U.K. firm plans Bluetooth wireless network

Netario, a small Manchester, England-based company, launched what it called the first public-access Bluetooth wireless network in the world. Netario plans to roll out similar networks in cities throughout the U.K. and the rest of Europe.

Company Chairman Philip Coen said he expects by February to have 70 wireless hot spots throughout Manchester offering users 400K bit/sec. wireless Interest access. By the end of the third quarter of next year, he said, Netario plans to serve between 12 and 13 cities with the short-range Bluetooth wireless technology using the same 2.4GHz frequency band as higher-speed 802.11b wireless LANs offering raw data speeds of up to 11M bit/sec.

Though Bluetooth can operate at a maximum throughput of 723K bit/sec., Coen said Netario has throttled back speeds to accommodate more users within the 100-meter radius of the company's access points, which he said will be installed in airports, hotels and conference centers, such as the first installation in Manchester.

Pricing for access to Netario's Speedwave Bluetooth network, introduced this week in conjunction with Manchester's International Finance and Enterprise Week, will be roughly equivalent to charges at cybercafés. A per-session charge will run about US$6 or $7 per hour, Coen said. Monthly costs will be between $25 and $30, or slightly more than wired dial-up Internet charges.

Netario has carefully studied the U.S. public access wireless market to avoid problems encountered by companies offering wireless LAN services, such as MobileStar Network Corp. in Richardson Texas, which shut its doors last month.

Alan Reiter, an analyst at Internet & Mobile Computing in Chevy Chase, Md., said Netario could have a viable business model if it quickly extends its network. "Mobile professionals want wide coverage," Reiter said, and achieving that "is a question of time and money. Do they have enough of both?"

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