California City Claims 'Biggest Hot Spot'
On January 1, the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos, California, is staking a claim as the biggest Wi-Fi hot spot in the United States.
In the absence of complete digital subscriber line or cable coverage, the city of Cerritos gave Internet access company Aiirnet Wireless permission to use city property such as lamp posts and traffic lights to mount antennas and offer wireless broadband access to Cerritos' 50,000 residents. The wireless net is also available to businesses and the city government, according to Aiirnet, of Woodland Hills, California.
The wireless service will be available only to outdoor users at first. And it's not free--but pricing will be similar to cable and DSL service, Aiirnet representatives say.
Initially, a 1.5 square mile of Cerritos got service. When the full coverage kicks in on January 1, all of the 8.6 square miles of outdoor Cerritos will be covered, according to Aiirnet. Additional access points are being installed to offer indoor access, company representatives say.
Wi-Fi is the popular marketing name for compatibility-tested products that use the 802.11 standard. In Cerritos, Aiirnet will use products that support the 802.11b standard, providing up to 11 megabits per second throughput for data. The network uses specialized hardware for large-scale deployments from Tropos Networks, Aiirnet says.
Wireless networks are sprouting up in places such as hotels, conference centers, airports, and universities where people on the move need Internet access. However, Wi-Fi may not be right as an alternative to wired broadband services, says Chris Kozup, a program director at research firm Meta Group.
"The issue with Wi-Fi-based local services is that it is impossible for somebody to guarantee that nobody is going to cause interference and thus cause degradation in service," Kozup says. "Wi-Fi is really not designed as a local loop service. How can you guarantee users a specific service level?"
Kozup recommends point-to-point services for wireless broadband service, where a wireless signal is beamed directly at a house or building for connectivity instead of creating shared hot spots.
IBM is using wireless technology to network PCs in Boys and Girls Clubs across the country. The company decided it was cheaper and as effective as hardwiring the facilities.
Aiirnet Chief Executive Officer Stan Hirschman says he is confident the service will come off without a hitch.
"We fully believe Wi-Fi will do the job," he says. The technology Aiirnet uses allows for efficient routing of traffic and quick deployment of extra radios when needed, he says.
"Nobody has done it before and nobody has had the sophisticated equipment we have now. A year ago this would not have been possible," he says.