Municipal wireless network

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Municipal wireless network (Municipal Wi-Fi, Muni Wi-Fi or Muni-Fi) is the concept of turning an entire city into a Wireless Access Zone, with the ultimate goal of making wireless access to the Internet a universal service. This is usually done by providing municipal broadband via Wi-Fi to large parts or all of a municipal area by deploying a wireless mesh network. The typical deployment design uses hundreds of routers deployed outdoors, often on poles. The operator of the network acts as a wireless internet service provider.

Overview[edit]

A municipal Wi-Fi antenna in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Such networks go far beyond the existing piggybacking opportunities available near public libraries and some coffee shops. The basic premise of carpeting an area with wireless service in urban centers is that it is more economical to the community to provide the service as a utility rather than to have individual households and businesses pay private firms for such a service. Such networks are viewed as capable of enhancing city management and public safety, especially when used directly by city employees out in the field. They can also be viewed as a social service to those who cannot afford private high-speed services such as DSL. When the network service is free and a small number of clients consume a majority of the available capacity, operating and regulating the network might prove difficult.[1][2]

In 2003, Verge Wireless, a subsidiary of CamSoft Data Systems, Inc., a small company from Baton Rouge Louisiana, forms an agreement with Tropos Networks to build one of the first municipal wireless networks in the downtown area of the city. .[3] Although Tropos technology is primarily focused on public safety, Carlo MacDonald, the founder of Verge Wireless sees it differently. He pitches to Tropos president David Hannah, that the technology is best used to provide public access to Internet wirelessly, providing cities with a way to attract and improve economical development and developers to build mobile applications that can make use of faster bandwidth not available at that time on current mobile devices. Verge Wireless goes on to build networks for Baton Rouge, New Orleans,[4] and other areas, allowing cities to bypass AT&T and other large telecoms in hopes of bringing the technology first to their residents. Knowing what is coming, MacDonald is focused on the applications that will be able to run on his networks providing fast internet to any device. Some applications include, Wireless Security Cameras, Police mug shot software, and location based advertising.

The US Federal Trade Commission has expressed some concerns about such private/public partnerships as trending towards a franchise monopoly.[5]

The technology to allow this continues to advance. In 2007, companies with existing cell sites offered competing paid high-speed wireless services where the laptop owner purchased a PC card or adapter which uses communications based on EV-DO cellular data receivers or WiMAX rather than 802.11b/g. High-end laptops in 2007 featured built-in support for these newer protocols. WiMAX is designed to implement a metropolitan area network (MAN) while 802.11 is designed to implement a wireless local area network (LAN).

Within the United States, providing a municipal wireless network is not officially recognized as a priority. Some have argued that the benefits of public approach may exceed the costs, similar to cable television.[6][7][8]

Finance[edit]

The construction of such networks is a significant part of their lifetime costs. Usually, a private firm works closely with local government to construct such a network and operate it. Financing is usually shared by both the private firm and the municipal government. Once operational, the service may be free, supported by advertising, provided for a monthly charge per user or some combination. Among deployed networks, usage as measured by number of distinct users has been shown to be moderate to light. Private firms serving multiple cities sometimes maintain a single account for each user thus allowing the user a limited amount of portable service as they travel among the cities covered by the firm. As of 2007, some Muni WiFi deployments are delayed as the private and public partners involved in planned networks continue to negotiate the business model and financing.[9][10][11][12][13][14]

In the build-out of such networks, radio communication is used both for the Wi-Fi service and for the "backhaul" or pathway to the Internet. This means that the nodes only need a wire for power (hence the habit of installing them on power and light utility poles). This "all radio" approach means that nodes must be within range of each other and form a contiguous pathway back to special aggregation nodes that have more traditional access to the Internet. Nodes then relay traffic, somewhat like a fire-bucket brigade, from the laptop to the aggregation node. This limits the way in which the network can be grown incrementally: coverage starts near the aggregation point and, as the mesh grows, new coverage can only grow out from the edge of the mesh. If a new, isolated area is to be covered, then a new aggregation point must be constructed. Private firms often take a phased approach, starting with one or a few sectors of a city to demonstrate competence before making the larger investment of attempting full coverage of a city.

Google WiFi is entirely funded by Google. Despite a failed attempt to provide citywide WiFi through a partnership with internet service provider Earthlink in 2007,[15] the company claims that they are currently working to provide a wireless network for the city of San Francisco, California, although there is no specified completion date.[16] Some other projects that are still in the planning stages have pared back their planned coverage from 100% of a municipal area to only densely commercially zoned areas. One of the most ambitious planned projects is to provide wireless service throughout Silicon Valley, but the winner of the bid seems ready to request that the 40 cities involved help cover more of the cost which has raised concerns that the project will ultimately be too slow-to-market to be deemed a success. Advances in technology in 2005–2007 may allow wireless community network projects to offer a viable alternative. Such projects have an advantage that as they do not have to negotiate with government entities they have no contractual obligations for coverage. A promising example is Meraki's demonstration in San Francisco, which already claims 20,000 distinct users as of October 2007.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23]

In 2009, Microsoft and Yahoo also provided free wireless to select regions in the United States. Yahoo's free WiFi was made available for one full year to the Times Square area in New York City beginning November 10, 2009.[24][25] Microsoft made free WiFi available to select airports and hotels across the United States, in exchange for one search on the Bing search engine by the user.[26]

Potential externalities[edit]

Unintended externalities are possible as a result of local governments providing Internet service to their constituents. A private service provider could choose to offer limited or no service to a region if that region's largest city opted to provide free Internet service, thus eliminating the potential customer base. This could prevent other municipalities in that region from benefiting from the services of the private provider. The smaller municipalities would at the same time not benefit from the free service provided by the larger city. Overuse could be another issue. If usage of the publicly provided network became heavier than existing private options network overload issues could arise, forcing the municipality to invest more heavily, thus spending more revenue, on infrastructure to maintain the existing level of service. This issue could be compounded if private providers begin exiting a market as mentioned above.

Cities with municipal wi-fi[edit]

Existing[edit]

Africa[edit]

  • Luxor, Egypt - pilot, paid service - tourist areas, TE Data[27]
  • Johannesburg - City of Johannesburg municipality is currently rolling out free Wi-Fi to many suburbs as well as the city center.
  • Cape town- the City has made free Wi-Fi available in many of the city's parks and public spaces.

Asia[edit]

Europe[edit]

  • Bologna Italy - free, limited to three hours a day, hotspots in historical city center and around[35]
  • Blackpool, UK - free, 1.6 km area around city centre Wireless Blackpool - Wireless Blackpool Leaflet
  • Brașov, Romania - free wifi over the entire city deployed into existing 5G network by worldwifizone.com of Ireland, over 40,000 daily users at peak. Facebook login.
  • Bristol, UK - free, 3 km area around city centre[36]
  • Brussels, Belgium UrbiZone covers a number of institutions for higher education and some city or regional administration buildings and public hospitals.[37]
  • Chişinău, Moldova - Currently two metropolitan Wi-Fi networks exist: StarNet and Orange. StarNet's coverage area includes most of the city's central streets and residential districts as well as parks and other public recreational places. Company offers paid and free access to its network, free access has limitations on time of use.[38] Orange coverage area includes most of city's mass transit areas and buss stops. Network access is limited to Orange subscribers only.[39]
  • Comiso Italy - free, limited to one hour a day, hotspots in historical city center and around[40]
  • Dublin, Ireland - free wifi in certain areas of city centre. More areas to be rolled out soon. At the moment free wifi is available beside the Dublin City Council Civic Offices, at Wood Quay, at City Hall and at St Patrick's Cathedral.[41]
  • Geneva, Switzerland - free, city-operated[42]
  • Helsingborg, Sweden - unrestricted, free and city-operated in 177 locations around the town. SSID: helsingborg[43]
  • Heraklion, Greece - free, city-operated network, covers major city squares and roads with over 80 access points.[44]
  • Lagkadas, Greece - free, city-operated, covers almost all the city of Lagkadas, it is expanding to cover more towns in Lagkadas municipality.[45]
  • Leiden, Netherlands - free, community project covering city and region Wireless Leiden
  • Lidköping, Sweden - unrestricted, free and commercially operated. Available in town square. SSID: Lidkoping[46]
  • Liverpool, UK - paid service, covering central areas.
  • Luxembourg, Luxembourg—paid, currently covering downtown and Central Station Hotcity
  • Kaunas, Lithuania - free, in represental street of the city.
  • Kyiv, Ukraine - free wifi in certain areas of city centre and Passenger Railway Station.
  • Milan, Italy - free, limited to two hours a day, hotspots in historical city center and around.[47] Free internet is also available at the Milano Malpensa airport.
  • Moralzarzal, Spain - free for inscribed citizens, limited time for visitors.[48]
  • Moscow, Russia - paid service, Golden Telecom[49]
  • Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland, UK
  • Norwich, England - free, city center and university, 18-month pilot Openlink (Norwich,UK)
  • Oulu, Finland - free - panOULU
  • Paris, France - free in many parks and in municipal libraries, museums, and public places (7 AM to 11 PM or opening hours, renewable 2-hour sessions)[50]
  • Roman, Romania - free, deployed by Minisoft Romania as part of MetroWireless free internet access project,[51] paid by advertisements, covers much of the city,[52] expanding to nearby villages
  • Rzeszów, Poland - free, city-operated, with hot-spots located on public schools participating in the project[53]
  • Samobor, Croatia - membership/free and unlimited 24/7 for members, deployed and maintained by NGO SMBWireless,[54] with inter-connected hot-spots located all over the wide city area, placed on houses and buildings of the NGO members.
  • Tallinn, Estonia - free Wifi covers not only the capital city Talinn, but most of the entire country, [as of 2011] thanks to the Tiigrihüpe (Tiger Leap) project.[55]
  • Trondheim, Norway, paid/free network in city centre[56]
  • Vatra Dornei, Romania, 85% of city covered with free wifi deployed by worldwifizone.com using free guest user and Facebook connect.
  • Velika Gorica, Croatia - free, city center and nearby villages as a part of project "e-Gorica"
  • Venice, Italy, free to residents and city users, network of hotspots in historical city centre and mainland[57]
  • Vienna, Austria - free service in the Vienna International Airport[58]
  • Wrocław, Poland - free service Miejski Internet, in few places, renewable 1-hour sessions
  • Zrenjanin, Serbia - free, city center only

North America[edit]

Canada[edit]
United States[edit]

Richardson, Texas - Free, Limited to city residents

In addition, a few U.S. states, such as Iowa, Massachusetts, and Texas offer free Wi-Fi service at welcome centers and roadside rest areas located along major Interstate highways.

Mexico[edit]
  • Guadalajara, Jalisco - Free, 150 parks and municipal areas. 1 hour continuous connect and 2 hour connection time allowed per day. In operation since 2011. Installation and operation is municipal government funded. A few of the areas are provided with free electrical outlets to charge / use your device.[100]
  • Mérida, Yucatán - Free. Most major city parks and other areas. Provided by Axtel and Telmex. Usually also provide standing tables with power outlets. The parks are identified by "parque en linea" (online park) signs and branding of the utility providing the connectivity. The SSID is usually "park en linea".

Oceania[edit]

  • Auckland, New Zealand - Citywide network based in all popular areas across Auckland including CBD and Waterfront [21] from Tomizone.
  • Perth, Australia - paid, RoamAD-based metro wide coverage in the CBD by metromesh
  • Taupo, New Zealand, paid/free large RoamAD-based zone in tourist area by Kordia Metro WiFi
  • Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, prepaid access and free 1 hr daily, available at many locations region wide by NOW
  • Wellington, New Zealand - Free Wifi at the Waterfront, CBD & Airport

South America[edit]

Planned[edit]

Africa[edit]

  • Northpine, South Africa Paid. WISP and media delivery services as well as video surveillance focused on the suburb. Community social portal for information sharing, collaboration and local business partnerships. Proof of concept to be expanded to neighbouring areas.

Asia[edit]

Europe[edit]

North America[edit]

United States[edit]

Oceania[edit]

South America[edit]

Canceled or Closed[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]