Project title: Building municipal wireless infrastructures
Client: SURFnet
Publication date: November 2006
Complete document: PDF, 2607kB PDF

Introduction:

Within the SURFnet community a need has been expressed to have wireless access outside the campus or educational buildings. Although demand is there, the existing outdoor wireless access methods cannot meet the demand at reasonable price levels. Therefore SURFnet identified the need to determine whether Wi-Fi technology - for blanket outdoor coverage - would be feasible. The city of Utrecht has been chosen for the feasibility study.

More than 400 cities in the United States of America and some cities in other countries are currently planning municipal wireless networks. The rationale for creating municipal wireless networks is mainly based on the need for development of innovative services for residents. Other benefits include cutting costs for Governmental processes and decreasing the digital divide.

In the Netherlands, hotspot operators like KPN, T-Mobile and Mobilander have not expressed any interest in creating a municipal wireless network based on Wi-Fi technology. FON might organically grow into a community of wireless hotspots which approaches city-wide coverage, but this will not provide a managed service.

There are four approaches to creating municipal wireless access: city-wide roll-out of new infrastructure; concluding roaming agreements with hotspot providers; community building approaches; and hybrid approaches involving some combination of the other three. The four approaches were derived from the key parameters in the business case: the initiator's goal and ambition, the service level and quality, and the type of stakeholders.

SURFnet's community survey exposed a need for outdoor wireless access. However, SURFnet community users are not (or to very low degree) willing to pay for wireless services. For the city of Utrecht, a blanket municipal wireless network would cost 9.2 million for a 3-year period. There is no financial justification for creating such a network exclusively for the educational community. Acquiring and rental of access point locations is a large part of the total costs (28%). Such a municipal wireless network is only feasible with support of (local)

government.

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