Cerritos aims for citywide Wi-Fi

The California community of Cerritos will be one of the first in the country to have citywide broadband Internet access using Wi-Fi, or wireless local-area network, technology starting in 2004.

A first phase deployment will deliver outdoor service to the entire 8.6 square-mile area of Cerritos as of Jan. 1. Service that residents can use in their homes or businesses will be introduced later.

WiFi, based on 802.11b or 802.11g standards, is being widely adopted for wireless hot spots in cities. As long as they have the appropriate wireless modem in their computers, users can log in to the Internet from anywhere within these hot spots.

However, such areas are restricted because of distance limitations. The 802.11b standard, for example, typically allows for access only up to 150 feet from the wireless transmitter. Hot spots can be overlapped to increase the access area, but technical considerations still limit how often this can happen.

The Cerritos WiFi system will use a technique known as mesh networking,

where WiFi "cells" continually monitor data transmissions between themselves and their immediate neighbors in order to optimize the data paths among themselves and the wired network that provides backbone access to the Internet.

Theoretically, such mesh networks can be easily scaled up, as each new cell automatically learns where it fits in the network.

Cerritos, a suburb of Los Angeles with 50,000 residents, had been trying to entice other companies, including mainstream providers of cable and DSL, to provide high-speed Internet access. But for mostly economic reasons they've been reluctant to provide service to the city, said Annie Hylton, the city's public information manager.

The city's Wi-Fi broadband service, provided by Aiirnet Wireless LLC, will come in three basic packages: an at-home service for $39.99 per month with downlink speeds of up to 500 kilobits/sec. and downlink speeds of 250 kilobits/sec; an in-town service providing the same speeds that start at $4.99 per hour; and a business-pro package delivering both uplink and downlink speeds of up to 1 megabit/sec. for $249.99 per month.

City officials will initially buy 60 of the lower-priced packages for government workers, Hylton said.

Tropos Networks Inc. is supplying the Wi-Fi mesh technology.

Brian Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at .

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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