Do You Know The Way? Ruckus, Partner Team On San Jose Wi-Fi

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Ruckus Wireless and partner SmartWave Technologies are involved in one of the country's most high-profile municipal outdoor Wi-Fi deployments -- the design and implementation of a new outdoor Wi-Fi network for the city of San Jose, Calif.

The network is expected to go live this summer and will offer what Ruckus described as free, "insanely fast" high-speed Internet services across San Jose's entire business district -- a 1.5-square-mile section spanning San Carlos Street to St. James Street and Almaden Avenue to 4th Street.

The system will be able to support tens of thousands of users and hundreds of terabytes' worth of traffic, according to the city, and support parking meters, digital parking signs and high-definition video as well.

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"It started with our need to enhance communications downtown with community applications, such as parking guidance and pay-to-park meters," said city of San Jose CIO Vijay Sammeta in a recent interview with CRN. "We inherited a Wi-Fi network that just didn't have the range, so we sought about revamping."

San Jose began providing Wi-Fi access in downtown hot spots as far back as 2004, but its legacy network -- provided by now-defunct MetroFi -- offered only sporadic coverage in the area.

The Ruckus deployment, which is being handled by Suwanee, Ga.-based SmartWave, one of Ruckus' top partners, includes two Ruckus ZoneFlex 7762 802.11n dual-band outdoor APs and two ZoneDirector 3050 central controllers installed at San Jose City Hall. Various Wi-Fi nodes -- about 30 in all, according to Sammeta -- will deploy on streetlights, buildings and other structures. San Jose also is using a number of ZoneFlex 7731 point-to-multipoint bridges to extend wireless broadband connections over miles and eliminate the need to run fiber to every access point. A few access points connected to San Jose's fiber network will handle backhaul traffic.

So-called muni Wi-Fi deployments fell out of favor after a brief fad in the previous decade, Sammeta admitted, as they cost a lot and cities made demands regarding coverage and access that most vendors and integrators couldn't meet.

"There was a lot of Kool-Aid being sold in this market," said Al Brown, SmartWave's president and CEO. "Everyone went through that with the rise and fall of muni Wi-Fi, and I always caution our guys not to get too caught up in all the shiny objects. Back during the rise, a lot of consultants did a poor job setting realistic expectations.

"But this opportunity came up," Brown continued, "and Vijay had some capital to build out a network, so he said to us, 'Let's take a look at all the different products out there.' His goal was to build the fastest network he could."

"There was the whole muni Wi-Fi boom and bust," Sammeta said. "But we wanted to put out a true Silicon Valley experience and set the benchmark. We had existing needs for city applications such as the parking meters, and the Wi-Fi is going to be an amenity to bolt onto those existing needs."

NEXT: How Ruckus Technology Fit The City's Bill

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