Swedish city takes 802.11n metro

The Swedish city of Lund has decided to build wireless hotspots using 802.11n technology.

Even though it's still not a standard, 802.11n is starting to take off. The Swedish city of Lund has decided to build wireless hotspots using the technology. Larger carriers are also starting to get interested.

"It will be exciting to see what the technology can offer," said Peter Mellvé, CEO at the city-run Lunds Municipal Housing Company.

Lund, with 100,000 inhabitants, is the 12th largest municipality in Sweden.

The biggest difference between 802.11n and earlier standards is the increased capacity -- over 100M bps (bits per second) in real-world bandwidth -- opening doors for more demanding applications like video, IP (Internet Protocol) telephony and IPTV.

The technology still has to prove itself. During the first trial phase users in Lund will be able to surf the Internet in four town squares. In a year, all the most important places in the city central will offer access, if all goes according to plan.

Lund is simultaneously building a metro network, covering over 8,000 apartments. The wireless network will use spare Gigabit Ethernet ports to keep costs down, and transmission speeds up. Subscribers to fixed broadband will get free wireless access.

In both networks users will be able to choose among different carriers, using different SSIDs (service set identifiers) when using the wireless network.

Cisco will supply the wireless hardware -- Lund also uses its switches -- and the Swedish company Labs2 will provide the software. Both companies praise the network, and the technology.

"802.11n is better than b and g in every regard, coverage, stability and my favorite: capacity," said Jonas Birgersson, CEO of the board at Labs2 and the architect behind the network.

Cisco sees the network, even though it's small, as a big step forward.

"The network Lund is building is unique, both in terms of speeds and availability. It's the first time our 802.11n access points will be used in a metro network in Europe," said Jonas Phragmén, sales business development manager at Cisco.

The network giant has soothed any worries about the technology not being a standard by promising software upgrades, if necessary.

Lund isn't alone with its interest in 802.11n. Some larger carriers are also considering the technology, but they tread lightly.

"Today it doesn't meet our demands for interoperability between access points and clients. We'll wait until the standard is ratified, probably during the fourth quarter, and then start upgrading our network," said Roald Sandén, Nordic manager at The Cloud, which operates 12,000 hot spots in the U.K., Germany and Sweden.

Not everyone is convinced that 802.11n can deliver.

"It has a lot of potential, but it remains to be seen if it holds up in a real-world environment. Radio is complicated, but we plan to do tests to see if it's worth the extra costs," said Jonas Melander, CEO at Clue, which operates 400 hotspots in Sweden.

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