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Analysis: Metro Wi-Fi


It's not often government saves businesses money. No wonder IT groups in all size enterprises are eyeing the surge in metropolitan Wi-Fi networks with interest. If you're not considering how to incorporate this technology into your mobility strategy, wake up and smell the bandwidth: Metro Wi-Fi projects are multiplying like Starbucks stores in suburbia. As of last month, lists 111 city or regional hot zones, with an additional 135 planned deployments. That's up from 60 live and 34 planned in July 2005. And per-user access costs are significantly lower than a couple weeks' worth of lattes, ranging from free to $19.95 per month.

There's a dark side, however. Companies smack in the middle of a dense metro Wi-Fi deployment may experience co-channel interference with their enterprise WLANs, and the security concerns inherent in all wireless systems are magnified in relatively open public networks. But smart enterprises will make the most of metro Wi-Fi, whether as a primary broadband connection for branch offices or to supplement more expensive and slower 3G services for mobile employees. Here's how.

WI-FI Vs. 3G

For enterprise IT, metro Wi-Fi has advantages beyond cost when compared with 3G technologies, such as HSDPA/ UMTS and EV-DO, and the IEEE 802.16e-2005 mobile WiMax standard. Wi-Fi cards are embedded in most laptops, many PDAs and an increasing number of high-end smartphones, obviating add-on PC technology.

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