Aiirmesh: Wi-Fi Cities Come Calling

By Ed Sutherland

October 29, 2004

A year ago, the citywide Wi-Fi deployment in Cerritos, California—one of the first in the U.S.—made big news. Today, the service provider on that project is inundated with interest from communities small and huge.

Cities such as Philadelphia and San Francisco, which are investigating large-scale Wi-Fi deployments, have Aiirmesh Communications on speed-dial.

Noted for using Wi-Fi to create a wireless mesh network for the 50,000 residents of the Cerritos, CA., Aiirmesh "has been contacted by Philadelphia and San Francisco," says Tony Esfandiari, CEO of Aiirmesh.

Recently, a number of cities have expressed interest in offering Wi-Fi throughout their locales.

Philadelphia wants to start in 2005 building a Wi-Fi network for its 1.5 million residents. The city expects to spend $10 million to unwire 135 square miles.

New York City also is deep into the planning phase of creating a Wi-Fi network for those living in that East Coast landmark.

"We will not stop until every San Franciscan has access to free wireless Internet service," declared Gavin Newsom, that city's mayor. With Wi-Fi service already available at the city's baseball park, Newsom is planning on deploying Wi-Fi in the Union Square shopping area, Chinatown, City Hall, the waterfront and throughout housing projects and community centers.

"Cities want to offer Wi-Fi like a utility," says Esfandiari. While Wi-Fi is often viewed as an attractive alternative to cable or DSL for broadband services, cities need to investigate the risks and benefits of deploying Wi-Fi on a citywide basis.

Aiirmesh made news last year when it—in partnership with Tropos Networks, and Pronto Networks—began installing a Wi-Fi mesh network spanning 8.6 square miles of Cerritos. At the time it was billed as the single largest Wi-Fi deployment in the U.S. Now cities are considering using the wireless networking technology to cover millions of citizens and hundreds of square miles.

What is spurring the expansion of Wi-Fi in cities? "Homeland security is a driving force in urban areas," says Esfandiari. Cities like New York and LA want to use Wi-Fi to link police, fire and emergency services.

Aiirmesh recently announced it has begun a six-month trial which the company hopes will convince Los Angeles planners to use Wi-Fi throughout the city.

Through the trial "the city of LA is going to get a feeling" for the benefits of Wi-Fi, says Esfandiari.

To convince LA of Wi-Fi's potential, Aiirmesh is unwiring the Marvin Braude San Fernando Valley Constituent Service Center in Van Nuys, CA. Located 15 miles North of LA., the government center is the home of the mayor's office and a number of other planning agencies. The center is a frequent destination for lawyers and engineers in the San Fernando Valley area, who use the location as an alternative to going into LA.

"Anyone with a Centrino chip" will be able to get free Internet access throughout the 142,000-square-foot center, according to the Aiirmesh CEO.

"As a technological leader, Los Angeles should be on the forefront of providing Wi-Fi Internet access," said LA Council member Jack Weiss, the pilot project proposal's author.

"An extensive study with the Univ. of California is underway" to track the number of users and other statistics resulting from the Wi-Fi pilot, says Esfandiari.

Originally published on .

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