Kissimmee, FL Unwires Twice

Municipal wireless has worked out well in St. Cloud, Florida, after a somewhat rocky start just over a year ago. Now, the Cyber Spot network run for the city (which owns and funds everything) by Hewlett-Packard (HP) with mesh equipment from Tropos Networks is considered a major success in the world of free Wi-Fi-based Internet broadband for the masses: it has a 77% uptake. So it’s little wonder that St. Cloud’s neighboring city of Kissimmee would also want to get in on such a service.

Kissimmee is going with Motorola for its network — or, actually, its networks. While it will offer Wi-Fi services to get residents and business online, Motorola’s proprietary Mesh Enabled Architecture (MEA) will be used at the same time to provide connections for city agencies and first responders, also using the 2.4GHz spectrum (not 4.9GHz.)

“What Kissimmee is doing we’ll see more often as cities take the time to understand their needs and the ways they can use a wireless broadband backbone,” says Chip Yager, director of operations of Motorola’s mesh network product group.

The Kissimmee networks are paid for through a partnership between the city, the Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) and the Toho Water Authority. Integrator Scientel Wireless designed and deployed the network. It’s not quite citywide yet — this first phase provides Wi-Fi services downtown, both for Internet access and for some camera surveillance for the police.

The Wi-Fi side of things was installed using as many as 50 Motorola HotZone Duo products, which Motorola introduced last year. They’re less expensive dual-radio units, with 802.11b/g for client connections and 5.8GHz 802.11a for the mesh backhaul. The nodes were first tried in Apopka, Florida, another Orlando suburb like Kissimmee and St. Cloud, only to the north.

How will Kissimmee’s wireless fare as it expands? Only time will tell if it can do as well as St. Cloud: late last year, independent analysts with consulting firm Novarum actually went out and tested connections in several U.S. cities, and ranked St. Cloud’s network #1 overall and the only network with 100% availability, at #10 in overall broadband performance, and #6 in Wi-Fi-only performance.

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