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Summary:

Municipal wireless networks are a polarizing technology. In any given Google search you can find some championing the benefits of city-wide networks, while others just as loudly decree the business model as shoddy. That doesn’t seem to stop cities from wanting the networks — today Boston […]

Municipal wireless networks are a polarizing technology. In any given Google search you can find some championing the benefits of city-wide networks, while others just as loudly decree the business model as shoddy. That doesn’t seem to stop cities from wanting the networks — today Boston turned on a section of its downtown WiFi network, built and run by SkyPilot Networks and Galaxy Internet. Foster City also launched a network from MetroFi today. Tomorrow the Riverside city council will consider the muniFi bid from AT&T and MetroFi.

Meanwhile we’re still wondering if the Sevin Rosen dissolved fund will affect MetroFi’s city bids. Some say no, and that the fund will still support MetroFi. But there are a lot of definitions of “support.” For some of MetroFi’s deals, like Riverside, cities have the security of AT&T’s coffers. But what about Portland? We’re thinking that Portland could be the next city that MetroFi partners with AT&T, or even Earthlink. While that might start the contract bidding process all over, Portland might be risking a lot by depending on MetroFi’s VC-raised funds alone.

By Katie Fehrenbacher

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  1. These Cities will regret burying their technology heads in sand by selecting Mesh systems that will need to be upgraded before they reach the end of their 1st year in operations. They are focusing on the short term spin the likes of MetroFi (using SkyPilot) and Cisco are using to seduce the Muni into buying their name or package (free) instead of selecting the best technology for their networks. The best product by far is the Strix Mesh Network which they should select and then find the best Provider to install and support the network. You might be suprised at the response you might get to this approach.
    The entire Wireless Mesh Network concept will begin to experience bad press and a major set back as these single and even dual radio Mesh solutions begin to have problems (throughput) and need to be upgraded to add new radios and or address the incredible demand that we can expect in the next few years from VoiceIP and Video services operating over these wireless links. This is not just a Email recovery service any more.
    Hardware Vendors are beginning to buy (RFP)networks and providers are promising free everything here and Muni will suffer the under performance and failure of these nets and end paying for these free networks.
    SOme one in the analyst community needs to get a backbone and begin asking these Providers and Cities so real questions as to what they are doing.
    If you want to see a well designed and powerful mesh take a look at Tempe Az and what they have done with the Strix System.
    Simple question one could ask of any mesh vendor today: What effective throughput can you provide/deliver out of the 4th Node/AP deployed in the Mesh-without having to regenerate the network? Will they guarantee this performance?

    Jacomo

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  2. Jesse Kopelman Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Jacomo, I am willing to bet that for the same cost I could build a system using SkyPilot that is just as good as a system using Strix. In a wide-area situation where you can’t predict or control who else will be cohabiting the unlicensed bands, having SkyPilot’s much higher power and and TDMA MAC for backhaul should trump Strix’s multiple WiFi radios given a well thought out network topology. I do not work for SkyPilot, nor do I recommend them exclusively, but technology-wise they are very hard to beat. Strix is a perfectly good product, but it is far from the world beater you claim. The truth is, if the network designer knows what he is doing, the various big-name products all tend have a very similar price/performance ratio. If you have a very large WiFi based project (> 100 AP), your primary concern should be O&M, not who has the best RF technology.

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