Tech Giants to Build Network of Hot Spots

AT&T, Intel and IBM will create a company to build a network of wireless LAN "hot spots" across the U.S.

Technology industry giants AT&T Corp., Intel Corp. and IBM, along with two investment companies, today confirmed that they are creating a new company that will build a network of wireless LAN "hot spots" across the United States.

Previously known under the code name "Project Rainbow," the new company will be called Cometa Networks and will sell its services to telecom companies, ISPs, cable operators and wireless carriers, who will then sell the services to both corporate and consumer customers.

The company will work with major retail chains, hotels, universities and real estate firms to deploy the service, based on the 802.11b wireless LAN protocol, in public "hot spots" throughout the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas, officials said.

Apax Partners Inc. and 3i Group plc. are the two venture companies funding the new company.

The idea behind the service is that customers can keep the same sign-in IDs, passwords and payment methods regardless of which hot spot they are using.

"Wi-Fi will bring distributed computing into the general public environment leading to increased business productivity and new consumer applications," said Lawrence B. Brilliant, CEO of Cometa Networks, in a statement.

Cometa Networks service will start rolling out next year, officials said. The company will be based in both San Francisco and New York.