Free muni-WiFi - Wireless Turkeys 2008

Why is it a turkey?

It was supposed to be the next great broadband hope, but free muni-WiFi saw its major supporters shutter their operations in 2008. EarthLink and MetroFi shut down their networks after the cities they served didn't want to buy their networks outright and they didn't want to pay for any services.

What was the main lesson learned about muni-WiFi? Primarily, public access muni-WiFi is not the optimal business model. There wasn't an easy return on investment--at least in the near term. And the limitations of WiFi on a wide coverage basis made it difficult to offer a true broadband competitor to cable or DSL. In some areas such as Portland, residents were disappointed with the limitations of the network. Signals couldn't penetrate indoors and service was sparse throughout the city.

WiFi is now much more of a broadband extension, not a broadband alternative. Providers of broadband services and fixed-mobile converged services are accepting WiFi as a key part of their solutions.

Yet, muni-WiFi is reinventing itself in many cities where network operators are working with more sensible business models that include local government anchor tenants and/or a few other high-user tenants such as colleges and medical campuses. One of the common threads weaved through the successful deployments in many cities is that they have committed to using the WiFi networks for their own purposes whether it be to provide remote access for automate meter reading, control traffic congestion or public safety.

Free muni-WiFi - Wireless Turkeys 2008