AT&T unveils Riverside, Ca., network. Is Chicago next up?

Blogs are buzzing about AT&T’s Tuesday unveiling of its wireless municipal network in Riverside, Ca. as the telco’s first major foray into the muni space. With one down, the telco has other deployments pending in Napa, Ca., and St. Louis, Mo., and appears to be making a hard run for Chicago’s planned deployment.Blogs are buzzing about AT&T’s Tuesday unveiling of its wireless municipal network in Riverside, Ca. as the telco’s first major deployment in the muni space. We’ve written a lot about Riverside and discussed it heavily at our conferences. It’s nice to see it coming to fruition.

This is one of the most promising deployments we’ve covered, due to the many applications Riverside intends to run, its approach to public safety, its plan to address the digital divide by providing computers to qualifying families along with access to the network, and its use of dual frequency (2.4/4.9 Mhz) technology.

AT&T’s embrace of the muni market has also been significant because of the degree to which it and other incumbent providers opposed the entire concept of muni wireless in the past. The company has moved slowly but deliberately into the muni space. To date, it’s signed agreements with Napa, Ca., and St. Louis, Mo., but neither of those involved public tenders. As it looks to expand its presence in the market, AT&T seems to be running after ever larger markets. Unstrung.com has reported that AT”&T is a leading contender for Chicago’s planned network.

Yesterday’s roll-out showcased the first phase of the Riverside deployment. AT&T claims that once the Riverside network is fully deployed, it will be the largest deployed in the U.S. for both civic services and public use. Networks that do double duty are not exactly rare, however. I suspect they’re referring to the fact that the network uses both the 2.4 MHz unlicensed “WiFi” band for customers and the 4.9 MHz licensed band for public safety and city services. A number of cities are already using 2.4 for both, securing public safety and other municipal applications and communications on separate channels with data running through the encrypted tunnels of virtual public networks (VPNs).