Here’s a summary of the Q&A from the RI-WINS town hall. It’s mostly paraphrased/summarized (see the video for verbatim; I’ve included the timestamps for each question/answer to make it easier for you to locate them).
If you have any questions or clarifications, please post them in the comments. And if you’d like to be identified as one of the questioners, let me know (you’re anonymous by default).
How do Verizon and other carriers perceive this initiative as regards their own initiatives such as EVDO?
Bob Panoff replied that Verizon was one of the first companies they contacted. He went on to say that the goal of this initiative is to foster applications that work across interoperable wireless networks. He also mentioned that RI-WINS has been talking with Cox about how they might work together. Tracy Williams pointed out that a lot of the focus of private sector wireless has been the Route 95 corridor, but that RI-WINS aims to establish a consistent wireless footprint across the state.
What about bringing access into people’s homes (targeting the consumers in Rhode Island)?
Bob replied that the initial focus is on enterprises and institutions (RI-WINS is more of a wholesale provider of wireless access, with the enterprises and institutions providing user-facing capabilities). He said that there will ultimately be an “innovative approach to consumers”, but that they will work with partners and affinity groups who will develop consumer-facing offerings.
What will the hardware look like from a consumer viewpoint? Users with a WiMAX card in their laptop? A WiMAX enabled home router that creates a Wi-Fi cloud?
Bob answered that there’s no definite answer on this, but he thinks we are moving toward a multi-protocol world (cell, Wi-Fi, WiMAX) with seamless hand-off when roaming between clouds of wireless.
As a followup to the last question, what sort of equipment should contest entrants plan on using for their N-GEN Wireless World contest entries?
In response, Bob pulled a Navini WiMAX PC Card out of his pocket For the immediate future, the network is based on pre-WiMAX technology. As an aside, RI-WINS initially considered Wi-Fi, but it would have taken 9,000 access points! With WiMAX, it will only take 120 base stations (I’d love to see that on a Google map!). However, Wi-Fi hotspots will play a part. Don Stanford pointed out that WiMAX is being widely touted as an alternative to 3G/4G, but that the infrastructure is very affordable and flexible.
Are there any compatible WiMAX cards that are suitable for embedded systems/sensor network development (either Compact Flash-based cards with Linux drivers or serial-WiMAX bridges for bare metal development)?
Don replied that these sorts of devices will eventually come. Maybe they’ll even be invented in Rhode Island! To that point, Bob pointed out that RI-WINS would really like to see the network used for ocean research. Don mentioned that port security is another big area for RI-WINS.
Is the lack of a strong commitment to consumer access on the part of RI-WINS a policy choice, economic choice, or something else?
Bob replied that it’s a combination of things:
- The state of technology is definitely an issue (the WiMAX hardware won’t be widely available to consumers soon enough).
- By not tackling consumer access at this point, complicated questions of acceptable use can be deferred (some of those issues-especially file sharing-bring major bandwidth issues along with them).
Putting aside the broad consumer market for the moment, what if the question is changed to individuals-people not tied to an institution?
Bob replied that RI-WINS is very committed to this kind of use, but that it will be through intermediaries who build solutions on top of RI-WINS. He mentioned that we could eventually see policy/government entities working with RI-WINS to underwrite/subsidize low-cost access to users. But all this is a later phase-and that these sort of features will be added incrementally.
Could municipalities sign up with RI-WINS to provide access to their citizens?
Bob replied that RI-WINS is talking to one community that is not well-served by broadband, and they are looking to provide low-cost or free service to people who are unable to afford other solutions.
What kind of operating budget does RI-WINS have?
Bob replied that they have some seed money from the state government, a grant from homeland security. [Unfortunately, I couldn't make out the actual amount that Bob quoted, but I'll get that info and put it in here].