Consultant: Gov apps, not public use, will pay Wi-Fi's way

A suspicion is rising that public use of muni Wi-Fi is more 'politician sound bite' than useful service. Still, public employee use of the network will deliver substantial ROI.

Writing on GigaOm, Katie Fehrenbacher writes that consultant Craig Settles has concluded that public use of municipal Wi-Fi networks are unlikely to pay the bills. Public workforce applications, he says, will be “muni networks’ big ROI generator.”

“Public wireless access is good political sound-bite marketing, but the beef is mighty hard to round up.”

Fehrenbach offers some anecdotal evidence that most people aren't likely to pay $20 a month for networks that don't work at home or in most indoor locations.

What we are starting to realize is that MuniFi isn’t a very attractive replacement for DSL or cable service, as use within homes isn’t always guaranteed, particularly without extra hardware. In San Francisco, EarthLink says a third of the households could need additional hardware ($50 to $100) that pulls in the Wi-Fi signal. When we previously reported on Google’s Mountain View network, the company had said that it is unlikely that a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop or computer with a conventional Wi-Fi card will work indoors at most locations — ie, extra hardware is needed.

 

But the anecdotal perception that muni Wi-Fi sucks may be more a function of poor design (or trying to build networks on the cheap) than technology limitations. A study by Novarum finds that networks with an adequate number of access points can deliver broadband-quality connections over a wide range.

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