City adds wireless mesh for public safety

The city of Providence, R.I., has signed a $2.3 million deal with Motorola to install a mesh-network wireless communications system for public safety agencies. City officials expect the new system to give agencies 100 times more capacity for mobile data communications.

The citywide network will replace a Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD) system.

Grants from the Homeland Security Department and Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program will pay for the network, which could become operational by early 2006.

Although the CDPD network provides good coverage, it offers low bandwidth, said Rick Rotondo, director of marketing for Motorola's mesh networking products group. The Providence government needs a high-bandwidth network so it can offer employees in-vehicle access to building blueprints, real-time video, medical records and geographic information systems, all of which create big files, Rotondo said.

“They needed something that could support the applications they now have, as well as cater for these types of advanced applications," he said.

The network will cover more than 18 square miles and have hundreds of nodes, Rotondo said. Its implementation will be difficult because the city is densely populated, hilly and criss-crossed by several elevated highways, he added. Large sections of the city are underneath overpasses.

Motorola bought MeshNetworks, a vendor of mesh networking systems, late last year to gain quick entry into a technology market that showed great promise. It had previously licensed MeshNetworks' products and distributed the MeshNetworks Enabled Architecture.

Motorola has announced nearly a dozen government mesh network projects and expects to announce others soon, Rotondo said.

About the Author

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

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