Cisco Partner Helps Town Deploy Wireless Mesh Solution For Boston Marathon


NetTeks and vendor partner Cisco Systems are funding the Metropolitan Mobile Network pilot, a mesh networking solution that will bring broadband wireless access to agencies throughout the town, including public safety, transportation and public works.

"Framingham has a large fiber network, which we deployed a few years ago, and they were looking for ways to leverage that infrastructure," said Ethan Simmons, partner at NetTeks, Boston.

If successful, the pilot, which includes Cisco's Aironet 1500 mesh access points, Airespace WLAN controllers and Unified IP phones, could turn into a full-blown deployment for the town, Simmons said. For a town like Framingham, which spans approximately 25 square miles, a full deployment project could be a $4 million project, Simmons said.

Framingham officials plan to put the mesh network to its first real-world test to coordinate safety and traffic control efforts along the roughly 4-mile stretch of the marathon route that will run along a major road through the downtown area, said Kathleen McCarthy, director of technology services for the town.

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Framingham is one of several Massachusetts towns that lie along the 26.2-mile route of the marathon, being held April 17.

For the first time, Framingham's mobile command center, an RV retrofitted as a communications hub, will use wireless broadband to connect to the municipal network. VoIP phones in the field will tie back over wireless to the town's existing Cisco IP telephony system, and the command post will have wireless access to the town's dispatch system and other applications for referencing hazardous materials, license plate lookups and mugshots, McCarthy said.

The wireless broadband access should help speed communications on the day of the marathon to ensure that the athletes, spectators and town residents remain safe, she said.

"It's important for us to know where the runners are as they approach Framingham so we can do crowd control, shut down streets," she said. In addition, the mobile command center helps coordinate traffic for emergency vehicles that might have to cross over the blocked marathon route to respond to incidents in other areas of town. "We need to be able to get the runners safely through Framingham and react to any other situations at the same time," McCarthy said.

For NetTeks, Simmons hopes the pilot will not only turn into a successful deployment but also serve as the cornerstone for growth in the wireless mesh networking business.

"We hope to get one good win and then a lot of towns will follow suit," he said.