The Minneapolis Wi-Fi network has reached a new stage: the beginning of normal operations, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It now has more than 10,000 customers, and is operating at the financial break-even point, said network operator US Internet.
US Internet funded, build, and managed a wireless network covering all 59 square miles of Minneapolis, providing residents, businesses, and visitors with wireless broadband access anywhere in the City. The city of Minneapolis committed $1.25 million dollars in annual usage of wireless services as an anchor tenant of the network and is using the system for a variety of public safety projects.
Some 2,000 wireless devices are installed throughout the City on light poles, traffic signals, and buildings to complete the network. USI Wireless promised to provide $500,000 to create a “digital inclusion fund” that will be used to promote affordable Internet access, low cost hardware, local content and training and direct a minimum of five percent of the network’s net profits to a digital inclusion fund.
US Internet built the metro-wide network using BelAir200 and BelAir100 nodes. The BelAir200 units are four-radio wireless switch routers with an access radio module that uses 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi and can also be configured with up to three separate 5 GHz backhaul radios. The BelAir100 is a two-radio node that accepts the same radio modules as the BelAir200.
Service is not free although free limited-time service is available in some public locations like parks and plazas. USI Wireless offers multiple service packages that start around $19/month.
The experience of Minneapolis is in stark contrast to nearly every other Wi-Fi project in big cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
Portland’s 134 square mile MetroFi network was shut down earlier this year with some 600 WiFi nodes installed. The city expects that the nodes will be removed in the next month or so.
Dailywireless got a call this week from one potential buyer of MetroFi who claimed they were willing to buy the Portland system — even the entire company — but their phone calls and emails were never returned by MetroFi.
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