Using technology from Alvarion, Houston has become one of the largest cities to install a municipal broadband network.
Houston has been experimenting with municipal broadband for some years. In 2008, Tropos Networks donated a mesh network to cover a neighborhood in Houston.
In the past year or so, Houston has been working with Alvarion to install a combination of WiMAX and Wi-Fi technology to connect schools, libraries, traffic control structures (including traffic lights) and other municipal properties.
Houston plans to use the network to support a number of municipal goals, including:
- Improving public service: Improving traffic safety and congestion throughout the city through remote control of 2,500 traffic intersections and 1,500 school zone flashers; and improving customer service and reducing cost by connecting the City’s mobile AMR system to the WiMAX network to remotely monitor 500,000 water meter accounts.
- Reducing costs: Reducing multi-million-dollar annual commercial T1 costs by replacing these connections with WiMAX service at more than 5,000 city facilities (i.e., water/wastewater plants, maintenance, libraries, etc.); and affordably expanding connectivity service to facilities and operations (i.e., SCADA, video surveillance, parking pay stations, etc.).
- Serving the public good: Making excess bandwidth available to enable free Internet service for more than 300,000 residents in underserved, underprivileged communities (i.e., public computer centers for children, where children can get free Internet access and have a safe environment to stay and learn; 20 centers are already operating today).
The city also plans to connect 400 water utility locations with the 4G network, covering an area of approximately 640 square miles.
“We realized the most cost-effective way to introduce a citywide network was to go with a high-performance wireless solution that offers huge savings on infrastructure expenses and can be easily and remotely managed to reduce operational costs. This way, we can gradually roll out advanced residential services, such as water utility management, in a way that would genuinely improve residential life in the city, without necessarily raising the cost of living,” said Brian Anderson, senior consultant and program director for the city of Houston Wireless Broadband Initiative.