In 1967, the Summer of Love marked a major cultural and political shift in the U.S. and Europe. Fast-forward almost 50 years and what many people are dubbing the Summer of WiFi appears to be sweeping through some of the West's major cities. But could the Summer of WiFi be the start of something new? A new hope for city-wide WiFi blankets and mobile connectivity? The signs certainly look promising.
As I've blogged about previously, there are significant initiatives taking place in London to provide free WiFi connectivity across the city, including the Underground system and parks. O2, Virgin Media and a host of other service providers have launched or are in the process of launching new networks to coincide with the Olympics. Although there appear to have been some initial stumbling blocks, the signs look positive that more and more people are able to access free WiFi services throughout city (something I'll be testing later this week).
London isn't the only city to be moving at pace. New York is also rapidly deploying a number of free WiFi services across parks, transit systems and urban hotspots. Boingo is leading the charge here and is working with Google to ensure people have greater WiFi access than ever before. This certainly ties in with Mayor Bloomberg's initiatives to drive New York forward to become one of the most connected cities in the world.
Looking back across the pond to France, Paris is also starting to build some momentum. Earlier in June, WiFi provider, GOWEX, announced WiFi coverage across parts of Paris' public transport system, including railway stations, commuter lines and bus stops. Paris' Metro stations already have WiFi coverage courtesy of the service provider, SFR. However, SFR charge a premium for this service while GOWEX's offering is free.
The summer of WiFi is more than just the development of urban coverage though. We also need to look further afield to see some of the other initiatives that will effectively change how some of us connect to the Internet. I've talked extensively about white-space networks and the incredible potential they offer and it's great to see that we're also seeing movement here.
The newly announced AIR.U (Advanced Internet Regions) consortium is seeking to deploy Super WiFi (previously known as white-space networks) to a whole raft of underserved small college towns in the U.S. Composed of big industry players, such as Google and Microsoft, and over 500 colleges and universities, the consortium is seeking to deploy networks as early as Q1 2013. The impact of this could be enormous. Sure, it's not FTTH, but stable WiFi connectivity could provide many of these underserved communities with access to a whole range of new services and opportunities. What's more, this is just the beginning.
I can't help but be excited about the potential here. WiFi presents such incredible opportunities for mobile connectivity both in urban and rural environments. Looking at the latest mobile usage figures from Ericsson, these developments are coming at an opportune time. Check out the infographic below. Ericsson expects that mobile users will be using 15 times the data they do today. What's even more impressive than this figure is Ericsson's expectation for data coverage. It expects that by 2017, 85% of the world will be covered by 3G and 50% by 4G.
One can only imagine what data plans will look like by this time.
Anyway, back to the Summer of WiFi. Do you live in London, New York or Paris? Are you seeing greater access to WiFi? Do you live in another city with impressive WiFi rollouts? Now, what about a dress code for the Summer of WiFi. Is a flower in your hair mandatory? Should I be wearing flares?