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A Discomforting Precedent For WiFi "Hot Spots"

timothy posted about 12 years ago | from the ineffables-rule-the-day dept.

Technology 121

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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The First Post (-1)

govtcheez (524087) | about 12 years ago | (#4024877)

Is The Best Post. Ole!

TROLLAXOR SIGHTED!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4024979)

In related news, Perky the goat says... "I LOVE YOU. Please fuck me in the ass."

What's a red-blooded American male to do? Perky was nice and tight, too....

Who cares. (-1, Troll)

SpanishInquisition (127269) | about 12 years ago | (#4024881)

It's in Europe.

Re:Who cares. (1)

Marcus Green (34723) | about 12 years ago | (#4024896)

300 million europeans?

Re:Who cares. (0, Troll)

moz25 (262020) | about 12 years ago | (#4024942)

The current Euro currency is supported by 306M people, which excluded the UK. So I guess if you include the UK and a few eastern european countries as well, you'd get well over 400 million. So there's plenty of people caring. Conversely, that's also plenty of people not caring about the original poster's comment :-)

Re:Who cares. (-1)

govtcheez (524087) | about 12 years ago | (#4024995)

And there are exactly 2 people who didn't get that it was a trollish joke. I wish some slashbots would go spend the money they saved stealing music and software to go buy themselves a fucking clue.

Re:Who cares. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025213)

I'm sorry, but there are exactly 400 million people who don't care about your comment or your definition of clue.

Re:Who cares. (-1)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | about 12 years ago | (#4025006)

400 millions clashdot readers that would not care with the original poster ?
impossible : you just can't ignore the spanish inquisition... :)

ahhh... (-1)

confucio-licious (555476) | about 12 years ago | (#4024885)

Nuthin' like a fat line of meth to start the morning off!

Mobile Phones are not for this technology (3, Insightful)

Tall Rob Mc (579885) | about 12 years ago | (#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.

Re:Mobile Phones are not for this technology (3, Informative)

RatFink100 (189508) | about 12 years ago | (#4024981)

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.

Re:Mobile Phones are not for this technology (1)

macdaddy357 (582412) | about 12 years ago | (#4024989)

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!

300 meters vs 100 meters (2)

TibbonZero (571809) | about 12 years ago | (#4024997)

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.

Re:Mobile Phones are not for this technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025125)

If you think having to be within 100 meters is
limiting , try not having a mobile phone at all!
This was in the 80s when your average cellphone
was the size of a brick and weighed twice as
much. Compared to them the Rabbit system was
lightweight and practical.

Re:Mobile Phones are not for this technology (1)

AGMW (594303) | about 12 years ago | (#4025163)

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.

Re:Mobile Phones are not for this technology (2)

JohnPM (163131) | about 12 years ago | (#4025186)

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?

They had one major use (1)

NexusTw1n (580394) | about 12 years ago | (#4025287)

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.

Re:Mobile Phones are not for this technology (2, Insightful)

An IPv6 obsessed guy (545330) | about 12 years ago | (#4025429)

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.

Any relation.. (0, Offtopic)

kaoshin (110328) | about 12 years ago | (#4024908)

To the wireless cable televeision transmitter called the rabbit?

interesting logo (0, Offtopic)

jglow (525234) | about 12 years ago | (#4024912)

Did anyone else notice that the hand drawn chalk logo spotting wifi access looks very similar to an ass [bbc.co.uk] ?

Re:interesting logo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025066)

No. It appears that you have a raging gayness that is calling you to the ass side.

Re:interesting logo (1)

jglow (525234) | about 12 years ago | (#4025389)

I guess I should have just said they were boobs, then I wouldn't have raging homophobes yelling at me!

Re:interesting logo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025510)

Who's the homophobe? They just pointed out that your fascination of the hershy highway is overcoming you, and I think they made a good point. Come out of the closet jglow.

Re:interesting logo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025072)

You need a new ass if yours looks like that...

nibbit (1)

moz25 (262020) | about 12 years ago | (#4024917)

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.

Re:nibbit (1)

jglow (525234) | about 12 years ago | (#4024938)

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.

Re:nibbit (1)

moz25 (262020) | about 12 years ago | (#4025026)

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.

Re:nibbit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025025)

The phone/system was called 'Kermit', they came with a home basestation and the ability to make a call at a 'Kermit' hotspot.
Not very succesfull, but they were good 'mobile' phones in the pre-dect times ...

Re:nibbit (1)

1nhuman (597328) | about 12 years ago | (#4025037)

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.

Re:nibbit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025081)

These "kermit" locations have been converted to wireless internet access points.

Re:nibbit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025430)

I've used GSM in the Netherlands (and throughout Europe). Considering the quality coverage, GSM qualifies as hot-spot technology.

Was called kermit in holland (2, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 12 years ago | (#4024924)

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 (1, Offtopic)

webword (82711) | about 12 years ago | (#4024926)

What does this mean for warchalking [blackbeltjones.com] ? Hmm...

what the hell is the author on? (4, Insightful)

topham (32406) | about 12 years ago | (#4024927)

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.

Well, there was Ricochet (2, Interesting)

name_already_taken (540581) | about 12 years ago | (#4024952)

But look what happened to that. Maybe now the time is right (Wi-Fi cards are cheap now, etc).

Re:what the hell is the author on? (2)

Salsaman (141471) | about 12 years ago | (#4025082)

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.

Re:what the hell is the author on? (1)

topham (32406) | about 12 years ago | (#4025143)

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...).

Re:what the hell is the author on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025176)

Analog... oh, you're American

Re:what the hell is the author on? (2)

halftrack (454203) | about 12 years ago | (#4025102)

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?

Re:what the hell is the author on? (2)

topham (32406) | about 12 years ago | (#4025205)

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.

Re:what the hell is the author on? (1)

ergo98 (9391) | about 12 years ago | (#4025104)

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.

Re:what the hell is the author on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025155)

GSM, 80Kbps? GPRS maybe, which is sort of GSM, but GSM is limited to no more than 9600bps. I.e. very, very, slow.

If you can fit 80Kbps through a single GSM timeslot, I think a lot of compression companies would be very interested in hearing from you ;)

Re:what the hell is the author on? (1)

ergo98 (9391) | about 12 years ago | (#4025195)

Well, I do have a compression algorithm that can compress any sized file into a single byte (it just can't decompress : I'm working on that part), so compression wise I do have the technology :-), however I had intended to say GPRS. Mea culpa.

Re:what the hell is the author on? (1)

karmawarrior (311177) | about 12 years ago | (#4025448)

Currently GSM does do up to 56kbps, but it's up to the network to support it. GSM's design is heavily influenced by ISDN, and it supports an ISDN feature called "channel bonding" where multiple channels can be linked. The technology, when used to speed up a data connection on a GSM network to a single modem or ISDN channel, is called HSCSD, and is supported, in my experience, by a majority of modern GSM phones.

This is all without adding GPRS to the network. It's fairly cool, especially as a GSM connection to an ISDN line is close to instant, so if you're lucky enough to have an ISDN access point for your ISP, you have a very fast to connect, if expensive, way of accessing the internet.

Of course, the network has to support the feature. Many don't.

Re:what the hell is the author on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025363)

A modern solution like CDMA 2000 or GSM offers 80Kbps or higher, which quite honestly is an entirely usable speed for wireless surfing, etc
The only reason 80k is adequate is because the displays on phones are very primitive. What happens when phones get multi-megapixel displays ? 80k won't stretch very far then.

Re:what the hell is the author on? (1)

ergo98 (9391) | about 12 years ago | (#4025424)

Well, I would never consider using a tiny cell phone a realistic use of wireless data, but instead I'm talking about hooking the phone to your PC. For the vast majority of uses, 80Kbps is absolutely functional, and the reality is that there is still a majority of internet users using dial-up at 40Kbps right now, and they seem to be getting by just fine. Of course you'd have to use some common sense: i.e. Download that 80MB service pack in the office, but for general browsing, emailing, etc, 80Kbps is absolutely adequate.

Tesla (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4024928)

Tesla would roll over in his grave or might get out of it, if he knew how far behind we are with wireless.

That guy was wirelesss years ago!

Re:Tesla (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025189)

He blew up half of Siberia doing it too!

I remember rabbit (2, Interesting)

tomsparrow (263122) | about 12 years ago | (#4024943)

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).

Rabbit didn't fail because it was hotspotted (5, Insightful)

blowdart (31458) | about 12 years ago | (#4024945)

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.

Re:Rabbit didn't fail because it was hotspotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025078)

Is a tube station as sexual as it sounds?

Re:Rabbit didn't fail because it was hotspotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025170)

no

Re:Rabbit didn't fail because it was hotspotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025177)

Please mind the gap. *beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep*

Re:Rabbit didn't fail because it was hotspotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025281)

Tube trains dont beep - thats the mainline trains.

Re:Rabbit didn't fail because it was hotspotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025403)

Depends on the line. Circle and Hammersmith & City trains do the beep.

Re:Rabbit didn't fail because it was hotspotted (1)

AGMW (594303) | about 12 years ago | (#4025207)

Not in the rush hour, no, not unless frottage is your bag.

One major drawback (2, Informative)

gnalre (323830) | about 12 years ago | (#4024956)

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.

It's a bit diffrenent here (3, Insightful)

_LORAX_ (4790) | about 12 years ago | (#4024959)

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.

Kind Of Obvious (2)

DarkZero (516460) | about 12 years ago | (#4024976)

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.

Blast from the past (2)

biglig2 (89374) | about 12 years ago | (#4024978)

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.

Re:Blast from the past (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025033)

Used to be a rabbit point in Jericho near where I live
There also used to be the best live-music venue in Britain, and I miss that a lot more....

Rabbit = Japanese Phone System? (1)

dankell (599062) | about 12 years ago | (#4024986)

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

Hey... I remember that... (2)

MarsDude (74832) | about 12 years ago | (#4024993)

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.

Re:Hey... I remember that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025061)

See here [slashdot.org] .

That Wright Brothers contraption will fail! (1)

MrFredBloggs (529276) | about 12 years ago | (#4025010)

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!

Dutch PTT had a similar network (2)

Jacco de Leeuw (4646) | about 12 years ago | (#4025011)

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.

Re:Dutch PTT had a similar network (1)

Peer (137534) | about 12 years ago | (#4025589)

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.

Rabbit failed, but cellular phone didn't! (1)

mbbac (568880) | about 12 years ago | (#4025042)

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.

Phone != laptop computer (2)

JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) | about 12 years ago | (#4025046)

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)

American cell phones suck (1)

Zabu (589690) | about 12 years ago | (#4025047)

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?

Re:American cell phones suck (2)

Jucius Maximus (229128) | about 12 years ago | (#4025112)

"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.

Re:American cell phones suck (2)

intuition (74209) | about 12 years ago | (#4025246)

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.

Re:American cell phones suck (1)

MrFredBloggs (529276) | about 12 years ago | (#4025316)

"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.

Re:American cell phones suck (1)

swfranklin (578324) | about 12 years ago | (#4025502)

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] .

Re:American cell phones suck (1)

johnslater (61055) | about 12 years ago | (#4025393)

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.

Wireless vs Cell Phone Model (2)

Alien54 (180860) | about 12 years ago | (#4025059)

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.

wireless sucks (1)

j1mmy (43634) | about 12 years ago | (#4025071)

it's too slow and too insecure. what we really need is pervasive ethernet ports in public places.

Hutchison CT2 / Wireless Broadband in Hong Kong (2)

shri (17709) | about 12 years ago | (#4025080)

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. :)

UK Perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025098)

I'm from the UK, and remember the Rabbit network quite well. Something that non-UK readers might not be aware of is the fact that you could use the Rabbit phone at home, as a cordless phone.

It was for outgoing calls ONLY except when you were at home, which is probably why it wasn't successful, not because of the limited places that you could use it. Infact, walking down the high street, you'd see loads of rabbit signs everywhere, it really wasn't as bad as all that.

How to Find WiFi (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 12 years ago | (#4025106)

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?

Why Rabbit failed and 802.11 won't... (2)

sterno (16320) | about 12 years ago | (#4025124)

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.

Reminds me of these new "local" wireless co.s (1)

CarrionBird (589738) | about 12 years ago | (#4025126)

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.

Yet another way to sell old stuff... (1)

Arkan (24212) | about 12 years ago | (#4025135)

... 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

This just in: (2, Funny)

jasonditz (597385) | about 12 years ago | (#4025136)

Study compares apples and oranges. Discovers oranges make bad pies. Finding none to encouraging for apple enthusiasts.

Re:This just in: (1)

karmawarrior (311177) | about 12 years ago | (#4025512)

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.

Oh so different.... (1)

psyconaut (228947) | about 12 years ago | (#4025137)

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

data networks are asynchronous (1)

Jim Morash (20750) | about 12 years ago | (#4025147)

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...

Free? (2)

glh (14273) | about 12 years ago | (#4025160)

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?

Re:Free? (1)

yogi (3827) | about 12 years ago | (#4025258)

Consume.net [consume.net] does this in the UK. Click on the "nodes" link from the main page.

Re:Free? (2, Informative)

iuyterw (255460) | about 12 years ago | (#4025347)

http://www.wifinder.com/

http://www.shmoo.com/gawd/

Re:Free? (2)

matthew.thompson (44814) | about 12 years ago | (#4025414)

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.

You also tend to walk while using a phone.... (1)

wisemat (561791) | about 12 years ago | (#4025171)

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....)

It failed in The Netherlands too (1)

decarelbitter (559973) | about 12 years ago | (#4025178)

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 was a glorified payphone (2, Informative)

johnslater (61055) | about 12 years ago | (#4025180)

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.)

Re:Rabbit was a glorified payphone (2, Funny)

NeuroUk (594740) | about 12 years ago | (#4025275)

Rabbit makes WAP look well designed

Old marketing material (0)

DrJolt (1435) | about 12 years ago | (#4025190)

http://www.inforeading.com/archive/text_files/ham_ radio/rabbit.txt

Mobile communications has come a long way... (1)

altgrr (593057) | about 12 years ago | (#4025217)

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 NOT a mobile phone (2, Informative)

GilesP (100019) | about 12 years ago | (#4025230)

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.

Rabbit... we had these phones (1)

trash eighty (457611) | about 12 years ago | (#4025410)

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.

So that's what that sign means (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4025449)

I actually live in New Barnet (the part of London mentioned in the article), I use that train station and I've seen those signs and occassionnaly wondered what they were for (I never rembered the Rabit phone system). Now I know.

I never expected slashdot would point me to some obscure bit of local trivia. Weird.

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