Philly’s wireless network rolls on

Philadelphia’s first public wireless hot spot in Love Park is a year old. In another year, a wireless network will cover the entire city, said Philadelphia CIO Dianah Neff.

Speaking yesterday at the GCN Wireless Solutions Conference in Washington, Neff said the request for proposals closed Monday with 12 bids submitted. The city expects to pick a winner around July 4 and begin construction of the citywide network in September.

Neff said the Wireless Philadelphia network would roll out as sections of the city were completed, but the whole city should be online in a year.

Philadelphia plans to spend roughly $15 million to build its wireless network and $2.5 million annually to maintain it. The ambitious plan to offer low-cost Internet access to citizens has drawn fire from the telecommunications industry, which doesn’t want to compete with government bodies.

Neff said the city’s wireless mesh network would combine WiFi technology with the emerging 802.16 WiMax standard for long-range wireless networking. WiFi would connect users to the network, while WiMax would serve as a backhaul to the Internet.

“Sixty percent of the backhaul could be WiMax,” Neff said. “Forty percent would still be wired.”

Neff said the RFP specified virtual LAN technology to help ensure quality of service for government workers on the public network. Today’s WiFi standards do not support quality-of-service features for prioritizing wireless traffic. An upcoming IEEE 802.11e standard will include quality of service.

Philadelphia plans to have one VLAN that’s open to the public and another VLAN for municipal agencies.

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