Ponca City, Oklahoma has deployed a municipal wireless broadband network that has two elements: wireless automated meters (AMR) and free Wi-Fi for residents. The networks are completely separate. Honeywell deployed the wireless AMR network for the city to reduce energy costs. Tropos designed, installed and provides maintenance for the 490 wireless mesh nodes and gateways around the 60 square miles of Ponca City. The city plans to install wireless video cameras in police vehicles so precinct dispatchers and supervisors can monitor activities during traffic stops. Police officers can use the citywide wireless network to connect to online databases and file reports from the field. Nearly every city department has plans to use the municipal wireless network. Honeywell is responsible for installing and maintaining the wireless broadband and metering infrastructure; the city is managing the network on a day-to-day basis.
Free Wi-Fi for residents is a separate city initiative that takes advantage of the fiber network. The cost of providing free Wi-Fi is minimal because the city does not offer any tech support. The city does sell fiber capacity to large companies and institutions, and the revenues from the sale of fiber broadband service support the free Wi-Fi network.
What makes this project interesting is that Ponca City is the utility and owns the fiber that provides the backhaul for the wireless AMR project as well as for the free citywide Wi-Fi service. Revenues from the sale of fiber broadband service support the citywide free Wi-Fi service. Since the city is providing utility services, city officials are under pressure from voters to lower the rates that residents pay for water and electricity, and to make efficient energy management a top priority.
There is a “quiet adoption” of muni wireless projects among small to mid-sized cities, in particular those that own the public utility and the fiber network in the city, despite the highly publicized failures of municipal wireless networks in Philadelphia and San Francisco. These smaller municipalities begin their muni wireless deployments by solving one specific problem (energy management or public safety), then expand to other areas of municipal activity precisely because the network has multiple uses.
Recently, the Obama administration announced that the federal government will be spending billions of dollars upgrading America’s infrastructure, including broadband. Given that the administration’s other top priority includes energy efficiency, there is a big opportunity for cities, large and small, to blend wireless automated meter reading, smart energy grid management with high-speed wired and wireless broadband networks.
Webinar event: Building a citywide wireless foundation for municipal services
(CIO of Rock Hill, SC will discuss their citywide wireless network)