A business case for Municipal wireless networks Evert Bopp, CEO, Wimax EU Ltd.
Looking back Internet access used to be fixed to location. Internet access was a business, government & educational tool. Internet access was “added value”.
Now Internet access is becoming more & more mobile (GPRS, WiFi, HSDA, Wimax etc.). Internet access has become a social & economical driving force. Internet access has become an essential service. Internet usage becomes service & device driven.
How to meet this need/demand? Networks owned & operated by local governments (public service networks)? Networks owned by local governments but operated by private companies (public/private partnerships)? Networks owned and operated by private companies (free-market/private)?
Public service networkFor: Access provided by a public body for the public. Vendor/provider neutral (net neutrality). Non-commercial provider, “bridging the digital divide” etc. Easy access to physical municipal assets for equipment placement. Internet access “on-demand” becomes a part of the offered utilities.
Public service networkAgainst: Public entity operating in the private/free market (legislation etc.) Lack of knowledge to build & operate network. Lack of funding. Creation of wireless hotzone “islands”.
Public/Private partnershipFor: Build and operated by an entity with established track-record. Part public ownership ensures “net neutrality”, prevents monopolisation (a network for the people by the people). Provision of services that pure private sector entities would not consider profitable. Internet access “on-demand” becomes a part of the offered utilities.
Public/Private partnershipAgainst: Public entity operating in the private/free market (legislation etc.). Conflict of interest between public & private entities might destabilize. Requirements of a public entity might slow down network growth.
Private/free marketFor: Quicker to discover and exploit opportunities. Faster to adapt to technological changes. More competitive with competing services & technologies.
Private/free marketAgainst: Profit driven. Might monopolise the market/network.
Show me the money! Muni-wireless will exceed $400 million by 2007. 200+ networks in the USA. In Europe; Norfolk, UK, Paris issued RFP etc.
Show me the money!So where does the money come from? Internet access. Location based advertising. Online applications & services (VOIP, IPTV, online backup, social & business networking). 3rd party access (emergency services, utility services, CCTV monitoring etc.).
Other benefits Stimulating effect on local economy (teleworking, companies promoting their services & products via a digital medium). Educational use ( the internet is the worlds largest library). Opportunity for non-profit & charities to promote their activities via the network (portal site). Attract new investment to the town/city (good economical development potential).
Conclusion The demand is only growing (wifi enabled laptops, pda’s & phones). Technology is available (WiFi, Wimax, Mesh). The services are only increasing (web 2.0, IPTV, VOIP etc.). “Social responsibility”: Internet access needs to be made available to everyone. First in the market will reap the benefits.