Marriott will unshackle its guests’ mobile Wi-Fi hotspots

Marriott International has caved under the public outcry over its Wi-Fi blocking policies. On Wednesday the hotel chain said it would no longer try to shut down the personal Wi-Fi hotspots its guest create using smartphones and MiFi-like modems.

“Marriott International listens to its customers, and we will not block guests from using their personal Wi-Fi devices at any of our managed hotels,” Marriott’s statement read.

But it doesn’t look like the hotel chain has entirely abandoned its quest to control the so-called “rogue” access points on its properties. The company said it is still concerned about the security implications of such brought-in networks in its conference facilities and meeting rooms.

“We will continue to look to the FCC to clarify appropriate security measures network operators can take to protect customer data, and will continue to work with the industry and others to find appropriate market solutions that do not involve the blocking of Wi-Fi devices,” Marriott said.

After the Federal Communications Commission fined Marriott $600,000 for using radio jamming techniques to nullify personal hotspots at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Marriott joined a petition from the American Hotel and Lodging Association asking the FCC to change its rules on Wi-Fi blocking. A Marriott spokesman told Re/Code that the hotel is still backing that petition. So while this may be a victory for road warriors who carry their Wi-Fi in their pocket, it may just be a temporary one.

Hopefully the FCC will reject any such a request. The whole point of the unlicensed airwaves used by Wi-Fi is that no one owns them. Giving an industry or a property owner the right to dictate how its local airwaves are used would be a horrible precedent.



UK hotspot startup Purple WiFi raises $5M

Purple WiFi is a wireless hotspot company that doesn’t own any hotspots. Instead it has built a virtual network of business Wi-Fi access points available to the public for free – as long as they’re willing login with their social media credentials.

Now the previously self-funded U.K. startup has raised its first outside money, announcing Wednesday a $5 million round led by former Tessco CEO Terry Leahy and the William Currie Group with participation from Juno Capital. Purple said it would use the funds to hire more staff and expand outside of the U.K.

Purple basically offers a trade-off between businesses and their customers: Cafes, stores, restaurants, hotels and even museums will give their customers free Wi-Fi access with minimal login fuss in exchange for analytics and the right to market their wares at those same customers. Businesses who sign up use their existing Wi-Fi routers, tying them to Purple’s managed service in the cloud, which handles logins and tracks customer data as well as hosts Purple’s marketing platform.

From a consumer’s point of view, when you enter a Purple business you use whatever social media credentials you choose to login into the Purple WiFi portal and then get free wireless internet access. That idea isn’t new. [company]Facebook[/company] and [company]Google[/company] are trying to build virtual Wi-Fi networks using their user IDs as the keys to unlock public hotspots and in exchange getting access to valuable consumer data.

Purple is a bit more consumer friendly on the credentials side, though, as it doesn’t tie you down to a specific social network. Right now it supports Facebook, [company]Twitter[/company], Google and Instagram as well as China’s Weibo and Russia’s VKontakte.


Time Warner Cable, Boingo turn on Hotspot 2.0

Time Warner Cable and wireless ISP Boingo signed a roaming deal in June, which allows TWC’s broadband customers to use Boingo’s Wi-Fi hotspots at airports and convention centers and Boingo subscribers to tap TWC’s growing network of outdoor hotspots in its cable territory. These kinds of deals are pretty standard fare among Wi-Fi operators, but in this case there was one big difference.

The two agreed to use a new Wi-Fi networking standard called Hotspot 2.0 to link their networks, and on Wednesday they announced that feature is finally enabled. What that means for [company]Time Warner Cable[/company] and [company]Boingo[/company] customers is that their smartphones can move securely between and automatically connect to those two networks without requiring any kind of manual registration or login.

That may not seem huge, but simple deals like these mark the beginning of a new era in public Wi-Fi in which every operator could negotiate dozens, if not hundreds, of Wi-Fi roaming deals and offer their customers expansive hotspot footprints. Today we live in a world of segregated networks, granting access to those armed with the proper passwords or the willingness to go through a registration screen. That isn’t exactly conducive to creating a seamless wireless network experience.

But with Hotspot 2.0, all of those credentials are handled in the network. Newer smartphones with Wi-Fi Alliance-certified Passpoint clients can automatically link to any network they’re authorized to use. Right now the industry is slowly adopting Hotspot 2.0, signing one-off deals such as Boingo and TWC’s and the recent cross-city limits agreement between San Jose and San Francisco. Hopefully we’ll see these partnerships expand beyond just two parties, creating truly global hotspot networks

Fon begins beta testing a business Wi-Fi network

Fon hopes to expand beyond its residential hotspots into coffee shops, retail stores and dentist offices across the world. It’s launching a new beta program and Fonera router for businesses starting today.

Boingo supports the troops with IPTV, winning contracts to connect U.S. military bases

Boingo’s(s wifi) acquisition of military base ISP Endeka appears to paying dividends. Boingo revealed this week that it has won contracts with the U.S. Marines Corps, Army and Air Force to install IPTV and broadband access networks on their posts and bases in the U.S. and some overseas installations, using a combination of fiber and point-to-point wireless technology. Soldiers and officers who subscribe to the on-base services will also get free access to Boingo’s global Wi-Fi hotspot network.

Karma brings its community broadband experiment to LTE

Karma is building a community of mobile broadband users who share their connections without sharing their data. It’s attracted 50,000 users so far, a number it hopes to boost as it moves to Sprint’s LTE network.