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A Tale of Two Wireless Cities
Ralf Muehlen, SFLan

Track: Untethered
Date: Tuesday, February 10
Time: 2:00pm - 2:45pm
Location: California Ballroom C

Muehlen's talk covers the lessons learned from building and running large wireless networks in two very different cities: San Francisco and Black Rock City. The latter is the site of the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

Unlike many WiFi projects, this one is not extending the "last mile" by a few feet. Rather, it is trying to build networks with LAN characteristics (openness, symmetry, ownership, speed, price) on a metropolitan scale. With the advent of mass-market wireless gear, this goal has become achievable, though not easily. WiFi promises to bring Moore's Law to the telecommunications field, and change the way we are connected to each other for good. There are two testbeds for this experiment: Internet at Burning Man and SFLan.

Black Rock City becomes Nevada's fifth-largest city for one week a year, but lacks all traditional networks: paved streets, water, sewage, gas, electricity, phone, and data lines. It is the last place you would expect to get onto the Internet. San Francisco, on the other hand, having installed all of that infrastructure, ought to be a place with an abundance of cheap, broadband Internet access. Surprisingly, this is not the case.

Muehlen discusses the technical, geographical, and social issues involved with building large-scale wireless networks, and their impact on the network infrastructure.

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