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Ref: Texas town partners with IBM to employ new wireless technology for city agencies


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IBM Gets $4 Million Wireless Contract From Brownsville, Texas

IBM has entered into a $4 million agreement with Brownsville, Texas to develop and implement a WiMAX-Wi-Fi municipal wireless network that will primarily serve to improve operational efficiencies within city agencies.

“They’re really focusing on the real business value of these network,” said Riz Kaliq, global business executive for digital communities at IBM, which will be paid to consult and assess the implementation of the network. “IBM has been advocating for a long time now that the build-it-for-free networks in the longer term don’t have the ability, nor do they have the business model, to be viable.”

Brownsville, Kaliq said, is embracing an increasingly popular municipal model: using outside help to develop the network and outsource its day-to-day operations to a more traditional wireless service provider, while using the foundation network to offset city expenses. In this case, Rioplex Wireless will maintain the network with three towers that deliver Internet coverage via WiMAX technology.

“The government, as it becomes leaner and starts to look to cut budget constraints, is going to look to private industry to do what it does best, which is the IT systems and things like that,” said Khaliq. “The governments are not in the business of being the service providers … so a lot of the skills that traditional operators have when it comes down to OSS, BSS and so on could be a play in this whole space.”

The first municipal wireless networks were reactions by communities frustrated with the broadband availability being provided by incumbent service providers. As the technology matured, so did the municipalities, and this in turn has created a new business model that uses the networks to benefit the government itself – including public safety/first responders – and then expands into residential and commercial spaces if needed.

“They didn’t understand what the real value of wireless is, what the real value of mobility is and how they could use it for their benefit from digital inclusion but also from mobility of field-based employees,” Khaliq said. “Most government employees are supposed to be in the field … but they’re spending a tremendous amount of time traveling to the office, picking up files and things like that which could be completely eliminated by wireless enablement.”

IBM will help Brownsville develop a network to empower city groups, including offices, utilities, ambulance, police and fire departments and help the city form a non-profit organization to provide wireless Internet access to the citizenry.

“It’s a data network as it starts off, but as voice-over-IP becomes more popular and the VoIP devices become more viable, that’s going to change the paradigm,” he said. “This is still WiMAX backhaul right now (with Wi-Fi mesh as the end delivery method) but once the mobile WiMAX gets ratified, that could be added on.”
© 2007 Telecommunications® Magazine Online & Horizon House Publications®.

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