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New York To Get Free Wi-Fi Network Via Livery Cabs 86

Posted by kdawson
from the don't-drive-like-my-brother dept.
AndyAndyAndyAndy writes "NYC may finally have a viable plan for free, ad-supported public Wi-Fi service. A company named LimoRes Car & Limo plans to roll out 1,000 cars with transmitters by the fall, and 20,000 by 2011, providing in-car Wi-Fi and externally with a radius of 200 feet. Each car will be able to support up to 16 separate connections. It may be a long shot to say this will provide complete coverage in Manhattan, but if each cab company in New York got onboard... although the brief article notes that the tougher regulation environment for taxicabs means that Wi-Fi won't be coming to Yellow Cabs any time soon."
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New York To Get Free Wi-Fi Network Via Livery Cabs

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  • Hmmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:59PM (#33185332)
    So, you will have a fleeting connection as the cab whips by, dropping of a fare outside your $2000 a month NYC hovel...

    No, but seriously, educate me: how will someone maintain a connection when the access point is always moving?
    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

      by pushing-robot (1037830) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:00PM (#33185342)

      Moving? This is New York City we're talking about.

    • So, you will have a fleeting connection as the cab whips by, dropping of a fare outside your $2000 a month NYC hovel...

      But is it the Cash Cab? [discovery.com] Free month's rent!!*

      * Famous New Yorker Tom Wolfe endorses the use of multiple exclamation marks.

    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

      by ls671 (1122017) * on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:12PM (#33185416) Homepage

      > No, but seriously, educate me:

      Simple enough, you just need to follow the access point with your car. Problem solved !

    • by Otto (17870)

      Assuming it's in enough cars, you could do it with a mesh-network topology. It'd probably require special software on each device to work that way though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by QuantumG (50515) *

        Except that no wifi drivers support the mesh topography standards.

        • by Abstrackt (609015)

          Except that no wifi drivers support the mesh topography standards.

          That's probably why he said "It'd probably require special software on each device to work that way though". As long as you can create an ad-hoc wireless network you can create a mesh network.

          We run an OLSR mesh network in the warehouse and have generally been pleased with the results. As long as each node can see one node down the line anything can communicate with anything else. Our system isn't bandwidth-intensive so we haven't encountered any bottlenecks and there's a plugin for OLSRd that lets you s

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JWSmythe (446288)

        I still see huge problems with this. If you have one car per block, and they are stationary, the mesh idea is pretty good. When I've been in New York, that's not what I've ever seen [google.com]. I wouldn't worry too much about a lack of signal. I'd worry a lot about too many towers in the same place on the same or neighboring frequencies. I'm sure quite a few of us have encountered what happens when you have too many access points on the same channel too close together. Apartment complexes are great for it. I'

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Actually, the congestion issue's not a problem for standard wifi -- just needs to be 802.11a/n in the 5 GHz band, where there's more channels and they're non-overlapping. Uplinks could be WIMAX any day now (from Sprint, probably), and LTE possibly next year or so.

          Of course, probably 90% of devices are b/g/n 2.4GHz only, so that's not what'll happen. *sigh*

        • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Informative)

          by mr_mischief (456295) on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:55AM (#33186874) Journal

          A livery cab is a cab for point-to-point rental. It is not a yellow taxi cab that you can hail from the curb. It's what you get when someone says, "I've called a car for you. You'll be dropped off at the client's at 10."

          • by JWSmythe (446288)

                  The article did indicate that they wanted to get all the cabs doing it. It would probably work ok initially, but once everyone is doing it, it will become trouble. You can still likely have problems with too many of them together, at such places like the airports and performance venues.

            • Yeah, they did briefly mention that. I'd bet by the time they got around to it they'd realize that current networking kit just won't cut that log. Let them try it on this scale and work some issues out. Who knows, the networking industry might just get a jumpstart on equipment for huge mesh networks by following a gradual scale-up of something like this.

              Getting all the livery cabs, taxi cabs, buses, and shuttle vans in the city to be hotspots for a 200 foot radius right now with what's available would be a

              • by JWSmythe (446288)

                Someone did mention that NYC is planning (or doing) wifi and cell repeaters in the subways. I guess time and congestion become factors though. Is it faster to take a cab from Point A to Point B, or go down to the station and wait for the right subway to show up. I've been fond of subways for some trips, but others are just impractical. But, if you get free wifi, it may be an acceptable trade for most.

                {sigh} and I'm in an area with no significant mass transit. You *could*

                • My town of about 40k has a decent bus system. It runs from about 7 or 8 am to 8 or 9 pm during the week and has a stop within about six blocks of anywhere, but the wait can be a while. The physical accommodations buses will pick you up and drop you off anywhere when they have the capacity available and you're physically disabled. Still, a car or even a bicycle is often more convenient than the non-handicap bus.

                  Free wifi on the buses here wouldn't make much difference for two reasons. For one, most non-handi

          • by instarx (615765)

            Actually, no. What you're descrbing is a limo. Livery cabs are point-to-point, but they are not called in advance like a limo service. They are usually gotten at the airport for a ride into town in a somewhat better car than a taxi (at a significant cost premium).

            • If you're getting it at the airport without calling ahead, it's because one of the bases for that black car service is at the airport and you're visiting their base in person. You cannot hail it at the curb. The trip must be prearranged. In English, as a matter of fact, "to call" or "to call on" someone meant to visit in person before the telephone was ever invented.

              In the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission Rules and Local Laws book, Chapter 6 on For-Hire Vehicles, Section 16 "Conditions of Operation for For

    • If you can't keep up with a livery cab, you need to get a faster horse for yourself.

      • (For those who missed the joke, it comes in thirds:

        1. a livery cab is a point-to-point cab service you can't hail. Assuming you're the passenger, you're going to be very unfortunate to not keep up with the signal, since the cab is coming to pick you up and drop you off.
        2. cars in Manhattan rarely move very fast for very long, and with decent roaming another should be by shortly enough to give you at least a chance of picking it up
        3. the comparison of livery cabs to handsome cabs, which are themselves carriages draw
    • I guess you have to pass the connection from one cab to another. It's called soft handover [wikipedia.org] except it doesn't exist for WiFi.... yet. Also WiFi uses OFDM [wikipedia.org] which involves very close - almost overlapping - frequency bands. Add some doppler effect (vehicle in movement) and your signal's gone.
    • I administer a 13-node Meraki network. Transfer from one node to another is seamless. Look it up. Read the stories. Perfect for this. I'm getting consistent 800' range. Meraki.com
  • This makes about as much sense for users as trying to use (stationary) wifi hotpots from a moving vehicle.

    • by T Murphy (1054674)
      Such a system would work just fine for me to read slashdot, for example- load pages when I'm connected, read the pages when I have no connection. It won't be good for click-intensive browsing, but checking the weather, sports scores news and email should work fine assuming cabs aren't too far apart. While it doesn't compete with more conventional internet connections, when away from such access this is a step up from either foregoing internet or paying exorbitant data rates on your cellphone.
    • by robot256 (1635039)
      Using a stationary hotpot is a much better idea than using one in a moving vehicle. The soup would get all over the place, and I doubt New York driving would help much (except for when you're supposed to be moving but aren't).
  • by bit trollent (824666) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:02PM (#33185366) Homepage

    Now, you don't only have to worry about what your neighbors are doing on their wifi. A traffic jam full of taxis in front of your apartment will totally screw your wifi.

    Over-wifi. It's a disaster waiting to happen.

    You's seen it at Apple and Android announcements. They wifi is to crowded and somebody has to find an ethernet cable.

    • A traffic jam full of taxis in front of your apartment will totally screw your wifi.

      They wifi is to crowded and somebody has to find an ethernet cable.

      SCARY!

  • A moving WifI.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kitkoan (1719118) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:13PM (#33185422)
    Unless they plan on parking the cars a lot, I don't see how this can be useful. Once the car goes down the block it will be out of range and the connection will drop. Won't matter if another one is behind it since it won't be the same connection so no auto-reconnect either.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You missed the point. This is for the people riding inside the taxi. Considering the cost of a vehicle and its upkeep, adding a wireless router is a drop in the bucket. I'd certainly choose the taxi with wifi if it was an option, even for a 10 minute ride. That way I can stay on top of the latest /. stories.

      • by Kitkoan (1719118)

        FTFA:

        "It would provide Wi-Fi to people in the cars, as well as those within about 400 feet of the car.

    • ...This is NYC though, they aren't going to be moving any too fast.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I am not sure that I understand, isn't it possible to have a huge wireless mesh of L3 roaming AP's? If you had enough of them in one area can't you just jump from between them without dropping your connection at all? If every single car had this, it would make the VoIP cellular phone that switches between free public wifi and the cell carriers towers a viable possibility in bigger cities at least.

      • by Kitkoan (1719118)
        On paper you could, but a city has a lot of things that would kill/degrade the connections from street lamps degrading the signal to buildings, back streets behind/between the buildings and the other cars themselves. This alone could likely cause the cars to drop from the wireless mesh, not to mention its signal would cause it to crawl. People would want to do things like tether their smartphones to it to save money (with VoIP and video chat), add laptops/desktops in houses and you have a LOT of traffic mov
    • I wonder if maybe the cab company doesn't care if outsiders can actually use the connection. Think about it: all you have to do is convince some idiot politicians that you could provide a seamless connection to a sizeable portion of New Yorkers by installing access points in all your cabs, and you've just gotten the government to subsidize free wifi for your customers.
      • by JSBiff (87824) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:45AM (#33185816) Journal

        "...and you've just gotten the government to subsidize premium wifi for your customers."

        There, fixed it for you. The only thing better than getting the government to provide a free service to your customers is to get the government to provide a free service to [b]you[/b] that you turn around and charge your customers $25/hr for. I mean, these are *limos*. . . you don't think people riding around NYC in limos would pay $25/hr for Wifi in the car? More to the point, you don't think the limo companies wouldn't charge them for it?

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Livery cabs != limos.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mr_mischief (456295)

            Livery cabs can include limos. Livery cabs don't include the Yellow Taxi for which New York is famous. Anything that can be hailed at the curb by a random fair without prearranging the livery (literally the renting of a ride) is not a livery cab. Limos, Town Cars, minivans, or pretty much any vehicle can be a livery cab, and limos are a popular choice.

    • I'm sure it's somehow different, but at my college, we have a public wifi all over campus and as you walk around, your connection will get dropped and picked up by several different routers, but you continue to be connected. If you go to a totally dead area, yes it will drop and you'll have to reconnect, but not finding it for a short bit doesn't seem to be a problem. Of course this is a private university paying for large wireless routers that cover larger areas, concentrated in a much smaller area than Ma
      • by Kitkoan (1719118)

        I'm sure it's somehow different, but at my college, we have a public wifi all over campus and as you walk around, your connection will get dropped and picked up by several different routers, but you continue to be connected. If you go to a totally dead area, yes it will drop and you'll have to reconnect, but not finding it for a short bit doesn't seem to be a problem. Of course this is a private university paying for large wireless routers that cover larger areas, concentrated in a much smaller area than Manhattan.

        Your college will also most likely have more access points in a closer range and have a constant power supply being plugged into a socket. These cabs won't have this option and will cause it to suffer.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They could do a WDS and have all the access points use the same name.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Unless they plan on parking the cars a lot, I don't see how this can be useful

      Useful for whom?
      Because for the passengers of the cab, I reckon it will be useful not to pay the Mobile WiFi while travelling - may make sense during rush hours.

  • I'm willing to bet the barn that this fails. I'm not sure that any part of their plan makes sense.
    • by tverbeek (457094)

      I'm willing to bet the whole farm.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, cabbies were "hacks" long before computers invaded geekspace. Seems to me there's years of experience to draw on.

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      WTF Am I gonna do with a barn, in NYC?

      Maybe I could convert it into some sort of yuppie antiques shop, or a novelty restaurant. . .

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

            Forget that. Make the lower level into a parking garage and the upper levels into apartments. You'll make more money there than any shop will. Of course, you'll want to reserve the road facing portions to shops, so they can try to make some money on it.

            Or just tear it down, and put up an obnoxiously tall building. :)

    • The only part that makes sense is maybe connecting while in the cab during the cab ride. But that's about it as far as I can tell.

  • so the cab drivers now have to shell out for 3g 4g just like how they have pay the CC fees for the readers.

  • From what I gather here, a user will have just enough time to get an ad delivered to them before the limo or eventual taxi moves away. The only way this would be feasible if there was some serious mesh network technology being used and a wireless client can hop transparently from limo to limo without interruption. 20000 eventual vehicles allows for some optimism, but that many transmitters introduces problems of its own. And the claimed 400 feet range is absurd and often difficult to achieve in even near
  • at least it's free wifi for people inside the car. But yea, it's a bit dishonest to call this free public wifi. I'm not sure if slashdot interpreted the article incorrectly or if the company is just really inept and actually thinks thousands of moving wifi APs will create a sustainable public wifi network.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kitkoan (1719118)

      at least it's free wifi for people inside the car. But yea, it's a bit dishonest to call this free public wifi. I'm not sure if slashdot interpreted the article incorrectly or if the company is just really inept and actually thinks thousands of moving wifi APs will create a sustainable public wifi network.

      The article states "It would provide Wi-Fi to people in the cars, as well as those within about 400 feet of the car." Now with it stating that it will provide WiFi to those within 400 feet of the car, it brings to mind the idea of a free public WiFi that could all together cover the entire city. It still is a little dishonest but who is wrong here depends on who felt that mentioning it would transmit a signal 400 feet of the car, it could be either the company or the article writer adding more information h

      • by gad_zuki! (70830)

        Most likely the LCD screen on the back seat or the receipt machine will produce the WPA password. I doubt this company wants to give away its expensive 3G-based broadband to random leeches.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Are all these wifi connexions safe for the drivers health when most of the cars equiped with these wifi boosters are parked in the same place?

    • When are livery cabs mostly parked in the same place? When the shift is over and they shut the car down? Or are you thinking of yellow taxi cabs rather than livery cabs?

  • The NYC subway system is also getting WiFi and cellular phone repeaters throughout the system. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nf/20100803/bs_nf/74586 [yahoo.com] In about six years...
  • With 16,000 perfectly deployed connections to... how many million potential users? It seems like a long-shot to even get in line.
    On the other hand, there must be a street level Google maps game in there somewhere.
    • by sqrt(2) (786011)

      Not everyone uses the Internet at all - ever. Hard to believe for us here on Slashdot but there are still plenty of people with no net access either by choice or for financial reasons. Of the people that do use and want internet access, not all of them will be online at one time, and I'd suspect that those people that are will be fairly evenly spread out over the area you are trying to cover with service. You could potentially have hundreds of users on each node, but still far from millions. If it were a tr

      • by westlake (615356)
        Not everyone uses the Internet at all - ever.

        True.

        But the resident population of Manhattan Island is 1.63 million. 71,000 per square mile. Commuters and tourists add perhaps 1.3 to 1.5 million more.

        There are about 500 miles of roads in a rigorous grid-iron pattern.

        How you street level mesh network communicates cross-town through buildings that range from five to one hundred stories in height is another problem.

        • by sqrt(2) (786011)

          You'd only need one router/computer per floor (or every other floor) per dozen users. If every computer that needs net access is also a router, it works. Same with streets on the top down dimension.

      • by Tauto (1742564)
        Obvious exageration is obvious. But who's counting?
  • I'm not so sure that this is a good idea. It's bad enough with cab drivers on their cell phones all the time. It'll be even worse if they're on their laptops and iPads.

  • by wronskyMan (676763) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:28AM (#33185976)
    unless they get open source drivers!
  • I don't see this working for anyone inside a building. Especially when a fair percentage of them are taller than the range of the vehicle's WiFi.

    On the other hand, I could see people putting repeaters at street level that could boost the signal to/through buildings and surrounding ares. A repeater would be economical too being a one time expense plus a bit of electricity.

    BTM

  • Apart from the obvious technical issues, like trying to maintain a sensible connection when your access point keeps disappearing - how does this count as free? If you are forced to watch adverts, aren't you paying? In two ways, actually: One is that you are spending your time fighting against unwanted claims at your attention - this makes you less productive. The other way is that the advertisers are paid by companies, who then pass the bill on to the luckless customer who has to buy their products. I'd rat

  • Keep in mind that the 200 foot limit is not just in 2 dimensions! Taxi's usually drive on (or near) street level, so, if you're more than a couple of floors up (or down), you won't be close enough to catch that WiFi signal. But, if you happen to frequent a location that has cabs lining up waiting for fares, you'd be "surfin' pretty"!!
    • by mr_mischief (456295) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:54AM (#33187486) Journal

      How often do you see livery cabs lined up for fares? Yellow taxis, sure, all the time. I'd bet it's a rare building that has a steady stream of call-ahead, pre-arranged, private rental cars with drivers pulling up. A livery cab isn't a taxi. You can't hail it. A livery cab is codified in NYC law as a "For Hire Vehicle" or "FHV".

      You'll get a lot of liveries at JFK or LaGuardia, sure, and maybe at sports stadiums when there's a game. Most of the cabs in the city are taxi cabs, which in NYC are all yellow.

  • I really hate when regulations slow down the progression of great technology advances. That would be so great in NY to be on wifi in a cab. People could get work done on there commutes to places.
  • When the time came to discuss radio pollution of 200 feet radius with the FCC, they said:

    "we will provide wifi to everyone!"

    No-one will be able to use the service that drives away from you, but its a nice strategy to "sell" the externalities to the city officials.

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