Wireless has pros, cons for Philly

By Staff Writer
October 28, 2004

In an effort to move Philadelphia into a wireless city, Mayor John Street has assembled Wireless Philadelphia Executive Committee to produce a broadband network for the city’s citizens. Wireless Philadelphia in cooperation with city’s Chief Information Officer, Dianah Neff will undertake the task of making Philadelphia the first wireless citywide in America.

“Wi-Fi or a Wireless Fidelity system as it is known technically as IEEE 802.11b is publicly known as “wireless Ethernet.” It operates in the 2.4 GHz band and, since this is low power, the spectrum is unlicensed,” according to the homepage of Wireless Philadelphia. Although it is ambitious of Philadelphia to pursue Wi-Fi as a wireless source for its people, by the time this goal is achieved a greater, faster service will be available.

Although it is admirable that a movement to pursue technological advancement would be an awesome achievement, by the time the city would complete this task newer, faster equipment will be available. Philly, therefore could be dubbed the first wireless city with outdated resources.

According to slate.msn.com, “a new technology, dubbed WiMAX, will be standard in Intel’s laptop chip sets starting in 2006 and will dwarf the power of Wi-Fi gear. Wi-Fi base stations transmit at about two-tenths of a watt; WiMax runs at as much as 30 watts, powering through walls with a maximum range of 30 miles.”

Unfortunately, Wi-Fi is designed to be used in households and offices limiting its signal to around 300 feet. Because the distance of the signal would be short in comparison to the city of Philadelphia, wireless units will have to be distributed more per square mile.

An obvious benefit of this plan is that it will collectively move forward the entire city into a more techno-savvy society. Of course preaching it as a positive is one thing but realistically how will it help the underdeveloped areas in Philly where a computer is non-existent. It is one thing to provide the Internet for its people but if they lack a computer, what’s the point?

As stated by the Wireless Philadelphia homepage, “Wireless connectivity could be provided for the entire city for $7 to $10 million.” Speaking of money, the idea is that the wireless service would be offered for free or at least less than the average price of today’s competitive standards.

For Loquitur readers, we need to draw our attention to Cabrini’s wireless network though smaller in size than Philly as a model. Should Philly do what Cabrini has with its server by outsourcing the wireless system to a major company? This could give Philly the opportunity to sell the lamppost space, which is where they intend to place the wireless units.

At some point, every reader has experienced technical problems with Drexel’s server due to heavy signal traffic. Now imagine a city with thousands of these units feeding into a specific signal. Now imagine the amount of traffic that would be Philly’s future including cell phone, microwave and television use.

Besides Cabrini other colleges are relying on wireless networks for their students. By Philadelphia attempting to go completely wireless, they are joining an ever-growing trend among areas. If Wireless Philadelphia and the city fulfill their promises of creating a wireless network, the prospects and rewards could be endless.

It is great to see Philly recognize the importance of the Internet and the prospects of bestowing upon the people a wireless service. The goal of Philadelphia is one filled with hope but until it is completed it will simply be just another promise.

Posted to the web by Jenna Nash

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