Latest Muni Wireless Plans for MobilePro

In Arizona, the city of Tempe’s 550 mesh access points are deployed, and neighboring Chandler is well on the way to total wireless broadband. Now the network provider, MobilePro, says the neighboring city of Gilbert is joining them to make the “largest contiguous border-to-border network in the United States, encompassing 187 square miles,” according to a company announcement.

Gilbert by itself has a population of 178,000, with 2,700 businesses as potential wireless broadband customers. Gilbert covers about 76 square miles. The city is not paying for the deployment, but the Arizona Republic says the city will pay for the electrical costs of running the equipment to the tune of $15,000 to $20,000 per year. Still, the city’s workers, along with services like traffic cameras, will get free access.

The networks, built with mesh equipment from Strix Systems, should all be completed by the end of 2006 (Gilbert deployment won’t start until June). All three fall under the WAZMetro brand that MobilePro subsidiary NeoReach Wireless bought.

WAZ is short for Wireless Access Zones, and other cities on the MobilePro/NeoReach docket include Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; Farmers Branch, Texas; and the recently-announced deal with Sacramento, California. Currently, WAZSacremento consists of a test zone around Cesar Chavez Plaza Park and the city hall. A ribbon cutting to announce a bigger deployment is planned for April 4.

All the networks will feature a sliding scale of services, running from $4 an hour up to $30 a month. There will be free access in some areas like parks, and perhaps for some schools, colleges — they have a deal to provide Arizona State University students with discounts — and government workers. In fact, MobilePro was picked by Cox Communications to provide wireless services as part of the Cox win of the RFP to become the state’s official telecommunications carrier. This way, municipalities in the state can get access to MobilePro services without going through individual RFPs — MobilePro will be the preferred vendor of wireless broadband when Cox needs it. Cox has more than 2 million customers in Arizona, with the bulk (1.7 million) in the Phoenix area.

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