Moto Muni: So Much for the City

A sustainable municipal WiFi network market isn't necessarily to be found in vast citywide wireless access projects but rather in public safety applications for police and other emergency services, according to Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)

. The Chicagoland networking mainstay says that public safety applications are now the major motivator for mesh WiFi deployments. "Public safety has, in fact, been driving two thirds to 75 percent of all municipal deployments," claims Motorola director of operations for mesh, Chip Yager.

Motorola's viewpoint on the market might be expected to skew towards public safety since the company has had a dominant role in the wireless end of this market for years. Taken in conjunction with a recent Heavy Reading report that says that mesh equipment shipments are still growing despite big city slipups, however, Yager's comments throw some light on how the muni market is changing.

The latest update to Heavy Reading's "Wireless Mesh Equipment Market Tracker" estimates that wireless mesh equipment shipments grew to 112,200 units in the 12 months ending in June 2007, up from 60,300 in the previous 12-month period. The demand for mesh isn't coming from massive cities such as Chicago and San Francisco but "from mid-sized towns and cities with smaller populations, kinder building topographies, and, in some cases, more streamlined and effective local government policy makers," the report says. (See Sorry, Haters: Wireless Mesh Soldiers On.)

"The model's definitely changed, that's for sure," Motorola's Yager says. The North American market, he opines, is moving away from the concept of mesh as a "DSL replacement" and towards more focused safety and government applications such as networks for delivering video and full-color "Amber Alert" images to police vehicles on the beat.

"It is easy for taxpayers to see the tangible value of these applications," says Yager.

Funding for public safety networks is coming from a variety of sources, from as high up as the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, right down to funding from city and community policing budgets. Local government is also getting involved with networks for video surveillance through to building inspectors.

Yager still describes the concept of using muni to provide universal wireless access as "laudable" but says that is now largely happening in Eastern Europe and Latin America, not the U.S.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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