Monday morning, September 20, 2004, Chair Burtner spent a little more than an hour meeting with Willy Wong and Danny Le at the offices of WiFiStore.com at 2601 E. Chapman, Suites 105 and 108, in Fullerton. Although WiFiStore.com is a new company, the principals have been working in the computer and wireless fields for at least 20 years, many of them in Silicon Valley. Willy Wong, who is the president of WiFiStore.com, is a graduate of the computer science program at UC Berkeley, and Danny Le is a graduate of a similar program at UC Irvine. Both Willy and Danny are associated with another privately funded WISP that has been partnering with telcos in Hong Kong to install wireless networks in buildings in Hong Kong. Their partners include SINA.com, Huchison Whampoa, and PCCW, the latter two of which are controlled by the Li family. Their company in Hong Kong has 50 employees. Willy Wong returned this past weekend from Hong Kong.
Willy's and Danny's companies are resellers for Cisco and other networking equipment firms. They recently signed an agreement with Vivato to be a reseller of Vivato's wireless networking equipment. They have been testing Vivato's unique technology and have been favorably impressed by the use of Vivato panels in the Port of Long Beach where containers are continually being shifted around. All of the employees of WiFiStore.com were flying Monday evening to Spokane to spend five days reviewing Vivato technology and viewing its deployment for both public and public safety use in Spokane.
Willy Wong and Danny Le are both residents of Rowland Heights and have had offices in Fullerton for several years. They founded WiFiStore.com to set up a wireless network using Vivato panels that will provide wireless network connectivity to apartments and businesses in the area around Cal State Fullerton. They hope to sell wireless subscriptions to apartment occupants at a monthly fee of about $20 per month. They expressed some concern about obtaining the right to set up their panels on the taller buildings in the area at rental rates that will enable their service to be economically viable. I mentioned that during a recent visit, Shanuj Sarin, Vivato network engineer, found the Fullerton water tank reservoirs microwave towers in Raymond Hills to be an excellent locale to site a Vivato panel.
In summary, I found the WiFiStore.com principals to be credible and am glad that we have the prospect of learning from their experience in implementing another form of WiFi technology in Fullerton.
Marketing Plans for Wireless Network
Paul Stover recommended that MyFullerton.com be used as the domain name of the portal for the wireless network in downtown Fullerton. A motion to that effect was made by Nilo Niccolai, seconded by Norman Thorn, and unanimously approved.
Paul reported that Kay Miller has received considerable positive feedback from the article that Paul Stover wrote and placed in the Chambers Fullerton magazine regarding plans for the wireless network in downtown Fullerton. She is very interested in being able to set and announce a date when the system will become available for public use.
Paul Stover distributed a draft of an article that will be placed in residents water bills describing the wireless network. He asked that TWG members review it and make suggestions prior to its submission for publication.
Review Contacts with Vendor Referrals
Chair Burtner spoke with Leonard Scott regarding installation of Corpus Christi's Tropos wireless network. Corpus Christi owns its own water and electric utility. The city used funds from its utilities to construct a wireless network that will be used, in addition to other purposes, for automatic reading of water and electric meters. Public safety and public works will also use the network. The general public will be limited to free access in some areas such as libraries and museums.
The network currently consists of 200 nodes and will have 325 by October 8, 2004. Radios are mounted primarily on traffic control light standards and street lights. The city has already connected most of its traffic lights with fiber. Some of the excess bandwidth is being used as backhaul for the wireless network.
The installation has been going very smoothly. Corpus Christi has received "stupendous" support from Tropos. Their staff is composed of great people who are knowledgeable and very responsive. There have been very few problems and they have been resolved expeditiously. Plans have been made to expand the network throughout the full 147 sq. mi. area of the city.
Acceptance testing is currently being performed. Network interference has been minimal and the public has not complained about interference. Foliage has not been a problem. Throughput is 1.5Mbps at the low end, although there is not yet much traffic on the network.
Corpus Christi chose Tropos, because when the decision was made at the end of 2003, Tropos had the only seamless mesh equipment that did not require expensive proprietary client equipment.
Review Vendor Selection
Norman Thorn, who is one of the persons on the TWG who are the most knowledgeable about wireless networks, presented a review of his visit to Culver City to evaluate the Firetide wireless network installed by Wireless Hotspot. He also discussed his contact with Wireless Hotspot regarding contract negotiations. In addition to concerns expressed in the TWG minutes of September 16, 2004, the initial contract proposed by Wireless Hotspot was lacking in professional acceptance tests and did not guarantee any level of coverage for laptop computers with standard Centrino radios. Norm also questioned certain technical aspects of the Firetide radios that have been proposed for the project. He and others concluded that if Wireless Hotspot were to install the Firetide wireless network, the City of Fullerton would be taking on the risk of working with a relatively inexperienced vendor to implement a relatively untried solution from an equipment networking firm whose experience with urban outdoor mesh networks is limited.
After considerable discussion regarding the process by which the TWG had first selected CDCE/Tropos and then Wireless Hotspot/Firetide to deploy the wireless network, Norm Thorn made a motion that the TWG rescind its decision of August 26, 2004, selecting Wireless Hotspot/Firetide as its vendor for deployment of the wireless network in downtown Fullerton and reinstate its earlier decision of August 2, 2004, in favor of having CDCE/Tropos deploy the network. The motion was seconded by Johnson Lew. All members took the opportunity to state their positions. It was pointed out that Tropos has successfully deployed many hundreds of radios in urban outdoor mesh installations. Also, they are willing to add more radios to the Fullerton mesh at no additional cost if the nine radios specified in their proposal do not give at least 95% coverage to clients with Centrino radio chips. Although several members expressed their respect for the enthusiasm and entrepreneurship of Wireless Hotspot staff, they agreed with the perception of risk described above. Paul Stover stated that he had to leave the meeting, but would support the decision of the group. The group voted 4:1 in favor of the motion.
Wireless Hotspot and CDCE/Tropos will be notified of the TWGs decision. Chair Burtner and Norman Thorn will try to meet with Helen Hall and CDCE/Tropos to work out a contract that is acceptable to CDCE/Tropos and the City of Fullerton. Norman Thorn has drafted acceptance tests (attachment to TWG minutes of September 16, 2004) that will be added to the contract that CDCE/Tropos will be asked to prepare prior to the TWG meeting. The goal is to have an acceptable contract prepared before the next TWG meeting on October 14, 2004.