Sprint partners with Cisco on intelligent Wi-Fi network for smart city deployment in Kansas City

Sprint (NYSE: S) confirmed it will deploy hardware from Cisco Systems to construct, own and manage the intelligent Wi-Fi network as part of a smart city deployment in downtown Kansas City, Mo., near Sprint's headquarters in Overland Park, Kan.

The Wi-Fi network, covering a 2.2-mile Kansas City streetcar line through downtown, will be a key component of the city's "Smart+Connected City framework." As the Kansas City Business Journal notes, Cisco will lead the development of that program, which will include a network of "digital kiosks," "smart" LED street lights and "video as a sensor" in the area.

Details of the project first emerged in April but were not finalized until now. "This is just one more feather in our cap that makes us special and will make our streetcar line even more special," Mayor Sly James said as City Manager Troy Schulte prepared to sign the agreement Thursday, according to the Kansas City Star.

The project is expected to cost more than $15 million over the next decade. The city is investing $3.7 million in public funds, Sprint is spending around $7 million and Cisco is going to pony up $5 million, Ashley Hand, the city's chief innovation officer, told the Star.

According to Sprint, the Wi-Fi network will not just enable simple Wi-Fi connectivity for Sprint customers, Kansas Citians and visitors. The network will also support smart city applications that deliver maps and information, as well as help manage parking, traffic, city lighting, water and waste management. Additionally, Sprint said that its subsidiary Pinsight Media+ will operate the data analytics and advertising platform and will e-enable commerce.

Using the network, developers will also be able to create new solutions on top of an open data framework, letting developers layer in new applications over time.

Sprint spokeswoman Jennifer Walsh told the Star the network agreements are designed to enable the free Wi-Fi to be available to pedestrians and others on the street and is not being designed as a mobile connection to work for passengers as the streetcar moves along its track.

The service is expected to be operational when the streetcar opens to the public, probably on or before March 1, 2016, the Star reported, adding that if the system works well, it could be expanded beyond downtown.

Recently, Sprint has started to make Wi-Fi a key element of its network. In late April the carrier announced a multi-year Wi-Fi offloading agreement with Boingo Wireless to seamlessly offload its customers' data traffic to Boingo's Wi-Fi networks at 35 major U.S. airports. Under Sprint's agreement with Boingo, up to 40 million of the carrier's handsets will be able to auto-authenticate with Boingo Wi-Fi hotspot connections at no additional charge. Sprint has around 56 million total customers. Usage while connected to Wi-Fi does not count toward a customer's monthly service plan. The full list of participating airports is available here.

In a company blog post in April, Sprint CTO Stephen Bye wrote that the carrier views Wi-Fi as "a complementary fourth layer of our network (the first three layers being our 1.9 GHz, 2.5 GHz, and 800 MHz spectrum bands). By enabling customers to move more smoothly between trusted Wi-Fi and cellular, our customers will have a better mobile experience in more locations, all while lowering their cost of data usage."

For more:
- see this release
- see this Kansas City Star article 
- see this Kansas City Business Journal article

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