Massive Municipal Wi-Fi Coverage Forecast
Mar 16, 2006
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Municipal Wi-Fi network coverage could increase from just 1,500 square miles (3,885 square km) worldwide in 2005 to 126,000 square miles (more than 325,000 square km) by 2010. A report from ABI Research (Oyster Bay, New York, U.S.) forecasts the growth and says the bulk of the growth will come in North America and the Asia-Pacific region.

Wireless Mesh Networking, examining trends for metro-scale as well as campus-scale wireless mesh networking technology on a worldwide basis, says that more than one million wireless mesh routers will be shipped in 2010 to serve those networks, generating manufacturing revenues exceeding U.S. $1.2 billion.

The significant trends energizing this market, the report says, include the drive by local governments to deploy municipal broadband networks for public safety and increased government efficiency. In addition, alternative ISPs see mesh networking as enabling their own broadband service facilities to compete with incumbent service providers. Wireless mesh networking technology is seen as an efficient and cost-effective way to bring broadband to underserved areas, said to be particularly noticeable as the municipal Wi-Fi trend moves from large cities into smaller towns.

Municipalities initially faced regulatory restrictions in terms of local government funding or their roles as broadband service network operators. The report says that is less the case now because the model is increasingly that of a third-party operator owning and deploying the network.

Mesh networking may not be ideal for all municipal broadband network applications. "The majority of municipal Wi-Fi deployments in the recent past have been based on mesh technology. But that could change, depending on how markets receive WiMAX and similar cellular point-to-point technologies when they become available," said Sam Lucero, ABI senior analyst, Wireless Connectivity Research. "Incumbent service providers are not likely to adopt wireless mesh networking technology for their primary networks, because it does not provide adequate bandwidth for bundled video, voice, and broadband data. Also, they have already invested significant funds and effort in deploying their current networks."

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