The town of Swindon, England, will provide free Wi-Fi to residents: The project is estimated at just £1m to install 1,400 access points around the city, which seems rather inexpensive--could that possibly include installation, backhaul, network operations, and bandwidth? The network is described as a mesh, but it's hard to know what that means these days, as the term is used too loosely.
Usage will be limited on the free service, but that hasn't been described in any of the reporting. An hour a day? 100 MB a month? A 20 Mbps (noted as 20 MB in the Guardian story) service will be available as an upgrade, but I don't know of any Wi-Fi network capable of delivering 20 Mbps on a distributed basis. 20 Mbps is tricky enough in the home over any distance.
Color me dubious about the particulars. The Web site for the service, dubbed Signal, is unpopulated. International coverage of this story is breathless, quotes from the press release, and doesn't ask anyone from the company or elsewhere about how this could possibly work.
At least the firm plans to use WPA encryption, according to its press release. The company also recommends using a "wireless" repeater, which means there's a hidden $50 to $150 cost in obtaining such an item to pull the signal in from outside.
The network will apparently be up and running by April 2010, with an initial phase launched in December 2009. Funds will be used from both public and private sources, and a local businessman's firm, Digital City UK, will handle the buildout. The Swindon town council owns 35 percent of the venture.
I don't see how the stated goals, costs, deployment, and service is feasible. I'm looking forward to further details.