L.A. Unwired



Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa outlined plans Tuesday to blanket Los Angeles with wireless Internet access in 2009, in what would be one of the nation’s largest urban Wi-Fi networks, reports the LA Times.

The $60 million proposal would be likely funded by telecommunications providers and advertisers. The price tag for covering Los Angeles’ 498 square miles could reach more than $62 million if figuring an average $125,000 per square mile to set up and maintain.

Internet providers and equipment makers have estimated such costs at about $40 for every home covered by the network. That would work out to almost $54 million in Los Angeles.

Villaraigosa said he expected to create a public-private sector partnership and would seek bids as early as this fall. The winning bidder would probably pay for the installation, while the city would donate space for antennas on city buildings, light poles and other structures.

Councilman Tony Cardenas, who heads the city’s information technology committee, said the council has supported past efforts that included Wi-Fi hot spots at Pershing Square downtown and the Marvin Braude Center in Van Nuys.

“We need it,” he said. “I would like to see all L.A. kids grow up advantaged, not disadvantaged.”

The city’s existing commercial broadband providers — AT&T Inc., Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications Inc. — aren’t planning to oppose the city’s efforts.

“We urge cities to be cautious investing taxpayer money in such a venture where technology is changing rapidly,” said Verizon spokesman Jonathan Davies.

WiMax: Go For It!

Look. Who cares what they’re doing in some cow town or megalopolis. Your own community’s needs come first. Think for yourself. Consider WiMax.

What’s wrong with specifying an ALL WiMax city-cloud, right now. Test 3-4 areas for a year, then build it out in 2008-2009. Let coffee shops (or homes) put up their own hotspots.

Inexpensive WiFi hotspots with built-in (or plugged in) WiMax backhaul are coming. D-Link has a hotspot with cell backbone while Flarion & Netgear have a mobile hotspot. Today. With cheap $25/mo Mobile WiMax riding on the “city cloud”, mounting a hotspot anywhere should be a snap. The infrastructure would be faster, cheaper and less risky.

WiMax was designed for low-cost, city-wide access. Use it.

Hundreds (or thousands) of WiFi nodes would be costly to build and maintain. It just seems too expensive. City clouds costing $75,000 a square mile? Oh, please. It should be $10,000-$25,000. One multi-sector WiMAX node at 5.8 GHz should cover more than a square mile. MIMO helps cover non line of sight shadow areas.

Portland’s WiFi “cloud” will have to compete with Mobile WiMax from Clearwire (in 2007), Sprint (in 2008) and Paul Allen’s 700 Mhz (in 2009). Ubiquitous licensed Mobile WiMax at 2.5 GHz and 700 Mhz WILL be compelling at $35/month. Plan on it.

Samsung has introduced a Mobile WiMAX USB Dongle, the SPH-H1200 (above), to enable PCs to connect to WiMAX or 3G.

An “open access” 5.8 GHz WiMax “cloud” might be a better alternative. It enables competition. Everyone benefits.

Netgear’s adaptive antenna access point costs $99. Netgear and Flarion teamed on a “mobilized” access point, using Flarion for the backhaul. Solectek outputs 400 mW at 5.8GHz for a range up to 5 miles. Why shouldn’t WiMax access points at 5.8GHz go a mile for $1,000-$5,000 and deliver service to a $100 client/dongle? Is that asking too much?

Sequans and Fujitsu can power Micro Max basestations while Intel chips are available for clients. Airspan has a line. So do others.

Doubling the range cuts costs 75%. Mobile WiMax doubles range (upstream) by transmiting all the power in a fraction of the channel bandwidth. Downstream range is doubled by allocating more power to the carriers assigned to distant users.

The WiMax Forum says that Non-LOS service at 3.5Ghz, using these new Mobile Wimax techniques, will improve range from 1-2 km to 4-9 km (pdf) – a huge improvement. Subchannelization and Scalable OFDMA is the key to long range and low cost.

You won’t get it with WiFi.

It might not be mobile, but 5.8 GHz WiMax would be cheaper and faster than WiFi. Licensed 4.9 GHz public service could ride shotgun on the fiber/mesh backbone. So could highway-oriented DRCS at 5.9 GHz. Will (proprietary) mesh vendors be able to swap out their gear? It might be tricky.

WiMax. It’s a competitive strategy.

If an ISP can offer a $200, self-install box, delivering both broadband and voice at $40-$60 a month, then it’s a real business. Real competition.

WiMax is no slam dunk. It is largely unproven and untested. But engineers have done a commendable job, wringing out every last ounce of performance from this platform.

Let’s see what she’ll do.

– Sam

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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