Catching the Wireless Wave

Temple, Texas, has gained recognition for its technology deployment to provide a wide range of public services, from online bill payment options to a state-of-the-art mobile public-safety communications system. A high-speed wireless mesh network rings this city of 60,000 residents.

Major facilities such as the police department, fire department, library, municipal court and public-works service center are connected to our data center via fiber-optic links. Another 32 locations are linked using an ad hoc combination of low-speed wireless and T-1 connections across a sprawling 70-square-mile footprint.

When IT began planning a converged voice, data and video infrastructure, it quickly became obvious that the existing patchwork of connections was incapable of supporting such a migration. We sought a cost-effective way to scale the network and accommodate future applications and services, but the search was stymied by the lack of acceptable leased-line alternatives and the cost of running fiber.

We began exploring other options for network access and backhaul to connect dispersed locations and transport traffic over a high-speed backbone. While some of Temple’s buildings are located in close proximity, others are miles apart.

With the help of a contractor, we realized the 10 water towers that ring the city provide an excellent line-of-sight solution for reaching most locations. We deployed BridgeWave Communications 80-gigahertz Gigabit Ethernet wireless links and mesh gateways at the water towers. The wireless links provide the backhaul and the mesh gateways provide connectivity for buildings and mobile workers.

We took a nontraditional approach to implementing the citywide mesh network by initially targeting wireless connections to municipal facilities and high-priority zones or corridors, while supporting emerging public-safety, video surveillance and disaster recovery applications. This approach took less cost and risk than implementing a fully operational mesh network across the city.

The city of Temple completed its high-speed wireless network in 2008 to meet current requirements while creating seemingly endless possibilities for the future. The self-healing network aggregates and backhauls traffic over a mesh-ring topology with built-in redundancy for maximum service availability. City employees in outlying areas who once were challenged with issues of basic connectivity and network congestion are ecstatic over the ease and speed with which they now can access, transmit and download data.

Our wireless network is proving instrumental in the city’s initiative to install video surveillance cameras on all city buildings and public-works facilities. We’ve started performing round-the-clock remote monitoring using multiple video cameras at the airport and library, and later this year will install video cameras on our water towers and water treatment plants to meet a Homeland Security requirement.

What’s more, we’ve begun migrating traffic from signal, public-safety and freshwater infrastructure monitoring applications onto the high-speed wireless network, improving connectivity and reducing network complexity. Because new network nodes can be deployed quickly and easily, the city also has identified an opportunity to set up temporary mobile data locations around the city as part of a far-reaching disaster recovery plan.

We spent about $400,000 on the new wireless network and forecast a full return on investment in less than three years. The overall cost savings are compelling. We save an estimated $100,000 per year by connecting our facilities over a wireless network, and are poised to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in network deployment costs and access fees.

By taking a strategic approach to mesh networks, the city of Temple has been able to provide sufficient bandwidth while controlling maintenance costs.

May 12 2009