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A French telco is to assess the feasibility of setting up a city-wide public Wireless LAN (WLAN) network for Paris.

The company, Naxos, is to piggyback off the data networking cabling system installed in the Paris Metro to deliver Wi-Fi access points above ground in a year-long trial.

The pilot, dubbed WIXOS (Wi-Fi eXtensible aux Operateurs de Services), is limited in scope - 12 locations along the Bus 38 route, which connects the Gare du Nord and Porte d'Orleans, a major bus terminus.

But if it all works out, Naxos will roll out Wi-Fi throughout the city, underground as well as above. Some of the big Metro stations could have up to ten access points on each concourse, says Pierre Marteau, vice president of Naxos and Telcite,

It could be pie in the sky. But Paris, compact and with a ready-made networking infrastructure supplied courtesy of the Paris Metro, means that there should be little in the way of technical barriers.

No, the big problem is making it pay. Bouygues Telecom, T-Online's Club Internet, TELE2, TLC Mobile and WIFI Spot are all taking part in the pilot. So Perhaps a single, big Wi-Fi network will encourage the service providers to team up for seamless roaming.

As a rich metropolis, with millions of overseas visitors, including tens of thousands of business people, Paris is the ideal place to test of public WLANs, as a business proposition. If it can't work here, God help everywhere else.

Naxos is a subsidiary of Regie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP), the Independent Paris Transport Authority. The Paris Metro cabling is based on Cisco metro Ethernet switching.

The pilot kicks off with 24 Cisco Aironet 1200 Wi-Fi Access points which are hidden behind fixtures and fittings - such as the Metro station signs. They hook up to a Gigabit Ethernet loop with one Catalyst 2950 switch at each station except for Chatelet. Here
a Catalyst 3550 Ethernet switch acts as the network. ®

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