November 15, 2005 12:01 AM PST

Cisco enters citywide wireless market

Cisco Systems will throw its hat into the municipal Wi-Fi ring on Tuesday when it announces wireless-network product enhancements that extend its technology into outside deployments.

Cisco has developed a new series of access points, called the Cisco Aironet 1500 Series, that can be used for citywide Wi-Fi deployments. These new access points can be deployed on rooftop, light posts and power poles.

To maximize capacity, each access point is equipped with two radios. One radio uses a radio frequency protocol called Adaptive Wireless Path Protocol for access-point-to-access-point communications. The other radio is used to provide bandwidth to users.

Cisco is already the dominant supplier of wireless local-area networking equipment in the home market--through its Linksys product line--and in the enterprise market as well.

The new access points will use "mesh" technology to communicate with each other and find the best path for traffic traveling through the wireless network.

"The wireless market is moving from the home and enterprise to the outdoors," said Alan Cohen, senior director in Cisco's wireless networking business unit. "It was the next logical step for us."

The market for citywide wireless networks is enormous, analysts have said. Cities of all sizes across the United States view Wi-Fi as a cost effective answer to many of their communication problems.

Some cities, like Philadelphia and San Francisco, plan to use wireless broadband technology as a low-cost solution to providing broadband access to low-income residents.

Other cities see Wi-Fi as a great technology for building new public-safety networks and for connecting various buildings where city agencies are housed.

And still others believe that free Wi-Fi networks in public places could boost economic development by drawing more people to the city.

"The market is really huge," said Craig Mathias, an analyst with Farpoint Group of Ashland, Mass. "Most municipalities could find some use for Wi-Fi, whether that's for providing commercial broadband to residents or for government purposes. The door is wide open right now."

Cisco's entrance into the market is a sign of this opportunity. Until this point, small start-ups, such as Tropos Networks and BelAir Networks, have been supplying cities with equipment.

EarthLink, which won the bid to build Philadelphia's network, is using equipment from Tropos, and so are 249 other customers, including the city of Anaheim, Calif.

"We've already been in this market for five years," said Ron Sege, CEO of Tropos. "Cisco will have to go through that entire learning curve. It takes time, even if you are Cisco. You can't buy experience."

Cisco's Cohen said he is ready to take on the start-ups. The company didn't compete in the Philadelphia bidding process because its technology wasn't ready at the time, he said.

But the company is competing for the San Francisco contract. And Cisco has already managed to rack up nearly a dozen wins of its own, including deployments in Dayton, Ohio, and Lebanon, Ore.

"For a while, the start-ups have been the only alternative for communities building Wi-Fi networks," Cohen said. "But now we're here."


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Cisco is Missing something
Cisco will find that a 2 Radio Mesh Node is not adequate for what will be needed in these large Metro area networks. How do they propose handling the addition of a 4.9Ghz radio for Public Safety in a Public Private network?? DO they give p the 802.11g access point and only allow Muni to use the network?
In addition, the minumum they will need is two 802.11a radio to handle intra Node (Backhaul) traffic (plus VoiceIP) and a single 802.11g radio for customer access. That means at system that can offer atleast 4 radios.
Also, from what I can gather from the pre-announcements they will follow the Airespace approach and require dumb Nodes managed by a back office COntroller (big $$)and a separate system/radio for their Network COnnection Gateway.
This is far more hardware than all the other Mesh providers need and will price them out of many markets.
One only need look at what Strix is doing product wise (4-6 Radios/Node options) as well as variety of antenna options to see where this industry needs to be headed. These one and two radio systems, when put under pressure, will experience serious congestion issues and or will require multiple network connections (one every 2nd or 3rd Node hop), which will drive up the cost of these installed systems.
Muni should make sure they put a clause in their RFP and the final contracts that requires the vendor to pay for any additonal network connections above what they proposed (their design)to handle the service. This will force them to divulge this weekness in their hardware/systems. Just watch how some of these vendors are putting in a network connection at every 2nd or 3rd hop on the Mesh. A solid Wireless Mesh should be able to deliver 50-75% of their capacity after 5-7 hops.

Posted by jacomo (115 comments )
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What about the 802.16e standard?
What about the 802.16e standard? Isn't that
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
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