SOURCE: Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation

May 04, 2005 10:52 ET

Partnership Moves Forward in Bid to Make Rhode Island First Wireless State

Public/Private Partnership Concludes Rhode Island Is Ready to Become the First State in the Country With Border-to-Border Broadband Wireless

PROVIDENCE, RI -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 4, 2005 -- A study released this week by the Rhode Island Wireless Innovation Networks (RI-WINs) confirms that Rhode Island is ready to become the first state in the country with border-to-border broadband wireless and that organizations from both the private and public sector would use a state-wide network to increase their capacity for innovation. RI-WINs, a project of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF), is a collaboration among BIF members, American Power Conversion, IBM, Intel, Lucent Technologies, Metropolitan Life, the Rhode Island Commodores, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, and the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council.

The study cited that within Rhode Island's compact geography a border-to-border broadband network would enable collaboration across organizations, creating the potential to transform business models in both the public and private sectors. Innovative wireless solutions tested using the RI-WINs network are better positioned to be scaled-up for national and global expansion. This capacity for Innovation@Scale is an integral part of Rhode Island's ability to serve as an innovation laboratory for organizations from both within and outside the state.

The study, conducted by IBM on behalf of BIF, evaluated market demand, Rhode Island's existing telecommunications assets, and competing technologies to assess the feasibility of constructing a border-to-border broadband wireless network. Results from the study will guide the next phase of the RI-WINs initiative, the design and launch of a pilot project to explore how the network should be built and operated.

Border-to-Border Wireless: A Platform for Innovation

From mobile computing and remote health care monitoring to creating classrooms without walls, wireless solutions are radically reconfiguring communication in the 21st century. Fueled by a growing demand for new applications that enable mobile communications in the public and private sector, the U.S. wireless market is expected to grow to $212.5 billion by 2008.

The RI-WINs partnership aims to create a border-to-border wireless broadband network that breaks down barriers to innovation, improves interoperability among products and technologies, and establishes Rhode Island as an ideal place to explore and test new business models. The RI-WINs network will feature:

--  An open standards-based platform that accelerates a "test-trial-
    deploy" innovation cycle.
--  Fixed/mobile border-to-border wireless access to services that enable
    speeds in excess of 1Mb/sec.
--  Coverage for geographically underserved markets that fall outside of
    typical commercial models.
--  Collaborative development and integration of innovative wireless
    enterprise application solutions.
--  Technology that enables a "network of networks" in support of cross-
    industry collaboration.
    
Technological and Economic Feasibility

In January 2004, BIF commissioned a study to assess the feasibility of cost-effectively constructing and operating the RI-WINs network. Study results indicate that constructing and operating a border-to-border network is economically and technologically feasible. The study also concluded that there is strong interest in building a public/private coalition that leverages existing know-how, solutions, and infrastructure assets to build and operate a state-wide network.

As part of the evaluation, the RI-WINs study team:

--  Conducted more than 40 interviews with private companies, government
    agencies, and educational organizations.
--  Performed an analysis of Rhode Island's current technology
    infrastructure and reviewed secondary research on broadband wireless
    technology and emerging applications.
--  Surveyed the current state of the telecommunications industry and
    wireless networking efforts initiated in Philadelphia, Corpus Christi,
    Winston-Salem, and other locales.
--  Conducted a review of the global wireless programs and industry
    experiences of RI-WINs partners IBM, Lucent, and Intel.
--  Evaluated four specific opportunity areas that are good indicators of
    the overall potential market.
    
Estimates of the RI-WINs operating model indicate that total annual operating costs for the RI-WINs network are not expected to exceed $5 million. A primary concern of the RI-WINs study was establishing if there was sufficient market demand to enable RI-WINs to self-sufficiently cover these operational costs.

Given the breadth of potential public and private sector demand for border-to-border wireless services, the RI-WINs study evaluated four specific opportunity areas that are good indicators of the overall potential market: state agencies (public safety, DEM, field agents, etc.), education, health care, and mobile worker solutions. By predicting 25,000 total users from across the state agency, education, health care and mobile solutions sectors and calculating a $250 annual per user revenue, the annual revenue for RI-WINs can be forecasted at $6.25M.

The RI-WINs feasibility assessment also confirms that if Rhode Island becomes the first state in the country to establish a border-to-border broadband wireless network, companies from outside the state would come to Rhode Island to access the network in order to explore and test innovative new business models.

To assess the technological feasibility of creating a border-to-border wireless network in Rhode Island, the RI-WINs study evaluated three core technologies -- Cellular, WiFi, and WiMAX -- to determine which technology could best meet the needs of the RI-WINs network. The study evaluated these technologies based on cost, operational efficiencies, and availability. The study developed a conceptual network model to evaluate the candidate technologies in satisfying various application requirements across the geographies of each city and town within Rhode Island and created design models for each of the technology alternatives.

Study results indicate that the most effective and cost efficient network would deploy a WiMAX transport core with WiFi technology at the consumer interface edge. By utilizing a WiFi consumer interface edge, the RI-WINs network would conform to existing standards that power most end-user devices, reduce cost associated with major technology overhaul, and enable more users to access the network. Study leaders concluded that the expense and limited bandwidth of cellular technology indicated that cellular was not a recommended choice for a border-to-border network.

RI-WINs estimates that the total capital expense to design and launch a border-to-border wireless network in Rhode Island is $20 million. The costs of constructing and operating the RI-WINs network are well below what they would be in other states. By bringing together partners from both the public and private sector, RI-WINs has created a development model that leverages existing public and private infrastructure and application resources and Rhode Island's collaborative environment to create a cost-efficient platform for wireless innovation.

Next Steps

The next stage in the RI-WINs initiative is the design and launch of a pilot project to explore how the state-wide network should be built. A business plan is being developed to fund the pilot and solidify the partnerships that are necessary to implement the network. The plan is expected to be released in August 2005.

For a full copy of the report, email Melissa Withers at mwithers@businessinnovationfactory.com.

About the Business Innovation Factory

The Business Innovation Factory (BIF) is a community of innovators collaborating to explore and test better ways to deliver value. BIF's mission is to create the public/private sector partnerships that are critical to making innovation the cornerstone of the nation's 21st century economy. BIF, a non-profit corporation located in Providence, Rhode Island, focuses on collaborative innovation projects with transformational potential in areas such as healthcare, security, ubiquitous computing and customer experience innovation. For more information, visit www.businessinnovationfactory.com

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