Perils of the Bleeding Edge
The current most popular approach for municipal networks is not Vivato’s approach, but to use mesh technology, where access points don’t all have to be connected to a backbone. Access points forward packets from other access points towards nodes on the backbone, thus significantly reducing overall deployment costs. Though leading vendors such as Cisco have gotten into the game, helping legitimize the mesh concept, all current solutions are vendor specific, putting municipalities that use these products at risk should their vendors go out of business. Fortunately, mesh Wi-Fi standardization is coming, through IEEE 802.11s. However, it is too early to tell what impact this standard will have, and to what extent risks of vendors going out of business will be mitigated. It is one thing to have a Wi-Fi network in a building become obsolete. It is another matter entirely when the Wi-Fi network covers an entire city.
For those of you wanting to learn more about municipal and mesh Wi-Fi technical developments, I recommend a meeting I’m chairing for the Portable Computer and Communications Association on Feb 2, 2006 in San Francisco that will investigate this topic in detail.