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Government Wireless Networking Your Rights Online

Is City-Wide Wi-Fi a Dead Idea? 259

An anonymous reader writes "Remember all those projects to cover cities with Wi-Fi? The BBC wants to know what happened to them. When it comes to underground wireless data access, there are obvious issues regarding implementing a wireless infrastructure in underground stations and tunnels, but above ground the BBC suggests that it may be other advancements, such as Wimax, that have made Wi-Fi a less attractive solution. PCMag, on the other hand, suggests that public Wi-Fi isn't dead at all and will make a comeback due to the increasing popularity of Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones. So, will city-wide Wi-Fi make a real comeback, or have other technologies, such as Wimax or 4G, killed the concept for good?"
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Is City-Wide Wi-Fi a Dead Idea?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 13, 2009 @06:54PM (#29408361)

    With high speed cellular wireless access? Ummm, it's probably dead. You'll get islands of wifi, but complete coverage is unlikely.

  • It's Just Form (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mikkeles ( 698461 ) on Sunday September 13, 2009 @06:55PM (#29408365)

    Why is the particular technology of wireless communications so important?

  • by theurge14 ( 820596 ) on Sunday September 13, 2009 @06:57PM (#29408383)

    The problem I've had with it is that each access point I've encountered usually requires a login and/or a fee to use. For example, Wifi in Starbucks requires a monthly fee from AT&T (or T-Mobile, can't remember). Across the street the library is free. The McDonalds next door charges $2.95 an hour, along with the Wendy's across the corner. The lobby in the hospital is free but requires a login that only the clerk at the front desk can provide. There is Wifi in the mall that is free.

    I think that most people would prefer an all-or-nothing approach. Give me one Wifi experience or forget it. Having to keep track of a new login method every 200-500 feet is a hassle.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday September 13, 2009 @06:58PM (#29408385) Homepage Journal

    Its being killed by 3G and the iPhone. Five years from now few people will bother with ADSL or cable to the home, so they won't route to wifi.

    Laptops are starting to come on the market with 3G modems built in. Telcos are starting to install small cellular base stations close to their customers. Pretty soon I expect the telcos will be doing a lot of the networking which used to be done in house.

  • by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <web@pineapple.vg> on Sunday September 13, 2009 @07:14PM (#29408483) Homepage
    The range is too short, it always has been too short for any of this sort of stuff. I wish there was a longer range version of Wifi that an ordinary person could actually buy a router for without having to spend thousands.

    4G and LTE will always be controlled by large, evil telcos and you will always need a subscription. I doubt anyone will be allowed to set up their own private LTE access point as nice as that would be. It would be nice if there was a version of LTE that you could use in unlicensed spectrum with affordable equipment and without dealing with a mobile phone company and proprietary 'locked down' equipment like that femto cell Verizon has with a GPS to make sure you are not setting up an AP outside the country
  • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Sunday September 13, 2009 @07:28PM (#29408583)

    Wifi won't be killed so easily. As demand for 3G grows in America, the carriers will have to upgrade their network, and we all know how serious they are about that. They'll slack and lag behind (dragging down everyone's 3G speeds).

    It will be at least 10 years before we have 3G coverage on even one carrier that can handle enough of a load to completely replace Wifi and have good coverage IMO.

  • by jpstanle ( 1604059 ) on Sunday September 13, 2009 @07:42PM (#29408683)

    TFA is referring not to de-facto ubiquitous coverage by multiple independent access points, but by a single, centrally run mesh of access points owned and operated (at least partially) by the municipal government.

    At least in the USA, this has largely been quashed by the telcos in the courts, claiming that such networks are unfair competition to their price gouging mobile data plans.

  • Crowdsource it (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 13, 2009 @07:45PM (#29408697)

    If you have your own wi-fi and spare bandwidth, open it for free use and let others piggyback on your connection.

  • by jpstanle ( 1604059 ) on Sunday September 13, 2009 @07:47PM (#29408705)

    So long as 3G providers continue to charge $50/month on top of already overpriced voice plans and cap data usage at 5 GB/month, wired internet connections won't be going anywhere.

    3G is no substitute for a proper data pipe.

  • Re:59 square miles (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Sunday September 13, 2009 @07:48PM (#29408709) Homepage Journal

    Is it in wide use already? Is it holding up? How does its infrastructure and maintenance cost compare to a wider range wireless? To me, it seemed that the biggest drawback to wide area WiFi is that each base station has a very limited range, cellular and WiMax has a range of miles between towers, for WiFi, you might be lucky to cover several houses with one base station. I tried working though all of what it takes, and it just seemed like too much work and too much money spent for too little in return.

  • by RiotingPacifist ( 1228016 ) on Sunday September 13, 2009 @07:56PM (#29408761)

    Firstly, authentication and billing are solved problems. WiFi is made significantly less useful by the way every public hotspot has its own random billing infrastructure,

    Funny most places i go to offer their WiFi for free, i find this a much nicer billing solution than my phone company charging me whatever the fuck they want.

    Secondly, LTE is a natively IPv6 based protocol.

    WiFi is protocol neutral, so all your IPv6 stuff is meaningless as you can use IPv6 over WiFi, just as easily as IPv4 over WiFi.

    Finally, the LTE protocols include support for true single channel multi-cast.

    While im no expert on wifi protocols there seams no reason that multicast can't be worked into them.

    Thirdly, hand-off actually works in mobile protocols.

    I'll give you this one, however I'd rather have a fully controlled home network and only be at the whim of my phone company while im outside.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday September 13, 2009 @08:14PM (#29408865) Homepage Journal

    The last mile will become the last 100 metres in areas of high demand.

    Will the USA move to metric at last?

    Not in my lifetime, I am sure.

  • by FrankieBaby1986 ( 1035596 ) on Sunday September 13, 2009 @08:23PM (#29408919)

    You could be in an RV with an AP less than 20 t, with a 10+ db radio and get 1 bar of signal, but move to a window and it'll go to 4-5 bars?

    Note: being inside an RV is similar to being inside a Faraday Cage.

  • by coryking ( 104614 ) * on Sunday September 13, 2009 @08:32PM (#29409001) Homepage Journal

    And that is why I personally think IPv6 is stillborn and won't catch on. IP just doesn't work for the increasingly mesh-style networks we are using. Wifi roaming isn't a bitch because of Wifi--it is a bitch because of IPvX. All these other "3G" or "4G" aren't going to fix the problem, they have the same problem that Wifi does, they use IPvX. They are just a way for huge cell companies to charge us up the ass for internet we already pay up the ass for at home. They hack soon-to-be legacy protocols like IPvX into a mesh (plus real-time-billing). They aren't the future.

    IPv6 will never catch on in a big way. Something that looks like a low-level version of bit-torrent will catch on instead. It will solve all the mesh problems we are having now. It will be peer-to-peer instead of a giant hierarchical tree where everything funnels through a few big players.

    And for those thinking it will take "years"... remember how fast IPv4 was adopted. Win 3.1 was using IPX/SPX or netbeui. All the games used IPX/SPX. Nobody did TCP/IP except unix and trumpet winsock. Then within a few years all the games were TCP/IP only. Maybe I remember wrong, but did seem to be a pretty short adoption curve.

    My prediction will be that the switch will be a quick one. After all, most of what we exchange is content. Most of our websites would probably not have to be re-worked much to ride on another protocol--though the new features offered might make them partially obsolete anyway.

    Maybe I'm way off. My point really is Wifi isn't the problem. The problem is TCP/IP. The more mobile computing grows, the more pressure there will be to move away from IP.

  • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Sunday September 13, 2009 @08:58PM (#29409167)

    I think they're referring to Muni-WiFi, not hotspots.

    Muni-WiFi angered the telecom gods, and they rained storms of money up on the legislatures to prevent the airwaves from this abomination.

    The hotel/motel gods also were highly upset that their revenues would be stanched, and so also did voice much objection up on the Muni-WiFi.

    But some still lives, legends like Loma Linda CA, Berkeley, Minneapolis, and others. Some say, if the telco gods are ever smited, then many good things may once again occur in the land of the once-plenty.

  • Re:4G? WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @02:33AM (#29410769)

    Who says its stealing? I keep mine open on purpose- if I'm not using the bandwidth, someone else might as well. I pay the same anyway. If its something I don't want snooped, I encrypt it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 14, 2009 @05:42AM (#29411393)

    In Europe I pay 9 euros/month for 3 gigs.

  • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @09:22AM (#29412563) Homepage Journal

    >>Muni-WiFi angered the telecom gods, and they rained storms of money up on the legislatures to prevent the airwaves from this abomination.

    Not only that, but got some "judges" to rule that it was unconstitutional for a city to put up a municipal wifi network (in some states, at least).

    Because, heaven forfend, anyone challenge the oligopoly that is our telecom industry. Competetion? Bah. I'm paying more for cell phone service now than I did ten years ago. I also used to have free tethering. Now, data access is something like three bucks a megabyte without a data plan!

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato