Novarum’s latest ratings on municipal Wi-Fi networks are out and, not only do they find that muni Wi-Fi is “far from dead,” they found that muni Wi-Fi networks can operate as reliably as cellular data services if next-gen 802.11N client devices or high-performance adapters and high-gain antennas are used.Novarum’s latest ratings on municipal Wi-Fi networks are out and, not only do they find that muni Wi-Fi is “far from dead,” they found that muni Wi-Fi networks can operate as reliably as cellular data services if next-gen 802.11n client devices or high-performance adapters and high-gain antennas are used.
These findings come as great news to an industry that’s been questioning its business models since August when EarthLink announced its aproach to the muni market was unworkable.
Since that time munis have been bludgeoned by press reports that question everything from the business model to the viability of the technology itself. Novarum’s report takes on the last half of that question and shoots down the criticism that current muni Wi-Fi networks will be rendered obsolete with the introduction of 802.11n devices.
Novarum, which ranks metro Wi-Fi networks according to performance, availability, ease of use, and value found that 802.11n client devices not only worked on current muni Wi-Fi networks, they were able to pull signals where traditional 802.11 a,b & g devices were not and worked without difficulty in areas where traditional devices registered weak signals.
The company also compared the performance of the a, b, g, and pre-n devices to devices equipped with high-performance adapters and high gain antennas and to 3G cellular services in the 16 metro markets it tested.
In a press release accompanying the announcement of the data this morning, Novarum co-founder Ken Biba, declared muni networks “far from dead” and noted that, although metro Wi-Fi networks generally end up costing more than what the political hype surround them suggests, they “may indeed deliver a higher quality of service at a lower cost than other wireless broadband alternatives.”
Novarum is making the summary report available, as well as city reports on Metro Wi-Fi and cellular data services in Philadelphia PA, Portland OR, Rochelle IL, Santa Clara CA, Tempe AZ and Mountain View CA.
Novarum co-founder Phil Belanger told me that they found that 802.11n devices demonstrated good range and good performance. In areas where standard 802.11b and g products failed to pull signals or the signal was weak, the N devices typically often had no trouble. “In this application we’re not going any faster,” he said, “but rather we’re talking about signal availability. We found this in Mountainview. We also found this on every other network we tested. It shocked us, really, how well it worked. We think that’s huge for the industry. A network that appeared to be marginal seemed solid when you used an N client.” Mobile applications using high-performance adapters and high-gain antennas achieved even better results.
As competition to cellular data services, the report found Metro Wi-Fi delivers twice the performance. According to Belanger, the difficulty with muni Wi-Fi deployments is not the speed; it’s the availability of the signal. “Forty nodes per square mile are not enough,” he said.
Other key findings in the report include:
Novarum announced its “best of” wireless awards for 2007. Toronto’s OneZone once again weighed in with the best overall Wi-Fi service while Verizon achieved “Best Overall Cellular Data Service” in Mountain View, Ca. EarthLink’s Feather network in Philadelphia got the award for most improved Wi-Fi network; since Novarum’s last survey, Philadelphia increased its node count from 32 to 48 with an accompanying improvement in availability from 70 percent to 85-90 percent.
Click here to access Novarum’s reports.