10:35 AM

Silicon Valley Plans Massive Wireless Network

Cisco and IBM will build a WiMax network that offers free basic service and premium services for a fee.

One of the most wired places on earth is about to go wireless. A consortium of three dozen municipalities in the four California counties that make up Silicon Valley last week picked Silicon Valley Metro Connect, a joint venture headed by Cisco Systems and IBM, to create one of the largest wireless networks. The WiMax network will span nearly 1,500 square miles populated by 2.4 million people, and promises free wireless connections with speeds of up to 1 Mbps.

Blanket it with WiMax

Blanket it with WiMax

Photo by David McNew
Silicon Valley may be the world's IT capital, but many small businesses there lack broadband connectivity that the new network will provide. And it will let cities give wireless access to building inspectors, police, and firefighters in the field, says Brian Moura, the San Carlos, Calif., assistant city manager and co-chairman of the Wireless Silicon Valley Initiative.

Cisco will provide the mesh wireless infrastructure technology; IBM will furnish network design and integration services. ISP Azulstar Networks will manage the network, and the partners hope to sell premium services.

The network builders know the technology they'll use--the WiMax IEEE 802.16 wireless standard, which would make this one of the country's more-ambitious WiMax deployments. But they're less clear on the price, putting it between $75 million and $270 million. Construction should begin by year's end, with the first access points live early next year, but no promises how long until it's valleywide.

with Elena Malykhina

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