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Navy Network Serves Families

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
7/24/2006
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Putting wireless technology to work for military families, Wireless Evolutions has installed a WiFi mesh network using gear from BelAir Networks Inc. in two housing developments for Navy personnel in San Diego.,

The two communities, the Gateway Center and the Naval Training Center, now have a wireless network that offers high-speed Internet connectivity to residents free of charge. The Naval Training Center network went live in May and the Gateway system in late June. Both areas have about 500 units each.

Lincoln Military Housing, a division of international real estate development and property management company Lincoln Property, built and manages the two communities. Since its inception in 2001, LMH has become the largest single operator of military housing in the United States.

In business since 2003, Dallas-based Wireless Evolutions has focused to date on wireless networks for student housing. The NTC deployment, says CEO Jim Harycki, was a natural next step for the company.

"This was our first mesh deployment, after we started looking closely at mesh about a year ago," Harycki recalls. "We thought this would be a much better product to bring these types of communities online, from a cost perspective especially. It's cheaper than the traditional Cisco applications we'd used previously."

Military husband James Wheeler, who has lived with his wife (a Navy CS2, or Commisarywoman Second Class) and infant daughter in Gateway for about 18 months, uses the Internet for all the usual applications -- in his studies at San Diego City College, playing video games, sending pictures to his family on the East Coast, and paying bills online.

"We used to have Internet service from Cox Cable," says Wheeler. "I can't tell any difference with this service, except for the $40 a month I'm not paying the cable company anymore."

The Wireless Evolutions network uses 39 mesh access points in the two communities, including a mix of Bel Air 100 and 200 Wireless Multi-service Nodes plus a sprinkling of 50s. The use of mesh technology made it a speedy and relatively smooth build-out: The network was installed in 30 days. Future enhancements, says Harycki, will include support for voice-over-WiFi so the residents will be able to communicate inexpensively with friends and family scattered across the globe.

Harycki also expects the NTC deployment to mark the beginning of long-term partnership with Lincoln Military Housing.

"This is the first of what we hope are several deployments with LMH," Harycki says. "We've done a site survey at Camp Pendleton, in Oceanside, Calif., for 3,000 housing units up there. We're also looking at military communities in Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif., and next month we're heading to Quantico, Va."

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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