Rio Rancho's citywide Wi-Fi ambitions are back on track. The City Council yesterday unanimously approved Azulstar Networks, a division of Ottawa Wireless Inc., as the service provider to reignite efforts to create the nation's largest and most advanced city-wide Wi-Fi network.
Rio Rancho announced its wireless Internet plans in June, however the deployment was placed on hold in August when the agreement with the original provider was terminated by the city.
"This new agreement demonstrates the city's dedication to bring this valuable service to our community," says Rio Rancho City Mayor Jim Owen. "Rio Rancho is a vibrant, high-tech haven, and citywide Wi-Fi will enhance the way people work, play and live in our rapidly growing city. We're grateful to Azulstar Networks and the other partners for seeing tremendous opportunity in our city's wireless system."
Under the 25-year license agreement, the city will grant rights-of-way to Azulstar to install and operate Wi-Fi equipment that will provide a blanket of "cellular Wi-Fi" coverage across all 103 square miles of Rio Rancho. Azulstar Networks Founder Tyler van Houwelingen says the project will begin immediately and expects a swift deployment with Wi-Fi data and voice services beginning by the end of the year. The network is projected to be operational across the entire city prior to March 15, 2005, which is the original target date set last June. The high performance network, which is being funded by private investors, will use hundreds of small Wi-Fi repeater radios attached to buildings, utility poles and city infrastructure.
Azulstar will offer high-speed Internet access starting at $19.95 per month for unlimited 256 Kbits/sec service; mobile connections up to 1Mbits/sec and daily passes will also be offered. Customers can access the network across the city using any standard Wi-Fi adaptor. Most subscribers are expected to use the service as a full replacement for existing wired and wireless Internet options. Wi-Fi based mobile telephone calling (using Voice over IP) will be offered at $24.95/month for unlimited residential calling throughout the U.S. and Canada.
"We look forward to making Rio Rancho a showcase for city-wide Wi-Fi as we leverage our experience building the nation's first city-wide Wi-Fi network in Grand Haven, Michigan," says Van Houwelingen.
U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell recently congratulated Azulstar's parent company Ottawa Wireless on the Grand Haven milestone.
"Congratulations to Ottawa Wireless for your vision and leadership," Powell said. "Your successful private-public partnership can be a model to bring broadband Internet to small cities, towns and villages across America.''
Azulstar will lead a coalition of public-private partners to build the advanced cellular Wi-Fi network. Intel Corp. and the city of Rio Rancho will provide locations for mounting the cellular Wi-Fi equipment as well as overall project assistance and support. Proxim Corp. will deliver a pre-WiMAX wireless backbone solution, Meru Networks will provide the access points, and LogiSense will supply operational support systems, such as billing.
"Intel is pleased that Rio Rancho has maintained focus on its vision and we salute its serious commitment to delivering state-of-the-art wireless capability to its citizens," says Bruce Sohn, manager of Intel's Fab11x in Rio Rancho. "We look forward to the day when high-speed connectivity is available to all Rio Rancho residents."
Azulstar Networks, based in Grand Haven, MI, is a division of Ottawa Wireless Inc. For more information visit www.azulstar.com.