Friday, July 28, 2006

City-wide Wifi Networks – Potential Replacements for Cellular Service

The city of Anaheim recently launched a city-wide Wifi network that will eventually cover its 49 square mile area. With great fanfare Earthlink and Tropos Networks (who supplied the service and equipment) joined Anaheim’s city leaders in proclaiming the service which the city will sell at $21.95 per month. Earthlink is losing its dial-up service and seeks to replace it with city-wide Wifi networks. They are planning rollouts in Arlington, Va.; Long Beach, Calif.; Milpitas, Calif.; New Orleans; Pasadena, Calif.; Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Is Anaheim the first? By no means. That honor goes to Grand Haven, Michigan. Other groups are striving to bring wireless to the city dweller. AT&T is teaming up with Metrofi, a Silicon Valley startup to roll out municipal WiFi across the US. Currently, Metrofi offers service in a handful of Bay Area cities.

In my last post a number of new players including Packethop, Kiyon, Firetide, and Strix Systems were rolling out new Wifi tools to enable mesh networks. Packethop targets its mesh networking solutions at Homeland Security applications and emergency situations. In this story they recently participated in a simulated terrorist attack. Packethop tools coordinated the response including emergency services. Since mesh networks don’t need a central networking system, they can be built up quickly and reconfigured on the spot. This makes them ideal for terrorist or disaster situations such as Katrina.

Tropos Networks continues to roll out systems for video surveillance, wireless meter reading, and a number of other applications.

The Cloud, one of Europe’s wireless network operators recently announced a number of city-wide WiFi hotspots most notably for the business district in London for £11.99 per month.

The city of Taipei is creating a city-wide Wifi network to replace cellular calls. By switching to VOIP delivered through a Wifi network, the city hopes to use the money saved to improve schools.

Rolling out Wifi throughout a city does have its challenges. The Techborg blog highlights a number of them including the fact that Wifi must share unlicensed spectrum with a multitude of other devices including microwave ovens, baby monitors, cordless home phones, and more.

Virtual instrumentation brings solutions to Wifi. Seasolve provides LabVIEW-based Wifi test solutions such as the Wilanta testing the PHY and MAC layers. A host of other companies use LabVIEW to program their Wifi-enable tools such as Zworld and Ipsil, and Winsoft.

Best regards,
Hall T.


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