Bundling Mesh

Despite initial trepidations, it makes a lot of sense for the major carriers to get involved with deploying municipal WiFi mesh networks.

I would argue that only an operator like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), which launched its first WiFi mesh network yesterday in Riverside, Calif., really has the muscle to make muni work. WiFi mesh access makes more sense as part of a bundle of wired and wireless services than as a standalone offering, and only the large operators can make that happen. (See AT&T Goes Muni in Riverside.)

I'm not convinced that once the early round of deployments is out of the way the startups that dominate the market will be able to handle the long process of network upgrades and integration with other technologies, such as WiMax.

Of course, carriers have always been leery of both WiFi on phones and the whole municipal mesh concept. But that is starting to change with the launch of the WLAN-enabled iPhone and services like T-Mobile US Inc. 's [email protected] There could come a day when citywide mesh networks are just another access option for the average user.

Major carriers getting into mesh would likely make life both easier and more tricky for the vendors in the market. Bigger operators would probably mean larger contracts overall but also more testing and longer lead times. Although projects like the mesh network in San Francisco already seem to be bogged down in local politics anyway. (See What's Muni Wireless Good For?)

Without operators like AT&T involved, I don't see how mesh WiFi is anything more than a sideshow in the long-run. Look at how the broadband and cellular market is evolving, and it's clear that people like the option to buy bundled services rather than paying for each of them.

Mesh has to become just another option on your service plan if it is to have any kind of future.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

M Finneran 12/5/2012 | 3:05:34 PM
re: Bundling Mesh Have you considered the option that maybe this whole Muni Wi-Fi thing is nothing more than a joke? Let's do a quick computation of the profits generated by the Muni Wi-Fi "business" to date- zero!

Muni Wi-Fi is a "business opportunity" that has only been pursued by local governments (wow, let's give these idiots more money to piss away) and fly-by-nights whose business plans are based on the assumption (read "hope") that they can embarass polititians enough that they'd use taxpayer money to bail out them out. They ight be right, you can't embarass polititians; Teddy Kennedy is still in public life!

Dopey ideas do not become less dopey when established companies launch trials. At the end of the day, businesses have to turn a profit. Big companies have finance people that look at profitablity. They'll pet this sick dog for a while, and then they'll put it down.

Using a wireless LAN technology to cover an entire metro area is a dumb idea. Can we just sit back and laugh while this dumb idea spins itself down the drain?

joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:05:34 PM
re: Bundling Mesh Sure, could it could all fall over. Written about a bunch of issues that could trip muni up. But the AT&T launch isn't a trial and they have several more things in the pipeline.

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