It’s all new Wi-Fi for Addison, Texas

After getting city-wide Wi-Fi only two years ago, Addison, Texas, is now getting an all new network. The city’s provider is deploying all new equipment, more than doubling the node density and entering into a Service Level Agreement to assure a high level of performance.RedMoon Broadband, the private provider that deployed a city-wide Wi-Fi network in Addison, Texas in 2005, is replacing the old with something entirely new‚Äö?Ñ?Æa network with equipment from BelAir Networks that more than doubles the node density, offers both unlicensed and licensed channels, and includes a Service Level Agreement (SLA) designed to insure reliability for tiered-pricing services such as Voice over IP.

BelAir announced the move in a press release today that quoted RedMoon CEO Bryan Thompson, saying that BelAir’s performance, reliability, “and the fact that they back those up with both a warranty and a service level agreement” were what influenced the company’s decision to go with BelAir. “With BelAir Networks, we can address the coverage, performance and reliability issues that led to customer complaints and we can now expand our service offerings to include a full range of public safety and public works applications, in addition to public access.”

I talked with Hamid Khaleghipour, information technology director for the city of Addison, who told me those concerns were what prompted RedMoon to approach the city last May with a proposal to upgrade the network. RedMoon holds a non-enclusive agreement with the city to provide Wi-Fi service in Addison. The upgrade, Hamid said, was aimed at providing a level of reliability that would let RedMoon provide tier pricing for Voice over IP (VoIP) and other premium services. “We reviewed their proposal and granted them the upgrade,” he said.

Addison is continuing to look at city services that could be operated more efficiently on the network. However, the original network was equipped only for 2.4 Mhz operation and, according to Hamid, the city is most interested in 4.9 Mhz public safety applications. “Some of those projects are long-term,” he said, “and we are hoping the new network will be able to provide that.” The upgrade is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

This is the first major upgrade of a muni network that I’ve seen and two things strike me about the announcement.

The first is the importance of SLAs. Certainly, if providers‚Äö?Ñ?Æwhether they be private or public‚Äö?Ñ?Æare able to deliver to the growing performance expectations of customers, they need reliable networks capable of delivering the high bandwidth modern applications require. It’s not enough just to put up a muni Wi-Fi network and expect it to work. The network needs to deliver a quality of service that can compete in quality, as well as price, with the services of more expensive competing providers.

That brings us to the second point which has to do with node density. The formula for network reliability is quite simple‚Äö?Ñ?Æmore nodes, better performance. It’s notable that Philadelphia, which this year won Novarum’s performance award for most improved network, increased network availability from 70 to about 90 percent by increasing node density from 32 to 48 nodes per square mile.

The original network in Addison was a Tropos mesh that deployed 80 nodes over the city’s 4.5 square miles. That’s not quite 17 nodes per square mile‚Äö?Ñ?Ænot nearly enough to insure steady signals and reliable performance. Our announcement of the March, 2006, deployment in Addison received a number of user comments complaining of the network’s intermittent signals and generally poor coverage. Addison’s new BelAir network will pack 170 nodes across the city–more than twice the node density of the network it is replacing.

That should make a significant difference. But if it doesn’t, the provider has the SLA, assuring that BelAir will make it work. This is a key area where munis and their private partners can learn a lesson from large corporate enterprises; when critical applications require a consistent, high quality of performance a Service Level Agreement is essential. Corporations have been using them for years. It’s a guarantee that performance expectations will be met.

Click here to read the press release.

Comments

  1. The long-suffering Lompoc, Calif., network replaced all its gear at some point, but I’m not sure if it was intra-vendor (generational upgrade) or to another vendor.

  2. The Reality of Perception

    I was once told by an old boss that Perception by the Customer is for all practical purposes Reality and since it is Reality you cannot change it. When I read Carol’s article about Addison it brought this idea back.

    While the Municipal WIFI market has been reeling the past couple of months with reports of doom and gloom it is important that successes and achievements in the municipal market get told. The problem with Carol’s report is whether this is perception or reality. From where I stand I am afraid I will have to choose perception.

    The realities of the Addison deployment and the problems that it has endured have never really been told. I think it would have been better to get the whole story out about these failures and juxtapose those with the news of the Belair replacement network. This is a replacement not an upgrade. In order to be an upgrade the network would have had to been completed with what at the time was current technology.

    Addison was deployed using the first generation TROPOS 5110 radios. Addison has never been upgraded to even the second generation model, much less been privy to any maintenance updates to the radios that were deployed. I know that there were issues between the provider and the vendor but the fact remains that Addison’s network suffered because it became stagnant in old technology that was outdated at the time of the deployment.

    The vendor of choice is really not even a factor in this discussion. The Addison network shows what can happen to any technology project where the relationship between the implementer, provider, or the vendor sours. The customer is the one who really suffers. In this case I am not sure whether that is the City of Addison or the Citizens of Addison. Either way 2 years have come and gone and now the answer is replacement or upgrade depending on your perception.

    The perception the article leaves me with is not one that teaches other municipalities the lesson of choose your partners wisely. This is the lesson I think that so many are now seeing from the Earthlink debacle and the one that is the reality of Addison. Whether it is the Vendor, Implementer, or Provider, success of Municipal WIFI projects will continue to hinge on strong and viable partnerships that can weather the storm of adversity.

    It is important that those who are reporting the successes make sure that the whole story is told so that all the lessons, both good and bad are learned. Of course that’s just my perception, excuse me, reality.

  3. I’d like to make sure all the facts are represented regarding your article about Tropos nodes being replaced by another vendor in Addison, Texas. That part is true. However, what is not stated is why. Specifically, Tropos was unfortunately forced to terminate the business relationship with the WISP that deployed Tropos in the city due to their nonpayment of invoices for the equipment.

    Second, I wanted to respond to your blog question regarding Lompoc and what metro Wi-Fi vendor’s equipment was initially installed vs what’s operational there now. Lompoc originally selected and installed Tropos and it’s the same Tropos nodes operational in the city today – no replacement of nodes has occurred (although we have upgraded the software with new releases!).

    Should you have questions about any Tropos networks in the future, please feel free to contact me for comment.