MuniWireless conference: city politicians need to understand the lay of the LAN

by Andy Oram

The publicity around municipal wireless networks has been horrendous recently. Internet access by city governments--cable, fiber, or wireless--evolved from a utopian vision nurtured by community activists with a technological bent in the early 1990s to a mass movement spawning major policy debates in many states within the last few years. Then, during the past year it all seemed to fall apart.

Only over the past few weeks have I noticed the municipalities and community advocates putting together the shards of their business plans and coming up with credible models for building municipal networks again. And these models, not surprisingly, revive the solid understandings of past builders.

I spent the day at the MuniWireless New England conference, a show devoted to showing municipalities the latest models, technologies, and strategies for developing municipal networks. This is not a technology show, but a place to ask questions such as, "Whom do I get involved in planning for building a network?" and "What kinds of surveying should I do in order to lay out wireless sites effectively?" But I waited to get home before posting my blog, because the wireless access at the show was kind of slow.


2 Comments

Kelly
2007-06-06 12:49:19
Thank goodness! Someone with some common sense. I have been trying to explain to the powers that be that if wi-fi to the masses could pay for itself, the private sector would be doing it already. Add the rural nature of small communities and the inherent problem of selling something you can't see to people who do not understand the investment in technology infrastructure and you are asking technology professionals to do the impossible. You HAVE to anchor wi-fi systems with government. The single best core compentency of most small governments is water and sewer. The use of wi-fi in telemetry and SCADA is a natural fit for large rural counties and parishes. Why this country is pushing municipal wi-fi as a commercial solution first, and a government infrastructure second is beyond me. Take it to the elected officials from a place they know...their utilities. They are revenue streams, that naturally self sustain, and have the potential for realistic ROI's. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your common sense!!
Jacomo
2007-06-08 14:08:57
Good article for a newby in the space-very well done. I especially like the proposed 3 tier approach for a Muni or even COunty Wireless network. We, a Service Provider, are presently deploying and continue testing just such a concept with Wireless Mesh in the Last Mile fed by a combination of Fiber and Wireless PTP & PTMP radios.
Our feeling is that when it is all said and done the demands on any wireless Mesh network, that connects the user to the Network, will great as the users begin demanding real Broadband (4-6Mbps/user)and Low Latency links. This includes VoiceIP, Video Surveillance, Music and Video download and especially uploads, which will kill many of the existing Wireless (Mesh) Networks deployed and being deployed today.
Fiber (either from the provider or the city) will provide a robust 100Mbps at each Gateway and with the proper number of radios in each Node (4-6)these networks will provide the Carrier Grade experience expected by the consumers. We will need all of the 100Mbps Gateways if these nets are to be successful.
Licensed WiMAX will be slow to evolve here but the new Unlicensed 5.3-5.8Ghz radios with WiMAX feature sets will dominate this space-off the shelf technology delivery higher bandwidth levels at improved ranges over Licensed WiMAX.
It is a cost/meg/user delivered that will rule this space, and the Muni meeds to participate ($$$) in this deployment and commit to being its anchor account.

Jacomo