We know as well as anyone that it's too easy to hype the potential of WiFi municipal mesh networks. There's plenty of people around still ready to talk up the prospects of free -- or at least cheap -- Internet and VOIP services for city dwellers on these networks.
But these WiFi utopians sometimes forget that you still need to make the network work -- and, radio being what it is, that can be a tall order. And even when the network is operating properly you still need to attract users to the service.
Case in point, check out this local report on the problems faced by the $3 million WiFi mesh project in Lompoc, Calif. The project was initially delayed by weak signals and has only managed to sign up a grand total of 281 customers for its $20 a month Internet service since its launch in September. For the record, Lompoc has a population of around 41,000.
It doesn't take a genius to figure that WiFi mesh radios could face signal and interference problems. Shared wireless spectrum of the kind that mesh networks tend to operate on is bound to face some of these problems. (See Mesh: Interference in the City?.)
Nonetheless, we have heard of other muni networks that are handling fairly large volumes of users and traffic right now. Something we hope to tell you good people more about at a later date.
On with the the rest of the week's wireless broadband highlights.
Broadband Movers There have been a couple of big money deals in the wide area this week. Rumors of an IPWireless Inc. sell-off turned out be true and WiMax startup Telsima Corp. got bankrolled to the tune of $50 million. (See NextWave Buys IPWireless, WiMax Startup Telsima Pockets $50M, and Patently Appealing.)
Coming Attractions Arlington County (Virginia) is planning county-wide WiFi and Seattle is getting more unstrung. (See Wireless in Seattle .)
Smooth Operator Seeks Caring, Sharing Partner For fun with WiMax, maybe more. Must have great sense of humor.
Surfin' CDMA Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) revs up Hawaii. Verizon Wireless launches more wireless broadband in, er, New England. (See More Verizon BB in NE.)
Mobile WiMax Drives Market Growth Wireless broadband kit shipments up 117 percent in 2006. Of course, something would have been very wrong if WiMax wasn't growing this market. Still, its surprising to see how much of this gear is proto-mobile WiMax equipment. 802.16e certification is still a few months out...
Laters. — The Staff, Unstrung