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.