RoamAD serves up free Iperbole alla Bolognese

Home of European radio research gets Kiwi wifi

Visiting academics and tourists enjoying Italy’s historic city of Bologna can now take advantage of a free wireless service, supplied courtesy of Auckland’s RoamAD.

The Iperbole Wireless network covers Bologna’s Centro Storico. Wi-fi access covers a large central area, from the piazzi Maggiore and Nettuno, as well as the via Archiginnasio, via Rizzoli, via Zamboni thoroughfares, ending up at piazza Verdi. For now, the 802.11b/g service is free to use and runs at a maximum of 256kbit/s. There are no data caps, but there is a time limit of one-and-a-half hours per session.

RoamAD’s CEO Martyn Levy says the service utilises multi-radio access points, built by RoamAD’s Italian partner, HI-TEL Italia. The New Zealand company supplies the software platform for the network.

The radio nodes are based on Intel’s Xscale processor and are remotely manageable, and upgradeable, using modular hardware that will allow RoamAD to move to new standards-based wireless broadband technologies as they emerge, says Levy.

The other partners in the project are Bologna ISP Acantho, Laboratori Guglielmi Marconi, the Comune di Bologna and the Universita di Bologna, the oldest university in the Western world.

Levy wouldn’t disclose how much the project is worth to RoamAD, but claims that other wireless deployments the company has been involved in are very profitable, with low customer acquisition and maintenance costs.

RoamAD uses a hybrid infrastructure mesh rather than a pure grid-like structure for its network. This allows it to deploy bandwidth more efficiently, says Levy. And, thanks to the multi-radio nodes, Levy says RoamAD can use 802.11a to provide 20Mbit/s effective backhaul to the 802.11b access points.

The collaboration between RoamAD and Bologna’s municipal authorities has produced a service that is geared towards convergence, Levy says. It can be used for fixed and mobile wireless access, as well as mobile voice over IP.

Furthermore, the service can be upgraded to the WiMAX wireless networking standard, which is becoming more popular around the world now commodity chip makers such as Intel are backing it.

RoamAD has previously deployed Muni-WiFi, in Perth, and was also chosen by Telecom to provide the wireless platform for the campus-wide wi-fi mesh at the Southland Institute of Technology.

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