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Government

Doing Silicon Valley wireless right

It takes plenty of nodes, intergovernmental cooperation to cover 1,500 square miles and 2.4 million users.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on
Government and technology leaders are engaged in a cutting edge experiment in building a massive wireless network across the entire Silicon Valley. Covering 1,500 square miles and serving 2.4 million people, the Joint Venture Wireless Project would be the largest public Wi-Fi network in the world.

But how do you create it? The San Jose Mercury News reports on the beginning steps to build the network.

The project will begin building one-square-mile test sites in Palo Alto and San Carlos within the next few weeks. The tests were expected to start in late February or early March, but project leaders say they are slightly behind schedule because of the bureaucratic complexities of getting city authorizations and figuring out where to put the wireless nodes, or access points.

``I'm looking at it more as a learning experience than a delay,'' said Brian Moura, a co-chair of the project and the assistant city manager for San Carlos. ``I know they are very excited about getting it out there.''

There are many challenges ranging from specifying equipment upgrades in the contract to making sure extensive agreements are negotiated with cities and utility companies.

After issuing a report last week titled ``Wi-Fi waste: The disaster of municipal communications networks,'' Pacific Research Institute policy fellow Vince Vasquez said cities need to make sure their wireless networks remain open to competitors, ensuring the best service to residents.

Novarum praised the wireless network in St. Cloud, Fla., as the best-performing among 14 networks it tested throughout North America. St. Cloud's network ranked at 4.23 on a scale of 1 to 5. Google's Mountain View network ranked second with a rating of 3.46.

Phil Belanger, managing director of Novarum, said Silicon Valley should have about 40 nodes per square mile.

The Joint Venture Wireless Project is prepared to install 30 to 40 nodes a square mile in the concept cities, said technology team leader Brent Grotz of IBM. The Metro Connect team -- which includes IBM, Cisco Systems, non-profit SeaKay and a smaller wireless provider, Azulstar -- will build and manage the network. ``We want to make sure we have enough,'' said Grotz, who has said he will take the project slowly to do it right. ``This is where you try all this out and then you work it out.''
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