Private: Silicon Valley’s Wireless Plans

Silicon Valley Network, a coalition of business, education and local government officials are planning a massive wireless network that would span from East Palo Alto to Santa Cruz. The SVN is looking to issue an RFP in April 2006, according to a press release .

The Smart Valley initiative envisions a broadband canopy covering a 1,500 square mile area stretching from Fremont in the East Bay, south to Gilroy, over the hill to Santa Cruz, and up the Peninsula to San Mateo.

The idea to turn the cradle of innovation into a gigantic hot spot is not surprising, though I was asking myself this question: what took you so long? Given the anti-incumbent carrier sentiments amongst the technology elite, the easy access to latest technologies, it is late (which is better than never, of course) game. Philadelphia, and several other cities are quite far ahead in their wireless plans. Glenn Fleishman has an indepth post, where he has talked with a few folks behind the project including Intel’s external affairs manager Mark Pettinger.

The vision expressed in planning documents that I’ve seen show a scope that’s incredibly broad: the network would provide outdoor service to sensors for municipal projects, like water levels in creeks, to ordinary consumer purposes. …No business model or technology is preordained, although Wi-Fi is mentioned repeatedly. Whether it’s free, fee, or baroque combinations will be determined while drafting the RFP and considering bids. It might be that ZigBee, EVDO, WiMax, Wi-Fi, and other flavors would be the ideal combination. [WiFi Networking News]

The success of earlier, small scale projects such as San Mateo County’s wifi network (for public services) and the recent success of MetroFi in attracting users to its free Sunnyvale network, sets-up a good precedent for the big hot zone. I have a few nagging concerns: the sheer size and scope of the project, the diversity of the local geography and dozens of local city governments have the potential of tying up the effort in knots.

Secondly, I wonder what they are doing to bring together all the various wireless projects that are currently underway? For instance Google is building a network in Mountain View, and MetroFi has built up networks in a handful of South Bay cities.