This week, Firetide and Wireless Hotspot announced the deployment
of a free citywide wireless network in Culver City, California. The hotzone,
which covers about a mile, uses three of Firetide’s HotPoint
1000R Outdoor Wireless Mesh Routers. It will be officially unveiled in a
ceremony hosted by the city on September 9.
Joseph Hsieh, Wireless Hotspot’s President, says the deployment is a perfect
fit for the two companies and for the city. "Culver City’s Redevelopment Agency
is trying to put more foot traffic in their up-and-coming new town," he
says. "It’s sort of a nascent stage of something like [Santa Monica’s]
Third Street Promenade about
10 or 15 years ago."
Hsieh says the Redevelopment Agency had been intrigued by the nearby City of
Long Beach’s wireless deployment,
and is also anticipating the arrival in 2006 or 2007 of a new Symantec office in Culver
City. "That means [Culver City will] get a lot of IT workers in the area, so they thought this might be a really great value add for their citizens,"
For now, the Culver City deployment will use either a 3Mbps DSL line or a T-1
line, with a bandwidth management and authentication system from Vernier Networks. In the future, Hsieh
says, the hotzone may be expanded to cover a broader area or to provide other
services, depending on the success of the initial deployment.
Firetide, which was launched last year, only began shipping the 1000R in June–the
Culver City hotzone is the company’s first outdoor deployment. The key benefit
of the 1000R, along with the company’s 1000S indoor router,
is the fact that it eliminates the need for an Internet connection at every
access point — the mesh network itself is the backhaul.
Barbara Cardillo, Firetide’s vice president of Corporate Marketing, says this
kind of setup makes it much easier to establish a large network or hotzone.
"We’re eliminating a lot of the wiring that’s necessary right now even
for wireless networks," she says. "You can get an access point and
plug it into one of our boxes, then our boxes communicate wirelessly with each
other — all you need is your initial Internet connection."
In a deployment like the one in Culver City, Cardillo says, the routers can
be used for a lot more than just offering Wi-Fi access to the public. "Our
typical boxes have three Ethernet ports on the back, so another way to think
about the technology is as a portable Ethernet jack — you can have an Ethernet
jack wherever you want it," she says.
One of the more obvious applications is video surveillance. "Right now,
if you have a university campus and you want to make sure it’s secure, cameras
have to be wired all over the place to get back to the central console for viewing
or recording," Cardillo says. "With our technology, you can just plug
a video camera into one of the Ethernet ports and you have a video surveillance
network — without doing any wiring."
Hsieh says the deployment was relatively straightforward, since there are a
lot of city-owned buildings in the downtown area on which to deploy the routers.
"The one challenge that we ran into was that the most ideal location was
on top of a private building, the Culver
Hotel, which sits in the middle of downtown," he says.
Wireless Hotspot worked with the city to approach the owners of the hotel and
work out a deal, which Hsieh says has turned out to be an ideal situation for
everyone involved. "They’re very happy because now their hotel guests have
access to wireless — and there’s nothing intrusive about the technology we’re
using," he says.
The deployment itself took less than a day to complete — the real challenge,
Hsieh says, was the red tape. "All of the paperwork back and forth took
a couple of months," he says. "That gives you an idea of the challenges
that we had to face — but it’s understandable, because you’re working with tax-generated
dollars, and everyone wants to make sure it makes sense."
Culver City is joining an ever-growing list of U.S. cities that are getting
mesh networks to provide access throughout a downtown area from competitors
like Tropos Networks and MeshNetworks.
Others include the aforementioned Long Beach, as well as Cerritos, Calif.; Chaska,
Minn.; and Corpus Christi, Texas.