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San Jose doubles down on free public Wi-Fi

Mon, 03/12/2012 - 2:05pm
Brian Santo

San Jose is taking a second shot at providing free Wi-Fi in its downtown area. The city will be installing equipment from Ruckus Wireless, with SmartWave Technologies providing integration.

The new outdoor Wi-Fi network is planned to cover San Jose's business district. In addition to providing consumer access to Internet-based services, San Jose could also use the new Wi-Fi network to support mobile backhaul, along with applications such as connecting parking meters and digital parking guidance signs; video surveillance; and traffic signaling.

About half a decade ago, several cities installed public Wi-Fi access services that were supposed to pay for themselves with advertising. Many of those municipal systems failed outright.

San Jose was among the first to try that model, having completed installation of a system in 2005. The city describes the coverage as “sporadic”; the network provided limited geographical coverage downtown, limited access and produced limited returns.

The new network is scheduled to go live by the middle of this year.

The installation of the new network will be funded through the city's parking revenue and general fund. It comes with a one-time upgrade cost of about $100,000 and ongoing costs of about $22,000 a year, similar to the ongoing costs of the current system, reported the San Jose Mercury News.

Ruckus’ Smart Wi-Fi uses miniaturized directional antenna arrays. The system employs traffic-handling techniques to extend wireless signals two to four times the distance over conventional technology, Ruckus said.

SmartWave will deploy Ruckus ZoneFlex 7762 802.11n dual-band outdoor access points (APs), along with two ZoneDirector 3050 central controllers within its network operations center (NOC) at City Hall. The Wi-Fi nodes are being deployed on street lights, traffic signal poles, buildings and other points of presence and will be connected using either high-speed, multi-gigabit fiber connections or wireless mesh connections.

"As the world's leading technology center, we strive to connect those who live, work and visit San Jose with the latest and most advanced technologies that Silicon Valley has to offer," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. "We see the Smart Wi-Fi network as more than simply infrastructure, but as an economic platform to attract businesses and entrepreneurs that want outdoor Internet access with the same speeds, capacity and reliability that they enjoy indoors."

Vijay Sammeta, the city's acting chief information officer, said, "Fast and reliable wireless connectivity is no longer negotiable – it has become table stakes when trying to attract world-class events and businesses that want to come to San Jose.”

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