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Community Wi-Fi Models Inexpensive Alternative To Cable Broadband

A new multi-dwelling Wi-Fi installation in Provo Utah illustrates a new trend in which community Wi-Fi applications are providing broadband Internet connections that are cheaper and easier to install than cable systems. More than 300 homes within the 320-acre Cambria Community can receive the 802.11n-based 3 to 5 Mbps service for about $21 a month -- less than one half the price of most cable broadband offerings in the area. The underlying technology is provided by 802.11n supplier Ruckus Wireless and installed by Utah service provider Veracity Networks.

The move toward community Wi-Fi networks is in its infancy as Wi-Fi and its newest 802.11n iteration seek to find niches above older Wi-Fi applications using 802.11a/b/g and among cable offerings and metered wireless solutions from mobile phone carriers.

"Wi-Fi remains one of the most attractive cost structures for high capacity urban and suburban areas of any wireless technology on the planet," said David Callisch, VP of marketing for Ruckus, in an email Monday. "Wi-Fi is a cost-efficient alternative for traffic with low QoS demand, with 550MHz of unlicensed spectrum and a large understated installed base."

Ruckus utilizes its beamforming and smart mesh networking technologies to enable ubiquitous indoor/outdoor long-range wireless connectivity at the Cambria installation.

Veracity asked Ruckus to provide a complete end-to-end solution from 802.11n mesh nodes to point-to-point bridges, indoor customer premise equipment and unified systems management.

"Within the unlicensed band, Wi-Fi as a wide area community service has largely been a science project," said Chris Modesitt, Veracity's CTO, in a statement. "But with recent advances in Wi-Fi signal controls and adaptive meshing, we discovered that offering a reliable service over Wi-Fi was not only possible but highly advantageous to our customers."

Wi-Fi is taking on added importance as licensed spectrum utilized by mobile carriers is increasingly being metered and in danger of being clogged with consumer usage, particularly smart phone usage. Wi-Fi, which is unlicensed and plentiful, is also increasingly being used by cable companies, which are offering the service as a customer perk. Previous attempts by municipal networks to use earlier less robust versions of Wi-Fi generally failed. The more powerful 802.11n iteration is beginning to appear in new kinds of applications.

Ruckus' Callisch said his firm has set up 802.11n multi-dwelling installations in at least three other communities.


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