New Mexico City Hopes for Wi-Fi Access by Christmas

Priding itself on being a tech-savvy and forward-thinking community, Rio Rancho, N.M., plans to provide Wi-Fi for all its residents starting in November.

"Were a very tech-savvy community," said James Palenick, city administrator for Rio Rancho, N.M., explaining why his city of 63,000 was working to provide Wi-Fi access to its citizens.

"Weve always wanted this to provide economic growth," he said. "It sends a very important message to the country and the world." And of course, it sends an important message to the citizens of Rio Rancho that the city has found a way to provide nearly ubiquitous broadband access for its residents as well as a new revenue stream for the city.

Wi-Fi also promises to help provide long term economic benefits to Rio Rancho by attracting companies that want the atmosphere that wireless broadband access can bring.

Palenick said that his city initially started working with Usurf America Inc to provide citywide Wi-Fi, but shortly thereafter decided to find a different vendor. That company turned out to be Ottawa Wireless Inc. of Grand Haven, Michigan, which had just finished implementing a citywide wireless network for its hometown.

According to Tyler Van Houwelingen, CEO and founder of Ottawa Wireless, the company will have as much as half of the citywide network up and running by Christmas. "Access points will be located on light poles, traffic lights and police antennas," Van Houwelingen said. "Well install between 100 and 125 Wi-Fi POPs [points of presence]."

Ottawa Wireless expects to start installing the devices in November, with the system completed by mid-March. When its finished, it will cover the entire 103-square-mile territory of Rio Rancho and will support VOIP (voice over IP) and QOS (quality of service) in addition to standard 802.11 wireless.

Palenick said that Rio Ranchos wireless installation would be the largest such Wi-Fi implementation ever. While he notes that other cities including San Francisco and Philadelphia have announced plans for citywide wireless access, Rio Rancho is actually doing it. Part of the reason for the strong interest is that the city boasts a very large number of citizens involved in science and technology.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read why an influx of lower cost chips is making Wi-Fi more of a commodity.

Rio Rancho is adjacent to Albuquerque, and is the location of what Palenick says is Intel Corp.s largest microprocessor factory. In addition he noted that his city is located between Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory. Of course, there are other reasons. "We see it as an economic development tool—todays business needs good quality access, Palenick said.

Palenick also said that the city itself needs the broadband wireless connectivity. "Were permitting 3000 new single-family houses a year," he said, noting that such access would allow inspectors to do their work without returning to the office. In addition, he said that there were significant public safety requirements for broadband access.

Next Page: Working out the details.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...