In the fight over whether towns and cities should be allowed to have their own Wi-Fi networks, Microsoft has clearly come down on the pro side. The company has conducted several market studies about municipal Wi-Fi, and has found, in the words of Stefan Weitz, director of planning for MSN at Microsoft, that there is “significant demand for free municipal Wi-Fi. There is widespread adoption potential.”
That, according to Computerworld. Weitz spoke at the MuniWireless 2007: New England conference just out side of Boston. Microsoft conducted several studies of existing municipal Wi-Fi network, including one in Portland, Oregon.
Weitz said that there are some problems with municipal Wi-Fi, such as poor indoor coverage. And he warned that some applications could suck up too much of a municipal Wi-Fi network’s bandwidth, such as VoIP and instant messaging.
But he believes those problems can be overcome. Some results of Microsoft’s studies are particularly interesting:
* In one small communitty studied, munciipal Wi-Fi had a 5% adoption rate in October 2006, which rose to 22% the following April. The average amount of time spent online per month was 15 hours.
* In a medium-size city, the initial adoption rate was 20%, and rose to 40% several months later. The average time spend online per month was 10 hours.
* Twenty-one percent of respondents to Microsoft surveys said they would be interested in free municipal Wi-Fi, with only 8% interested in a paid model.