Silicon Valley getting WiFi’d; is there an impact to 3G?


Last night I received a press release about Silicon Valley awarding a municipal WiFi contract to a consortium of companies including Cisco, Azulstar, IBM, and SeaKay; this morning, I see that the New York Times adds some more info. I won’t be moving to Silicon Valley for a free 1 Mbps wireless connection, but the announcement of this area, as well as prior news of other WiFi cities got me wondering: does the prospect of free municipal WiFi and the upcoming rollout of WiMAX have any impact on 3G rollout plans from the cellular carriers?

Short term, the answer is  basically: no. 3G services like EV-DO and HSDPA are becoming widespread with coverage. What about long term, though, say 5 or 10 years from now. You have to stretch your vision on that one, but do you see a large movement towards WiFi’d metropolitan and suburban areas or will there always be a market for wireless connectivity in your pocket where ever you go? Perhaps 3G data plans will change from an "all you can eat" plan to a "per data amount" approach so you can use your free WiFi when available. How about the impact of cellular voice data vs. VoIP over WiFi and seamless switching? It may take time, but announcements like this one could and should have far reaching implications.

Full press release after the jump.


2.4 Million Silicon Valley Residents to Go Wireless

SAN JOSE–September 5, 2006–Silicon Valley Metro Connect, a collaboration among Azulstar Networks, Cisco Systems, IBM (NYSE: IBM), and Seakay, has been selected to build and operate Silicon Valley ‘s regional wireless network that will serve 2.4 million people.

The open wireless network will offer universal broadband wireless Internet access to all Silicon Valley residents, employees and visitors spanning 42 municipalities and nearly 1,500 square miles. Many Silicon Valley residents will have the opportunity to experience the Internet at higher speeds than ever before due to either cost or availability. Beyond providing wireless access to the general public, the network will also be capable of supporting a broad range of uses by residential, small business, public sector and commercial users.

"Silicon Valley is well known as a birthplace of innovation, and this is the kind of ambitious project for which our region is known," said Russell Hancock, president and CEO, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network. "Silicon Valley Metro Connect impressed the team with a vision that breaks the mold for wireless cities. The Valley is becoming the epicenter for innovation in wireless technologies."

Brian Moura, chairman of SAMCAT and co-chairman of the Wireless Silicon Valley Initiative said, "We were impressed with Metro Connect’s vision of what the Wireless Silicon Valley network can become. They received high marks from the communities that have worked with them on city-wide and regional wireless network projects like this one. Metro Connect also delivered a convincing message on how their partner companies could address key aspects of the Wireless Silicon Valley RFP, such as technology, system integration, customer service and service delivery, economic development, local portals and Web sites, city applications and digital inclusion. We think they have the skills and tools to deliver the goods on this project."

The Silicon Valley Metro Connect team is offering a powerful combination of innovative technology capability and public benefit. For example, the wireless network can provide an alternative communications medium to first responders-fire, police and emergency medical-when traditional communications systems may not interoperate. Healthcare workers will be able to access information wherever they are, and students can more easily engage in learning beyond the classroom.

Silicon Valley Metro Connect will build the network based on the latest Cisco Systems mesh wireless infrastructure technology, with a dynamic technology upgrade program to ensure long-term network vitality and scalability. IBM will provide network design and integration services, as well as innovative technology applications for public agencies and local utilities including: intelligent traffic solutions to regulate traffic and reduce congestion, and automated wireless utility and traffic metering. Azulstar Networks will act as the network operator for service provisioning of the 802.11b/g base wireless network. SeaKay will work with municipal and public benefit agencies to customize the network to their needs, and will also spearhead outreach and digital inclusion programs to meet the economic development and social benefit objectives of the network.

Silicon Valley Metro Connect’s privately owned and operated network will be supported by a sponsorship format that ensures a diverse stream of revenues so that the network can weather changes in technology and the economic environment over time. This sponsorship model is well suited to Silicon Valley ‘s vision to improve and streamline collaboration between Bay Area communities.

Silicon Valley Metro Connect will offer up to 1Mb data speed for the free base service with built-in protection of user privacy and will include digital divide programs for economically disadvantaged users. It will also offer premium fee-based services such as wireless Voice Over IP and video streaming. Beginning in 2007, the Silicon Valley Wireless Network will leverage the WiMAX IEEE 802.16 wireless standard for the 2-11 Ghz operating bands, to offer greater throughput for mobile and fixed users and higher quality service for video, voice, and data.

The Wireless Silicon Valley Task Force sponsoring this project includes Russell Hancock, CEO and president, Joint Venture Silicon Valley; Seth Fearey, COO and VP, Joint Venture Silicon Valley; Eric Benhamou, chair of Smart Valley, 3COM Corp, and Palm, Inc.; Brian Moura, chairman, SAMCAT; Dan Fenton, president and CEO, San Jose Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau.

ABOUT Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network

Established in 1993, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network provides analysis and action on issues affecting our region’s economy and quality of life. The organization brings together established and emerging leaders – from business, government, academia, labor and the broader community – to spotlight issues and work toward innovative solutions. Additional information about Joint Venture Silicon Valley is available at:


The San Mateo County Telecommunications Authority (SAMCAT) is a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) formed in June 1989. It has 18 member agencies including the cities of Belmont , Brisbane , Burlingame , Colma, Daly City , Foster City , Half Moon Bay , Hillsborough, Millbrae , Pacifica , Portola Valley , Redwood City , San Bruno , San Carlos , San Mateo , San Mateo County , South San Francisco and Woodside as well as San Mateo County . It has developed model agreements that have sped time to market for companies such as RCN, which obtained their first competitive Cable TV Franchises in California from San Mateo County agencies that are SAMCAT members. It also manages programs for its members including the Emmy Award Winning Peninsula TV channel on Comcast and RCN Cable Systems in San Mateo County and the RCN Multi-Jurisdictional Fiber Network (MJN) in Silicon Valley

For more information on the members of Silicon Valley Metro Connect, please visit:




I predict more legislation (supported by cellular and cable interests) to prevent municipal Wifi from fully taking off.


3g network’s higher speeds reduce the cost of making a phone call since more data can be pushed through the same spectrum and it takes less spectrum to make a phone call.

It’s in the phone companies best interests to roll out these new technologies so a little municipal wifi isn’t going to keep them from upgrading it.

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