By Eric Griffith
June 09, 2006
The California capitol city’s metro Wi-Fi will be delayed, since the winning bidder didn’t like the counter-proposal requiring free, ad-supported access.
It’s not the kind of move you see every day in this business as companies fight to get bids accepted to install citywide wireless networks. But MobilePro Corp. of Bethesda, Maryland is pulling out of its deal to unwire the city of Sacramento, California. The reason: the city wanted the network to be free.
On April 4, the company and the city held a “cutting the wire” ceremony at Cesar Chavez Plaza to celebrate the launch of the outdoor public Wi-Fi network in that park, demonstrated with real-time video. But shortly after, MobilePro says, the city sent a counter-proposal “requiring that the company establish a free high-speed wireless network supported almost exclusively by advertising revenue without the benefit of the city serving as an anchor tenant,” according to a statement released today.
This is not the model MobilePro uses in its various citywide networks in Arizona, specifically in the successful deployment in Tempe called WAZTempe (WAZ is short for Wireless Access Zones). They planned to offer free service in some areas of Sacramento, but the California capitol apparently wanted something more akin to the deal EarthLink and Google are offering to the city of San Francisco.
MobilePro claims it offered another design to help get low-income families free access, but that required having the city as an anchor tenant on the network. The city rejected that option. It expected MobilePro to make its money through advertising.
MobilePro President and CEO Jerry Sullivan said in the statement, “MobilePro does not believe that an advertising-supported business case is financially sustainable.” Usual cost for accessing the MobilePro networks is a sliding scale running from $4 an hour to $30 a month.
This could also be a blow to Strix Systems, the mesh equipment provider that was, until very recently, the main provider for MobilePro’s deployments. Last week, MobilePro announced it would be using Cisco equipment to install a network in the city of Farmer’s Branch, Texas.
Fear not for Sacramento, though. Vendors galore will likely be clamoring to install Wi-Fi service there any time now.