The City of Spokane has installed what is believed to be the country's largest municipal wireless network. The core Wi-Fi technology covering a 100-block downtown area has been established by situating four phased array Vivato antennas on buildings in strategic positions.
The system is beginning to be used by various Spokane municipal services for police, fire, rescue, and traffic activities. The general public, too, is able to use the service, which is based on Vivato's 2.4-GHz Outdoor Switch and Wi-Fi Bridge Router. The outdoor switch has a 2.5-mile line-of-sight range.
"This is working out well for financial reasons alone," said Vivato's director of marketing Kin Seta in an interview. "The police are using it now for IDs and to file reports, for instance." A Spokane city official, Robin Toth, said the wireless technology has enabled the city to "cost effectively" build out the wireless structure. Helping to move along the effort is a private, non-profit downtown membership organization, the Downtown Spokane Partnership.
The Vivato switch extends the Wi-Fi reach through its PacketSteering technology that directs transmissions to active 802.11b clients through the antennas. The antennas are housed in moisture- and dust-proof temperature enclosures about one meter by one meter in size. The approach is somewhat novel, in that it provides network access to users inside buildings by beaming from the outside. Vivato switches located inside buildings have a range of one kilometer.
Seta said the antennas used in the Spokane system are typically priced in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. There are expenses in addition to the Vivato technology: Intronix has developed a rugged mobile-computer system, including handhelds, and Purcell Systems has provided the outdoor enclosures for the system. OneEighty Networks is providing various wireless services in the 100-block area.