Podcast Audio | Posted by Phil Leigh on May 2, 2011
It’s going to be done by constructing gigantic Mesh Wi-Fi networks using a combination of WiMax, White Spaces, and landline facilities for connecting clusters. The latest dot-11n version of Wi-Fi is a key enabling factor. Dot-11n raw data speed is 600 mb/s which is over ten times faster than the theoretical maximum for the previous dot-11g version at 54 mb/s. It will easily handle video as most any homeowner using it can verify.
Cisco Systems forecasts mobile data traffic will grow almost 40-fold from 2009 to 2014. Yet even fourth generation LTE cellular networks are only four-times faster than third generation. Thus, there’s not a shadow of doubt that cellular carriers will fail to meet subscriber needs. Consider the situation in Manhattan. The figure below illustrates the population shift that occurs as workers come into the city during the day in contrast with the population density at night when only the residents and hotel guests are in town.
Engineering cellular networks to handle radical shifts like the one illustrated above is prohibitively expensive. Its one reason iPhone users complain of service in New York City. The solution is a supersized Mesh network of Wi-Fi hotspots like the one illustrated below. This one is being built by Towerstream. Upon completion it will have over 1,000 access points supplied by Ruckus Networks which specializes in intelligent Wi-Fi equipment with sophisticated antennas operating in multiple frequency bands. The objective is to provide a seamless electromagnetic field whose contours are illustrated in the diagram.
In short, Towerstream users will be able to roam anywhere in the blue areas and get a high speed mobile connection. When completed this summer the network is projected to have twenty times the capacity of New York’s proposed LTE cellular system. Towerstream intends to replicate the model in other major cities it serves as a Wireless ISP including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Washington, and Boston, among others.
Nonetheless, Towerstream cannot hope to monopolize the concept. First, since the applicable frequencies are license-free competitors can readily enter markets. Second, no doubt Wi-Fi equipment makers will increasingly promote the idea as a means of stimulating demand for their own products.
In point of fact, Towerstream’s proposal is modest in comparison to the one pictured below operated by Cablevision which is a CATV company. Over the past three years Cablevision deployed thousands of Wi-Fi access points it makes available for free to it’s “Optimum Online” Internet subscribers. The company permits Time Warner and Comcast Cable subscribers to use its Wi-Fi network as well.
Finally, this video from Cablevision provides a good explanation of how the Mesh Wi-Fi networks will enable subscribers to be constantly connected to the Internet wherever they roam within the applicable Mesh.
In short, to avoid forfeiting the Wi-Fi business to CATV companies, Wireless ISPs should move vigorously to raise the capital necessary to deploy networks. Otherwise they’ll end-up as relevant as the former radio-common-carriers who were once major factors in the mobile telephone business prior to the advent of cellular telephony.