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Planning Wireless Communities

10:30am Monday A panel on Planning Wireless Communities
James Farstad, of rClient:

There will be a much different future for the telecommunications industry; every day this is looking much more real. Much of the change is currently happening; Vodafone ‘funneling’ various applications through technology. It was the single largest impact on their revenue in their 100 year history. He said that the telephone is becoming a function of the web browser, part of software being developed differently and distributed differently. Changes will be systemic: look for Apple to change the way we purchase and use cell phones as much as it changed music through iTunes [more than the simple device of the iPod]. It’s consistent with a new model for customer dynamics.

A significant impact is to integrate the providers as part of the planning and implementation process. Driving the network rollout here in Minneapolis will be the increase in efficiency with city services. “There is an awful lot of wire in wireless.? Those with right of way and hanging assets need to be integrated into the process.

He gave a brief description of the various processes of providing the new wireless network. He noted that one needed to take advantage of all the existing potential participants. His focus was how to facilitate change in a complex environment.

Dave Demuth, University of Minnesota, Crookston
[ http://gomoorhead.com ]Demuth talked as a participant in Moorhead, Minnesota’s implementation of a wireless network.
Moorhead’s implementation was outlined; it began with a strong city involvment by providing a fiber optic ring that was publicly owned. They began focusing on wireless use in the city about 2004, building from an earlier broadband plan. Broadband was defined as being an “emerging essential? service for residents and businesses of Moorhead. They partnered with local and Fargo providers; project management provided through the city IT department; they also connected with Moorhead State, and went out and recruited hotspots such as bars, restaurants, and coffee shops.

GoMoorhead was fully functional and open ot the public in September 2005. Construction occurred over the spring and summer of 2005. Service plans were $20 and $30; service went through a modem or computer card, but have developed a good base of customers [2300 total]. He indicated that they would do it again, if they had to start over, recognizing the value to the city and to economic development.

Kurt Lange, US Internet Wireless Lange noted his strong approval to the title of the conference, as being community centered. He reviewed the history of their winning bid to be the wireless provider for the City of Minneapolis. He noted that their response did intend to address the digital divide issues included in the RFP.

He said that we are now accustomed to having wireless access in our hotels and our airports; as we have this technology in some places in the city, we will come to need a wireless system, not just want one.

One of his points was called “Network goes beyond the network? and the development of the Digital Inclusion Fund. Their future plan includes voice [particularly future bandwidth constraints], location awareness [PDA knows where you are; local broadcast of announcements or advertisements], and citizen convenience and safety.

Jim Miller, OIT University of Minnesota
He outlined the effort of the University to provide wireless systems on campus. He talked about some of the problems and lessons from implementation of a fairly large implementation. Access to the system was based on a UNIX firewall system accessing the University’s password system. He presented a list of detailed challenges that occur with the implementation of a large wireless system.

Discussions currently underway with both Minneapolis and St. Paul; some bleeding back and forth does currently happen with wireless signal, on the West Bank, for example. Currently in the midst of a RFI for complete campus coverage. The RFP has concluded, and will possibly be implemented over the summer of 2007. 12 responses; trying to compare “apples to oranges to plums to pears to potatoes?.

They are testing wireless for all purposes in their own offices; trying to live without hard wire connection. May be looking a new system with 1Gig uplinks through light fixtures.