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Today Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced that the City of Seattle has reached an agreement with broadband developer Gigabit Squared to develop and operate a fiber network for Seattle with speeds up to 1 Gbps.

The city of Seattle and Gigabit Squared (GB2), along with the University of Washington have begin raising the capital to build out a demonstration fiber network that will deliver gigabit service to homes and businesses (FAQ).

The network, called Gigabit Seattle includes three pieces: Fiber directly to homes and business in twelve demonstration neighborhoods, along with dedicated gigabit broadband wireless connections to multifamily housing and offices across Seattle, and next generation wireless cloud services in its 12 neighborhoods.

GB2 plans to utilize Seattle’s excess fiber infrastructure, and sees the development of a “dedicated gigabit broadband wireless umbrella” for beaming up to 1 Gbps from small cells, as well as municipal WiFi-like services.

This is the first demonstration project of Gigabit Squared’s Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program (GNGP), which will bring other projects like this to promote gigabit network innovation in six selected university communities across the country, says the company. The $200 million broadband program was developed in partnership with The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project (Gig.U).

Neither the city nor the company has any information on potential pricing. Mark Ansboury, president of Gigabit Squared, said the pilot project could begin next fall. He plans to have fiber lines pass by 6,000 to 10,000 homes in the 12 neighborhoods, but expects that connections will be made to only 8 percent to 12 percent of the homes – or about 500 to 1,200 homes. Seattle has around 280,000 housing units so the initial phase may provide fiber to about 0.4 percent of the city.

To provide 300 Mbps and above PTP, you must use fiber, unlicensed 5 or 24 GHz radio, licensed radios in the 6, 11, 18 and 23 GHz bands, or 60 – 80 GHz bands.

The company will use a combination of licensed and unlicensed spectrum between 11 and 60 Gigahertz to deliver a gigabit between the rooftops. They’ll need something other than WiGig at 60 GHz. Gigabit backhaul from Alcatel, Alvarion, Bridgewave, Ceragon, Cisco, DragonWave, Exalt, Proxim, Trango, Ubiquiti AirFiber and others could do it.

The 4.9 GHz band may be freed up just in time. In August, the FCC approved new channels for backhaul at 6 GHz, 11 GHz and 23 GHz.

The 6 GHz band will offer a 60 MHz wide channel and the 11 GHz band allows a 80 MHz channel, which will allow 500 MB/s speeds.

In July, Seattle abandoned nearly a decade of planning to develop a citywide, municipal broadband service. That network, connecting city facilities, cost over $50 million to install.

When Seattle decided to lease capacity on its network, Gigabit was one of ten companies that expressed interest, explains Brier Dudley of the Seattle Times.

Chicago was the first recipient of the Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program where the University of Chicago, communities like Woodlawn, state, city and county government, as well as hospitals and schools combined with the private equity to fund the Gigabit Squared project.

Chicago is trying to encourage private investment in completing a high-speed fiber ring that would link existing and emerging tech centers and provide free WiFi in parks. The city is likely to formally advertise for bidders sometime soon, reports Chicago Business.

The city kicked off its “Chicago Broadband Challenge” by turning on free Wi-Fi in Millennium Park this September. As part of the initiative the Broadband Challenge, all parks and open spaces in Chicago will eventually offer free internet (pdf).

Municipal WiFi went bust in a huge way between 2006 and 2007. It cost too much. The short range of WiFi meant reliable, ubiquitous service required spending more than $100,000 per square mile as the noise floor from thousands of consumer WiFi nodes swamped the 2.4 GHz band, making connections a block away nearly impossible.

The 4G technologies of WiMAX and LTE provided ubiquitous coverage more cheaply. The 4G infrastructure required far fewer nodes and backhaul requirements, but the licensed nature of cellular monopolies meant monthly subscriptions were required.

Small cells and “hetnets” are now the hot thing. Carriers can fill in coverage and add capacity in urban cores by using small licensed or unlicensed nodes, linking heterogeneous networks together.

Unlicensed Wi-Fi has also evolved. It is faster, cheaper, and more ubiquitous. Beamforming can reduce interference and increase range. Significantly, the FCC this week opened a proceeding to make available 100 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band for unlicensed use of small cells.

Cellular companies are realizing that small, cheap LTE antennas on nearly every block, using their licensed frequencies, may be the best way to increase capacity. But small cells need fiber.

Basestation servers, running in the cloud, can manage WiFi-sized cellular nodes, like Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio, remotely. Since small cells require only small antennas and need just a few watts of power, they can be mounted on a light pole.

RF over fiber can eliminate the on-site basestation. Radio over Fiber is much cheaper to build, run and maintain and more flexible.

“The future city will not need big, high-power cell towers, expensive coaxial cables, or repetitive network infrastructures for different wireless services,” says Kun Xu of the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.

Private money, not taxpayer money, can build the network. In return for access to rights of way, cities like Chicago and Seattle are able get significant public benefits. Cellular companies don’t have to fight over fiber rights of way.

Everyone wins. It seems like an idea whose time has come.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Chicago Announces Free WiFi in Parks, Google Fiber Launches in Kansas City, Small Cells for Cisco, Sprint to use Light Radio for Small Cells, Street light Provides Wi-Fi, Cell Coverage, Hotspot 2.0, Intel: Basestation in the Cloud, Clearwire: On the Hot Zone, Sprint to use LightRadio for Small Cells, LTE iPhone: Game Changer?, London: The Biggest Small Network in the World, FCC: More Backhaul at 6, 11 and 23 GHz

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