Friday, August 24, 2007

Muni WiFi : One Year and a Minneapolis Bridge Tragedy Later

Mountain View, CA Official Google Blog

- the network' has over 400 mesh routers that cover approximately 12 square miles - 95% of the mesh routers are used each day
- approximately 25,000 homes are served
- approximately 15,000 unique users are currently using the network each month

- since January 2007, network traffic has grown almost 10 percent each month

- the network is currently handling approx 300 gigabytes each day
- each day approximately 100 distict types of WiFi devices are accessing the network
(I wonder how many are iPhones?:)

A Mountain View WiFi coverage map is linked here, Areas that do not have coverage typically do not have light poles to place the network equipment. If you happen to live in an area of Mountain View that currently does not have coverage you can contact Goggle about hosting a Google WiFi node on your property. Contact information is listed on the coverage map page.

Municipal WiFi networks were all the rage last year. Today a lot of the excitement has worn off - it's time to get some of this enthusiasm back. CNET News published an interesting but unfortunate piece on August 8 titled Citywide Wi-Fi network put to test in Minneapolis with reference to the I-35 bridge collapse tradegy on August 1. It just so happened USI Wireless had been deploying subscription based Wi-Fi in Minneapolis (one of my favorite cities) since April, with about 18 square miles of the city currently covered. Much of the initial installation was in the area of the I-35 bridge collapse. Here's a few quotes from the CNET piece:

"Within moments of the bridge's collapse, USI CEO Joe Caldwell said he was on the phone with James Farstad, a wireless consultant for Minneapolis involved in setting up the Wi-Fi network, to see what he could do to help".

"The first thing Caldwell did was open up the subscription-based Wi-Fi service so anyone could use it for free. Because the network had only been built around part of the disaster, Caldwell then ordered additional Wi-Fi radios to be placed in areas surrounding the catastrophe to blanket it with signals, providing an additional 12 megabits per second of capacity to the area around the bridge collapse.

Caldwell hoped that people with Wi-Fi-enabled smart phones would use the wireless network instead of their cell phones to make calls, thus alleviating the flooded cellular network. Cellular service in the area was overloaded within 30 minutes of the collapse, Farstad wrote in a blog he posted earlier this week".

"That evening, usage on the network jumped from 1,000 registered USI Wireless customers before the disaster struck to 6,000. Exactly how many of those 6,000 users were actually using the Wi-Fi network in lieu of the cell phone network isn't known. It's unlikely that many people were able to use the network for voice communications, given that most cell phones don't have Wi-Fi capability and those that do may not be able use voice over IP clients".

Here's more from CNET:

"... it provided a network for the community to City of Minneapolis resources, hospital emergency coordination units, State of Minnesota Department of Transportation traffic routing information, Red Cross Blood Bank collection points, and local and national news outlets".

"The USI Wireless team also quickly installed three Wi-Fi-enabled cameras that had been purchased by the city for a community policing effort, but hadn't been deployed yet. The cameras were set up along the river banks near the disaster site to provide a live video feed over the network directly to the command center".

"I'm not really sure what the relieve effort would have looked like if this network had not been in place," Caldwell said. "You can't really download these detailed maps easily using an EV-DO card. And you definitely couldn't have the kind of video streaming that is there down there now."

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