A square-mile portion of downtown Scottsdale on Friday officially entered the wireless age.
Just over two dozen people attended a short ceremony at Fifth Avenue and Stetson Drive to usher in the activation of the first phase of a wireless network.
Mayor Mary Manross presided over the event. Using a large pair of wire cutters, Manross cut an inert cable connected to a laptop computer to symbolize the kickoff of the wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi, network.
Wi-Fi networks allow users to surf the Internet, access their e-mail, and connect in cyberspace with other users. Wireless networks in recent years have become increasingly popular, with more cafes and coffee shops advertising that they provide access to Wi-Fi “hot zones.”
The Scottsdale-based company that established the new
network, Wildfire, already has attracted 64 subscribers without advertising the service, said Hal Halpin, the company’s chief operating officer.
“We were amazed,” Halpin said, adding he expects to garner about 2,000 subscribers once word gets out.
User fees will range from $3.75 per hour to about $40 per month, according to a news release from the city announcing the ceremony.
Halpin said he estimates 60 percent of those using the wireless network will be using it for entertainment and 40 percent will use it for business. “Clearly, people will be able to come down here and spend more time and be connected,” he said.
The area is known as a mecca of art galleries, restaurants, businesses and retail stores.
Halpin said establishing this portion of the network cost about $200,000 and took about one year to complete. He said Wildfire plans to expand the network and add video and audio capabilities.
Canada-based BelAir Networks configured and installed the 13 nodes in the area that provide the wireless service, said Mike Milton, a sales representative with BelAir Networks. Each node costs approximately between $2,000 and $5,000, depending on their configuration, Milton said.
BelAir Network system engineer Ken Daniels said plans are under way to expand the network to cover about a 4-square-mile range and eventually provide wireless service throughout Scottsdale.