Municipal WiFi networks are sprouting up all over Silicon Valley, with projects covering a range of business models from free with advertisement-supported to premium service with no ads. With the greatest number of WiFi hotspots of any US city, San Francisco has recently announced its intention to build out a WiFi system covering the entire 49 square mile city.
Mountain View Project:
Back in November 2005, the city of Mountain View, CA accepted Google’s offer to blanket the city with free wireless Internet access. This will make Mountain View the first city in the Bay Area – and possibly the country – to get a full umbrella of free WiFi coverage.
Google will install more than 300 access points/network nodes, which will be mounted on streetlamp poles throughout the city. As part of a five-year contract, Google will test the system this summer. At that time, it will be possible to surf the Web with a wireless laptop in the city library, parks, and near bookmobiles throughout Mountain View.
The Mt View project is based on IEEE 802.11, using a wireless point to multipoint topology between the base stations and the gateways which Alvarion says is WiMAX ready for future upgrades.
Mountain View leaders say it’s only fitting that their city get free citywide Internet access, since Google sprouted in its back yard and has grown to become one of the world’s most powerful Internet search engines. “It’s going to make us one of the first, if not the first, to have citywide Internet. It’s a pretty cool thing,” Mayor Matt Neely said. “We’re thrilled for all our neighbor cities who get to follow our lead.”
Google’s San Francisco Municipal Bid:
Google’s San Francisco Muni WiFi proposal is a joint bid with Earthlink – who would own the network if their joint bid was accepted by the city. The network would cover just over 40 square miles. If selected, Google would provide free, rate limited access. DSL-like speeds for $20 a month have been publicly discussed. It is also not clear if Earthlink would be the only ISP, or if other WISPs could participate as well.
Information on the SF city web site refers to the proposed service as “affordable,” but also allows the city to designate certain parks, common areas and residential and business zones as free hot spots, allowing anyone with a WiFi device to gain access.
The trick is to gain more attention and make sure that people understand that this is a place where they can count on free WiFi whenever they need it. It is a modern world out there and everyone has a device that can connect to the Internet. Giving them a free WiFi is the least that the city can do and that is exactly why they chose Mountain View as the exact location. All of this could be possible with the full support from Google. It was their idea to give people access to free wireless zones where all users can expect full and completely free WiFi coverage whenever they need it. Since this is a digital era, Google expects a lot of users on the gird each and every day so this will eventually turn out to be an excellent move that will give free service to the people.
The SF Muni WiFi system, called Tech Connect, would use 802.11b/g technology to provide users with 1 Mbps of downstream capacity without the need for external CPE for a cost of $10-18M. Ensuring in-home access to the greatest extent possible is one of the key goals of the system, which expect to provide coverage to 95% of outdoor areas with 90% in-building penetration.
Other bids include a submission from an effort known as SF Metro Connect, which is spearheaded by Cisco, IBM and wireless specialists SeaKay, as well as proposals from Communication Bridge Global, MetroFi, NextWLAN and Razortooth Communications.
It appears that a review panel will begin evaluating the proposals and hopes to make its decisions regarding the citywide Wi-Fi network by early April, at which time the San Francisco Department of Telecommunications and Information Services will enter into negotiations with the winning bidder.