Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What's going on with the project? Let's chat!

While I've been posting some replies to questions on the blog, it's been a while since I've put up an actual post on the project blog. I'll try to rectify the communication situation going forward.

Currently, we have the main basic infrastructure of the wireless network up and running (the "backhaul", as it's called). Our next step, the one that will be the most visible and usuable to the general public, is to get antennas mounted on street lights and electric distribution poles throughout town. These lower "street level" antennas will enable business and some residential customers to utilize the network much more widely than today. (Yes, the network is for businesses AND residents). I'll discuss what's going on with the street level antennas in a couple of paragraphs, but first a small departure on how the network is being used, handily, right now.

The town is converting most all of their internet and wireless needs over to the Internet Utility wireless network. The town hall and court switched over months ago to the wireless network, the town police station utilizes the wireless network for a number of things including communications with the fire territory stations, and the town water/sewage department is converting all of its internet and high speed communication needs over to the wireless network. In the near future we plan on pulling in other town police wireless needs (for internet access and station to station communication) , are working with the fire territory to add additional station to station communications and/or internet access, and are going to place wireless antennas on all water/sewage SCADA locations (pump stations) throughout town. Collapsing the town's various wireless networks into one helps to reduce the cluttered frequencies, reduce costs overall, and increase bandwidth and functionality.

In addition to the above, one of the other overall plans is to utilize the part of the wireless network for "public safety" devices only. The 4.9ghz band that is part of the network we are building will allow specific devices used by the police and fire depts, usually in-vehicle communication devices, to operate securely and uninterrupted by cluttered radio traffic. This is the fast growing trend amongst other communities, large and small (Indianapolis, Beachgrove, etc.), for increasing emergency response groups abilities to perform their duties. The higher frequency (4.9ghz) allows for much faster and larger quantities of data to be transmitted.

Now I'll chat about current status of getting antennas on light poles and electric distribution poles throughout town. This has been in process now for over 6 months. Duke Energy owns these poles and it's been a slow process to get the agreements and rates established with the town. They've been good people to work with, for sure, but there is natural beaucracy involved especially when it comes to creating something new, that hasn't been done before. They responded to our requests, we did analysis together on initial locations, have met with the town manager and town council members, analyzed equipment specs, they sent information to their corporate offices (out of state) who in turn started creating rates and proposed agreements. Since the rates are new and for a new function, they must be approved by the IURC (Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission) and that's in process right now. In addition, the agreements/contracts will have to be reviewed by our town attorney and town council, and approved, before we can move forward with mounting the antennas. That's the big rub right now and the longest delay we've encountered.

Not that we haven't had other delays along the way, of course. Let me chat about that for a quick sec before signing off. Other natural beaucratic delays that occur anytime you are working with any government sprouted up like weeds. I'll give you some examples that on the surface seem silly but in reality....well, it's just reality for one reason or another:

- Fire Territory approval and contract to mount antennas on their towers: ~3 months
- Brownsburg School Corporation for the same: ~3 months
- Brownsburg Parks and Recreations dept for the same: ~2 months
- Private property owners for the same: often much longer, but variable

Now, to be clear - most everyone I've worked with on a personal basis has been nothing but kind and reasonable people. In fact, often they are very enthusiastic about the project. But the general process of establishing these types of agreements for and within a government is painfully beaucratic and slow. It's just the facts - good people, slow processes.

I'll post more soon. Please feel free to ask questions, it's your town and you deserve the right to ask about what's happening.

Andy Hall

Monday, April 02, 2007

Customer premises equipment

For customers who are having a difficult time connecting to the Brownsburg Connected wireless network, or who can connect but experience unsatisfactory performance, additional WiFi hardware may be the answer.

First, let us review some of the potential problems.

First, WiFi (802.11b) operates in an *extremely* crowded spectrum. There are literally thousands of devices in Brownsburg (and everywhere else for that matter) cluttering up the 2.4ghz band, from cordless phones to bluetooth mobile devices to microwave ovens to the hundreds and hundreds of laptops and home wireless networks.

Most laptops already have a built-in wifi adapter. Low-cost PCI and USB adapters are available for desktop computers. These adapters are of varying quality and performance, but they are almost universally low-power devices. They can work great on local home and office wireless networks, but may not have the power to transmit through the noise to a municipal antenna on a tower several hundred feet away (or more, much more). In addition, laptops and desktops are placed where it makes sense to get your work done, not where it makes sense to transmit and receive radio signals. This often means down low, behind several walls, trees, etc. Things that are generally detrimental to radio signal propagation.

The solution? Purpose built hardware, placed in the optimal location. Several reasonably priced products exist that promise superior performance in a municipal wireless environment. Combine one of these products with an optimal location, such as an upstairs window, or mounted on the roof, and your signal strength and quality should be much improved.

Over the next several weeks I will be testing some of these products and posting the results on this blog. Let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything particular you'd like covered in these reviews.

All the usual disclaimers apply. Your mileage may vary. Radio performance, especially in the crowded 2.4ghz band is difficult to predict.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Photo Gallery

Check out a handful of pictures we've taken during the buildout of the Brownsburg Connected WiFi network. We'll post more as we continue with mounting new antenna's and other events. Enjoy!

Photo Gallery #1

Andy Hall
Moving Target Technologies, Inc.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Brownsburg Connected FAQ

We have built our a first cut of the Brownsburg Connected FAQ. We'll be revising and changing this over time to address common questions and issues as they arise. Check it out and please send us some feedback if specific issues are not addressed that need be.

Andy Hall
Moving Target Technologies, Inc.

Build out of the network has started!

We finally have equipment in, some contracts signed, etc., and have started mounting antenna's in town. From time to time, I'll post Google Earth images of the antenna placements here so you can see *exactly* where they are going and know that there will be a signal radius of approximately 1/4 - 1/2 miles in all directions from each major antenna, possibly less for access points (small antennas), depending on the height it's mounted. Check out our first Google Earth image!

Andy Hall
Moving Target Technologies, Inc.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 News Flash

The towns project has made the front page news of a key municipal wireless information and news site! It's a decent write-up and it's great to be getting the word out in the industry. Stop by and check it out when you get a chance.

Thanks to Vickie for her marketing efforts on that front. :)

Andy Hall

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Project Calendar Available

We've created a calendar (at the bottom of this page) so all can keep up on events of interest as we build out the town's new wireless/wifi network.


Andy Hall

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tower/Antenna Locations

We have a map up now of possible wifi antenna and/or tower locations. Not all of the locations noted on the map will end up having an antenna. The actual locations will be further refined and determined as we start building it out and we have detailed data on signal coverage.

In addition, we'll be deploying access points in various locations around the main antenna's to fill out some of the holes and increase signal strength in problem areas.

Andy Hall