AT&T advances muni WiFi strategy in Riverside
AT&T today announced plans to build a citywide WiFi network in Riverside, Calif., that the company says will be the largest WiFi network in the U.S. designed for both public and municipal use.
The Riverside network is indicative of AT&T’s WiFi strategy, which is to build out municipal WiFi networks as part of a holistic broadband strategy that also includes indoor WiFi, DSL, Cingular’s HSDPA service and wireless satellite broadband for rural areas, said Eric Shepcaro, vice president of business strategy and development for AT&T.
“WiFi is part of our integrated capabilities providing high speed access to our customers,” he said in an interview. “We clearly think there are a lot of the municipal applications – public safety, first responder application – that benefit from WiFi and we think there are other functions from an outdoor perspective – private applications like university campuses, railroads, etc. for which there is a whole set of enterprise business applications.”
AT&T is evaluating municipal opportunities individually, Shepcaro said, and is currently in talks with “a couple dozen” municipalities.
“Our strategy is to continue to evaluate city by city on consumer and municipal networks to determine where we’ll bid or participate in an RFP or where we will proactively go in and expand our own capabilities around WiFi or our cellular technologies part of the scheme,” he said. “I would say we are talking with several dozen cities but we are focused in on a dozen good-sized cities This is not just about going in and responding to an RFP – we look at our assets, where we think it makes the most sense. From a strategy perspective, we have 34,000 hotspots and venues and ultimately being able to sync that up and having an integrated WiFi experience makes sense.”
In Riverside, AT&T and its deployment subcontractor, MetroFi, will build out WiFi access points on top of its existing network, which includes its DSL broadband service, to cover the 80-plus square miles of Riverside, and enable local residents or visitors to gain free access to an advertising-supported broadband wireless service or to pay for higher access speeds.
“The Wi-Fi system will increase broadband Internet choices within the city and provide new dimensions of mobility for broadband users in Riverside,” said Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge, in a prepared statement. “Once implemented, this system will put Riverside at the leading edge of technology-rich cities. This exciting project invests in our city's future and enhances our quality of life for all residents.”
AT&T operates a large national network of WiFi hotspots, once called FreedomLink and now known as AT&T WiFi. That network, operated in partnership with Wayport includes 34,000 venues in 80 countries including Barnes & Noble stores, UPS locations and McDonald’s restaurants.
This is the second announced deployment of a municipal WiFi network, following the Springfield, Ill, announcement earlier this year. The company announced last May that it will offer MobiTV, a mobile TV service, over its network of WiFI hotspots as well.
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