Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why "Free" Municipal Wireless Has Flopped

Slate.com: It's hard to dislike the idea of free municipal wireless Internet access. Imagine your town as an oversized Internet cafe, with invisible packets floating everywhere as free as the air we breathe. That fanciful vision inspired many cities to announce the creation of free wireless networks in recent years. This summer, reality hit—one city after another has either canceled deployments or offered a product that's hardly up to the hype. In Houston, Chicago, St. Louis, and even San Francisco, once-promising projects are in trouble. What happened—was the idea all wrong?

Simple...

Setting up a large wireless network isn't as expensive as installing wires into people's homes, but it still costs a lot of money. Not billions, but still millions. To recover costs, the private "partner" has to charge for service. But if the customer already has a cable or telephone connection to his home, why switch to wireless unless it is dramatically cheaper or better? In typical configurations, municipal wireless connections are slower, not dramatically cheaper, and by their nature less reliable than existing Internet services. Those facts have put muni Wi-Fi in the same deathtrap that drowned every other company that peddled a new Net access scheme.

9 Comments:

At 9/29/2007 8:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The principles of economics seem to still be elusive to most 'city planners'

 
At 9/29/2007 11:13 PM, Blogger Gregory said...

Reading the actual article, it seems to be anything but negative on the issue of public wireless. More accurately, it seems the author is dissing on public/private partnerships in favor of free wireless provided entirely on the government dime.

 
At 9/29/2007 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Municipal WiFi may have collapsed due to the imminent release of WiMax into North American markets.

WiMax a la Sprint XOHM is going to be a truly mobile wireless broadband experience from the start. As mobile as EVDO but faster, with better ping times AND cheaper. The result may be that for the first time it could be come feasible and viable to tie nearly everything into the Internet wirelessly.

Have a look at http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070925-when-wireless-dsl-sprint-motorola-show-off-wimax-on-the-chicago-river.html for Sprints demo of their Xohm WiMax mobile broadband.

Speeds initially were thought to be in the range of 2 to 4 Mbps but rumor has it that speeds could quickly reach 10 Mbps with ping times of less than 70 ms.

Yes, WiMax is going to change your life.

 
At 9/30/2007 7:18 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"WiMax a la Sprint XOHM is going to be a truly mobile wireless broadband experience from the start"...

Hmmm, I wonder how that's going to work out considering the following:
Sprint to ditch traditional contracts with Xohm, rely on subscriptions

I can't see why it should change the roll out of WiMax but plans have died for less important reasons than how the service is paid for...

 
At 9/30/2007 8:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

juandos, it makes sense for Sprint to go to some form of subscription for WiMax instead of the 1 or 2 year contracts (that subsidize hardware) that are prevalent in the cellular/pcs industry now.

Maybe Sprint will offer a single subscription per address like Cable, DSL, etc. do now. Bandwidth per address could be throttled with software so 20 people on one account couldn't sign on at 3 Mbps each, but would share the 3 Mbps like they do now.

Making WiMax access cheap enough for even your refrigerator, your car and even smaller less obvious objects to connect hassle-free to the net makes sense. Lower data volume applications (not currently connected because of the hassle factor and infrastructure limitations) will likely pay a higher price per byte.

Call it "connection creep" if you will but sometime in the not so distant future I think we'll see a multitude of devices connecting wirelessly to the net to provide a level of convenience that here-to-fore was unthinkable. It might also provide Sprint with a good boost in revenue.

Regarding potential "free" access to WiMax through Sprint's XOHM it is worth noting that Sprint and Google (and many other big players) are working together on parts of WiMax. If Google controlled a nice chunk of spectrum it isn't unthinkable that advertising supported "free" WiMax access (possibly including free wireless telephone service) might be in store for hundreds of millions of Americans (with faster advertising free access available for a nominal service charge.) :)

 
At 9/30/2007 11:01 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Maybe Sprint will offer a single subscription per address like Cable, DSL, etc. do now. Bandwidth per address could be throttled with software so 20 people on one account couldn't sign on at 3 Mbps each, but would share the 3 Mbps like they do now"...

I was wondering why Sprint hadn't considered this as alternative plan to offer those who don't want to handle the full cost of a single 3mps service on their own?

I know its not now their prefered practice...

"Call it "connection creep" if you will but sometime in the not so distant future I think we'll see a multitude of devices connecting wirelessly to the net to provide a level of convenience that here-to-fore was unthinkable"...

Actually I see much of that now among the hardware geeks that I know... Its pretty cool too!

"Regarding potential "free" access to WiMax through Sprint's XOHM it is worth noting that Sprint and Google (and many other big players) are working together on parts of WiMax"...

I think this is going to depend on population density, don't you?

 
At 9/30/2007 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is going to depend on population density, don't you? I think Sprint is thinking the same way by going after (hopefully for their sake) an initial 100 million person market area.

WiMax can be used for so many things including traditional land line replacement. WiMax also has a relatively low cost vs EVDO so WiMax might be found in the boonies one day but I think the denser markets are technically easier.

No one can say right now if there might be a "free" WiMax Internet service but it is possible in a capitalist model.

I think that with WiMax we could see different levels of access provided at different costs maybe even a dial up speed of 28kbps could be provided for free with the first paid level being 128 kbps (like an ISDN line) and going up in increments to whatever the limit is in that area. What is really going to happen is anyones guess right now because Sprint isn't talking. :D

 
At 9/30/2007 9:14 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Hey A @ 1:31 PM, interesting technology and your comment is indeed even more interesting: "What is really going to happen is anyones guess right now because Sprint isn't talking"

The following is from TechWorld: Motorola, Sprint Prove WiMax's Mettle

Sprint showed off the capabilities of its Xohm WiMax technology this week, demonstrating its capabilities to a boatload -- literally, they were on a boat -- of journalists and others. The technology was impressive and consistent, according to reports. Sprint hopes to beta test Xohm later this year in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington.

 
At 10/09/2007 12:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now Sprint is possibly in danger of dumping WiMax (XOHM) for a very short sighted short term profit oriented path that will lead to the end of Sprint.

http://www.evdoforums.com/thread7073.html

 

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