Optical/IP Networks

Cisco & Pals to Unwire Silicon Valley

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and friends have scored one of the biggest contracts in the burgeoning municipal mesh WiFi market -- unwiring 1,500 square miles of America's tech mecca, Silicon Valley.

The networking giant said late on Tuesday that it -- along with Azulstar , IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and SeaKay -- had won the deal against competition from the likes of MetroFi Inc. and VeriLAN Inc. . The Silicon Valley Metro Connect consortium expects to start installing the mesh in the fourth quarter of this year. Covering 2.4 million potential users across the valley will be a "multi-year process," according to Alan Cohen, senior director of mobility solutions at Cisco.

Cohen says that Cisco's ability to provide multiple levels of provisioned services won the day with the very tech-savvy Wireless Silicon Valley Task Force board. "We envisaged an array of services," Cohen tells Unstrung.

The eventual six-level service will include:

  • A free service, limited by bandwidth and time of day
  • A content-filtered service for kids
  • An entry-level service using WPA WiFi security
  • An "extreme" high-bandwidth service
  • A voice- and video-over-wireless service
  • Private services for emergency workers and other municipal employees
The partners will build a system based on a Cisco WiFi mesh infrastructure that will eventually encompass "tens of thousands of wireless access points," according to Cohen. IBM will handle network design and integration services, as well as providing traffic management software. Azulstar Networks will do the day-to-day service provisioning of the 802.11b/g base wireless network. SeaKay will work with municipal and public benefit agencies to customize the network to their needs, and work on meeting the economic development and social benefit objectives of the network.

The partners also say that in 2007 they will start to use WiMax technology in the network to offer better throughput and improved voice and video services.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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