Municipal wireless network

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Municipal wireless network (Municipal Wi-Fi, Muni Wi-Fi or Muni-Fi) is a citywide wireless network. 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 wireless access points deployed outdoors, often on poles. The operator of the network acts as a wireless internet service provider.


A municipal Wi-Fi antenna in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Municipal wireless 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 capable of enhancing city management and public safety, especially when used directly by city employees in the field. They can also be a social service to those who cannot afford private high-speed services. 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 formed an agreement with Tropos Networks to build a municipal wireless networks in the downtown area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.[3] Carlo MacDonald, the founder of Verge Wireless, suggested that it could provide cities a way to improve economic development and developers to build mobile applications that can make use of faster bandwidth. Verge Wireless built networks for Baton Rouge, New Orleans,[4] and other areas. Some applications include wireless security cameras, police mug shot software, and location-based advertising.

In 2006 the US Federal Trade Commission expressed concerns about such private-public partnerships as trending towards a franchise monopoly.[5]

In 2007, some companies with existing cell sites offered high-speed wireless services where the laptop owner purchased a PC card or adapter based on EV-DO cellular data receivers or WiMAX rather than 802.11b/g. A few high-end laptops at that time 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 recognized as a priority. Some have argued that the benefits of public approach may exceed the costs, similar to cable television.[6]


The construction of such networks is a significant part of their lifetime costs. Usually, a private firm works with local government to construct 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 to users via public finance or advertising, or may be a paid service. 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 an account for each user, and allow the user a limited amount of mobile service in the cities covered. As of 2007 some Muni WiFi deployments are delayed as the private and public partners negotiate the business model and financing.[7][8][9]

In 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 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,[10] the company claims that they are working to provide a wireless network for the city of San Francisco, California, although there is no specified completion date.[11] 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 a success. Advances in technology in 2005–2007 may allow wireless community network projects to offer a viable alternative. Such projects have an advantage in 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.[12]

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 year to the Times Square area in New York City beginning November 10, 2009.[13][14] 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.[15]

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. The private sector receives no money from taxpayers, so there isn't competition. The lack of competition prevents other municipalities in that region from benefiting from the services of the private provider.[16] The smaller public municipalities would at the same time not benefit from the free service provided by the larger city because it is designed to be subsidized by taxpayers and not concerned about the maximization of profits. The broadband provided by the government isn't largely supported to create an income on top of the private sector not being competed with enough to make a profit. Thus, making both municipal wireless networks anticompetitive.[16]

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.[17]

Cities with municipal Wi-Fi service[edit]

In many cases several points or areas are covered, without blanket area coverage.





Free public WiFi in tourist areas of big cities, railway stations, airports, and governmental facilities in Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Harbin, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Kunming, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Wuxi, Nanjing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Chongqing, Fuzhou, Ningbo, Foshan, Dalian, Changchun, Qingdao, Yantai, Dongguan, Macau, Huangshan, Hefei, Guiyang, and Guangzhou

Nearly all cities have free WiFi coverage, hosted either by their local service carrier, or city government, all railway stations in China have free WiFi, along with all Airports.



  • Malang - Indoken Wireless offers roaming connectivity, T-Fi Beta offers connectivity on public transportation, free access at resource centers.[20]


  • Kuala Lumpur - free, Wireless@KL covering major commercial areas.[25]
  • Penang, - Penang Free Wi-Fi started in 2009, covers some commercial spots in the state, mostly on Penang Island.[citation needed]
  • Sarawak - paid deConnexion available in most business districts in major towns in the state of Sarawak.[citation needed]
  • Kota Kinabalu - free through KK City WiFi starting from 2017 for local residents and tourists. Each user is entitled to 10GB of quota with no time limit every day.[26]











  • Brussels - UrbiZone covers some institutions for higher education, administration buildings, and public hospitals.[34]


  • Plovdiv - free throughout the city center and some of the city's outskirts.[35]





  • Paris - free in many parks and in municipal libraries, museums, and public places.[39]


Wi-Fi sign in downtown Munich
  • Munich - several areas downtown
  • Stuttgart - service along the main shopping street Königstraße and a few other locations.[40]


  • Heraklion - free, city-operated network, covers major city squares and roads.[41]
  • Lagkadas - free, city-operated, covers most of the city and is expanding to cover towns in Lagkadas municipality.[42]



  • Bologna - free service in and around the historical city center.[45]
  • Comiso - free service in and around the historical city center.[46]
  • Milan - free service in and around the historical city center[47] and the Milano Malpensa airport.[citation needed]
  • Venice, free to residents and city users.[48]
  • Trento, free service in and around the historical city centre.[49]



  • Luxembourg — paid & free service in downtown, Central Station Hotcity and European district.[50]


  • Chişinău - two metropolitan Wi-Fi networks exist: StarNet and Orange. StarNet's paid and free coverage area includes the city's central streets and residential districts as well as parks.[51] Orange paid coverage area includes the city's mass transit areas and bus stops.[52]


  • Almere - free municipal Wi-Fi covering Downtown Almere [53]
  • Hilversum - free municipal Wi-Fi covering Downtown Hilversum [54] and the shopping area around de Gijsbrecht van Amstelstraat in the southern part of town
  • Leiden - free, community project covering city and region by Wireless Leiden[55]



  • Rzeszów - free, city-operated in participating public schools.[57]
  • Wrocław - free service by Miejski Internet, in few places.[58]


  • Brașov, Romania - free WiFi over the entire city deployed into existing 5G network by of Ireland, over 40,000 daily users at peak.
  • Roman, Romania - free, deployed by Minisoft Romania as part of MetroWireless free internet access project,[59] paid by advertisements, covers much of the city,[60] expanding to nearby villages
  • Vatra Dornei, Romania, 85% of city covered with free WiFi deployed by using free guest user and Facebook connect.





  • Moralzarzal, Spain - free for inscribed citizens, limited time for visitors.[65]
  • Madrid, Spain - free and open Wi-Fi on the municipal bus system, EMT.[66]


  • Helsingborg, Sweden - unrestricted, free and city-operated in 220 locations around the town. SSID: Helsingborg[67] Helpdesk: #freewifihbg on most social platforms.
  • Lidköping, Sweden - unrestricted, free and commercially operated. Available in town square. SSID: Lidkoping[68]
  • Örebro, Sweden - free, around Järntorget.



United Kingdom[edit]

North America[edit]


United States[edit]

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


  • 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.[131]
  • 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".


  • Adelaide, Australia - AdelaideFree WiFi is a contiguous network available throughout the CBD, provided by Internode
  • Auckland, New Zealand - Citywide network based in all popular areas across Auckland including CBD and Waterfront [19] 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
  • Brisbane, Australia - in public areas and the CBD
  • Nelson, New Zealand - Public areas within CBD

South America[edit]



  • Stellenbosch, South Africa Free service. Town centre online since February 25, 2012. Coverage to be increased to whole town.[137]
  • 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.
  • Harare, Zimbabwe Available around the city on various hotspots. Provided by ZOL. 1 hour time limit, paid after.


  • Delhi, India - Delhi Government constituted a Task Force (March 2015) to provide Free Wi-Fi connectivity in Delhi. The new Task Force is a part of Delhi Dialogue Commission (DDC), an advisory body of the Aam Aadmi Party government,[138] Aam Aadmi Party government decide to consult with various stakeholders to implement its pre-poll promise of providing Free Wi-Fi connectivity across the city,[139] Delhi Dialogue Commission (DDC) chaired by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asks people for suggestions for Free WiFi plan (March 2015)[140]
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh Free WiFi is now available in Dhaka Airport Road, Dhanmondi Lake Park, Selected BRTC Buses, Kamlapur Railway Station, Airport Railstation and Dhanmondi Residential Area. The Free WiFi Networks are provided by telecom operators, notably Robi and Aamra. The service is to be rolled out in full Northern Dhaka within December, 2018 [141]
  • Tel Aviv Downtown and later north part as well.[142]
  • Makati, Philippines[143]
  • Mumbai, India[144]
  • NOIDA, India
  • Karachi, Pakistan[145]


North America[edit]

United States[edit]


South America[edit]

Canceled or closed[edit]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]