Does muni-WiFi rank with water services?

How long will it take for muni-WiFi to be viewed as an essential service for a municipality--a key part of local quality-of-life and public-policy strategies? It's lip service today, but it's not real. Take the new mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard. He signed an agreement last week with China's ZTE to set up hotspots linking schools, government offices and the city's thousands of surveillance cameras. He also eventually hopes to offer high-speed web access to all 8.7 million residents.

But he's coming under criticism because the city is struggling just to supply basic services such as water and electricity. I would argue that connectivity is the key to solving basic problems for municipalities. We're beginning to hear about muni-WiFi use cases that are saving governments a substantial amount of money and creating better efficiency for workers.

The ability to position video surveillance cameras in unmanned police cruisers during events is saving the Lakewood, NJ Police Department $3,000 in overtime costs. The police department is using a network from PacketHop. Muni-WiFi expert Craig Settles in a recent report titled, "Government Workforce Automation in a Muni Wireless World," cites a number of ways these networks are saving money for municipalities. Concord, California, is saving $180,000 in cellular network charges. Providence, Rhode Island has identified what applications could be impacted by the muni-WiFi network. For instance, the city is using the network to save time on building inspections.

But this all depends on how much leg work governments are willing to do when it comes to muni-WiFi. It's encouraging to hear from vendors that municipalities are finally moving away from a single business case that has to do with offering connectivity to constituents and looking at ways to save tax payers money and make their governments more efficient. That is when the real creativity kicks in, and I suspect a year from now we will be seeing a host of innovative services no one ever dreamed of that will save governments money and help them more efficiently tackle basic services like water and electricity.

On another note, we are gearing up for the June 21 FierceWireless WiMAX Strategies event that will be held in conjunction with Nxtcomm in Chicago. We're building on the success that we had last year when we hosted this event at GlobalComm.

This event is your opportunity to hear from high-level executives--including a keynote address from Barry West, CTO and president of 4G mobile broadband with Sprint Nextel--on the pros and cons of WiMAX. To find out more see our website: WiMAX Strategies.--Lynnette