Municipal wireless network

Municipal wireless network

Municipal wireless network (Municipal Wi-Fi, Muni Wi-Fi or Muni-Fi) is the concept of turning an entire city into a Wireless Access Zone (WAZ), with the ultimate goal of making wireless access to the Internet a universal service. This is usually done by providing municipal broadband via Wi-Fi to large parts or all of a municipal area by deploying a wireless mesh network. The typical deployment design uses hundreds of routers deployed outdoors, often on utility poles. The operator of the network acts as a wireless internet service provider.



A municipal Wi-Fi antenna in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Such networks go far beyond the existing piggybacking opportunities available near public libraries and some coffee shops. The basic premise of carpeting an area with wireless service in urban centers is that it is more economical to the community to provide the service as a utility rather than to have individual households and businesses pay private firms for such a service. Such networks are viewed as capable of enhancing city management and public safety, especially when used directly by city employees out in the field. They can also be viewed as a social service to those who cannot afford private high-speed services such as DSL. When the network service is free and a small number of clients consume a majority of the available capacity, operating and regulating the network might prove difficult.[1][2]

The US Federal Trade Commission has expressed some concerns about such private/public partnerships as trending towards a franchise monopoly.[3]

Technology continues to advance. In 2007, companies with existing cell sites offered competing paid high-speed wireless services where the laptop owner purchased a PC card or adapter which uses communications based on EV-DO cellular data receivers or WiMAX rather than 802.11b/g. High-end laptops in 2007 featured built-in support for these newer protocols. WiMAX is designed to implement a metropolitan area network (MAN) while 802.11 is designed to implement a wireless local area network (LAN).

2010 ushers in the potential for what is being called “super WiFi” or "white spots.” In September 2010, the FCC announced that radio spectrum formerly only available to television stations would be opened for public use, carrying with it the potential for increased WiFi range and decreases in cost, and potentially making it easier to offer rural areas broadband Internet access.[4][5][6]

Within the United States, providing a municipal wireless network is not officially recognized as a priority. Some have argued that the benefits of public approach may exceed the costs, similar to cable television.[7][8][9]


The construction of such networks is a significant part of their lifetime costs. Usually, a private firm works closely with local government to construct such a network and operate it. Financing is usually shared by both the private firm and the municipal government. Once operational, the service may be free, supported by advertising, provided for a monthly charge per user or some combination. Among deployed networks, usage as measured by number of distinct users has been shown to be moderate to light. Private firms serving multiple cities sometimes maintain a single account for each user thus allowing the user a limited amount of portable service as they travel among the cities covered by the firm. As of 2007, some Muni WiFi deployments are delayed as the private and public partners involved in planned networks continue to negotiate the business model and financing.[10][11][12][13][14][15]

In the build-out of such networks, radio communication is used both for the Wi-Fi service and for the "backhaul" or pathway to the Internet. This means that the nodes only need a wire for power (hence the habit of installing them on power and light utility poles). This "all radio" approach means that nodes must be within range of each other and form a contiguous pathway back to special aggregation nodes that have more traditional access to the Internet. Nodes then relay traffic, somewhat like a fire-bucket brigade, from the laptop to the aggregation node. This limits the way in which the network can be grown incrementally: coverage starts near the aggregation point and, as the mesh grows, new coverage can only grow out from the edge of the mesh. If a new, isolated area is to be covered, then a new aggregation point must be constructed. Private firms often take a phased approach, starting with one or a few sectors of a city to demonstrate competence before making the larger investment of attempting full coverage of a city.

Google WiFi is entirely funded by Google. Despite a failed attempt to provide citywide WiFi through a partnership with internet service provider Earthlink in 2007,[16] the company claims that they are currently working to provide a wireless network for the city of San Francisco, California, although there is no specified completion date.[17] Some other projects that are still in the planning stages have pared back their planned coverage from 100% of a municipal area to only densely commercially zoned areas. One of the most ambitious planned projects is to provide wireless service throughout Silicon Valley, but the winner of the bid seems ready to request that the 40 cities involved help cover more of the cost which has raised concerns that the project will ultimately be too slow-to-market to be deemed a success. Advances in technology in 2005-2007 may allow wireless community network projects to offer a viable alternative. Such projects have an advantage that as they do not have to negotiate with government entities they have no contractual obligations for coverage. A promising example is Meraki's demonstration in San Francisco, which already claims 20,000 distinct users as of October 2007.[18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

In 2009, Microsoft and Yahoo also provided free wireless to select regions in the United States. Yahoo’s free WiFi was made available for one full year to the Times Square area in New York City beginning November 10, 2009.[25][26] Microsoft made free WiFi available to select airports and hotels across the United States, in exchange for one search on the Bing search engine by the user.[27]

Potential Externalities

Unintended externalities are possible as a result of local governments providing Internet service to their constituents. A private service provider could choose to offer limited or no service to a region if that region’s largest city opted to provide free Internet service, thus eliminating the potential customer base. This could prevent other municipalities in that region from benefiting from the services of the private provider. The smaller municipalities would at the same time not benefit from the free service provided by the larger city. Overuse could be another issue. If usage of the publicly provided network became heavier than existing private options network overload issues could arise, forcing the municipality to invest more heavily, thus spending more revenue, on infrastructure to maintain the existing level of service. This issue could be compounded if private providers begin exiting a market as mentioned above.

Cities with municipal wi-fi



  • Luxor, Egypt - pilot, paid service - tourist areas, TE Data[28]



  • Chisinau Moldova - paid service, by ITNS company. Covers almost all the city of Chisinau, it is expanding to cover more towns in Republic of Moldova.[34][35]
  • Bologna Italy - free, limited to three hours a day, hotspots in historical city center and around[36]
  • Bristol, UK - free, 3 km area around city centre[37]
  • Lagkadas, Greece - free, city-operated, covers almost all the city of Lagkadas, it is expanding to cover more towns in Lagkadas municipality.[38]
  • Leiden, Netherlands - free, community project covering city and region Wireless Leiden
  • Liverpool, UK - paid service, covering central areas.
  • Luxembourg, Luxembourg -- paid, currently covering downtown and Central Station Hotcity
  • Moralzarzal, Spain - free for inscribed citizens, limited time for visitors.[39]
  • Moscow, Russia - paid service, Golden Telecom[40]
  • Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland, UK
  • Norwich, England - free, city center and university, 18-month pilot Openlink (Norwich,UK)
  • Oulu, Finland - free - panOULU
  • Paris, France - free in many parks and in municipal libraries, museums, and public places (7 AM to 11 PM or opening hours, renewable 2-hour sessions)[41]
  • Roman, Romania - free, deployed by Minisoft Romania as part of MetroWireless free internet access project[42], paid by advertisements, covers much of the city[43], expanding to nearby villages
  • Rzeszów, Poland - free, city-operated, with hot-spots located on public schools participating in the project[44]
  • Talinn, Estonia - free Wifi covers not only the capital city Talinn, but most of the entire country, [as of 2011] thanks to the Tiigrihüpe (Tiger Leap) project.[45]
  • Trondheim, Norway, paid/free network in city centre[46]
  • Venice, Italy, free to residents and city users, network of hotspots in historical city centre and mainland[47]
  • Vienna, Austria - free service in the Vienna International Airport[48]
  • Wrocław, Poland - free service Miejski Internet, in few places, renewable 1-hour sessions
  • Zrenjanin, Serbia - free, city center only

North America

  • Calgary, Alberta - Operated by WestNet Wireless, first City Wi-Fi in Canada[49]
  • Cambridge, Ontario - paid service provided by Atria Networks for various locations throughout Waterloo Region[50], free at Central Public Library.
  • Fredericton, New Brunswick - free, Fred-e Zone[51]
  • Kitchener, Ontario - paid service provided by Atria Networks for locations throughout Waterloo Region[50], free at Kitchener Public Library branches.
  • London, Ontario - free (pilot project) on Dundas Street, provided by London Downtown Business Association[52]
  • Mississauga, Ontario - free, Wireless access at Mississauga Libraries, Community Centres and Arenas[53]
  • Moncton, New Brunswick - free, Service provided by Red Ball Internet of Moncton. Wireless access available at Arenas and Moncton's Public Library. It was also the first city in Canada to provide wireless internet on its public transportation fleet.
  • Montreal, Quebec - free, community supported Ilesansfil[54]
  • Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan - free, city center and campus[55]
  • Prince Albert, Saskatchewan - free, city center and campus[55]
  • Quebec, Quebec - free, community supported ZAP Quebec[56]
  • Regina, Saskatchewan - free, city center and campus[55]
  • Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - free, city center and campus[55]
  • Sherbrooke, Québec - free, limited to downtown, provided by ZAP Sherbrooke[57]
  • Shawinigan, Quebec - free service, limited to downtown. City-operated.
  • Toronto, Ontario - free service provided by Wireless Toronto and the Toronto Public Library system for locations throughout the Greater Toronto Area; paid service from Toronto Hydro's One Zone.
  • Waterloo, Ontario - paid service provided by Atria Networks for locations throughout Waterloo Region[50], free at Waterloo Public Library branches.
United States

In addition, a few U.S. states, such as Iowa, Massachusetts, and Texas offer free Wi-Fi service at welcome centers and roadside rest areas located along major Interstate highways.


  • Auckland, New Zealand - Citywide network based in all popular areas across Auckland including CBD and Waterfront [27] from Tomizone.
  • Perth, Australia - paid, RoamAD-based metro wide coverage in the CBD by metromesh
  • Taupo, New Zealand, paid/free large RoamAD-based zone in tourist area by Kordia Metro WiFi
  • Wellington, New Zealand - Free Wifi at the Waterfront, CBD & Airport

South America

  • Aparecida, Brazil Free service[76]
  • Belo Horizonte, Brazil[77]
  • La Plata, Argentina - free, city center only [28]
  • Sud Mennucci, Brazil -- free, limited to downtown. City-operated.




North America

United States


  • Brisbane, Australia[90]

South America

Canceled or Closed

See also


  1. ^ Ellig, Jerry (November 2006). "A Dynamic Perspective on Government Broadband Initiatives" (PDF). Reason Magazine. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  2. ^ MuniWireless: The Voice of Public Broadband
  3. ^ Should Municipalities Provide Wireless Internet Service? FTC Staff Report Provides Guidance to Promote Competition October 10, 2006
  4. ^ That New Super WiFi? What’s in It For You?
  5. ^ FCC Adopts Rules For 'Super WiFi' by
  6. ^ Wi-Fi via White Spaces
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Municipal broadband and wireless projects map of USA | CNET last updated 2005
  10. ^ EarthLink’s Citywide Wi-Fi Gamble is a Calculated Risk June 6, 2006
  11. ^ Charny, Ben (2007-09-12). "San Francisco formally ends citywide Wi-Fi effort". MarketWatch. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  12. ^ Wu, Tim (2007-09-27). "Where's My Free Wi-Fi? Why municipal wireless networks have been such a flop.". Slate. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  13. ^ Wakefield, Jane (2007-06-05). "City wi-fi plans under scrutiny". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  14. ^ Why Wi-Fi Networks Are Floundering: Faced with weak user demand, AT&T and other telecoms are stepping up pressure on cities to foot more of the bill for muni Wi-Fi projects August 15, 2007
  15. ^ Companies Grow Wary of Building Out Municipal Wi-Fi Networks May 23, 2007
  16. ^ San Francisco pulls the plug on Google / Earthlink's citywide WiFi... for now August 6, 2007
  17. ^ Google Wifi: Are there plans to bring Google WiFi to any other cities?
  18. ^ Easier said than done: Second thoughts about municipal Wi-Fi May 25th 2007
  19. ^ Silicon Valley Cities Pause, Reflect On Muni Wi-Fi Commitments: The cities are studying whether to participate in an ambitious project to unwire several million people. The project has already encountered problems. July 23, 2007
  20. ^ Municipal WiFi — no wires, lots of strings August 6, 2007
  21. ^ It's Crunch Time for Silicon Valley Wi-Fi: An executive backing Silicon Valley's wireless network expects test sites to be built this year. September 16, 2007
  22. ^ Municipal WiFi: A not-so-free lunch August 6, 2007
  23. ^ Citywide Wi-Fi isn't dead yet September 25, 2007
  24. ^ Free Wi-Fi Still an Elusive Goal September 26, 2007
  25. ^ Free Wi-Fi Wars: Google vs. Microsoft vs. Yahoo November 10, 2009
  26. ^ Yahoo Joins The Free-WiFi Marketing Bandwagon November 9, 2009
  27. ^ Microsoft Bing Gives WiFi Users Free Search November 9, 2009
  28. ^ a b While in Egypt Stay Connected
  29. ^ Free Wi-Fi Access in Balanga Launched
  30. ^ [1]
  31. ^ Public Wi-Fi Services
  32. ^ Wireless@KL
  33. ^ Wifly
  34. ^ Liberty-WiFi
  35. ^ Liberty-WiFi
  36. ^ [2]
  37. ^ Cityspace to extend Bristol's wireless network » Central Government »
  38. ^ Lagkadas WiFi
  39. ^
  40. ^ Golden WiFi
  41. ^ Map of municipal Wi-Fi hotspots in Paris (French)
  42. ^ MetroWireless Romania , Free Metropolitan Networks
  43. ^ Wireless coverage in Roman, Romania
  44. ^ The ResMAN project
  45. ^ Farivar, Cyrus (2011) The Internet of Elsewhere: the Emergent Effects of a Wired World. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. p. 109-149. Covers the history of the Internet and public WiFi access in Estonia.
  46. ^ [3]
  47. ^ [4]
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^ a b c [5]
  51. ^ Fred-e Zone
  52. ^ London Area Wireless Network (LAWN)
  53. ^ Wireless Mississauga
  54. ^ ilesansfil
  55. ^ a b c d [6]
  56. ^ ZAP Quebec
  57. ^ [7]
  58. ^ [8]
  59. ^ [9]
  60. ^ City of Binghamton Downtown WiFi. 2009
  61. ^ One of the most successful beach tourist free wireless networks implemented and maintained. 2008
  62. ^ Corpus Christi WiFi News
  63. ^ [10] 2009
  64. ^ [11] 2009
  65. ^ Houston WeCAN (Wireless Empowered Community Access Network)
  66. ^ Dwight Silverman (August 18, 2008). "Updated: It lives! City of Houston turns on free downtown Wi-Fi". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  67. ^ Nina Wu (October 4, 2007). "Free Wi-Fi boots up in Chinatown". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  68. ^ [12]
  69. ^ Wireless Minneapolis
  70. ^ Pacifica Net - Broadband Wi-Fi For Pacifica, California
  71. ^ [13]
  72. ^ Wireless Philadelphia Rates & Signup
  73. ^ Powell, OH Wifi
  74. ^ [14]
  75. ^ What is WIFI on 4th?
  76. ^ [15]
  77. ^ [16] November 11, 2007 - free, need some subscribe at logon on Wi-Fi network. AP in some public places and builds
  78. ^ Tel Aviv to initiate free municipal WiFi pilot, Bar Ben Ari, Ha'Aretz, 23.04.2010
  79. ^ Draadloos Groningen:
  80. ^ "Free public Wi-Fi scheme for town" BBC News, November 17, 2009.
  81. ^ "FoxesTalk Reference - Leicester Mercury Reported" Leicester Mercury, June 24 2011.
  82. ^ China's ZTE To Build Massive Wi-Fi Network For Mexico City: The Wi-Fi network will connect schools and government offices as well as some 4,000 security cameras April 3, 2007
  83. ^ Mexico City explores wireless Internet: Planning hot spots throughout city for 8.7 ,million residents April 3, 2007
  84. ^ October 10, 2009
  85. ^ October 19, 2010
  86. ^ Trevey, Mick (2007-08-09). "Citywide Wi-Fi Might Not Happen". Local & Regional News (Journal Broadcast Group). Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  87. ^ [17]
  88. ^ Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network Announces Test Cities for Wireless Silicon Valley Initiative, February 14, 2007.
  89. ^ Esptein, Reid J. "Waukesha could be next city to go Wi-Fi" Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, February 3, 2006.
  90. ^ Queensland to give train commuters wireless internet access
  91. ^ [18]
  92. ^
  93. ^ Chicago scraps municipal wireless plans
  94. ^ [19]
  95. ^ [20]
  96. ^ [21] RTÉ reports cancelled Wi-Fi
  97. ^ [22]
  98. ^ a b NSW govt dumps plans for free city WiFi
  99. ^ Rogoway, Mike (January 19, 2010). "Portland set to dismantle, donate abandoned Wi-Fi antennas". The Oregonian. Retrieved 3 February 2010. 
  100. ^ San Francisco formally ends citywide Wi-Fi effort
  101. ^ City of Tempe - Wireless Internet Access

External links

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