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9/5/2006
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Minneapolis Goes Wi-Fi, With WiMax To Follow

Suppliers BelAir Networks and US Internet say the deployment will cover a 54-square-mile sector of the city.

Minneapolis is the latest large U.S. city to commit to building a citywide wireless network, but the city will hedge its bets by rolling out Wi-Fi initially and retaining the capability of upgrading to WiMAX and 3G at a later date.

In an announcement Tuesday, suppliers BelAir Networks and US Internet said the deployment will cover a 54-squre-mile sector of the city. "The network is modular architecture," said Sheila Burpee Duncan, BelAir spokeswoman. "You want it to be futureproof."

Duncan said a one-mile-square Wi-Fi pilot network is already up-and-running. The next step will be to deploy Wi-Fi across the city. She noted that Wi-Fi operates in unlicensed spectrum, making it easier to rollout the wireless technology quickly. US Internet, a leader in mesh networking integration, will deploy the network.

Minneapolis public officials said they have learned from the experiences of other large cities. EarthLink, which is the lead installer in several other Wi-Fi city deployments including Philadelphia and San Francisco, was a finalist in the Minneapolis competition.

"Learning from the experiences and challenges faced by other cities, Minneapolis has chosen both a business model and a technology solution that ensure immediate, ongoing, and sustainable benefits," Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak said, in a statement.

Duncan said the BelAir modular gear is also capable of supporting 3G GSM solutions when that technology becomes widely available.

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