A project to turn all of Tempe into a giant Wi-Fi hot spot is proceeding on schedule, with the first phase set for completion at the end of this month.
When completed in mid- to late February, the wireless broadband program will allow anyone with a wireless-enabled computer to access the Internet from anywhere within the city limits.
"We’re right where we should be, and we haven’t run across any huge obstacles," said Dave Heck, deputy information technology manager for Tempe.
The project involves installation of about 400 antenna and radio units on streetlights and buildings around the city, creating a network of access points that create wireless "mesh" covering the city.
So far, about 60 of the router units have been deployed in the Phase 1 area, mostly in downtown Tempe, where the system is already running, Heck said.
About 90 units will be installed in total when the first phase is completed, he said. Also included in the first phase is establishment of an operations center in downtown Phoenix, which will be connected to Tempe base stations by Cox Communications’ fiber optic cable, he said.
The system is being installed by a private contractor, NeoReach Wireless, a subsidiary of MobilePro, a Bethesda, Md.-based broadband and telecommunications company, which will recover its costs from fees paid by system users. The company is operating under the Waz (for wireless access zone) Tempe brand name.
The company has declined to reveal the amount of its investment.
The city is not putting any money into the system but is giving NeoReach access to its light poles and city buildings.
Two hours of free Internet access is available daily to computer users in the downtown area from University Drive to Town Lake and Ash to College avenues.
Information on service plans can be found on the project’s Web site, www.waztempe.com.
Locally, Scottsdale and Phoenix are working on Wi-Fi systems and Chandler has installed a demonstration project.
MobilePro has won the bid to install a citywide system in Sacramento, and the company hopes to announce three to five more by the end of this year, said Kerrie Rockwell, director of sales and marketing.