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AT&T will provide Wi-Fi in 20 New York City parks. The initiative runs for several years and will be free for all users, according to AT&T. CEO Randall Stephenson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are scheduled to speak. The Wi-Fi service available in across the city’s five boroughs, uses equipment from BelAir Networks and others. It works by co-locating carrier Wi-Fi access points with AT&T’s cellular base stations and then using mesh radios to extend the range of the signal.

AT&T Mobility has a hotzone thrust, expanding its WiFi hotzones into more areas of Chicago, New York and San Francisco to offload heavy 3G traffic.

AT&T operates hot spots in hotels, airports, Starbucks coffee shops and other indoor locations. AT&T’s new “hot zones” cover public, outdoor spaces and provide fast data service for AT&T subscribers.

At the end of June, Towerstream plans to introduce a Wi-Fi network in Manhattan at the end of June. Towerstream installs Ruckus WiFi nodes in busy stops, including Grand Central Terminal and Times Square, using their own backhaul installed on nearby tall buildings. Towersteam then leases the network to wireless carriers like Verizon.

Using Ruckus beamforming gear, Towerstream says it provides up to 200 mbps of available bandwidth per location. Verizon is expected to be a client.

Towersteam uses a Ruckus outdoor Smart-Sector mesh access point (ZoneFlex 7762-S), a point-to-multipoint wireless backhaul bridge (ZoneFlex 7731), indoor/outdoor customer premises equipment (MediaFlex 7200), and system-wide remote Wi-Fi management (FlexMaster 9.0) to manage hundreds of thousands of Wi-Fi clients.

Another network will be available outdoors between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, is being built with help from the non-profit NYCwireless. They had a wire-cutting a the beginning of June. NYCwireless has placed hot spots in several places around the city, mostly in Parks.

While “free” carrier-supplied WiFi networks in parks may be welcome, one might wonder how long the “free” initiative will last. With only three available 20 MHz channels in the 2.4 GHz band, cellular carriers might find it relatively easy to drown out free services like NYCWireless.net, then turn on the meter for non-subscribers. It also keeps out any competing ad-based free Wifi services, such as those that might be offered by Google, Microsoft or others.

See Dailywireless: Towerstream Launches Wholesale MuniFi, AT&T Moves to Hotzones and Picocells, AT&T Hotzone in Wrigleyville, Free AT&T Wi-Fi for Charlotte and NYC Gets Another Free WiFi Proposal

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