Want to turn your Wi-Fi-enabled 3G phone into a wireless hot spot? A company called TapRoot Systems has launched a product that will enable you to do just that. There’s just one catch: The WalkingHotSpot service will be marketed to wireless carriers, who will then offer it to their subscribers.
I spoke with Mike Linstrom, vice president of carrier solutions for TapRoot, and he says the company is in talks with several wireless carriers but is not yet ready to publicly announce any deals. I assume that carriers will charge extra for the service, and he says that’s a decision that each wireless company will make. (Sounds like a yes to me, since WalkingHotSpot users could consume considerably more 3G bandwidth.) “Carriers are different animals,” he says. “We’ll probably see a mixed approach as they roll it out.”
Linstrom says the company has had a lot of requests for public trials, and is very likely to offer that on a limited basis. “We want to show the end consumer that it does work, but from a carriers’ perspective, we would allow it only for a single Wi-Fi connection,” he says. Here's a link to sign up.
WalkingHotSpot initially will work only with Windows Mobile, Symbian 60, and Symbian UIQ phones, which Linstrom says account for roughly 75 percent of the smartphones on the market today. TapRoot is looking into adding support for OS X (the iPhone), as well.
Linstrom says the company expects that only up to five users at a time would connect to the 3G phone, although in the labs it has connected up to 20 devices. True 3G service will support voice calls and Wi-Fi simultaneously. Certain 2G networks, like EDGE and EVDO, however, will pause the Wi-Fi data connection during a voice phone call.
WalkingHotSpot could be an incredibly useful service to very small households. Many people are unplugging their landlines, and a solution such as WalkingHotSpot would enable them to unplug the broadband connection as well, yielding a single monthly data and phone bill. Trouble is, the broadband leaves the building when your phone does.