or laptops or phones from competitors et cetera.

        Oh, maybe some of the phones could be relay stations as well as end units. That'd be cool.
  • 1.Rabbits are "lagomorphs" (not rodents) and they are related to hares and pikas.

    2.A house rabbit pet can live up to 10 to 12 years and is a long-term commitment.

    3.There are over 45 recognized breeds in the United States and all domesticated rabbit breeds are descendants of European rabbits.

    4.Rabbits can be litter box trained and it is much easier to train them after they have been neutered or spayed.

    5.A rabbit's digestive system is similar to a horse and they require daily hay to prevent digestive problems. Rabbits cannot vomit and hairballs can be fatal.

    6.Rabbit teeth grow constantly and bunnies will naturally gnaw wires, furniture legs, etc. so rooms in a house must be bunny-proofed where they are allowed to run.

    7.Rabbits can mate as early as 3 months of age and gestation is 31 days with a litter size of 4 to 12 kits.

    8.When bunnies become adult rabbits they can exhibit aggressive and territorial behavior. They will spray urine, mark territory with their feces, bite and grunt.

    9.Young bunnies should not be separated from their mother until they are 8 weeks old.

    10.Domesticated rabbits are very social and do best as when adopted in pairs. They can also bond with cats, dogs and guinea pigs with proper supervision and patience.

    11.Spaying and neutering prevents health problems for rabbits. Females are prone to uterine cancer after 5 years of age if they are not altered. Altering makes rabbits less aggressive and prevents overpopulation.

    12.Rabbits can become very affectionate pets that can enjoy cuddling, being petted and quiet interaction with humans especially after altering. They can learn their names and simple words such as "No."

    13.Most rabbits do not enjoy being picked up since they are ground dwellers by nature. Many will scratch and kick violently to avoid being picked up.

    14.The skeleton of a rabbit and especially the backbone is very fragile and it can break easily when the rabbit is handled improperly or dropped. Legs can break, too, if contact is made with a hard surface when a rabbit is struggling violently.

    15.Rabbits require a solid floor in their cage instead of a wire grate since their feet are not padded like a dog or cat.

    16.Domesticated rabbits need exercise to stay healthy and time outside a cage to run.

    17.Rabbits have their own version of a purr. They will grind their teeth softly when petted. Rabbits also communicate through a variety of ways such as stomping a hind leg, grunting, honking/oinking softly, grooming each other, etc.

    18.Rabbits are nearsighted and have a blind spot right in front of them.

    19.Domesticated rabbits do not survive in the "wild" if they are abandoned.

    20.Rabbits are most active in the early morning and in the late evening.

    21.Rabbits are not Hares, but they are closely related. Hares have fur when they are born and their eyes are open.
  • I remember these quite well. The idea was that as people bought the phones, they would get a base station they plug in at home that anyone nearby could also use. Unfortunately nobody bought them, so there was no reception, so nobody bought them...


    I still occasionally see the signs around. There was one at a train station. Think it might be City Thameslink but I could be wrong.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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