Municipal networks: still a growth market

by Andy Oram

A few months ago I summarized the state of municipal networks, particularly wireless, and pointed out that the motivations for creating them were still strong despite some poor choices in a few major cities that made a lot of press. My blog was filed from a conference run by MuniWireless, a company focused on the business models and strategies for municipal wireless networks. They've just released a report reasserting the viability of these networks and showing steady growth year to year. I haven't read the report (which is for sale), but their press release points to growth in the 30% - 50% range each year, for the past several years and projected on into the future. The networks are also gaining in bandwidth to meet demand: more fiber and WiMAX is seen.


2007-10-22 19:24:40
From what I have seen the Muni WiFi failures and successes can be classified into two groups -- Contractually driven vs organic development.

In the former were cities like San Fran and Chicago. They were typified by a deal cut between the city and a supplier. (in these two examples with EarthLink.) Essentially they were a Telco model of $$/kbps. Their Achilles heel was a dependence on the capitalization of the supplier. A single point of failure situation.

The latter depended on a more organic opportunity and ironically have been located in smaller cities. For example Elkhart, Ind is developing a WiFi presence to shore up the draw encouraging shoppers to stay downtown after work. Corpus Christi a similar story. A major factor in these successes? The cities staying engaged throughout the process rather than signing a contract and walking away.

Part of the current malaise of Muni WiFi is the technology uncertainty. Why invest in 802.11x or 802.16 when the 700mhz band and WiMax are coming on the horizon?