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Wireless Networking Networking The Internet Hardware

ISPs Losing Interest In Citywide Wireless Coverage 98

The New York Times is running a story about how hope is fading for the implementation of municipal wireless access in cities across the US. Major cities and small towns alike are finding that ISPs are withdrawing from such plans due to the low profitability of ventures that are similar to Philadelphia's incomplete network. We've previously discussed Chicago's and San Francisco's wireless status, and also some of the stumbling blocks other cities have faced. From the Times: "In Tempe, Ariz., and Portland, Ore., for example, hundreds of subscribers have found themselves suddenly without service as providers have cut their losses and either abandoned their networks or stopped expanding capacity. EarthLink announced on Feb. 7 that 'the operations of the municipal Wi-Fi assets were no longer consistent with the company's strategic direction.' Philadelphia officials say they are not sure when or if the promised network will now be completed."
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ISPs Losing Interest In Citywide Wireless Coverage

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  • Mzone (Score:3, Informative)

    by mattr ( 78516 ) < minus cat> on Sunday March 23, 2008 @10:28AM (#22836280) Homepage Journal
    I just signed on with NTT DoCoMo for about $8 a month to get Mopera/Mzone which is basically 11Mbps 802.11 access points at places like KFC around town (Tokyo). There definitely aren't enough but maybe one near most major stations. However they require a lousy browser-based login (works automatically with their utility though) so I can't use my Skype phone.

    It is very cool, and still only about $15/mo. even if you aren't already a customer of their FOMA phones.

    Free is good but also maybe a very low monthly fee ($5/mo.?) to a general fund that would be divided among routers/isps doing this? Whatever, the question is find a way to get it done. I never thought ISPs would make much money out of this myself but once you get onto 11Mbps you get addicted. I use the windows app they give you to look at a detailed map of the city and find where the nearest point is. So far Tully's and Kentucky are my faves!

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday March 23, 2008 @10:52AM (#22836422) Journal

    With time and experience, the coverage problems were resolved. And the cost of rolling out these networks was quite low - tiny compared to the costs of rolling out the 3G networks
    Coverage is an easy problem to solve. You just need a lot of access points. A really, really, large number, in fact. Walking around campus, I see access points in almost every room. Looking into the distance, I can see the cell tower that gives coverage to the campus and most of the city. Individual access points might be cheaper than cell towers, but the amount needed to cover a given area aren't when you factor in the cost of wiring them all up and the cost of sending someone out to fix them when they are damanged (much easier to secure and diagnose faults with fewer towers). Since WiFi uses unregulated spectrum, you also have to put up with the fact that microwaves, private access points, and so on can all interfere with your network. If someone starts jamming your UMTS tower then you can get them arrested.
  • Re:wow (Score:3, Informative)

    by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Sunday March 23, 2008 @11:40AM (#22836660)
    Wow, EarthLink is still in business??

    Yep. They are. They're still offering dialup at $21.95 a month (with various ways to get that lower through comittments or bundling with other services.) They also have a very interesting $49.95 a month offer in select areas to give you DSL (at whatever speed your copper line supports) and also put plain old telephone service on that line. In Comcast cable areas, they're offering use of Comcast's internet service bundled with Earthlink applications services (for example, e-mail would be for a few bucks less than Comcast is charging for the equal plan.

    So, yep, Earthlink is alive and well.
  • by tji ( 74570 ) on Sunday March 23, 2008 @01:03PM (#22837138)
    As someone who recently moved back to Mountain View (Google-ville) and used Google WiFi initially, my experience is that it is not ready to replace wired ISPs.

    Indoor access via laptop is problematic, for all the normal coverage reasons. The Google router is right across the street on a lightpost, but it is tough to get a strong enough signal indoors. A wireless bridge place in the window facing their router solved the signal strength issues.

    With a strong signal, it worked well much of the day. Not blazingly fast, but fast enough to be useful (~1Mbps). But, during high usage times, 7PM-10PM, it became unusable. Packet loss was terrible, so performance was too, and many sessions timed out completely.

    And this is with a very mixed environment, most people I have talked to used Cable or DSL internet access. So, Google WiFi wasn't supporting the whole street. But, even with the subset of users, it was too much for their service to handle. I quickly decided to go for cable internet, and this is definitely the right choice for anyone needing Internet for business / critical usage.

    Maybe it could work with other improvements, I don't know enough about their infrastructure to say for sure. Some thoughts:

    - Uplink issues: I think Google routers hub back into their network via wireless links. Maybe that is the piece that is not holding up at peak times. If so, a better network back to the ISP may help.

    - 802.11N may help: More bandwidth, longer range. Operating on the 5GHz band may also be less crowded with other networks, at least for now.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen