Next Large Municipal WiFi Announcement: Oklahoma City

It seems that municipal WiFi networks are being announced in increasingly large fashion. We had limited coverage in San Mateo, Ca, muni coverage in Cerritos, CA followed by little Chaska, Minnesota. We had Philadelphia with a plan to cover 135 sq. miles, and now we have Oklahoma City announce that they plan to cover an entire 400 sq. mile area with the Wireless Local Area Technology designated 802.11b. Doesn’t it seem like, if you want to get press coverage, you need to announce a bigger and bigger network footprint? The technology provider for many of these networks is Tropos Networks, and while we like their meshing technology and their strategy of partnering with the best landowners (the cities themselves), we still have serious reservations about using WiFi to cover large areas. It seems that muni WiFi announcements are coming out fast and furious, while the actual deployments are trickling out like bits from a dial-up connection. This contrast of deployments with announcements reminds me of a previous WiFi hype enfant celebre: the 20,000 WiFi hotspot super provider (ex: Cometa). Remember when everyone who entered the hotspot market was going to offer 20,000 hotspots by the end of 2004? Turns out there was lots of talk, but little deployment. For the muni WiFi mesh networks, let’s see promising results from the early muni networks before we believe the next batch of announcements. And I don’t consider a few police cars driving up to an access point a successful demonstration of a city-wide network – that’s a hotspot, and we know WiFi can do that. “Promising Results” means full coverage within the announced footprint, and bandwidth capable of satisfying municipal workers, commercial customers, and even some consumers. I just don’t think WiFi can do that: remember the University of Texas.

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