Wireless urban networks can be approached from many perspectives. They are commonly studied on the basis of technology development (e.g., Chao, Uden, & Shih, 2005), business and service support (e.g., Friday, Davies, Wallbank, Catterall, & Pink, 2004; Jenisch, Orlamünder, Köstring, & Brügge, 2005), urban marketing and city image promotion (e.g., Dobers, 2004) or societal use of technology (e.g., Graham & Marvin, 1996; Rao & Parikh, 2003; Palm & Wihlborg, 2006). This article gives a detailed outline of the provision and condition of public wireless local area networks (WLANs) in Finland. The cases of Oulu, Turku and Helsinki (“Arabianranta” residential area) are presented. These cities are relevant study locations because they have actively participated to the creation processes of public city WLANs. They are also using wireless networks as promotion tools in their image marketing. In addition, Finland has been regarded as one of the top “network ready” nations in the world and was ranked fourth in the latest Networked Readiness Index by WEF (2007) after Denmark, Sweden and Singapore.
Several relevant studies on wireless networks have been conducted recently (e.g., Harwit, 2005; Salkintzis, Pavlidou, Fitzek, & Varma, 2005; Zhuang, Gan, Loh, & Chua, 2003). For example, Tang and Baker (2002) analysed metropolitan area wireless networks in three locations in the U.S., including the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington D.C. and Seattle. They provided an extensive quantified analysis of network loading, activity and mobility patterns of data signals.
To generalise the work of Tang and Baker (2002), there are variations in 1) technologies, 2) organisational arrangements and 3) usage preferences related to WLANs. There are several “city networks” that could be studied here. First, several technical solutions exist for different purposes. Private radio access networks (RANs) and cellular wide area networks (WANs) are often deployed by public authorities (e.g., emergency units, police, maintenance) for the purpose of sharing and delivering information from their daily field operations. WLANs are the third typical solution structure for providing a higher bandwidth in outdoor conditions. WLANs are based on standardised industry technologies. Three main standards are used to define the communication protocol between the access point and the client. They are all variants of the IEEE 802.11 standard (802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g). The (a) and (g) standards provide 54 Mbps rates and the (b) standard, 11 Mbps. However, in practice, the rates are considerably lower because of protocol overheads and distance decay between the client and the access device (Cisco, 2006).
Key Terms in this Chapter
B-U-G Cooperation: An organisational cooperation model that includes partners from business, university and government. B-U-G co-operation is commonly locally based aiming to foster local development.
Wireless City Network: A location-bound WLAN provided by a public or a commercial organisation. Generally, a wireless city network can be used by anyone. The connection can be made with or without identification process by anyone located in the specified area. A city network can also be locally targeted inside the city to a certain location or it can be a full-coverage network.
Wireless Service End-User: A person or an organisation using the provided wireless Internet connection with a user interface that is commonly a lap-top computer, palm-top device such as a smart phone or other portable device.
Public e-Service: A service available in digital form. Public e-services include all services provided by the public actor. These include Internet-based service solutions, other network-based solutions (also restricted), smart card solutions and other digitalised authentication methods targeted to users. Public e-services are provided by authorities of different spatial scales, including local actors (e.g., city organisations), regional actors (counties and districts), national and international actors (see Inkinen & Jauhiainen, 2006 ).
Public-Private Partnership: A joint agreement between public organisation and private business resulting into a product, service or development venture that is funded and operated through a cooperation of participating partners.
Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP): An actor providing wireless connection service to households and organisations. The WISP service customer (subscriber) gains access to network services within the vicinity of the server transmission range. These locations are called “hot spots” or “access points.” WISPs provide basic service sets (BSS) and extended service sets (ESS) that are defined in the IEEE 802.11b specification.
Public Noncommercial Wireless Network: A wireless network not based on market economy profit-making. Public organisations providing a wireless Internet connection without a charge or payment are noncommercial WLANs.