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November 10, 2005

Sandoval County, New Mexico deploys countywide Wi-Fi network

Huge, largely rural county in New Mexico goes wi-fi.

Sandoval County, New Mexico is rolling out wireless broadband service throughout the county (3714 square miles or 9620 square kilometers) for municipal and public use. When the network is fully deployed, Sandoval will join the southeastern part of Washington state as regions having the largest wi-fi “clouds” in the US. Visit the Sandoval County website at www.ollagrande.net for more information, including the five-year plan and scope of work. The county is holding a contest among high school students to redesign the website, create a logo, and coin a slogan.

Contrary to a recent article in USA Today, Oregon does not have the largest wi-fi cloud in the US (that honor belongs to Washington state). This mistake has been replicated in other print and online publications.

Sandoval is a largely rural county with 101,500 residents, 70% of whom live in Rio Rancho. The presence of an Intel manufacturing facility led to a dramatic increase in the county’s population (mostly in Rio Rancho). The county is also the home of several Native American tribes who live in pueblos that do not have access to adequate telecommunications services.

According to the feasibility study prepared by Dewayne Hendricks of the Dandin Group for Sandoval County, several broadband providers offer service in principal metropolitan complex of Rio Rancho, Corrales, and Placitas. However, large parts of the county do not even have phone service.

Uses of the countywide network

  • General Business Internet Access: significantly higher bandwidth for e-commerce applications, B2B, delivery of possible new services that can be developed from more remote locations.
  • General Residential Internet Access: reasonable bandwidth for general Internet access, ability to tele-commute for work from home, medical access from home.
  • Telephony: less expensive telephone service with modern features for all users.
  • Control / Health-and-Status Systems: inexpensive ways to gain real time access to remotely-located devices that are hard or expensive to reach via wireline systems.
  • Emergency Services / Public Safety Support: digital cloud coverage for the areas served by the Emergency Services that is complete and reliable for mobile users.
  • Entertainment: high-bandwidth access for delivery of video and music content on demand.
  • Peer-to-Peer Data Exchanges: high-bandwidth access for exchange of large files.
  • Video / Audio Monitoring: moderate bandwidth for remote access of streaming video camera equipment.
  • Tele-commuting for work: medium to potentially high data transfers and streaming for the ability of home workers to be totally immersed into a particular work task (such as medical transcription) or work collaboration.
  • Medical Monitoring and Remote Health Management: low (medical monitoring) to moderate bandwidth with assured, preferably redundant access to guarantee continuous, real time availability of life-critical data.

Open-network, high-bandwidth model

Jonathan Mann of Olla Grande, Inc., a company set up by the county, says that the network will be open to service providers to create competition in the market for broadband services. The network, which is owned by the county, will cost approximately $9 million to build. The county has provided $2 million in startup funds, according to the Albuquerque Tribune.

I urge everyone to read the feasibility study for more details on the Sandoval County network. You will see that the county’s goal is to deploy a network that provides enough bandwidth for the applications described above and not simply the minimum required to view web pages. Most city- and county-wide deployments set an unambitious target of 1 mbps downstream bandwidth for end users and even less upstream bandwidth – not enough for VOIP, video, telemedicine, entertainment, and other applications.