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Is City-Wide Wi-Fi a Dead Idea?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the sledgehammer-ready dept.

Government 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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259 comments

4G? WTF? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408359)

Free and open wi-fi access vs cellphone account with account charged per fucking byte.

Yeah... I'll take Wi-Fi thank you very much. Fuck the cellphone companies and their insane nickel-and-dime fees.

Re:4G? WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29409105)

Public != Free.

Public just means that it'll be paid for by the local government, which in turn means it's probably funded by the tax payers.

Besides the fact you're sharing the pipe with everyone nearby, you may have to log in with a username/password that's only given to local residents.

Either way, you'll have to pay. At least with mobile-phone style broadband, you can use it wherever you go, instead of being restricted to a handful of locations.

You mean those smartphones (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408361)

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

Re:You mean those smartphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408835)

Yes, the ones where you pay anything up to $5/mb for cellular data.

Philadelphia (2, Informative)

Potor (658520) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408985)

Philly officially closed off its city-wide wifi in May 2008 [engadget.com] for reasons clearly stated in the link. When it was up, it was practically unusable anyway. I lived within a block of an access point, and I could never hold a consistent signal. But truth be told, I only used it towards the end of its life.

It's Just Form (3, Insightful)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408365)

Why is the particular technology of wireless communications so important?

Re:It's Just Form (1)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408407)

Wifi doesn't cost much for the end-user because most people already have wifi. Wifi infrastructure costs more money for the providers. At the end of the day someone is paying for it. I say we should invest in the most economic technology, but there will be a lot of people with wifi cards who don't agree.

Re:It's Just Form (1)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408587)

Wifi does not cost the provider much to implement. $50-$100 per AP plus up to $100 for an omni antenna if one does not come with the AP. Ubiquti [ubnt.com] makes good Wifi products at decent prices.

Re:It's Just Form (1)

HoboMaster (639861) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409049)

Yeah, but you have to have a lot more, since wifi just doesn't have the range. Maybe it's cheaper per AP, but you have to have a ton more of them.

Re:It's Just Form (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408757)

Indeed. I don't think the concept is dead, and its the concept that's important not the specific tech. Though also there are some issues going along with the tech such as who owns the infrastructure and the rules of that infrastructure that become very important and may make one less-advanced tech more attractive than another.

59 square miles (5, Informative)

The-Pheon (65392) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408377)

Minneapolis has complete downtown coverage now.

http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/wirelessminneapolis/ [minneapolis.mn.us]

Actually using it right now to post, doesn't really seem like a dead idea from here!

Re:59 square miles (2, Funny)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408459)

Goddamn. I kept waiting for that to happen when I was living there, right smack in the middle of the coverage area ... and it looks like they got it up and running just after I left.

Re:59 square miles (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408709)

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.

Re:59 square miles (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409117)

The small cell size can be a benefit, allowing more users and/or higher speeds. If one can get the maintainence cost sufficiently low, it works out better for deployments in densely populated areas. Combine it with other uses, such as streetlights and traffic control devices, and the costs for wifi deployment drop. The real trick is getting a commodity wifi unit and not letting your city get screwed by "managed solutions" that are looking to become the next cableco.

Wimax still makes more sense for anywhere there isn't already a bunch of other electrical devices within mesh range.

Re:59 square miles (2, Informative)

number11 (129686) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409231)

Is it in wide use already? Is it holding up?

It's got (somewhat spotty) city-wide coverage, and is in fairly wide use. It's half to two-thirds the cost of comparable speeds of cable or DSL (several speeds available, from 1M/1M to 6M/1M). APs on roughly a 2-block grid, it works well if you're close to one and don't have conductive things in the way (we have a lot of stucco buildings, and stucco is done on a wire mesh base that's pretty good radio shielding). There are (recommended, extra cost) wireless units that connect to ethernet, and they not only are a bit better than the typical cheap wifi laptop unit, but you've got the option of locating your client unit at a point that has good reception. The vendor will also assist with things like outside antennas.

How does its infrastructure and maintenance cost compare to a wider range wireless?

No idea what maintenance costs are. In many places they really need a denser grid to provide good coverage. Many of the APs have wireless connections to the network, that may use a different band. We see both flat-panel antennas (which appear to be directional and aimed at an upstream provider) and ~2 foot sticks, 2 or 3 to an AP (typically mounted on a bracket on a utility pole at a corner).

When the I-35 bridge fell down, that entire area already had coverage, and got heavy use by news media, emergency workers, and (later) construction crews.

Re:59 square miles (2, Informative)

dieman (4814) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409401)

I used it last weekend -- Obama was in town and the area near the stadium was covered well enough to use before going in. Sadly it didn't make it into the stadium, but it was useful outside.

Milpitas CA just got it this summer, sort of (2, Informative)

billstewart (78916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409403)

I pulled into a parking lot in Milpitas to make a phone call and use my computer. I didn't need to be online for the call, just look at stuff, but I was pleased to see that there was a wireless signal, they've got tons of free access points all over Milpitas, and the signal was pretty good., It wasn't foolproof - they have a login-timeout browser window thingy, and connecting to my company VPN meant killed its connection so it cut me off after about 5 minutes, but that was enough to download any new email, and I could log back in without the VPN and see the web and my home email just fine.

I hope it is dead. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408381)

I am allergic to Wi-Fi.
And it causes cancer.
It probably contributes to global warming too.

My experience with city-wide Wifi (4, Insightful)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:My experience with city-wide Wifi (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408479)

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.

So tell your wireless system to ignore access points that require any sort of login. Then you can pretend they don't exist, and that there's simply less hassle-free WiFi coverage. If you were near the library or mall, you'd see that there's Wifi. Elsewhere, no.

Re:My experience with city-wide Wifi (2, Informative)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408749)

You can ignore encrypted access points, but there's no way to detect APs that use an HTML login page until after you're already connected.

Plus, the OP's point (I think) was that instead of paying $3 here and $2 there, why not have a $40/mo fee that buys you access anywhere (home, work, school, play) you go.

Re:My experience with city-wide Wifi (1)

maharb (1534501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409031)

As someone else pointed out; the OP is not even describing city-wide wifi. My city has city-wide wifi but I don't use it. I could connect to it anywhere in the city with one login if I paid the monthly fee.

Re:My experience with city-wide Wifi (3, Informative)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408615)

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.

None of those examples are city-wide Wifi. City-wide Wifi would be one provider providing wifi everywhere with one login

Re:My experience with city-wide Wifi (5, Insightful)

jpstanle (1604059) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:My experience with city-wide Wifi (5, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:My experience with city-wide Wifi (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409309)

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.

Not on my Mac - once I've entered the login info once, it's saved in my keychain. After that it's just a matter of typing in the keychain password when I need to rejoin those networks in the future (and FWIW my keychain password is different than my login password).

Having said that - I agree with your sentiments in general. I would prefer a unified experience as well.

Wifi is effectively dead (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408385)

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.

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408415)

No. 3G is nowhere near enough bandwidth, and the "last mile" syndrome has been recreated: Too many 3G users sucking down bandwidth for the "AP" to be able to deliver it effectively.

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408529)

No. 3G is nowhere near enough bandwidth, and the "last mile" syndrome has been recreated: Too many 3G users sucking down bandwidth for the "AP" to be able to deliver it effectively.

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

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408813)

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

Will the USA move to metric at last?

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408865)

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.

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408957)

Are you kidding? With 15Mbps being rolled out (already active in some cities) and Wifi being shared bandwidth and not that fast anyway (because it's often backed by DSL links running at 2Mbps or less) 3G stomps all over it.

3G has it beaten on cost too.. £5 a month for my 3G dongle. I'd pay that *per hour* to log into a wifi hotspot.

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (4, Insightful)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (2, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408777)

No they won't. They'll do what they typically do raise rates until the demand goes down enough to meet their supply. And if they get regulated, then they'll just kick off anybody that they deem to be fully utilizing the promised service.

WiFi for this sort of thing is probably dead, but it won't be 3G or cell services that kills it, more likely a new technology that's more appropriate to the challenge. But, just because it's probably not going to be city wide doesn't mean it's shouldn't be a part of the solution, there's lots of places where it can be useful. I'd love to have access in the bus tunnel and at the various major transfer points as well as some of the more open parks. And I really hope that once the current budget crisis is over, Metro could go back to putting it on our buses, that always seemed like a great idea, just probably not yet cost effective.

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (2, Interesting)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408619)

no offense, but that is ridiculous. there's not a snowflake's chance in hell that, for example, campus-wide wifi will disappear anytime in the next, oh, i don't know, 20 years. maybe what you say is true for the "general population", i.e. in random locations around cities, but there will remain many dense technological "hubs" like university campuses where wifi is pretty much essential.

in other words, most physically co-located large organizations will have virtually pervasive wifi availability for many years to come.

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (4, Informative)

DrBuzzo (913503) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408627)

While I agree wifi is dead for infrastructure grade WAN connections, it's certainly far from dead when it comes to LAN applications and applications like campus-wide networking, home networks, office networks and so on. This is, of course, what it was designed for. It was not intended for widespread geographic usage like 3G systems are. I do not think we will see 3G replace fixed connections, however. Wired connections are always going to have more bandwidth because they can use the full spectrum without sharing the bandwidth with everyone else in an area. Wifi has plenty of bandwidth for most lan applications, but there's no way you can serve everyone in a large area and have high bandwidth - unless you want a router located every 100 meters or so. There's also a practice limit to how high you can go in terms of frequencies. Some schems suggest going to 4ghz, 8ghz and even 20+ ghz. The problem is as you get that high up, the signals get extremely directional and line-of-sight in their nature. Once you get that high the antenna must be pointed in the direction of the transmitter. Even having it on the opposite side of the laptop from the transmitter will not work. Also, even things like leaves on trees and heavy rain can block signals when it is that high.

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (1)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408657)

Pretty soon I expect the telcos will be doing a lot of the networking which used to be done in house.

Why would I pay an incompetent company to watch my internal network and have to use a wireless technology to stream videos when I could be using a 100Mbit+ connection to transfer the files securely and faster then 3G (or 4G/Wifmax) can.

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (5, Insightful)

jpstanle (1604059) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Wifi is effectively dead (1, Redundant)

coryking (104614) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408893)

Dont forget to include at least $5/mo for text messages too. After all, text messages aren't data, they are 123 byte packets containing ascii, right?

It is absolutely absurd how expensive these data plans are. Not absurd in a capitalistic sense, but absurd in that I friggen want a nice phone, but cannot justify $30/mo + $10/mo for data/text. The fact I can't have what I want at a price I'm willing to pay pisses me off :-)

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (1, Funny)

ImYourVirus (1443523) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409199)

Hey its whatever your plan is say 50 bucks plus 10 bucks an additional line, and 30 bucks for data (for the iphone) per iphone as well so if you have two iphones thats 60 bucks for data, man per iphone talk about nickel and dime-ing you to death

Ok got the basic's covered now you need to pay for an 'unlimited' text message plan, but don't worry about mms messages as they aren't supported (what a joke). Oh and you have to pay to use 'voice' dialing too, whatever that costs it was like 10 or 20 bucks.

But hey look it's got a 'digital' compass, that makes up for everything!! /sarcasm

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (2, Interesting)

quenda (644621) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409315)

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,

They do? I pay A$5, plus 1.5c/MB. Why is the US market so averse to pay-for-what-you-use?
A few hundred MB / month gets me lots of email, web, VoIP, navigation. OK, not a lot of high-def you-tube clips or Linux upgrades, but you don't need that when mobile.

3G is no substitute for a proper data pipe.

At 2Mbps real (up to 14 on new standards) it is faster than most public wifi that I have seen, and faster than ADSL in many places. Maybe it is just your local network that is slow and expensive?

Re:Wifi is effectively dead (1)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408947)

3G perhaps - other than the price of it. Smartphones maybe, but the iPhone will only kill the alternatives when it is technically superior and sensibly priced (competition). Until then it will be used by apple enthusiasts and those who are prepared to pay a premium for the "right" device.
The only other thing that will make the iPhone the leader is when the USA becomes the world leader on mobile telephony and smartphones. The gap is significant and growing. Way to go Apple!

Dying, dying, dead. (5, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408393)

On a parallel topic, practically every home router now comes with WPA2 on by default.
I'm surrounded by a sea of BT home hubs which are probably idle, and can't even connect.
Outrageous.

Re:Dying, dying, dead. (2, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408787)

What you're referring to is the biggest problem with WiFi there isn't really enough intelligence built into it for those sorts of densely packed situations. It's not really meant to have more than about 3 routers within range of each other, and even then only if their really spread out on the spectrum due to the overlap on some channels.

If somebody manages to solve that in a reasonably cost effective way, the likelihood of a city wide WiFi set up will dramatically improve.

Cost and Competition (1)

laffer1 (701823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408397)

The problem was that the original plan in many cities was to have free and low cost service. I think they underestimated the cost to setup wifi across the city. The premium package planned in this area was far slower than DSL or cable services and more costly. There's also the possibility that commercial interests by cable and phone companies contributed.

Wifi B/G can't cut it. (5, Informative)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408413)

Living in a "wifi city" (Minneapolis) I would like to comment on our municipal wifi and its utter failure. The signal is simply terrible in 90% of residences despite the massive unsightly box on the telephone poll out the window. Frankly this is thanks to the terrible range of B/G wireless. To get a decent signal we will need better tech like WiMax or some form of 4g. As it stands it is nearly impossible to get signal to everybody who wants it.

Re:Wifi B/G can't cut it. (2, Informative)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408539)

In my experience the problem is simply that most wirelesss chips in laptops/netbooks can't transmit far enough, if you can see an AP the problem isn't with B/G itself. AFAIK there is no DIY hack to fix this (e.g i don't the antenna mods that can boost your reception range will allow you to transmit further, but i may be wrong), although newer laptops seam to suffer from this problem less.

Re:Wifi B/G can't cut it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408733)

Better antenna's transmit *and* receive better. In fact, the two are pretty much the same thing.

Re:Wifi B/G can't cut it. (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408793)

Really? In this house we obey the laws of electrodynamics, if the wifi chip is only transmitting at a set power how does changing the antenna help?

(Genuine question, i have not tried building an improved antenna because i assumed it was pointless)

Re:Wifi B/G can't cut it. (1)

FrankieBaby1986 (1035596) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408881)

Directional Antennas. One watt in all directions vs One watt directed at the AP can make a big difference. Long distance point-to-point links have been made with 802.11b tech and pringles cans. If you know where the AP is actually located, Yes, a better antenna can definitely help.

Re:Wifi B/G can't cut it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408891)

Why do you think radio stations put massive antenna on top of towers to broadcast? If broadcasting was unaffected by the antenna, they could just use a couple inches of stripped copper wire. "Electro dynamically" speaking they are basically the same thing, one coil has an alternating current applied to it to create a magnetic field, and that magnetic field induces a current into a second (receiving) coil. Other sources can be much more informative then me, however:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antenna_(radio)

Re:Wifi B/G can't cut it. (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409225)

Converting an omni-direction antenna to a directional antenna directs that set amount of power in a smaller volume of space.

Just making a parabola with some foil and a printed template and placing your antenna at the focal point can increase signal by 5db, with a corresponding decrease in signal in the other direction. Antennas with some actual effort put into them can boost distances dramatically.

Won't help city wifi, most laptops have internal antennas. But I keep one of those foil jobs in my kit since it doesn't take up a lot of space and, alas, I've been cutting salt out of my diet.

Re:Wifi B/G can't cut it. (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408809)

AFAIK there is no DIY hack to fix this

Install a WiFi repeater somewhere central in your house.

Re:Wifi B/G can't cut it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408739)

its the range of 802.11 b,g,n that is the problem

No "technology" killed it ... (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408425)

... unless you count political manipulation by telecoms as a "technology."

Re:No "technology" killed it ... (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408621)

It didn't work well in London either though over 2 administration and with much less Telecom interference. I doubt red Ken listened to the Telecom much and even under Boris Johnson I don't think it was Telecoms that killed it. The benefit of it (in london anyway) was that it would give everybody a constant connection and businesses would find this valuable, however in the advent of WiMax/3G businesses can simply get their employees those.

WiFi in general is going to die (5, Interesting)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408441)

WiFi has a limited future anyway so who cares? The future is becoming increasingly clear ... over the next 10-20 years most existing air protocols are likely to be phased out in favor of GSM LTE [wikipedia.org] . LTE (and the "Advanced LTE" which is likely to become the actual deployed 4G technology) offer speeds in the hundreds of megabits/sec range and latency in the ~millisecond range. In fact LTE is very close to the theoretical limits of what is physically possible to do, speed wise. LTE is also being designed with support for femtocells in mind right from the start, in fact, there seems to be growing consensus that 4G mobile networks will primarily be deployed through LTE gateways in the home first with traditional cell-tower style macrocells coming much later.

LTE offers some compelling advantages over the mixed 3G/WiFi tech we use today. 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, often with pages that don't work well on mobile devices. Because GSM/UMTS sim cards are secure devices, the same convenience that 3G offers today will be possible everywhere, with operators either paying for the ADSL backhaul on their own, merging with cable/DSL companies to become vertically integrated radio/landline companies, or simply paying people who run LTE femtocells for the cost of the backhaul.

Secondly, LTE is a natively IPv6 based protocol. That means that if you use an LTE/4G enabled NetBook in combination with a home femtocell, there won't be any crap related to WiFi NAT routers as long as you're connecting to an IPv6 site. The devices will probably be controlled and leased by the operators and so won't suffer the same featureitis that has made home internet so flaky and requires so many bizarre workarounds like UPnP today.

Thirdly, hand-off actually works in mobile protocols. 4G/LTE devices will be able to transparently hand-off from your personal home femtocell to a macrocell when you walk outside, to a 3G or even GPRS/2G cell if you roam out of range .... all without you even noticing. Try that with a WiFi based system!

Finally, the LTE protocols include support for true single channel multi-cast. For this reason it can not only replace 2G/3G and WiFi, but also digital terrestrial TV broadcasts, as well as digital and FM radio with no loss in spectrum efficiency due to needless retransmissions.

LTE + IPv6 is the most efficient and user-friendly way to use limited spectrum, period. 20 years from now other air protocols will seem like an anachronism.

Re:WiFi in general is going to die (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408563)

20 years from now other air protocols will seem like an anachronism.

That long?

Re:WiFi in general is going to die (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408771)

AMPS was only decommissioned last year, right? That dates from the 80s, so 20 years seems reasonable.

Re:WiFi in general is going to die (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408877)

AMPS was only decommissioned last year, right? That dates from the 80s, so 20 years seems reasonable.

Yeah but nobody had phones back then. We have had two or three generations of GSM since the system was installed. Now that the applications are in place infrastructure will have to follow, fast.

Re:WiFi in general is going to die (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408605)

The devices will probably be controlled and leased by the operators and so won't suffer the same featureitis that has made home internet so flaky and requires so many bizarre workarounds like UPnP today.

this part worries me, as the openness of the "leafs" if what has made the "tree" grow as impressively as it has.

Re:WiFi in general is going to die (3, Insightful)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:WiFi in general is going to die (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409163)

for multicast to work it has to be planned and deployed by the same company. with wifi the place that runs the access point has the cheapest telco circuit, the whole thing is firewalled from the rest of the network and it's all made for quick network access. LTE is designed to offer advanced services over the network. think your cell phone network replacing your radio and a variety of other services

Ethernet over powerline? (0, Redundant)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408453)

Why cant they simply use Ethernet over powerline to get internet to the trains then have APs retransmit inside the train? makes more sense than all the wireless stuff mentioned in the article (as a bonus, due to the variable latency its pretty useless for phone signals :D )

Re:Ethernet over powerline? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408685)

Listen, it's nutters like you (who believe in the Interweb over power lines) that also buy into perpetual motion. If it were practical don't you think they would do it? Or maybe you're sooooo much smarter than all the engineers out there? Listen, let me give you some advice, get out of your mom's basement and take a shower now and then.

Re:Ethernet over powerline? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408821)

I'm assume you're being sarcastic. But typically buses, trains and planes with internet hook ups do it via a cellular card which is then connected to the WAP. So far it's the most reliable way of providing service. I suppose on planes or something where people don't move about they could use ethernet hooked up to a regular router, but generally WAP is well enough supported.

Re:Ethernet over powerline? (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409095)

I'm talking about underground trains i should have made this clear, the article seams to suggesting similar soultions (only instead of a cellular card using their own wireless tech), which seams to competently ignore the fact the underground trains are constantly connected to the rails (from which they draw their power).

Re:Ethernet over powerline? (1)

meist3r (1061628) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409187)

I'm assume you're being sarcastic. But typically buses, trains and planes with internet hook ups do it via a cellular card which is then connected to the WAP. So far it's the most reliable way of providing service. I suppose on planes or something where people don't move about they could use ethernet hooked up to a regular router, but generally WAP is well enough supported.

What is this sarcasm you are speaking of? For I come from the interwebs and have never heard of such a thing.

it doesn't work (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408457)

WiFi hotspots work for covering businesses, but they spend a lot of money for covering and maintaining a small area.

For something like a whole city, WiFi simply isn't the right technology: its range is too limited, the protocols aren't designed for it, and it requires too much maintenance.

Cities can (and probably should) try to offer access in public places: parks, public squares, public buildings.

The problem with WiFi (2, Insightful)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408483)

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

Re:The problem with WiFi (1)

Narcogen (666692) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409371)

An affordable version of LTE (or WiMax, for that matter) that worked in unlicensed spectrum, had to accept interference from other devices, and was similarly limited in power, would have about little more than the range of a WiFi base station. Most of the gains in range and penetration are either due to higher transmission power and/or larger/more antenna elements.

Even a 4G pico base station, designed to serve a wifi-sized area, costs in the low six figures. What you're asking for doesn't exist, and it's not because of the "evil telcos". If anything, ask the manufacturers why they don't make a 2.3Ghz OFDMA-based device and price it around $500. The reason is because it wouldn't be able to compete with wifi on price, and the advantage isn't worth it for most people. Plus, you can make more margin selling a few large stations to telcos than trying to sell thousands to invidividuals.

4G is being run by "evil telcos" because that's how the use of spectrum and power can be limited by government, and it's now infrastructure manufacturers can maximize their margins.

It's wifi's fault (5, Interesting)

Tiger_Storms (769548) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408513)

I'd bet on it killing it's self. I've worked with wireless (WiFi) for 5 years implementing them in RV parks, Hotels, and Apartment complexes. There are a lot of issues with just the nature of wireless that cause people to fret away from it.

One of the first reasons is there's no seamless way to roam from one access point to another, if it were possible to shell out a few thousand dollars and make all access points go to one gateway using a fiber optic underground network, then it "might" stand a chance but yet again you'll run in to the problem of your radio's not being aggressive enough to roam from one AP (access point) to another on the customer's side. Me and a few of my coworkers in the past have tried many different methods of making it seamless only making it 'kinda seemless' by using 2-3 different radios.

Second reason, is the very nature of wireless it's self, this 2.4ghz, or even 5ghz isn't good with distance as well with going in/around objects that get in it's way, 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? Buildings aren't made to let WiFi go through it. Being in Portland and watching their wireless city project die was sad but they couldn't shell out the support they would need in order for everyone to get connected, and stay connected. We're talking hundreds of brick buildings with very tiny windows. I'm sorry the makers of WiFi never expected it to ever be used in a city-to-city setup, and that my very well caused it to die. Wimax, and G4 networks, are made to tackle city's and City WiFi will never compair.

Re:It's wifi's fault (5, Insightful)

FrankieBaby1986 (1035596) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Roaming isn't wifi's fault, it is IP's fault (1, Insightful)

coryking (104614) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409001)

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.

Oakland County MI (1)

EsJay (879629) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408527)

Before I gained sentience (circa 2007) and fled the area, Oakland County Michigan was rolling out wifi. How's that going?

Re: Oakland County MI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408625)

While I can't speak to the tune of Oakland County, Genesee County was actively pursuing county-wide wireless coverage a year or two back. Economy tanked, and so did that idea.

Oakland is in a little bit better of a situation economically, so something might have come out of that...

How about a little reporting (2, Funny)

jamesl (106902) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408549)

The BBC wants to know what happened to [city wide Wi-Fi].
Shouldn't a news organization like the BBC do some reporting and find out? Certainly more than simply phoning up someone at BT.

Wi-Fi is dead. So is WiMax. (1)

realmolo (574068) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408637)

The 2.4GHz (and higher) frequencies simply can't penetrate through walls and stuff well enough.

But wasn't one of the goals of moving to digital broadcast television to free up some of those nice low UHF and VHF frequences? Hell, even just getting down to 900MHz would be huge, and once you get down in to the regular VHF frequencies, you can push the signal through damn near anything.

Neither are dead. (2, Informative)

Narcogen (666692) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409387)

WiMax operates at 3.5 Ghz, 2.5 Ghz, but also at 2.3 Ghz.

There are also manufacturers who build WiMax gear at arbitrary frequencies when those licensed frequencies are available to a company that wants to deploy WiMax. These are sometimes outside the WiMax Forum's certified profiles, but if the vendor and the operator agree on it, that's up to them. There's little reason why one couldn't deploy WiMax at, say, 900 Mhz or even 700 Mhz, assuming that the spectrum is available to the operator and the manufacturer can develop and implement.

A Plan of Action (1)

kawabago (551139) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408679)

As soon as one city can demonstrate how a wifi infrastructure can benefit a city by more than the investment to build and maintain it, then all cities will have them. So everyone who wants city wide wifi should band together and designate a few specific small cities in which to build and demonstrate the business case for city wide wifi.

Crowdsource it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408697)

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

Re:Crowdsource it (1)

NervousNerd (1190935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408715)

You're telling me that my neighbor decided to be a nice person and set their SSID to "linksys" and keep it un-secure!? Damn, I never knew they were such nice people!

Re:Crowdsource it (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408949)

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

When you are the owner of record of the account, problems land on your doorstep.

That can you take you places you don't really want to go.

It probably isn't going to be enough to simply "open" a connection.

To be of any real service you may have to make a significant investment in an external antenna and other hardware.

Yes, I'd like the government as my ISP, please! (0, Troll)

The Gold Tooth (1278348) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408717)

Government at all levels -- federal, state, and local -- has done such a splendid job at whatever it's undertaken (public education, DMV, road maintenance, etc.), I think they should enter the ISP business too. With government's reputation for excellence in cost efficiency, product delivery and customer service, we're sure to get better ISP service from the government than we do today under private companies. Yea, government! So good, so great!

Re:Yes, I'd like the government as my ISP, please! (1)

jpstanle (1604059) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408805)

Glenn Beck, is that you?

Seriously though, I would normally agree with you if in weren't for the fact that governments are only stepping in this area because private telcos refuse to provide the service. Or at least provide the service at reasonable rates... they'd rather kill competition and force as many customers as possible into their highly profitable 'triple play' packages (That offer *you* the customer so much savings!).

Not to mention there are numerous examples of certain government projects being run exceptionally well, particularly at the municipal level. And if what you're going up against is private telcos, the bar is already set pretty low.

WiFi missed it's big chance long ago (1)

rcolbert (1631881) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408839)

As others have pointed out, most access points require some sort of fee, or at bare minimum an access code or agreement to terms of services. I've always thought that free and unfettered WiFi would have gone a great way to increase foot traffic around establishments, and if enough like-minded businesses provide free service that an area would start to become known as WiFi-friendly. I think the real folks who missed the mark are landlords of malls and other areas where multiple businesses lease space.

As it stands today most people rely on Verizon, AT&T, etc. for their mobile Internet access on a device-by-device basis. I don't think people would need to know that an entire city is WiFi enabled to succeed. I think that as long as people know certain general areas they're likely to frequent are hot, then behavior would change. As it stands, I can't see public Internet access making inroads anytime soon, regardless of the delivery technology. That's too bad for a lot of reasons

The Al Quaeda IED twitter feed kliled it (1)

meist3r (1061628) | more than 4 years ago | (#29408895)

...

-- Don't raid my house FBI, there's nothing to find here except dirty socks and full ashtrays.

9/11 killed free wireless access (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29408939)

The idea was free, basically anonymous wireless Internet access...
Does not matter if it was WIFI or an other technology... I am sure something like automatic switch from "hotspot to hotspot" could also be developed, but that's not the point.
The idea of free wireless Internet access was killed by 9/11 and the following "war on terror". No free access operator would want to face legal torture, should someone do anything sinister using their service.

Not in Maryland. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29409015)

I work at a company that provides free wireless almost everywhere in Cumberland, MD.

Clear Does It I think... (1)

fredcai (1015417) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409071)

Clear (clear.com) has been advertising pretty heavily in Atlanta for city-wide Wi-Max. I can't speak for how well it works, but I can only imagine that they are getting a decent amount of business, seeing how they advertise more visibly than any other company in ATL outside of Turner.

Downtown Charlottesville, VA begs to differ (1)

HawkinsD (267367) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409097)

I dunno about other places. But a pretty good chunk of downtown Charlottesville, Virginia is covered by free municipal wifi, and it works OK. Not everywhere, and no, you can't "seamlessly roam from one hotspot to another," as they say.

But so what? The signal is reasonably reliable where I've tried it, on and near the downtown pedestrian mall, and the throughput is significantly better than that provided by the coffee shop or the library, even with the trees in full radiation-absorptive leafy-mode.

Maybe "municipal wireless" means something more ambitious, like everybody who lives downtown gets a big honking signal even in their basement, and I don't think that's what they're trying to do here. But it sure is useful to be able to assume that, no matter where you get your latte, or slice, or dumpling, you'll be able to get some work done.

That doesn't sound "dead" to me.

The war hasn't even truly begun yet (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409215)

This is a contest between capitalist greed and the Common Good that has barely had the battlefield defined as yet. What we've seen so far are just the clashes between the upstart Rebellion's scouting parties and the evil Empire. No one has come forward to organize the splinter cells and create a united front yet. If the Empire succeeds in dividing and conquering, there may never be much of a Rebellion.

Luke and Leia, where are you?

Cablevision in NJ is deploying outdoor wifi (1)

zerofoo (262795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29409365)

They are deploying these [cisco.com] in public locations like parks and stores. Unfortunately they are only deploying this network in their service areas, and they are not public. You need to be a cablevision subscriber to access them.

Why yes, I am a subscriber - so let me tell you about them.

If you are outside they are great - assuming there is one near you. Once you go into a building - forget it. The signal falls off a cliff, and the service is unusable.

As cool as public Wifi would be, I'm not holding my breath for it. It's the wrong technology for the application.

-ted

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