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Technology Working Group Minutes

Technology Working Group Minutes

March 9, 2006
9:00 A.M.


Chair Burtner called the meeting to order at 9:05 a.m.


Members Present:
Tony Anderson
Gerald Lucas
Roger Burtner, Chair
Robb Port
Fred Canfield
Carl Samantello
Helen Hall
Paul Stover, Vice Chair
Larry Iboshi

Members Absent
Scott Carroll
Larry Iboshi
Mike Carter
Cameron McCune
Richard Hartman

Dave Mock, Engineering Manager, Beckman-Coulter and author of numerous publications and two books regarding wireless technology


Approval of the minutes was postponed to the next meeting.


Item 1: Discussion with Dave Mock, author of Tapping Into Wireless and The QUALCOMM Equation

Vice Chair Stover had made arrangements for Dave Mock to meet with the TWG to discuss wireless technology. In addition to being an author of books on the wireless industry and articles for the Motley Fool and other publications, Dave is an Engineering Manager at Beckman-Coulter.

Dave became aware of the wireless mesh in downtown Fullerton as a result of contact that he had with Tropos which is the manufacturer of the radios in the Fullerton network. Although Dave lives in Placentia, he likes to come to Starbucks and connect to the Internet over FullertonWireless. He has noticed that more and more persons are connecting to it with laptops and that the network has become busier over time.

Dave related that although he is an engineer who can deal with the nitty-gritty details of engineering, he likes to put it into a larger context and interpret it for those who are less into the technology. Because there is so much new telecom technology coming to the market, Dave researches different competing telecom platforms and tries to determine which is likely to win in specific markets.

In response to questions from Chair Burtner regarding the creation of large-scale municipal WiFi mesh networks, Dave observed that many municipalities have jumped on the bandwagon in rolling out citywide implementations without having adequate information as to the type and number of applications that they can reasonably support. Dave does not believe that one system can support all the applications that some are seeking, at least not economically in a manner that produces a good result. Dave is somewhat pessimistic about serving the general public with wireless. Several years ago broadband prices from cablecos and telcos were high enough that wireless was an economical alternative. However, if it is offered as a low-cost subscription service over a wide area, the consumer expects a certain level of technical support and quality of service which makes the business model less tenable than offering it in a limited area as a sponsored service on a best efforts basis. The former is a much more expensive operation. Mobility for the average consumer is also problematic in that many of the locales such as homes, workplaces, libraries, and other public places are currently served by wireless WiFi hotspots. Subscription wireless service for the public is most viable in places like Cerritos where DSL and cable broadband are not viable options.

In places where wireline infrastructure is poor or nonexistent, wireless mesh is a compelling alternative. This is especially true in developing countries where it is much more expedient to set up a wireless mesh than to dig trenches and connect every building with wires or cable. Wireless is also viable in cities where institutions want to connect various locations to a broadband network. In cases such as Fullerton where the intention is to connect these sites with fiber, wireless can be used to extend the fiber network to remote sites or it can be added to it to provide mobility and services that complement the fiber infrastructure.

Dave observed that the TWG appears to be dealing more with infrastructure than with applications. It is important that both the infrastructure designers and application users be represented in discussions pertaining to the nature of the network. Chair Burtner and Vice Chair Stover shared that although the TWG was at this time somewhat more concerned with infrastructure, representatives of the major users, which are the local government and schools, are members of the TWG.

Vice Chair Stover asked about trends in the competition between the WiFi and cell phone industries. Dave observed that cellular is going to fight WiFi and similar wireless technologies in every way possible. There has been a conscious effort to stall the deployment of dual mode phones that can work on both cellular and WiFi networks. Approximately 60% of cell phone usage takes place at work or at home, places where WiFi networks are often accessible, so placing a WiFi chip in a cell phone is likely to reduce usage of cellular networks to the economic disadvantage of the cell phone companies.

Chair Burtner observed that 3G cell phone technology is becoming ubiquitous and its bandwidth is rapidly increasing, thereby possibly posing a threat to WiFi. Dave responded that although 3G will soon be ubiquitous, covering the majority of the population, prices for it are on the order of $60 per month and thus usage of 3G is likely to be limited to specific types of users. Although professionals who travel a lot are likely to be frequent users, Dave estimates that the vast majority of people cannot justify an extra $60 per month for wireless broadband access on a wide area, which is why WiFi is still very compelling. WiFi appeals much more to the mass market now because it is basically free. With WiFi one is not necessarily locked into a contract with a monthly recurring payment, so the cost differential between it and 3G right now is substantial. Dave stated that he will drive from his home in Placentia to downtown Fullerton to use FullertonWireless because it is free and it is nice to get away from home at times to work. He believes that the cost of 3G will have to drop by at least 50% before there is much uptake by the general public.

Helen Hall asked if AT&T is likely to put more competitive pressure on WiFi because it recently bought BellSouth. Dave believes that it will, but doesn't know if it will accelerate its 3G implementation any faster than it has been. However, Cingular's 3G service is priced in the neighborhood of $70 per month making it unlikely to be widely accepted by the mass market. If the cost dropped to about $30 per month and the mass market moved to 3G, the networks that Verizon and Cingular are installing could not handle the traffic. Consequently, WiFi would still have an advantage.

Chair Burtner inquired if Dave would comment on the experience of cities in using wireless mesh for public safety/public works in contrast to service to the public or mixed use. Dave indicated that he has a cursory knowledge. While some systems are based on the WiFi 802.11 technology at 2.4 GHz, others such as Alvarion use the 900 MHz frequency for public safety/public works. In addition to being less encumbered with traffic, the 900 MHz frequency penetrates structures better.

Dave is uncertain how much one needs to be concerned that potential interference and telecom traffic on the 2.4 GHz frequency is likely to obstruct communication by emergency workers. Dave believes that it may be very dependent upon how the network is designed and that potential congestion can be mitigated. Although the 4.9 GHz frequency has been reserved for public safety, its use especially in Fullerton for public safety/public works is somewhat problematic because of concerns about propagation over hills and around structures and penetration of foliage and structures by a signal at that frequency. For a given power of output, propagation and penetration increase as one moves down the frequency spectrum resulting in better coverage with fewer transmitters and receivers in the lower frequencies.

Chair Burtner inquired if cities such as Anaheim, which were planning public use networks, were making any special provision to take the 2.4 GHz frequency indoors for the use of homeowners and businesses. Dave stated he knew of bandwidth concerns when using repeaters to bring a signal indoors, but had not specifically looked into the pros and cons of doing so. He mentioned that sending files and e-mails shouldn't be a problem, but there are much more stringent requirements to send voice over a WiFi network. Even taking video indoors over a wireless mesh might be less problematic than voice.

Because of Dave's association with Beckman-Coulter, Vice Chair Stover inquired about the growth of tech-related jobs in the Fullerton area and how broadband might impact their creation. Dave observed that a company like Beckman could afford to create its own broadband network by purchasing dedicated broadband access. However, smaller businesses such as startups are less likely to be able to do so. Therefore, fostering the creation of wireline and wireless broadband in Fullerton as the TWG is doing is conducive to attracting and supporting small businesses that need access to this technology. However, today Beckman-Coulter is not likely to be spinning out or creating small tech-related businesses. Beckman-Coulter is currently inwardly focused on the core markets it serves. As a result, it has made a few major acquisitions rather than performing research and development to create whole new markets.

Chair Burtner thanked Dave Mock for his time and input, and invited him to stay for the rest of the TWG meeting.

Item 2: Creation of an educational/municipal (institutional) fiber/wireless network, Fullerton Net

Status of contract with Lee Afflerbach and I-Net conceptual design

Chair Burtner informed the TWG that the City had executed a contract with Columbia Telecommunications Corporation to have Lee Afflerbach prepare the I-Net conceptual design. He noted that Assistant to the City Manager Joe Felz had indicated that it would probably be about six weeks before the TWG would have something to review. Chair Burtner pointed out that a meeting between TWG and Lee Afflerbach to discuss the conceptual design would try to be coordinated with one of Mr. Afflerbach's trips to the West Coast.

Franchise agreement with Adelphia

Chair Burtner reported that two copies of the franchise agreement had been obtained from Joe Felz. Chair Burtner and Fred Canfield each have a copy. Chair Burtner offered to share his copy with any TWG member who might be interested. Chair Burtner then provided a history of the city's franchise agreement since 1980, noting that a settlement agreement had been reached in 2000 which required Comcast or its successor to provide cable modem connectivity free of charge to all public and private schools in the City of Fullerton that were within 200 feet of a cableco line or infrastructure. Chair Burtner indicated that he had contacted Tony Anderson and Carl Samantello at the school districts, and they indicated they were unaware of the service being provided. He also noted that the terms of the earlier agreement required development of an I-Net, which was never done, and it appeared Comcast had paid the City $900,000 as a settlement.

Funding sources for FullertonNet

Chair Burtner asked that the discussion item regarding FullertonNet be postponed to another meeting when Joe Felz could attend.

Support for Power Users Group

Chair Burtner asked Vice Chair Paul Stover to discuss his proposal for a power users group.

Vice Chair Stover indicated that he believed the creation of a power users group made up of the best and brightest young people in the area of technology from the City's school districts (or outside the city) would be extraordinarily useful to the TWG in being able to support the efforts of the TWG. He suggested that it would also provide an opportunity to showcase the talent of the schoolchildren in Fullerton, bringing them into a partnership with what's going on in Fullerton, and helping to support technology moving forward.

He also views it as an opportunity to get input from them on how the WiFi is doing - find out what their experiences are, how is it working for them, do they do their homework downtown - as well as an opportunity to get their ideas on the table - what are they looking for in terms of a job later on, and how could the City be supporting that currently. He suggested that since the children are the future, it would be advantageous for the TWG to talk to the future.

Guest Dave Mock suggested that one of the best ways to spur people on is a contest. He suggested offering a scholarship to a school or a team that comes up with the most creative use of Fullerton's network.

It was agreed that the users group is a good idea, and it was suggested that the TWG needs to formulate involvement by kicking if off with some kind of contest to actually get people interested in joining and participating.

Helen Hall suggested a good start might be redoing the City's portal page - making it more user friendly.

Chair Burtner asked Carl Samantello (Fullerton Joint Union High School District) how to promote or move forward with the ideas presented. Mr. Samantello indicated that it would be important to get the superintendents' approval and get the principals involved, and that he would present the idea to the cabinet on Monday. Ms. Hall suggested that members of the TWG could meet with the cabinet to explain the proposed users group and to answer any technical questions.

Chair Burtner noted that Starbuck's has a foundation that provides grant money to communities for projects of this type, and it would be worth pursuing. Ms. Hall suggested that downtown businesses might want to sponsor the project, and it would be a way of getting the businesses involved.

Tony Anderson noted that Paul Stover's power user group idea seemed to steer in the direction of high school kids, but he encouraged the TWG to also include some of the younger kids. Mr. Samantello pointed out that it would be a good way to have the high school students mentor the younger age group.

Helen Hall pointed out that whatever was devised, parental consent would have to be obtained and the involvement of kids would require adult supervision within the context of the school district's requirements.

Item 3: Review of Action Items

Chair Burtner noted that one of the TWG's top priorities was still hammering out an agreement between the City and potential I-Net institutions. He suggested that the TWG members follow up on that by reviewing some of the memoranda of understanding that Santa Monica had provided before initiating an email discussion.

Item 4: Status of FullertonWireless

Helen Hall reported that Tropos had resolved the MacIntosh connectivity issue in the downtown by replacing some firmware. She suggested that those TWG members with Macs might do some testing on it to confirm.

Fred Canfield asked how Ms. Hall was doing with the economic development aspect of sponsoring the downtown WiFi, and suggested checking with the downtown businesses to see if they wanted to help sponsor. Ms. Hall indicated that she had met with the Executive Director of Redevelopment and the Redevelopment Manager and they had indicated they were not ready to take on the downtown project quite yet. She suggested that the TWG needs to refocus on where they want to put their energy, where they could improve the WiFi if money becomes available to do that.




Chair Burtner made the following announcements:

  1. The next meeting of the TWG will be March 30.
  2. Chair Burtner had emailed the TWG members that he had visited SoCo Walk, the Olsen development south of the Transportation Center, and found that they were unable to confirm whether or not fiber was being brought to that project. He contacted Joe Felz who passed the inquiry on to Joel Rosen, Senior Planner.
  3. The TWG learned from Joel Felz that the City had discussions with the Orange County Transportation Authority relative to security in the Fullerton Transportation Center. The OCTA has received a Homeland Security grant, and they plan to put in a wireless surveillance system. They indicated they were going to have to run fiber in the track right-of-way. Chair Burtner passed the info on to Joe Felz that the TWG's fiber maps show that fiber already exists in the train right-of-way in Fullerton. The fiber may belong to Qwest because at one time Qwest and the Santa Fe had common ownership. Joe Felz is going to pass that info on to OCTA.
  4. Chair Burtner attended the Optical Fiber Conference the day before and had an opportunity to talk to the Corning people. He indicated that Corning has a service where they will do some initial design consultations on fiberoptic networks free of charge. He left his contact info and Corning will be in touch with him in a few days. He indicated that it will provide an opportunity for a second opinion, in that the TWG could have Corning review Afflerbach's design.
Mr. Stover noted that he had attended the Orange County Forum the day before and he heard nothing from Supervisor Bill Campbell or OCTA's Vice Chairman about safety and security - that their discussion was focused on freeways, congestion, and passing Measure M again. He further noted that the OCTA is suddenly getting into the technology arena with a "hurry up and get her done" approach, and he feels very strongly that the OCTA should be made aware of the TWG's work to at least make sure the TWG and the OCTA are on the same page.


There being no further business, a motion for adjournment was made, seconded, and unanimously approved by the members present. The meeting adjourned at 10:36 a.m.