Another Muni WiFi Network Gets An Early Thumbs Down

from the good-idea-bad-execution dept

Earlier this month, the city of Corpus Christi, Texas launched its municipal WiFi network, which its vendor said was the largest of its kind, covering more than 100 square miles. However, like some other muni WiFi projects, early reviews don't sound too encouraging -- complaints echoed earlier this month in Portland as well. It's the same sort of thing early users in other cities have reported: weak signal strength, low speeds and difficulty connecting. Many of these problems occur when people try to use the services indoors (as one does), highlighting one of the drawbacks of using WiFi for this type of application: it doesn't penetrate buildings well, particularly when the router's at some distance away. Many of the network vendors say users need to buy repeaters to overcome this, something that takes away some of the "free" aspect of these networks, as well as something that takes away from their attraction to visitors. While we remain bullish on the general idea of municipal broadband, it's still not clear at all that WiFi is the best way to deliver it. Many of the muni WiFi "success stories" raise as many questions as they answer, and the truth of how well these networks are working remains pretty muddy. Again, municipal broadband is an idea with a lot of merit, but it looks like a lot of muni-WiFi rollouts are based on the wrong reasons, and are possibly just using the wrong technology.

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  1. identicon
    Jacomo, 26 Dec 2006 @ 2:55pm

    Metro Area Wireless Mesh Nets are the way to go

    We will hear a great deal more about these poorly designed Mesh Networks being deployed and operated Nationwide for the following reasons: 1. Wrong Technology selected and deployed. One and Two Radios Mesh products will not provide the big pipes and performance demanded by the users-we are no longer just providing Email checks but users are demanding and downloading Videos/Audio and P2P links-These networks will continue to have congestion problems. Adding more Nodes/AP to a network (the latest spin by the likes of Cisco & Tropos) or adding another Canopy Gateway (every 3 nodes) is a band-aid that will eventually bring these providers back to the Muni with their hands out. So much for free much less fee based networks. 2. The Wireless Mesh Networks are primarily an Outdoor access network providing very high speed access to users in well defined sectors with select indoor coverage options. Not a universal coverage network promised by many (Free is best) to their Muni to win the RFP. In addition if these networks were to provide indoor coverage as well as outdoor the demand on each of these Nodes/AP will increase dramatically as the fixed users begin demanding real Broadband Links (2-6 Mbps) and precedence. Wait until VoiceIP amd P2P gaming and audio exchanges begin flooding these outdoor networks. The providers will need these commercial fixed users accessing the Wireless Mesh if they are to be profitable-free ad supported networks will not hack it-one needs real revenue $$$ to build and maintain these new networks. The eventual winners here will be those providers and vendors who develop and deploy a mutiple (3-6 Radio) mesh technologies that will be able to cover the demands mentioned above and be upgradable in the field to bring these new Radios/Spectrum:4.9Ghz Public Safety, new 802.11n based 2.4 & 5Ghz radios and support WiMAX Mobile to the markets. 2007 prediction: 1. We will see more of these 1 & 2 Radio networks fail and or Muni begin stepping in to save these networks. 2. The Sprints, Verizon Wireless and Cingular will soon exploit the failure of these poorly designed Wireless Mesh networks in their positioning of their new Narrowband (400-700Kbps) data and cell voice services. 3. Those Service providers and Muni who take a serious look at the above limitations in technology and design and place the emphasis on selecting the right technology and or the Munis making the service provider provide a Performance Bond that guarantees their work will be able to deliver a true broadband Metro Area Wireless Network for their employees and their residence. 4. We will see a major convergence of WiFi(Mesh)/WiMAX (Fixed and Mobile) and Cellular networks allowing subscribers with Dual Mode Handhelds to finally be able to work (FMC) within each of the above networks this coming year and eventually (2008) be able to roam within and between these diverse networks with solid handoffs. Jacomo

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