Murrel. Org

Updated 06/27/2006

Welcome to Murrel.Org Wireless

In tracking down information for Peoria Wireless, it became obvious that there was no central place to get information about wireless activity that we could use in our investigations. This then is an attempt to locate and consolidate those stories and announcements in one place for easy and convenient access.

Thanks for looking!

Murrel June 27 2006: Deploying Citywide Wi-Fi Networks

Today we attended a conference in Oak Brook presented by the State of Illinois on Deploying Citywide Wi-Fi Networks. It was essentially a celabratory event for the folks that put the Aurora wireless program together and that gave us the opportunity to hear from the city, the WISP, the radio manufacturer and the consultants who helped Aurora put the thing together.

I worry that Aurora has a few bumps in the road coming its way. The representation was that everything is perfect and they will soon have 100% coverage and uptime. While it's great that they think things are going well and I hope they have a perfect rollout, I have my doubts. It is reminiscent of the recent publicity that St. Cloud, FL has received. They too claimed to be all things to their citizenry and were brought up short in the press when things weren't up to expectations. In St. Cloud's case, the tech was good but they set expectations too high. I fear that Aurora is doing the same thing. 100% is a pretty high expectation that can be defeated in oh so many ways. But we will know in a few months as installations are completed.

The wireless ISP is Metrofi, a small startup from Mountain View, California who has unwired a number of cities. While Metrofi made a good presentation, the strength of their Aurora connection was their willingness to take on the cost of ownership of the wireless network facilities and operation. But while it was presented as if the project included no cost for the city, it came out during the question/answer period that although Metrofi picked up the implementation costs, the city spent $8 million on a fiber ring to be used for backhaul and were also apparently responsible for the level 1 help desk support.

Mike Langberg, Mercury News tech reporter, suggests that Metrofi has been less than successful with a penetration level around only 4%. In addition, he says he also tested the system and found it wanting:

I tested Metrofi's service for a column back in February. While I liked the idea of getting Internet access for free, the quality was spotty. The service wasn't always fast, and the signal was often blocked by walls.

The Metrofi representative mentioned the visit by the reporter but relayed to us that the reporter was satisfied with what he found.

Skypilot, our host sponsor for the event, appeared to have current state of the art Wi-Fi equipment, but I was confused by the placements of their radios. There just didn't seem to be enough radios to cover the terrain. Jupiter media in their white paper reports that a square mile of Wi-Fi mesh costs $150,000 to build and maintain for 5 years. Sky Pilot was using a figure of $50,000 to build. Either the numbers don't jive or maintenance of the numerous Wi-Fi radios is an expensive task.

In an interesting demonstration, Skypilot showed us the Google Earth view of Silicon Valley which they had overlaid with the MAC addresses of their radios. It also showed lines between connected radios. Most of the radios appeared unconnected, which heightened my suspicions that perhaps their installation was as yet incomplete and perhaps the total number of radio needed understated.

All in all, the Aurora story is being written and we should watch closely and hopefully theirs will be a success which we can duplicate in Peoria.


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