Is the failure of Municipal Wi-Fi Networks the dawn of e-services to citizens?
Currently, all over the web numerous articles and posts can be identified that are elaborating on the epidemic of the Municipal Wi-Fi networks failures. For example according to an article recently published in WIRED, two major and immense publicised projects in San Francisco and in Chicago have failed. In the case of Chicago failure came up mainly after realizing how much the build-out would cost, while in the case of San Francisco the reasons are mainly cost- related, although it is not so clearly stated.
The business model that most of the Municipal Wi-Fi networks projects were based on was the fact that main income source would be the advertising. Many proponents argued that residents would actually want to use the free networks; therefore the market margins for advertising will be rather big and would support the implementation and operation of the network.
Technology issues were a break point for those projects, as well. With a range of just 100 or 200 feet at most, Wi-Fi networks simply don’t provide adequate access, particularly to people being indoors or in other “enclosed” areas.
The article concludes with the consideration that might was the scale that those two projects were trying to cover. Esme Vos, an intellectual-property lawyer who tracks various national municipal projects on her site, MuniWireless, states that
More localized Wi-Fi is one option — for example, deploying in areas where there are many tourists, foot traffic, business people
Vos states also that the lack of demand was the final nail in the coffin. Although cities and telecoms expected 10%-25% of an area’s population to sign up for muni Wi-Fi, what they got, in many cases, was closer to 1% or 2%.
After this first wave of Muni-Wireless Wi-Fi networks, as it is described in the article, appears to be clearer now, that the above factors both business model and technology, are affecting heavily the successful implementation of those projects. The main question though is still up on both the network operators and the municipalities. This is that what the needs were and those networks were trying to cover? What were the requirements and expectations of the potential users to be covered by those networks? The answer to those questions is the design of new services and tools by the municipalities and delivered via local telecommunication networks.