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Was EarthLink’s failed citywide Wi-Fi a blessing in disguise, asks C/Net’s Marguerite Reardon.

“The new network owners are supposed to have a much more sustainable business model,” said Karen Perry, director of the Connected Communities team for the Knight Center of Digital Excellence. “The fact that they are also focused on wired and wireless access will also improve the quality of the network, which could be very important for providing the nonprofit a more vibrant set of options.”

Network Acquisition Company, which acquired the network, hasn’t talked publicly about the details of its new plan, but it has hinted that its strategy will differ from EarthLink’s. For one, it will use wired infrastructure to provide backhaul capacity to the Wi-Fi network. This should help improve coverage and capacity issues. NAC also plans to sign up more business customers and city agencies as anchor tenants of the network, guaranteeing bigger chunks of revenue to keep the network up and running.

These improvements, along with a new non-exclusive contract, could liberate the nonprofit and help it expand its reach and effectiveness in the community. And if Wireless Philadelphia can show successful outcomes for individuals and the city as a whole, it could serve as a model for policy makers looking to form a national broadband policy.

Well, maybe. But Network Acquisition Company, it should be noted, is largely funded by Tropos founder Dave Hanna. Tropos bet the company on Philadelphia.

At $100K per square mile, some industry analysts now question the cost/effectiveness of using unlicensed 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi for citywide deployments.

The 3650 MHz and 2150 MHz bands, for example, might deliver 10 square miles for well under $100K, less than one tenth the cost of Wi-Fi. In addition, unlicensed “white space” 700 MHz could deliver indoor penetration. According to C/Net’s Reardon, Wireless Philadelphia is also supporting Google’s “white spaces” thrust.

The FCC raised more than $19 billion in its auction of 700-megahertz spectrum earlier this year but failed to get a bidder for the D block, a combined 22 MHz of commercial/public service spectrum. The winning bidder would have to cover the United States and provide more “rugged” cell towers with battery backup.

The D-block will be reauctioned by the FCC by the middle of next year. The minimum reserve price has been lowered to $750 million, about half the previous price. It will also be offered for auction as 58 single regional licenses instead of only as one block. “If no national bidder emerges, the spectrum will only be doled out if at least 50% of the regional licenses have met their minimum prices. At that point, the minimums for the other 50% will be lowered to try to spur bidding”. The FCC also extended the build-out period from 10 years to 15.

DailyWireless stories on 2155 GHz include; FCC Seeks Feedback on 2155MHz, Free Internet Auction: On Again, CellCos to Martin: Sit Down and Shut Up, $99 Settop = Free Triple Play?, FCC: Free Broadband at 2155-2180 MHz, Bill to Free 2155-2180 Mhz, Free 2155-2175 MHz!, FCC: Free Broadband at 2155-2180 MHz, How to Fix Muni Wi-Fi, Wavion Beamforms Backhaul, Pipeline Wireless: We’re 3.65 GHz, FCC: Go For 3.65GHz, Airspan, Free 3.65GHz Mapping Service, Who the MuniFi MAN?, FiOS: Too Risky?, Google Launches White Space Offensive and Motorola on White Spaces: We’re Good

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