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Case Study
Metro-Scale and Border-to-border City Wide Mesh Networks 
Deployment of the largest Operational Wireless Mesh Network in the U.S. for Public Safety and Internet Access

According to Muniwireless [http://muniwireless.com/municipal/1359], there are more than 300 metro-scale WiFi mesh projects currently underway or in the planning stage, and we expect this number to grow dramatically over the next few years

The enormous popularity of this form of metro-scale broadband is motivated in part by the worldwide acceptance of WiFi in both the residence and the enterprise. The inclusion of WiFi in essentially all notebooks and even some handheld mobile computers, permitting the same device to be used for broadband access essentially everywhere, has undeniable appeal. Moreover, the emerging integration of WiFi into cellular phone handsets and similar mobile information and communications products is already a recognizable trend; we expect this movement will reach critical mass over the next few years, culminating in the broad availability of converged broadband voice/data services. In short, metro-scale WiFi is now past the experimental phase and well into production deployments. These networks are becoming a fixture and even an expectationon a global scale, as municipalities and wireless ISPs (WISPs) turn to them for a broad array of IT needs, government service and cost efficiencies, public safety applications, and as a vehicle for both economic development and a range of social benefits.

The growing interest in metro-scale WiFi derives, in no small measure, from the broad range of applications contemplated for such infrastructures. These applications generally require much more substantial throughput than is available from the more traditional wide-area infrastructures such as those noted above, with demand more akin to wired broadband services like cable and xDSL.


The Cities of Brookline Massachusetts and Tempe Arizona are excellent examples of how city-wide mesh networks can serve the direct interest of municpal government operations and public safety, while also offering free and paid commercial services to the public.

Tempe is no stranger to wireless networks.  Previously a large area within Tempe was installed with Single-radio WiFi equipment. Ultimately that equipment did not provide the services required to meet the needs of the City and its residents.  After reassessing their needs, reviewing the available product technologies, and having seen Strix Systems Access/One products in action, the city was determined to move forward with the first U.S. deployment of a large-scale citywide wireless mesh network to enable affordable, high quality, uninterrupted broadband wireless service for residents and businesses allow access to the Internet from homes, schools, businesses, and outdoor venues.

Tempe’s goal was to provide service options to its residents, enhance support to Tempe businesses, and optimize the cost-effectiveness of City operations and provide Internet access and Virtual Private Network connectivity (VPN) to homes, schools, public buildings, outdoor venues and businesses in Tempe.  Such a network would promote the economic development of Tempe and enhance the image of the City and Arizona State University (ASU) by increasing convenience and utility for Tempe businesses, their patrons and employees, ASU Research facilities, and special events. (Photo at left: Mayor Hallman).

The new carrier-grade wireless infrastructure would enable unlimited free wireless access for anyone in the City of Tempe employed by the City of Tempe as well as ASU (Arizona State University) public services, while free limited Internet access would be available for everyone in the downtown Tempe area. Free limited access would also be available for all ASU affiliates and City of Tempe employees from anywhere in Tempe.

The network would be designed and built to compliment and supplement Tempe’s existing infrastructure and the City of Tempe telecommunications capabilities.  The addition to the existing services would improve support to Public Safety employees protecting Tempe residents utilizing a City-wide high-speed wireless infrastructure.
There were several challenges to address including the utilization of existing and abandoned, enclosures and power taps located on City light poles and licensing the “public right-of-way” to the Wireless Service Provider for the purpose of selling Internet access and related services to residential and business customers within the City of Tempe and provide free Internet access to certain users and to specified websites.

Tempe Mayor Wireless MeshPer agreement the service provider furnished, installed with the assistance of Strix Pro/One™ professional services, and maintains the equipment required to operate the WiFi mesh network, charges and administers customer billing. Kite Networks provides telephone and on-line technical support and 24x7 customer service, the while the City of Tempe provides access to city-owned infrastructure (i.e. street lights, public buildings, fiber) and power to each wireless nodes. The City and Kite Networks negotiated a shared revenue model wherein the City allocates a portion of its revenue for use of the network by municipal employees and offer government & educational services to residents.

For the network infrastructure, the City of Tempe selected the Strix solution for its ability to provide a true multi-use network to provide secure Wi-Fi access for businesses, residents, and guests, as well as a separate network for municipal workers. This tandem network would ensure that while residents enjoy a cost-effective alternative to residential dial-up and provide an alternative to DSL and cable, every police car and fire truck in the city are equipped with a Wi-Fi enabled laptop which provides always-on connection to a private, secure network.  The network offers prioritized service, VPN and quality of service add-on capabilities with nomadic service throughout the city. Customers are able to enjoy a combination of voice-over-Wi-Fi, video and data to their fixed home/business networks, or while roaming the city's many outdoor and hospitality venues.

“We chose the Strix solution because we saw the high throughput and low latency the system offers across large networks,” said Dave Heck, Deputy CIO for the City of Tempe. “After evaluating the Strix Access/One OWS Tempe Mesh Network 4installation proposed for Tempe, it was clear that this system could scale while maintaining the levels of throughput needed, keeping latency low enough to support real-time applications. When complete, the city-wide network will provide anytime, anywhere access to residents, businesses, and municipal workers, enhancing the way people connect to the Internet, do business, and serve our community.”

The Strix wireless mesh network provides city-wide wireless connectivity for all residents within city limits, but it also provides wireless services to all of Tempe’s municipal departments, including police, fire, and emergency personnel, as well as Arizona State University personnel. This network has allowed every police car and fire truck in the city to be equipped with a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop and to have an always-on connection to a private, secure network.  A demonstration of this application was conducted at the City of Tempe’s “Cutting the Wires” ceremony on November 28, 2005.  In addition to the public and municipal access Arizona State University is utilizing the network for University officials, staff and students who are able to access the network across the campus.

During the planning stages of the installation issues like pole position and acquisition of vertical assets such as terminals and buildings had to be determined.  The condition of street poles was an issue in some cases, as some were determine to be in poor condition, some were not marked etc.  Additional information such as geographic information system (GIS) data would help to determining how data would flow from the private to the municipal networks, and determining what kinds of users would employ the network.  In the downtown area of Tempe, there had been installed new decorative poles that did not have solar taps for power. New electrical adapters were created to run power to these poles, and the adapters had to be aesthetically appealing.

Tempe’s initial wireless network covered 40 square miles of the city limits, offering services to residents and visitors on an annual, monthly, daily, and hourly basis, while providing much-needed competition to cable and satellite internet services. The network also allows access to multiple Internet service providers (ISPs) and provides internet telephony service via Voice-over-IP (VOIP).

One interesting observation emphasizing one of the many key advantages of Strix DMA™ is that Strix products provide immediate network healing capabilities. This was observed in Tempe do to the number of driving accidents which knock down an average of 7 poles a month. The self-healing mesh capabilities of the Strix products immediately overcome such problems and keep the network running 24 x 7 even when the entire light pole is knocked out of service.

Strix Systems Outdoor Wireless System powered by Strix DMA™ is the proven technology and deployment leader in the wireless mesh network industry.  Strix patented technologies serve public safety, emergency services, local, state and federal government agencies, corporate enterprise, industry, transportation and many related industry segments in over 100 countries around the world.

Key to the deployment was offering new opportunities to local businesses.  There is a zone in the merchant district of downtown Tempe that offers free Internet access on a limited basis, which encourages shoppers and students to enjoy the downtown area and lakeside venues while surfing the net. The Strix wireless network helps to enhance Tempe’s business offerings enabling them to leverage mobility for profit. Customers enjoy the freedom of wireless Internet, and workers can leverage the power of online communication and data access while in the field.

Tempe Wireless Mesh NetworkInstallation of the Tempe network completed at the end of February 2006.  The network consists of nearly 600 OWS access ports providing coverage to an area of 40 square miles which was completed in only 120 days.  Neoreach expects to see continuing community input from the mayor as well as from various city steering committees and groups such as the local community college and Arizona State University (ASU).

Local users log on page to a web page which offers specifically focused content.  Also known as a ‘walled garden’, this provides access for City of Tempe personnel, the local community college district, and ASU.  Students access the educational domains at no charge.  Neoreach is also talking to the local school district about providing services.  The City of Tempe also directed Neoreach to provide two contiguous hours of free access a day in areas where it wants to foster academic and commercial growth. 

Tempe Wireless Mesh EGovernment

In additional to equipment providing a cost effective CAPEX and OPEX, a wireless mesh network of this type is helping to stimulate economic development and growth. Tempe’s wireless mesh network provides all residents with low-cost, high-bandwidth network access—including mobile and fixed wireless support—for about $29 a month or less.  This is far less than the cost of competing cable and DSL services. 

After a side by side trial deployment with competing, single and dual radio mesh network solutions, remarkable performance was observed by Kite Networks and the Cities CTO.  It became immediately evident that the that the city-wide deployment would utilize Strix Outdoor Wireless System (OWS) due to the multiple uses, high demand and high performance required of the network.

Strix architecture, recently tested by independent equipment testing group, Iometrix, confirmed Tempe’s selection of the best product for the job in a recent report published on Light Reading article entitled “Wireless Mesh: Ready!” located at http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=96200.

Tempe Mesh Network 6It was deemed that Strix OWS which utilizes sophisticated distributed localized node intelligence (DLNI) via Strix DMA™, that it is, in fact, the only mesh system scalable enough to handle the size of the network with enough performance to handle the capacity and real-time applications expected to be deployed on the network.  As stated by many Strix customers who have installed many wireless systems and have performed exhaustive product tests, Strix offers the best performance, outstanding value and significantly reduces operating costs as a result of the architectures non-blocking performance.   unlike competing mesh products that use either single or dual radios, Strix’s Access/One OWS supports up to six radios per node, providing dedicated high-speed wireless bandwidth for backhaul ingress, backhaul egress, and client connectivity. The Strix approach ensures the highest throughput and lowest latency over the greatest number of wireless hops, ensuring the highest performance for voice and video applications over the mesh while enabling easy and cost-effective future network expansion.

Beyond the technology is the simple financial benefit of using Strix products.  In comparison to competing solutions, Strix products provide a 6:1 cost savings.  While CapEx may be equivalent for many mesh products, the operating costs (OpEX) are the key.  With Strix solution operating costs are CUT IN HALF in comparison to any other mesh network products.   So the technical –PLUS- the financial benefits of the Strix solution are an absolute hands-down WIN-WIN.  Some will still try to deploy cheap and/or dual and single radio solutions, but they are truly missing out on the big picture.  We wouldn’t be surprised if those integrators go out of business trying to deploy a cheap solution that will continue to require more and more costly backhauls in order to keep customers satisfied.
                                                                                                                           There has been an overwhelming positive response from citizens, students, and businesses (free service is a popular offering).  Municipal employees are finding efficiencies by using the network in the field. Managing the enthusiasm and deploying the apps is the challenge, the incumbent Telco’s have been rather silent, although advertisements targeting WiFi users have surfaced, thousands of users have subscribed to the network since January 2006 and more enjoy the free service downtown.  Midway into the project we were receiving 30 to 40 calls and/or emails a week asking for information.  Today that interest continues with support calls at a minimum.  Interest from other municipalities remains high as many want to see how its been successfully done in Tempe.

Tempe Wireless Mesh DowntownThe impact compared to original goals, from the City’s perspective all goals were met and the network is in full swing. National recognition as an early technology adopter and pacesetter is a bonus and further promotes Tempe as the “Smart place to be”.  Strix Systems multi-radio solution provides the robust wireless foundation supporting real-time voice, video and data for our municipal and E-government services to our public and enables us to reach a broader spectrum of our community, and provides the foundation for new services to be delivered.

Service Providers
Industrial Applications
OWS Outdoor
HSX Hot Zone
EWS Edge
White Papers
Video Surveillance Mesh
Applications to ROI
Securing Metro-Mesh
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