Cities of San Jose and Santa Clara Get Free WiFi

The Mayor of San José (pdf), on March 14, 2013, cut the faux Ethernet cable to mark the availability of the free, Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi Network in Downtown San José.

Ruckus Wireless and SmartWAVE Technologies partnered with the city’s IT department to make it accessible in the downtown core.

Selina Lo, president and CEO of Ruckus Wireless said, “On a smartphone, a user will be able to experience speeds of anywhere from two to three Megabits per second. This is easily three to four times faster than any other public network service,”

Over the past year, Ruckus and its integration partner, SmartWAVE Technologies, have been providing Smart Wi-Fi equipment and ongoing technical and engineering support. The network also benefits the City’s downtown parking infrastructure, primarily the pay-to-park meters, by improving the speed by which time-sensitive transactions occur. In addition, it connects City facilities by providing high-speed alternatives to traditional telecommunications circuits.

Councilmember Sam Liccardo noted, “For the downtown community, this is a major win – for the families who live here, students who go to school here, for the local businesses and their employees who can engage in their work outdoors, for restaurants with outdoor dining, and for visitors who can use the Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi to explore our dynamic, forward-thinking city.”

The installation of the new network was be funded through the city’s parking revenue and general fund.

It comes with a one-time upgrade cost of about $100,000 and ongoing costs of about $22,000 a year, similar to the ongoing costs of the current system, reported the San Jose Mercury News.

San Jose’s new municipal wireless network will replace the city’s MetroFi network, built in 2004, and similar to one MetroFi partially built for Portland, before the company crashed and burned. But WiFi service and technology was more limited in 2004-2007, and the demand of smartphones and tablets hadn’t quite arrived.

Free outdoor Wi-Fi also became a reality for the City of Santa Clara this week, with citywide access launched by Silicon Valley Power (SVP) as part of its SVP MeterConnect program.

Santa Clara says they are the first city in the country to provide free outdoor Wi-Fi access for the community as part of an advanced electric meter upgrade program that uses wireless technology to read meters.

The same Tropos WiFi network that connects to the electric meters carries a separate channel for the free, public, and unencrypted outdoor Internet service.

Silicon Valley Power uses Tropos Networks Gridcom municipal WiFi solution to link to its 51,000 electric and 27,000 water meters.

Wireless meters from Elster Group communicate with the power company offices through the secure Wi-Fi system. Tropos Networks was acquired by ABB, a leader in power and automation, in June 2012.

By also making the WiFi network available to the public, SVP has enabled residents and visitors to access the internet using standard WiFi connections throughout the outdoor areas of Santa Clara. Information about the Wi-Fi access system is available at santaclarafreewifi.com. Users will see the network identifier (SSID) “SVPMeterConnectWiFi” when they log in. SVP expects over 5,000 connections a day.

When advanced meters are installed at residences starting late this year, electricity and water usage information will be highly encrypted and sent via wireless network. The technology will also spot outages quickly and help customers monitor their own electricity usage.

“This is just one of the major benefits our community will enjoy as a result of our advanced metering technology,” said John Roukema, director of SVP. “Now our residents, visitors and local workforce can get Internet access while waiting for a train, shopping downtown, getting their car washed or relaxing in their yard.”

LinkPath Communications directed the design and installation of the wireless system, and is responsible for customer service and maintenance of Santa Clara Free Wi-Fi.

Imagine how consumers and utilities could benefit with a 20 MHz channel in the 600 MHz band. Infrastructure costs would be a small fraction of the $65-$100K per square mile cost of ubiquitous Wi-Fi coverage.

In the 600 MHz band, 20 UHF channels (120 MHz total) are now available between Channels 31-51. But Congress doesn’t want to give the channels away, even though it would lower the cost of delivering services like meter reading, parking, security and ubiquitious internet access.

Utilities appear more likely to wind up paying more than four times as much, in order to subsidize the cost of – let’s say it – an archaic 700 MHz FirstNet system.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Free WiFi: It’s a Right!, San Jose: Municipal Wi-Fi Comes Alive (Again), FirstNet: Get Utilities to Pay for It, Seattle’s Gigabit Fiber CityNet , Chicago Announces Free WiFi in Parks, Municipal Networks: Good for Cities?, Genachoski : Gigabit Fiber in 50 States by 2015 , SF Public Service Net: In Trouble?, Street light Provides Wi-Fi, Cell Coverage, Hotspot 2.0, Public Safety Spectrum Grab, Public Safety: Show Us The Money, Phoney Spectrum Scarcity, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, The 700MHz Network: Who Pays?, Big Bucks for 700 MHz Public Safety

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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