Sprint expected to help provide free Wi-Fi network for smart city project in Kansas City

Sprint (NYSE: S) will likely be helping to power a free Wi-Fi network for downtown Kansas City, Mo., as part of a smart cities project the city has developed in collaboration with network vendor Cisco Systems. The project is expected to cost around $15 million over the next decade. [click to tweet]

As the Kansas City Business Journal notes, late last week Kansas City Mayor Sylvester James introduced an ordinance authorizing City Manager Troy Schulte to enter into an agreement with Cisco. Cisco and Kansas City first announced plans to work together in May 2014.

According to the ordinance, the "Smart + Connected Communities" project will be based around the city's 2.2-mile downtown streetcar line. The ordinance states that "in partnership with Sprint, a new public Wi-Fi network is proposed for downtown that will provide basic Internet access to visitors and residents of the neighborhood for free, helping the City meet its goals to be a more digitally inclusive city."

A fact sheet distributed by the city said there will be "no cost to the taxpayer for the construction or management of this network beyond permit fees being waived and the third-party provider will maintain [50 percent] of the network for its own use during the duration of the partnership." The "third-party provider" is likely Sprint.

The Wi-Fi network "will provide the connectivity necessary to support any smart city applications that KCMO may invest in to manage infrastructure along this corridor or adjacent districts. As stewards of public data, KCMO is setting the highest standards through the proposed data privacy principles."

Sprint spokeswoman Adrienne Norton declined to comment since nothing official has been announced by the carrier. Michael Grimaldi, a spokesman for the mayor's office, said the city aims to launch the smart city project by early 2016 but said there are no guarantees the city will hit that deadline. 

Sprint's potential role is interesting because wireless carriers have typically not been key partners of smart city deployments in the U.S. thus far. Instead, most such deployments have mainly focused on cities' collaborations with network vendors and the makers of municipal equipment. Sprint's headquarters is in Overland Park, Kan., near downtown Kansas City.

The project also involves the creation of a so-called "Living Lab," in which "qualified and highly targeted emerging Internet of technologies that can benefit the City can be deployed, tested and validated in a full scale industrial user environment," said the ordinance.

Kansas City is expected to spend $3.8 million on the project over the next decade. That amount will be "matched and exceeded by nearly $12 million in private investment by Cisco ... and its growing list of partners," said the fact sheet

For more:
- see this Kansas City ordinance
- see this Kansas City Business Journal article

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