Muni Mesh: SF Leads The Way
Service provider EarthLink Inc. (Nasdaq: ELNK) looks like an early favorite in the competition to provide San Francisco with a citywide wireless LAN, but it's all up for grabs as metropolitan mesh deployments heat up in 2006.
San Francisco has recently issued a draft RFP, which is currently making the rounds in the blogosphere, that asks for system proposals for a "multi-use" network that would provide broadband connectivity for all its citizens as well as improving in-building wireless coverage, and "delivery of government services."
The summary of the responses shows that 26 companies submitted proposals, but only five offered complete systems. They are EarthLink, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ), MetroFi Inc. , and MCI LLC /Skytel.
Jack Gold, analyst with J.Gold Associates suggests that EarthLink may have an early advantage since it has already won a similar contract in Philadelphia, but he expects lots of competition for the SF deal.
"Since SF is such a visible site, the entire world really wants to win the bid," he says. "But with all the politics, it is anyone's guess what the result will be. EarthLink has a small leg up, with the win in Philadelphia, but with all the local companies, and the influence they hold, it could go to a long shot as well."
Those local companies include search sumo Google, which has just started to install its first major mesh network in nearby Mountain View, Calif. (See Google's WiFi Mountain.)
But once again, mesh startup Tropos could be one of the big winners in any deal. By our count, Tropos is the vendor most likely to supply EarthLink, Google, and HP with hardware, making it a three-in-five shot.
Tropos told Unstrung that it doesn't have any information on San Francisco at the moment. But the firm is already working with EarthLink in Philadelphia and Google in Mountain View.
Meanwhile on the other coast, New York City is still examing its options. The City Council passed a piece of legislation that seeks to establish a committee on municipal broadband. It will establish a committee that will explore using "city resources" to assist in the building of broadband networks but does not explicitly say that the city will unwire NYC with a municipal mesh.
Clearly, wireless metro mesh is clearly poised to rearrange the telecom services landscape in the new year, from coast to coast and in between.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung