Will Municipalities Mix Wireless and Fiber?

Carl Weinschenk

This Light Reading story is the first time that we've heard of the possibility of combining wireless and fiber-to-the-home in a municipal Wi-Fi network. It sounds like a very good idea indeed.

The main requirement of convergence is a lot of bandwidth. That's provided by fiber. Newly emerging municipal Wi-Fi projects also offer enough bandwidth to support convergence applications, especially with WiMax and 802.11n getting into the mix. Of course, the level of convergence these platforms offer is far less than fiber -- but it still can be significant.

It seems that municipal networks would become a lot more attractive -- from return on investment, network efficiency, and end-user points of view -- if they could shift fluidly between wired and wireless operations based on the application for which they are being used. Of course, that's the whole point of fixed/mobile convergence, and there is no reason to think the rationale isn't as solid at the municipal level.

The great difference in cost between wireless and wired scenarios is the main reason hybrid networks make so much sense. There are myriad instances in which fiber bandwidth is overkill. Wireless networks, which suddenly have an adequate amount of bandwidth for many convergence operations, are orders of magnitude cheaper than fiber. Such networks could suffice in many instances that are less demanding, such as providing free coverage to commercial areas. Call it network arbitrage.

The biggest obstacle wouldn't be technical. Entrenched local cable and phone operators fight tooth and nail against anything that threatens their cash cows. If fiber-rich networks emerged that threatened their respective voice and video revenues more directly -- in other words, if municipal networks became more than bare-bone networks aimed at bridging the digital divide and offering shoppers a base level of service -- resistance from the incumbent network operators would grow even more fierce.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 15, 2007 12:02 PM Bill Bill  says:
Do we really want to turn public places into an extension of the office? Isn't the point of open spaces so that people can interact with each other -- not their computers?It really strikes me that this is a bad idea. The internet is a wonderful invention but too much of a good thing makes you sick.  Reply

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