World warms to municipal Wi-Fi
From Taipei to New York, it's wireless a-go-go
The birthplace of municipal Wi-Fi was possibly the London Borough of Westminster, and it appears that the idea of the wireless is catching on in cities worldwide. Indeed, some are looking at wireless Mesh technology with Taipei, Los Angeles, and New York among the more prominent.
According to Computerworld's Bob Brewin, the New York network will be a public safety project, and will be restricted to emergency services folk - but will, nonetheless, cost a terrifying billion dollars. Well, maybe half that, he reports: "Plans [are] to build a public safety wireless network of unprecedented scale and scope, including the capacity to provide tens of thousands of mobile users with the ability to send and receive data while travelings at speeds of up to 70 mph citywide."
Pilot projects are being offered for tender, and most observers - unless they are bidding for these lucrative jobs - are pretty sceptical about making it work. Wi-Fi is not designed for fast mobile use, nor do conventional Wi-Fi networks scale well into vast geographical areas.
Rather more modest, but no less unrealistic was Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou who was talking ebulliently back in January about making his Taiwanese capital "a wireless Mecca" by the end of this year. Of this enterprise, there was not a shred of evidence when the world's technology observers descended en masse back at the end of May for Computex.
The Taipei Times, endearingly referring to the Mayor as "Ma" throughout, quoted him as telling the European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei: "As of September last year, about 90 per cent of Taipei's 900,000 families have computers. More than 80 percent use the Internet. And more than 87 per cent have mobile phones."
"The next phase is to build a wireless and broadband city. We aim to finish that, or a large part of it, by the end of this year," Ma added. But, as the report noted, not everybody was impressed: "The co-chairwoman of the chamber's telecommunications committee welcomed Ma's pledge, but pointed out that the chamber has other priorities," the paper said politely.
In Los Angeles there's a 17 July deadline for bids for a request for proposal (RFP) to expand the Pershing Square Wi-Fi network to include a city-wide access system, says MuniWireless.
Rather more sensibly, in neighbouring Orange County (part of Greater Los Angeles) Fullerton wants to put together a wireless Mesh. The spec of this project, which is almost certain to miss its July 1 deadline looks incredibly like a definition of the LocustWorld Mesh in its specifications and price, but according to Richard Lander at LocustWorld, his company wasn't aware of the RFP until it was published.
"There are a lot of these municipal wireless projects," said Lander, "some of which look rather more realistic than others. We already have some Mesh systems in California, so we'll be bidding through the firms who installed them there. The Fullerton project looks ideal for us."