Who the MuniFi MAN?

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Minneapolis is quickly becoming the new poster child for the municipal Wi-Fi movement, says C/Net.

The city is expected to have the majority of its 59-square-mile network finished by the end of this month, and already experts are pointing to the nearly completed network as a model other cities should follow.

Over the past year, citywide wireless networks have gotten a bum rap. Halfway through 2007, EarthLink, which had been leading the charge with big contract wins to build and run networks in San Francisco, Houston, and Philadelphia, started unraveling its Wi-Fi strategy.

By September, Earthlink had pulled out of proposed networks in San Francisco and Houston. And in early February, EarthLink put its citywide Wi-Fi business up for sale.

Currently, Minneapolis’ approach seems to have the most legs. In this model, the city government and public-safety agencies act as anchor tenants guaranteeing the service provider, USI Wireless, a contract. In 2006, the city agreed to pay USI Wireless $1.25 million a year for 10 years to build and operate its network.

“For large to midsize cities, Minneapolis will become the standard model,” said Craig Settles, an independent wireless-technology consultant.

“From the beginning, we were focused on the institutional benefits of having a citywide Wi-Fi network,” said Lynn Willenbring, CIO for Minneapolis. “But we recognized quickly that we could not create a viable business case for the network operator with just our business. So it’s important for them to sell to residential and business users too.”

Last year the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse & Emergency Communications proved the worth of their Belair-based system.

But Azulstar Networks, which built one of America’s very first municipal Wi-Fi networks, is trying something completely different — WiMAX. Today Azulstar announced that it will be enhancing all of its existing municipal Wi-Fi networks with WiMAX technology, using equipment from Airspan Networks and Redline Communications. Azulstar is using the 3.6 GHz [lightly] licensed band.

The networks being upgraded include Grand Haven, MI – one of the first municipal Wi-Fi networks, which recently entered its 5th year of operation. Azulstar’s WiMAX rollouts will include 15 cities in the mid- and southwest USA including Grand Rapids, Michigan and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Wireless Minneapolis: Best Practices, Minneapolis Bridge Collapse & Emergency Communications, Long Island Wireless: Short, Wireless Silicon Valley: Would You Believe a Dozen Hotspots in San Carlos, Earthlink to Municipal WiFi: WereOuttaHere, Municipal WiFi: What Would You Do?, MuniFi: Not Dead Yet, Earthlink Restructures, MuniFi Holds Breath, Houston to Re-launch City-wide Wireless, MetroFi Vs Portland, MetroFi Quits Installing Portland Nodes, Portland Chooses MetroFi for 134 Mile Cloud, Sun Don’t Shine on Solar WiFi Town, Forbes: America’s Top Broadband Cities, The Philadelphia Story: Controversial and Intel’s Rural Connectivity Platform.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, March 17th, 2008 at 10:38 am .

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