St. Louis County considering wireless network

Missouri's St. Louis County, which (of course) includes the city of St. Louis, is considering a wireless network that would cover the entire 524-square-mile area.

As of now, the St. Louis Economic Development Collaborative is working with NetLabs of St. Louis to study what the needs of the county are, as well as how much it would cost to develop and deploy a wireless network.

Those involved with the project so far say that a network can potentially bring economic opportunities to the area and will bridge the digital divide. It all depends on the results of the study and how government leaders will interpret it.

Opposition to SF's WiFi network remains strong

Although chances are good that the proposed San Francisco wireless network that will be built and operated by EarthLink and Google will eventually pass muster with the city's Board of Supervisors, opposition to the project still remains strong among a number of citizens and interest groups.

This particular editorial makes the argument that, among its faults:

  • The network is slow
  • Not everyone will be able to access it
  • The city will be bound to its agreement with Google and EarthLink for a number of years
  • The fees being paid by EarthLink will not amount to much

While there are some legitimacies to these points, a credible alternative has not yet been put forward. There have been calls for the city to build the network itself and lease connections to companies who, in turn, will provide individual access accounts to users, but that seems extremely complex and, frankly, do citizens really want their city government to get into the wireless network business?

At this point, it seems that the deal will go through in San Francisco. We have to remember that citywide wireless is still in its early stages and, to the disappointment to some, there will be some bumps and bruises along the way.

Minneapolis wireless network deployment ahead of schedule

Things seem to be moving along just fine when it comes to the pending citywide wireless network in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

According to access provider US Internet, construction of the network is ahead of schedule, and it appears that service may begin in parts of the city as early as this April instead of June. Other sections of the area will be phased in over time, but this obviously is a good sign for supporters of the network.

In addition, the neighboring city of St. Paul is looking at building a network of its own, but there has been no word as to what particular actions city officials will take to get the process moving.

TWR's Top 5

It's been another wild and wooly week at The Wireless Report. Here are our top 5 stories of the week. Enjoy!

  1. 1 billion wireless handsets sold in 2006
    2006 was a banner year in the wireless handset industry, as 1 billion of them were sold last year globally. The market jumo was due mostly to low-end shipments to emerging countries, but still.
  2. Atlanta chooses EarthLink to build citywide wireless network
    Score another big-city win for EarthLink. The company was selected by the city of Atlanta, Georgia to build and manage a citywide wireless network. The contract has to be worked on and agreed to by the local government, so at this point, a definite timeframe has not yet been established, but one would guess we will see a timeline very soon.
  3. My personal mobile carrier experiences (spoiler: long post)
    Well, it's been a long time coming, but the below post sums up my personal experiences -- as objectively as possible -- with the top three mobile carriers in my area. I've used them all for a few months now (in my home market of Oklahoma City and while traveling) and have come to a conclusion and a rating for each.
  4. Editorial says SF wireless network naysayers have no credible alternative plan
    Just came across this GREAT editorial in today's San Francisco Chronicle regarding the city's board of supervisors and their upcoming "examination" of the citywide wireless network contract.
  5. The lowdown on low-cost wireless handsets
    Every wireless handset maker is trying to bring down the cost of handsets these days -- for lower costs of manufacturing (of course) and also to feed the need for emerging markets that need low-cost handsets -- and hundreds of millions of them.

Atlanta chooses EarthLink to build citywide wireless network

Score another big-city win for EarthLink. The company was selected by the city of Atlanta, Georgia to build and manage a citywide wireless network. The contract has to be worked on and agreed to by the local government, so at this point, a definite timeframe has not yet been established, but one would guess we will see a timeline very soon.

EarthLink is headquartered in Atlanta, so it wouldn't be a stretch to say that they had a distinct advantage over other bidders in the process. However, EarthLink has long proved itself as the major player in the muni WiFi sector, and their selection surely was based more on merit than in the city getting a "hometown discount" on their services.

As with other networks EarthLink has built or is in the process of building, users will be able to access the netowrk with upload/download speeds of up to 1 Mbit per second for a monthly fee. In addition, the company will look to partner with the city in order to provide service for those folks who don't have ready access to the internet.

(Thanks Jerry!)

City officials in Waltham, Mass. proposing wireless network

City councilors in Waltham, Massachusetts are getting behind a resolution to bring a citywide wireless network to the area. The resolution is being referred to the town's E-Committee to study, and also to figure out how much it will cost.

Councilors believe a wireless network will spur economic development as well as increase public safety. They cited an example where wireless-internet connected cameras can be mounted throughout the city so that any suspicious actions can be monitored by the local police and responded to quickly.

Editorial says SF wireless network naysayers have no credible alternative plan

Just came across this GREAT editorial in today's San Francisco Chronicle regarding the city's board of supervisors and their upcoming "examination" of the citywide wireless network contract.

As we've noted here before, some supervisors have some major concerns about the network, including privacy and the free/fee-paid service platforms. However, as this editorial suggests, no one has come across with a viable alternative plan.

There have been thoughts on having the city build the network itself, or partnering with nonprofit groups to do it, but it's going to cost at least $10 million to $15 million to build the network. So why not have people who know what they're doing do it?

There's no guarantee that a citywide wireless network will be a panacea that will bring everyone together in a digital universe, but until a credible alternative plan is put forward, then the naysayers should try to work with what is already here and make the best of it.

Concerns over the "investment" SF wireless network users will have to make

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will begin examining the contract between the city and EarthLink and Google this week that proposes to develop and deploy a citywide wireless network.

Under the terms of the contract, EarthLink will build and maintain the network at a cost of $15 over the next 10 years, and Google will create a free service for residents that will feature upload/download speeds of 300 kbits per second. EarthLink will offer an enhanced service at 1 Mbit per second at roughly $21 a month.

Despite the previously stated concerns regarding privacy and ownership of the network, some voices are now being raised regarding the investment users would have to assume in order to access the network. Estimates are that roughly one-third of residents would have to upgrade their computer equipment, including what is known as a "bridge" that will be rquired to access the network indoors. The device will cost between $50 to $100, but will be free to those users who opt for the paid service.

It's amazing that some people are now coming to the realization that they have to invest something in order to get something. You just can't turn on your computer and PRESTO!, you have wireless access. Here's hoping there will be better user education information sent to the public in the near future so they will have all the details needed to make the right choice for their own particular needs.

Wireless Silicon Valley wireless network progressing quickly

One would assume that a project as large as the Wireless Silicon Valley wireless network initiative would take many months, maybe a couple of years, to get underway. The way things are going, that assumption would be wrong.

According to project leader Brent Grotz, the network will be launched by this April. In addition, several pilot cities will have one-square test areas set up within a few weeks, including Palo Alto, San Carlos, and Santa Cruz.

The team expects to complete 90 percent of the project within 24 months, which is a pretty amazing time frame when you look at its entire scope. All in all, over 40 cities will comprise the network.

This is a pretty impressive project, and one that may be the standard-bearer for all future regional wireless networks to come.

TWR's Top 5

It's been an interesting week here at The Wireless Report. Here are our top 5 stories of the past seven days. Enjoy!

  1. Can cameraphones be used to fight crime?
    Who would have thought that cameraphones could be used to fight crime in the big city? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced a plan that will allow 911 and 311 callers to send digital photos and videos directly from their cellphones.
  2. Carriers going full-speed ahead on 3G rollouts
    With 3G high-speed wireless data becoming the norm now, some of the country's largest carriers have announced new markets for their respective high-speed data services.
  3. Long Island counties issue wireless network RFP
    Nassau and Suffolk counties on New York's Long Island have just issued a RFP this week to further explore their options in having a wireless network cover both areas.
  4. Can your cellphone check you in at the airport?
    With cellphones stating to become the "swiss army knife" of electronic gadgets, there are two Japanese airline carriers -- Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways -- that are starting to use alternative methods for checking in passengers.
  5. Could SF WiFi deal be in jeapordy?
    After a long period of negotiations, the city of San Francisco recently agreed to a deal with EarthLink and Google to develop and deploy a municipal wireless network. However, the contract still needs to be approved by the city council, and an EarthLink executive has been quoted as saying that approval is not a guarantee.

Troy, Michigan and other Oakland County cities ready to launch WiFi networks

The city of Troy, Michigan is the largest municipality in Oakland County to launch a wireless network service.

The city will be introducing a service that will cover roughly 7 1/2 miles and allow residents to access the network for free. Enhanced service will be available at a monthly fee.

This is part of the ambitious initiative to connect all 910 square miles of the county to a wireless network. Six other cities will be launching service over the next few months.

We are seeing many more counties or groups of cities coming together to develop and deploy wireless networks throughout the country. As we've discussed here before, this will cement the growth of municipal WiFi outside the big cities.

Toledo, Ohio planning to develop wireless network

The city of Toledo, Ohio has just issued a RFP for the eventual development and deployment of a citywide wireless network.

According to city officials, the deadline for proposals to be submitted is February 20. Estimates are that the winning bidder will spend about $10 million to hook up the city and will have exclusive rights to the "Wireless Toledo" brand. In addition, the city is requiring that service be free for all local governmental departments as well as emergency personnel.

Long Island counties issue wireless network RFP

Nassau and Suffolk counties on New York's Long Island have just issued a RFP this week to further explore their options in having a wireless network cover both areas.

The deadline date is March 19, and it would be a good guess to assume that a number of vendors will be submitting proposals to develop and deploy a network here. The counties are densely populated, giving it a huge tax base, so you can bet that the possibility of having hundreds of thousands of users signing up (and paying) for wireless network service could mean a lucrative revenue stream for the winning bidder.

The counties are hoping this wireless network will stimulate business as well as giving residents better access to education and governmental services. It should be interesting to see how this all progresses.

Could SF WiFi deal be in jeapordy?

After a long period of negotiations, the city of San Francisco recently agreed to a deal with EarthLink and Google to develop and deploy a municipal wireless network. However, the contract still needs to be approved by the city council, and an EarthLink executive has been quoted as saying that approval is not a guarantee.

Don Berryman, EarthLink's head of its municipal networks division, said that as far as he can see, out of the six votes needed for the contract to be ratified, there are at least four and possibly five council members he believes will vote for the deal. He believes three are against it, and another three to four who are undecided.

Berryman believes that there is opposition to the deal by some city supervisors because they believe the city should be the rightful owners of the network, and not an outside company. In response, Berryman is out gathering public support for the project, and Mayor Gavin Newsom, a strong, early supporter of citywide wireless, is also lending a hand.

Although Berryman may be overstating the case when it comes to the level of opposition to the network, there is still some cause for concern. There have been issues regarding user privacy, and no one knows yet with any certainty as to whether citywide wireless networks will prove beneficial economically and socially for a given municipality.

In any event, the contract is up for a vote in February, and it appears that the motion will pass. There is too much momentum at this point for muni WiFi, and it would be considered an embarrassment for San Francisco, one of the technology bellwethers in the U.S., to turn down the opportunity to get into the wireless network game.

Momentum for WiMax continues to grow

We've seen more attention paid to WiMax over the past few months, and with industry biggies like Intel, Motorola, and Clearwire clearly attempting to put their stamps on the marketplace, it looks like a clear alternative to WiFi is on the way.

In areas such as Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington, WiMax is the focus of quite a bit of development and deployment. Clearwire has made WiMax available in parts of Oregon and Washington, as well as various other markets around the country. If all proves well, we will certainly see a wide-spread offering of service, and we also will see other vendors getting into the mix.

While the development of both fixed and mobile versions of the WiMax spec still need some tweaking, the fact of the matter is that 2007 should shape up to be a very good year for the technology.

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