Municipal Wi-Fi networks will cover 126,000 square miles, an area slightly larger than New Mexico by the end of 2010, according to ABI Research.
The bulk of these deployments will take place in North America and the Asia-Pacific region. At the end of 2005, municipal Wi-Fi networks covered only about 1,500 square miles.
To serve those networks, more than one million wireless mesh routers will be shipped in 2010. The manufacturing revenues from those shipments will exceed $1.2 billion, ABI calculates.
According to the report, four significant trends are energizing this emerging market.
Many local governments clearly wish to deploy municipal broadband networks, for public safety as well as increased government efficiency.
Alternative ISPs see mesh networking as enabling their own broadband service facilities to compete with incumbent service providers.
Wireless mesh networking technology is seen as an efficient and cost-effective means of providing broadband access to underserved areas. This is particularly noticeable as the municipal Wi-Fi trend moves from great metropolises into smaller cities and towns.
Potentially, wireless mesh networking technology can serve as a competitive tool for cable operators.
While municipalities initially faced some regulatory restrictions in terms of local government funding for their roles as broadband service network operators, that is less the case today, because the model is increasingly of a third-party operator owning and deploying the network, according to ABI.