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Is muni Wi-Fi dead? Microsoft is wondering

At the Muni Wireless 2007 conference in New England recently, Microsoft officials commented on the future of Wi-Fi, and it looks a bit bleak, reports Computerworld."We're finding that there are real end-user problems," said Stefan Weitz, director of planning for MSN at Microsoft.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on

At the Muni Wireless 2007 conference in New England recently, Microsoft officials commented on the future of Wi-Fi, and it looks a bit bleak, reports Computerworld.

"We're finding that there are real end-user problems," said Stefan Weitz, director of planning for MSN at Microsoft. "That's the bad news. However, there's still significant demand for free municipal Wi-Fi. There is widespread adoption potential.... We think people can actually make money and that people will use these networks."

A market study in Portland, Ore. found that customers have problems with poor indoor coverage, and no one seems to know what the remedy is. The problems are known, though: computer operating systems, bad weather and trees blocking the signal.

Recent reports that a network in Lompoc, Calif., is proving extremely disappointing is causing rethinking throughout the industry.

"We did a bunch of work to find is this thing really dead or should we get out of it now?" Weitz said. "With all the articles and from all the reports, it looks like it's dead."

In order to boost signal capacity, municipal Wi-Fi carriers and cities have begun resorting to customer premises equipment (CPE), but "CPE is not a silver bullet," Weitz added. He said the market research showed that CPE products must be priced lower, in order to gain consumer acceptance.

"The promise of municipal Wi-Fi is "still definitely in the early days. The business model for it is still very much up in the air. Consumers are interested but unforgiving, and if it doesn't work, they're done."

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