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Municipal wireless network (Municipal Wi-Fi, Muni Wi-Fi or Muni-Fi) is the concept of turning an entire city into a Wireless Access Zone (WAZ), with the ultimate goal of making wireless access to the Internet a universal service. This is usually done by providing municipal broadband via Wi-Fi to large parts or all of a municipal area by deploying a wireless mesh network. The typical deployment design uses hundreds of routers deployed outdoors, often on utility poles. The operator of the network acts as a wireless internet service provider.



A municipal Wi-Fi antenna in Minneapolis, MN.

Such networks go far beyond the existing piggybacking opportunities available near public libraries and some coffee shops. The basic premise of carpeting an area with wireless service in urban centers is that it is more economical to the community to provide the service as a utility rather than to have individual households and businesses pay private firms for such a service. Such networks are viewed as capable of enhancing city management and public safety, especially when used directly by city employees out in the field. They can also be viewed as a social service to those who cannot afford private high-speed services such as DSL. When the network service is free and a small number of clients consume a majority of the available capacity, operating and regulating the network might prove difficult.[1][2]

The US Federal Trade Commission has expressed some concerns about such private/public partnerships as trending towards a franchise monopoly.[3]

Technology continues to advance. In 2007, companies with existing cell sites offered competing paid high-speed wireless services where the laptop owner purchased a PC card or adapter which uses communications based on EV-DO cellular data receivers or WiMAX rather than 802.11b/g. High-end laptops in 2007 feature built-in support for these newer protocols. The next generation of Intel Centrino will support dual Wi-Fi and WiMAX. WiMAX is designed to implement a metropolitan area network (MAN) while 802.11 is designed to implement a wireless local area network (LAN).

Within the United States, providing a municipal wireless network is not officially recognized as a priority. Some have argued that the benefits of public approach may exceed the costs, similar to cable television.[4][5][6][7]


The construction of such networks is a significant part of their lifetime costs. Usually, a private firm works closely with local government to construct such a network and operate it. Financing is usually shared by both the private firm and the municipal government. Once operational, the service may be free, supported by advertising, provided for a monthly charge per user or some combination. Among deployed networks, usage as measured by number of distinct users has been shown to be moderate to light. Private firms serving multiple cities sometimes maintain a single account for each user thus allowing the user a limited amount of portable service as they travel among the cities covered by the firm. As of 2007, some Muni WiFi deployments are delayed as the private and public partners involved in planned networks continue to negotiate the business model and financing.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

In the build-out of such networks, radio communication is used both for the Wi-Fi service and for the "backhaul" or pathway to the Internet. This means that the nodes only need a wire for power (hence the habit of installing them on power and light utility poles). This "all radio" approach means that nodes must be within range of each other and form a contiguous pathway back to special aggregation nodes that have more traditional access to the Internet. Nodes then relay traffic, somewhat like a fire-bucket brigade, from the laptop to the aggregation node. This limits the way in which the network can be grown incrementally: coverage starts near the aggregation point and, as the mesh grows, new coverage can only grow out from the edge of the mesh. If a new, isolated area is to be covered, then a new aggregation point must be constructed. Private firms often take a phased approach, starting with one or a few sectors of a city to demonstrate competence before making the larger investment of attempting full coverage of a city.

Google WiFi is entirely funded by Google. Some other projects that are still in the planning stages have pared back their planned coverage from 100% of a municipal area to only densely commercially zoned areas. One of the most ambitious planned projects is to provide wireless service throughout Silicon Valley, but the winner of the bid seems ready to request that the 40 cities involved help cover more of the cost which has raised concerns that the project will ultimately be too slow-to-market to be deemed a success. Advances in technology in 2005-2007 may allow wireless community network projects to offer a viable alternative. Such projects have an advantage that as they do not have to negotiate with government entities they have no contractual obligations for coverage. A promising example is Meraki's demonstration in San Francisco, which already claims 20,000 distinct users as of October 2007.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

Cities with municipal wi-fi



In addition, a few U.S. states, such as Iowa, Massachusetts, and Texas offer free Wi-Fi service at welcome centers and roadside rest areas located along major Interstate highways.



See also


  1. ^ Ellig, Jerry (November 2006). "A Dynamic Perspective on Government Broadband Initiatives" (PDF). Reason Magazine. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  2. ^ MuniWireless: The Voice of Public Broadband
  3. ^ Should Municipalities Provide Wireless Internet Service? FTC Staff Report Provides Guidance to Promote Competition October 10, 2006
  4. ^ List of deployed WiMAX networks
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Municipal broadband and wireless projects map of USA | CNET last updated 2005
  8. ^ EarthLink’s Citywide Wi-Fi Gamble is a Calculated Risk June 6, 2006
  9. ^ Charny, Ben (2007-09-12). "San Francisco formally ends citywide Wi-Fi effort". MarketWatch. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  10. ^ Wu, Tim (2007-09-27). "Where's My Free Wi-Fi? Why municipal wireless networks have been such a flop.". Slate. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  11. ^ Wakefield, Jane (2007-06-05). "City wi-fi plans under scrutiny". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  12. ^ Why Wi-Fi Networks Are Floundering: Faced with weak user demand, AT&T and other telecoms are stepping up pressure on cities to foot more of the bill for muni Wi-Fi projects August 15, 2007
  13. ^ Companies Grow Wary of Building Out Municipal Wi-Fi Networks May 23, 2007
  14. ^ Easier said than done: Second thoughts about municipal Wi-Fi May 25th 2007
  15. ^ Silicon Valley Cities Pause, Reflect On Muni Wi-Fi Commitments: The cities are studying whether to participate in an ambitious project to unwire several million people. The project has already encountered problems. July 23, 2007
  16. ^ Municipal WiFi — no wires, lots of strings August 6, 2007
  17. ^ It's Crunch Time for Silicon Valley Wi-Fi: An executive backing Silicon Valley's wireless network expects test sites to be built this year. September 16, 2007
  18. ^ Municipal WiFi: A not-so-free lunch August 6, 2007
  19. ^ Citywide Wi-Fi isn't dead yet September 25, 2007
  20. ^ Free Wi-Fi Still an Elusive Goal September 26, 2007
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ [2]
  23. ^ [3]
  24. ^ Free Wi-Fi Access in Balanga Launched
  25. ^ City of Binghamton Downtown WiFi. 2009
  26. ^ Bologna, Italy gets citywide Wi-Fi network with free Internet access June 7, 2006
  27. ^ Cityspace to extend Bristol's wireless network » Central Government »
  28. ^ Kite Networks Launches Internet WiFi Service in Chandler: Creates One of Largest Border-to-Border Networks in the United States 2006
  29. ^ One of the most successful beach tourist free wireless networks implemented and maintained. 2008
  30. ^ Corpus Christi WiFi News
  31. ^ Fred-e Zone
  32. ^ Public Wi-Fi Services
  33. ^ Nina Wu (October 4, 2007). "Free Wi-Fi boots up in Chinatown". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  34. ^ Wireless@KL
  35. ^ a b While in Egypt Stay Connected
  36. ^ [4]
  37. ^ Wireless Minneapolis
  38. ^ Wireless Mississauga]
  39. ^ ilesansfil
  40. ^ [5]
  41. ^ Golden WiFi
  42. ^ Pacifica Net - Broadband Wi-Fi For Pacifica, California
  43. ^ [6]
  44. ^ Wireless Philadelphia Rates & Signup
  45. ^ Powell, OH Wifi
  46. ^ [7]
  47. ^ [8]
  48. ^ [9]
  49. ^ Wireless coverage in Roman, Romania
  50. ^ [10]
  51. ^ [11]
  52. ^ Wifly
  53. ^ City of Tempe - Wireless Internet Access
  54. ^ [12]
  55. ^ What is WIFI on 4th?
  56. ^ [13] November 11, 2007
  57. ^ [ October 10, 2009
  58. ^ Queensland to give train commuters wireless internet access
  59. ^ Draadloos Groningen:
  60. ^ [14]
  61. ^ [15]
  62. ^ China's ZTE To Build Massive Wi-Fi Network For Mexico City: The Wi-Fi network will connect schools and government offices as well as some 4,000 security cameras April 3, 2007
  63. ^ Mexico City explores wireless Internet: Planning hot spots throughout city for 8.7 ,million residents April 3, 2007
  64. ^ Trevey, Mick (2007-08-09). "Citywide Wi-Fi Might Not Happen". Local & Regional News (Journal Broadcast Group). Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  65. ^ [16]
  66. ^
  67. ^ Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network Announces Test Cities for Wireless Silicon Valley Initiative, February 14, 2007.
  68. ^ "Free public Wi-Fi scheme for town" BBC News, November 17, 2009.
  69. ^ Esptein, Reid J. "Waukesha could be next city to go Wi-Fi" Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, February 3, 2006.
  70. ^ Chicago scraps municipal wireless plans
  71. ^ [17]
  72. ^ [18]
  73. ^ [19] RTÉ reports cancelled Wi-Fi
  74. ^ NSW govt dumps plans for free city WiFi
  75. ^ Rogoway, Mike (January 19, 2010). "Portland set to dismantle, donate abandoned Wi-Fi antennas". The Oregonian. Retrieved 3 February 2010. 
  76. ^ [20]
  77. ^ San Francisco formally ends citywide Wi-Fi effort
  78. ^ [ NSW govt dumps plans for free city WiFi]

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