The comments by Cometa Chairman Theodore Schell, presented to participants of
Cometa plans to create a network of wireless broadband "hot spots" based on the 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, standard and then sell access to carriers such as Internet service providers.
Schell cautioned that the market for high-speed wireless access remains in its infancy. Cometa's business, he said, would germinate in the enterprise market where corporations could buy Wi-Fi use from their Internet providers as an additional feature.
The "enterprise user," as he labeled the market, "would be the primary beneficiary," Schell said during his speech. "If we created a homogeneous infrastructure and we wholesaled it to major communications carriers... enterprises could acquire this as a broadband feature on their VPN (virtual private network)."
The demand for Wi-Fi access will largely depend on the gradual building of metropolitan networks and the availability of PCs equipped with that form of wireless technology, Schell said. He estimated there are only 3 million to 3.5 million portable computers in the United States that have Wi-Fi capability.
But that number is expected to increase, helped in part, Schell said, by Intel's plans to introduce itslineup--a bundle including a microprocessor, Wi-Fi chip and chipset, for making wirelessly enabled notebooks. Coupled with innovations for longer battery life, the number of Wi-Fi portable computers could reach 45 million to 50 million by 2007, he said.
Schell added that a number of fundamental challenges lie ahead for the company, specifically in creating a service that's reliable and secure enough for business users. He also said the services will have to be widespread so that business users could expect uninterrupted access points throughout a city.
In order for that to happen, Cometa will also have to find way to install its hot spots in "highly visible locations," such as retail chains, he said.