WWP Powers NKC
This week, one of the more unique municipal networks in the U.S. is getting some attention as it talks up its ability to, within a few months, provide in excess of 100 Mbit/s to its customers. (See WWP Wins in NKC.)
On Tuesday, World Wide Packets Inc. revealed it was the vendor that will be deploying gear to connect North Kansas City's estimated 1,400 residences and its estimated 950 businesses to a fiber optic network that runs right down the middle of the Missouri town.
But the speeds and feeds are truly of interest here. World Wide Packets says it can provide "gigabit delivery at unit price points less than competitor's 100 [Mbit/s] per unit offerings."
North Kansas City (NKC) hasn't said what its 100-Mbit/s service could cost. But at the top of its current price and connectivity menu, liNKCity, the data-only CLEC owned by NKC, is offering residences a 30-Mbit/s symmetrical Internet connection for $159.95 a month.
For comparison's sake, a Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) FiOS Internet connection -- not available in that area -- can provide a connection with up to 30 Mbit/s of downstream bandwidth and 5 Mbit/s of upstream bandwidth for between $179.95 and $199.95 per month.
But the speedfest doesn't stop there. Even a 1-Gbit/s connection to a home or business is possible in NKC, according to Paul Rader, director of NKC's Communications Utility. Yes, he admits the network is "a little over-engineered" considering the city's population. Still, Rader was a good sport to entertain a hypothetical request of 1 Gbit/s to the home. "I can probably hook that up for $25,000 a month," he said.
When completed, the network will be the first municipally owned fiber access network in Missouri, Rader says. But it won't be the first municipal network in the state. Kansas City and one of its most affluent suburbs -- Lenexa -- are both working to build municipal wireless networks to connect their residences to the Internet. Both networks are highlighted in the December issue of Light Reading Insider. (See Marveling at the Munis.)
According to the RFP issued by the city, the liNKCity fiber network is designed to "provide a minimum initial bandwidth of 45 Mbps on or before April 1, 2006," and "bandwidth of at least 250 Mbps is required by June 1, 2006." NKC's network doesn't yet have a wireless component.
Also, the city said it "anticipates that it will require additional gateway bandwidth over the course of the contract, potentially up to multiple Gigs per second." And it wanted vendors to detail "bandwidth price increases from a minimum increase of 100 Mbps through a maximum… of 500 Mbps."
This all raises the question: why would a city spend so much to build and connect a fiber network? The answer, partly, is that it's not as expensive for a municipality to do this as it would be for a for-profit service provider.
Analyst Tim Kridel, in the Light Reading Insider, notes that some cities give "free access to municipal infrastructure, such as light poles and buildings, for service providers to mount antennas or other equipment" when constructing municipal networks. "This can be necessary because leases are expensive in urban cores, especially in the downtown business districts where public wireless deployments typically are launched. By limiting the amount spent on leases, overhead costs are reduced and the operator's ability to price the service competitively is improved."
Of course, though WWP is counting it as a win -- and is apparently shipping product to NKC -- the rubber won't meet the road until the city turns up its service. And when it does, WWP marketing director Marty Hess has a practical observation: "What I wonder is: What happens when you give a community that size, that much bandwidth?"
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading