Saturday, May 12, 2007

WBS: "Lafayette, La., takes broadband to the air"

MuniWireless, an influential website focusing on municipal wireless projects, discusses LUS' upcoming wireless project in a recent post:
After 18 months and $1.5 million in legal fees, the city of LaFayette won the right to build an FTTH network for its residents. Now it’s forging ahead to add wireless service.
They go on to talk about an eventual build that will cover the entire city an provide wireless services for municipal and utility workers and eventual public safety applications. The muniwireless movement has been regrouping--free public wifi turns out to be a dubious economic proposition--and proponents are now urging municipalities to focus on just such muni services as the "killer app" which makes such wifi clouds justifiable. Lafayette is out in front of that trend; and it is satisfying to be seen as ahead of the curve.

As discussed here previously, municipal services are not the complete story. WiFi will also eventually be offered to the public, most likely as a very low-cost addition to home or business internet service. And, precisely because LUS will own a dense fiber-optic network, it will be able to fund an "extremely robust" bandwidth. That stands in direct contrast to most muncipal systems where the dirty little secret is speeds are lousy--not because wifi isn't capable of blistering speeds. It is. Speeds are lousy because the links to the backbone are, for physical and financial reasons, kept to as few as tolerable and the link speed is shared among many users on multiple mesh-dependent repeater nodes. LUS's network won't be like that. The initial buy of wifi radios was set at just about half "gateways" directly connected to fiber and half "repeaters" that hand off directly to the gateways. LUS' network will be capable of amazing speeds. In a conversation with a guy at the Tropos TechSouth booth I asked about the expense of each gateway. As it turns out, Tropos' gateways are just repeaters with a switch flipped. Further, the device to interface each gateway to the fiber is really cheap--so there is very little cost advantage for a fiber network owner like LUS to "make do" with fewer gateways. LUS will have real speed available. LUS' "generous" attitude makes it likely that such speeds will be offered to the community.

The wireless portion of our network alone will make us the envy of every tech type in the country.

When you add in a fiber to the home network with the lowest tier at 10 megs of symmetric bandwidth and full insystem intranet speed connections between all subscribers (so the techs were saying on the floor of TechSouth) people will be blown away.

There will, quite literally, be nothing that compares with the integrated fiber and wifi big broadband system we will have.

Nothing.

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