Downtown San Jose residents and passersby can now enjoy the fastest local public Wi-Fi service in North America for free.
The City of San Jose, Smartwave Technologies and Ruckus Wireless Inc. unveiled Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi in front of San Jose’s City Hall Plaza on March 14.
“The objective was to build the best network possible,” said Smartwave CEO Al Brown. “From a wireless standpoint, if the speed is slow, that’s not very good. We wanted to have complementary coverage and coverage, and that’s typically how you design wireless networks."
Brown said the objective of the new network was to find a way to handle all of the target areas so people have a better user experience.
Brown said Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi pushes the boundaries of typical Wi-Fi networks by using Ruckus’ fiber technology and Smartwave’s infrastructure to make
a faster connection.
There are currently 26 Wi-Fi hotspots spread throughout Downtown San Jose, and 15 more to be constructed in Summer 2013.
The new network will increase Wi-Fi speed by three to four times, stated a news release from Ruckus.
Smartwave Technologies and Ruckus Wireless Inc. helped make the project economically feasible for San Jose, according to Mayor Chuck Reed.
Reed said Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi will cost the city about $22,000 a year to operate.
The new network has an initial one-time cost of about $94,000, stated
the news release.
According to Brown, the idea of Wickedly Fact Wi-Fi began in November 2012 when Vijay Sammeta, the City of San Jose’s chief information officer, introduced the idea of bring “wickedly” fast Wi-Fi to the downtown area to create a true capital-of-Silicon-Valley experience.
“We had a previous existing Wi-Fi network that just didn't represent the capital of Silicon Valley,” Sammeta said. “So, a decision point for me was, ‘Well, let’s go out and see what’s in the market place, and if I can find something that represents what San Jose is about — innovation, pushing the envelope and representing Silicon Valley as the (capital) — we would go for something or, quite frankly, we wouldn't do anything at all.’”
Sammeta and his team then found hardware manufacturer Ruckus Wireless Inc. and integrator Smartwave Technologies.
“The stars just kind of aligned,” Sammeta said. “I had a vision and shared my vision throughout the entire process.”
However, Sammeta said he credited the success
of the project to both Smartwave Technologies and Ruckus.
“A lot of people point to me as the person with the vision,” Sammeta said, “but at the same time, if they didn't share in this vision, it wouldn't be a reality.”
He said expanding the network’s range would be tricky, but the project intends to provide a high-quality experience to a compact area as opposed to providing a wide network with low-quality in the future.
The name “Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi was developed by both Semmeta and Kim Walesh, San Jose’s economic development director, Sammeta said.
“What I want is the name to not sound like government,” Sammeta said. “With those parameters, (Walesh and I) kicked (names) around by email, (brainstormed) very organically (and) nongoverment-esque, and came up with the name. And it really stuck. We shared it with the partners and they were like ‘Yea, we can get on board with that.’”
Sammeta said Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi helped brand the network in the right way.
Councilmember Ash Kalra said he was very excited for the new network.
“(People) don’t have to worry about if coffee shops allow it,” Kalra said. “They can use it anywhere.”
Socorro Saboff, a judicial assistant who works in the downtown area, said she was excited when she shared the news of Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi with other court staff colleagues since her building did not have a Wi-Fi network.
“ We've been using 4G forever because you can’t use Facebook in the building, so we always have (our 4G) on,” Saboff said.
Brown said the new network benefits SJSU students by allowing them to use the stronger Wi-Fi off campus.
“It will benefit them because they don’t have to be on campus all of the time,” Brown said. “They can have a little bit of fun at 4th Street Pizza, you can get online, do your homework, all the stuff you need to do.”