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Wireless Network Hooks Up Downtown District

If you are in the know about WI-FI, then you probably read that the newest wireless LAN standard coming out is 802.11g which promises to offer faster online connections while still being compatible with current 802.11a standards.

If you, like many, are just hearing the term WI-FI consider it a very techno way to take advantage of the wireless communication phenomena underway today.

What is WI-FI?

WI-FI networks utilize free broadband signals that are both available and extremely cost effective. You can pop an inexpensive card into your laptop and, without wires, access the Internet at high speeds for a host of online services. The technology works via radio signals sent from transmitters to users’ laptops.

A standard was created for wireless LANs (local area networks) to promote interoperability of products regardless of the manufacturer. The standard, referred to as 802.11, was developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which creates such standards for the computer and electronics industry.

A handful of local governments are frontier leaders using the cutting edge technology to make city centers more attractive and functional.

Long Beach, CA, is one example where city officials estimate a free wireless network will bring an added interest to its downtown. The city was featured in the New York Times in January when the pilot project was launched.

Long Beach’s “Hot Zone” (a.k.a. is an area in downtown where free Internet access is offered to anyone looking to do business or for fun. The service is great for business people needing to check their email or connect with corporate networks while at lunch. It also gives users a quick electronic guide of places to go and things to see in the Long Beach area.

The city’s portals, graphics and layout are easy-to-use and incorporate the latest designs. The site is very hip, and connecting is even trendier yet still cost effective.

About Long Beach’s Wireless Hot Zone

Chet Yoshizaki, Hot Zone Manager for Long Beach, said that the project got off the ground in 2001 when a Mayor’s Task Force on Technology was created to brainstorm ways to advance technology.

The task force sponsored a regional symposium and invited many area companies to attend, he explained. A workgroup resulted from that symposium which in turn released an RFP for the explicit purpose of forming a partnership with the city to establish a wireless district.

“The initial cost was estimated at $300,000 and we knew that kind of money was not in the budget,” Yoshizaki said. &#x201CUsing our intellectual capital, technology and marketing, the city was able to get most of the equipment and installation donated by our partnering companies,” he explained. With coordination by the city’s Economic Development Bureau, four technology partners help complete the Hot Zone connection.

How It All Comes Together

Tom Paradise, principal of Development Tech in Long Beach, developed the concept, business model and network architecture for the Hot Zone.

The system connects to the Internet at the offices of Color Broadband Inc. Access is controlled through Vernier Networks’ state of the art IS 6000 Integrated System. Vernier, located in Mountain View, CA, develops and manages wireless networks.

Utilizing sophisticated radio technology provided by Color Broadband, the signal is sent out to Intermec access points located throughout the zone. Intermec Technologies Corporation, a subsidiary of UNOVA Inc., provides the wireless network and access points that allow users to access the Internet.

The end user is greeted with an easy access interface and web portal developed by G-site Web Design & Consulting. The portal is hosted by Long Beach’s own MMInternet, according to information from the city’s “About the Downtown Long Beach Wireless Hot Zone.”

Yoshizaki said the costs involved are simple. The city pays an annual maintenance fee of approximately $4000 G-site Web Design. There is a $390 monthly internet connection fee paid to Color Broadband.

What Comes Next

Just this month the Long Beach Municipal Airport began providing free wireless service. Yoshizaki said the city may explore a wireless service zone at the city’s convention center as well. He added that city staff will spend the next three to six months evaluating the impact of the wireless pilot projects.

Douglas H. Klein, Chief Executive of Vernier Networks, told the Times that “You can think of these as urban renewal projects.” He said that the company has noticed a growing interest from local governments eager to find ways to make their city centers more attractive.”

C. Brian Grimm, the communications director for the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group, agreed. He told the Times, “It’s high-visibility and high-value, and it permits a municipality to easily serve its residents.”

For more details, check out the Hot Zone at Chet Yoshizaki, wireless zone manager, may be reached at 562.570.3853.

ŠThe Innovation Groups, 2001 - 2002