Silicon Valley Gears Up Wireless Plans

By David Needle

January 27, 2006

With help from Intel and others, goal is to provide coverage among over two dozen cities.

When it comes to technology, Silicon Valley is loathe to take a back seat to its neighbor to the north, San Francisco.

Last year the city of San Francisco announced plans to offer free Wi-Fi internet service; now its tech neighbor plans to do the same.

Smart Valley, an initiative of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network (JVSVN), the San Mateo County Telecommunications Authority (SAMCAT), and Intel Corp. announced the signing Thursday of an agreement to develop a Request for Proposal to design a high-speed wireless data network that will cover all of Silicon Valley.

The Silicon Valley initiative is broader in scope than the City of San Francisco's, covering more than 1,500 square miles, from Fremont in the East Bay, south to Gilroy, over the hill to Santa Cruz, and up the Peninsula to San Mateo, Calif.

The initial response from the Valley municipalities has been good, according to Seth Feary, Smart Valley project manager. He told internetnews.com, "Only one city, Saratoga, has turned us down, and that's a purely residential community which doesn't see a big need for it. I want these cities to sign up because they plan to use it, not just because it's a fad or because everyone else is doing it. This needs to make sense to be sustainable."

One Silicon Valley city, Mountain View, is already well under way with a Wi-Fi project sponsored by Google , which is headquartered there.

"My comment about Google is that I'm absolutely thrilled with what they're doing," said Feary. "My only concern is that it violates the vision we have of a seamless network throughout the Valley, so you don't have to, for example, sign off from one provider and log in to another when you're in Mountain View." He said he plans to talk with Google on resolving the issue.

Intel is working with Smart Valley to develop the Request for Proposal. Once that's issued and evaluated, a vendor will be chosen and implementation can begin, with a goal of implementation by next year.

Many communities are already experimenting with Wi-Fi implementations, but Feary said he likes that of Portland, Ore., the best. Intel also worked with Portland.

"We like Portland because it also has the municipal focus we want, rather than the business focus of San Francisco and Philadelphia."

JVSVN envisions government employees being able to use wireless systems to monitor crime scenes, fire locations, traffic signals, sewer pumps and water lines, and even wireless parking meters that dramatically reduce maintenance costs.

"Wireless Silicon Valley has the potential to revolutionize the way that city and county services are provided," said Brian Moura, chair of SAMCAT, assistant city manager for the City of San Carlos, and co-chair of the Wireless Silicon Valley Task Force, in a statement. "Police officers, firefighters, building inspectors, public works engineers and other government field personnel won't have to go back to the office to get work orders, look up records or submit reports. Maps, images and even video will be available where ever they are in the Silicon Valley."

San Francisco already boasts the most Wi-Fi hot spots in the country. According to a report by Jiwire released this week, the number of worldwide Wi-Fi hot spots has surpassed 100,000. Seoul (2,056) tops JiWire's list of WiFi friendly cities for having the greatest number of hotspot locations, followed by Tokyo (1,802) and London (1,627). The top domestic Wi-Fi cities are San Francisco (801), New York (643), and Chicago (501).

Originally published on .

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