San Antonio is partnering with AT&T Inc. to build a municipal wireless Internet network serving downtown as a test project that could some day be expanded to cover the rest of the city.
The project, approved by the City Council on Thursday, calls for San Antonio-based AT&T to install equipment on city property over the next two months.
“Although this is only a test, I have no doubt it’s something that eventually will become permanent,” said Mayor Phil Hardberger. City officials said they plan to use the 18-month trial period to figure out the best way to establish and operate a large-scale wireless network for the city.
City officials said the project will help them determine the cost of running a citywide wireless network and whether they should split the project with a private company.
City staffers said the city would spend $500,000 on gear and maintenance if it pursued the test project on its own. AT&T is providing the equipment and maintenance, and it will keep revenues from access fees.
If the city decides to expand the service, it could partner with AT&T or another company but it will need to put out a formal bid, officials said. Austin, Houston, Corpus Christi and El Paso are among the Texas cities working on municipal Wi-Fi services.