Is there still value in deploying a city wide outdoor wireless Wi-Fi network? Every day there the number of people that use mobile devices that are Wi-Fi enabled continues to grow. The demand for high speed connectivity to the internet is in high demand. So there is definitely a business case for it.
Many cities have tried a wireless installation to provide complete city wide Wi-Fi connectivity and have failed. In many cases the city governments, that have no staff trained and experienced in outdoor wireless backhaul and outdoor Wi-Fi systems, that tried to deploy the outdoor Wi-Fi technology rather than an outdoor wireless backhaul or mobile carrier provider, that does have experience and knowledge in mass deployments of RF and microwave communications.
Three major reasons why many of the outdoor Wi-Fi attempts failed are because there was no clear business model, projects were attempted without using highly skilled outdoor wireless installation and wireless engineering integrators, and a complete lack of understanding in the costs associated with deploying and maintaining an outdoor Wi-Fi system. Technically, it is very difficult to deploy the amount of wireless access points needed to provide complete RF coverage without causing self wireless interference. It can be done but so often wireless engineering was an afterthought when it should have been the first step.
On the other hand, WiMax backhaul promises high speed wireless connectivity to mobile devices and has already been deployed around the world with great success. WiMax backhaul, as a standard, was originally designed for outdoor wireless connectivity where Wi-Fi is a standard for indoor wireless connectivity. WiMax can cover much farther distances, requires much less infrastructure, is cheaper to deploy, wireless installation is easier, and is more cost effective to maintain. The problem is that there are not a lot of devices that are equipped with WiMax chipsets yet.
Over the years, there have been a lot of quality wireless manufactures that have come to market with outdoor wireless communication products for either outdoor Wi-Fi or WiMax solutions. Companies like Xirrus (who probably has the strongest outdoor Wi-Fi solution) and BelAir Networks have great solutions for outdoor Wi-Fi deployments. There are many others like Proxim, Motorola, and Aruba to name a few that have outdoor Wi-Fi solutions too. Companies like Alvarion, Motorola, Proxim, and Solectek to name a few make WiMax backhaul base stations and subscribers.
For the 2012 Olympics, London has declared that they will have a city wide outdoor Wi-Fi network. The services will not be offered for free but will allow tourists to stay connected to the world during the games. It is unclear who will be responsible for deploying the Wi-Fi network and who will maintain it after the Olympics. Will the City of London sell the network to an internet provider or mobile carrier or will they become a large WISP themselves. The hopes is that they will have a solid business model and will have the network designed and the wireless installation done by a credible wireless integrator. The one thing for sure is that both WiMax backhaul and outdoor Wi-Fi technology will provide a lot of benefit to the users of mobile wireless connectivity.