Muniwireless market sizing report now available

U.S. cities, towns and counties will spend nearly $700 million over the next three years to build municipal-owned wireless broadband networks. Moreover, the U.S. market will enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 134 percent between 2004 and 2007 and will exceed $400 million by 2007 as more municipalities, including larger cities like San Francisco and Portland, embark on wireless initiatives.

These statistics, together with other findings, are detailed in my new report: 2005 Municipal Wireless State of the Market Report. I researched and wrote it in collaboration with Microcast Communications.

Since I began following this industry more than two years ago, everyone has struggled to get a handle on just how big this market really is, and what the market opportunity represents for companies building and deploying wireless networks for municipalities. The study is the first to quantify the market’s size and growth potential, and leaves little doubt: this is a market that has quickly gained critical mass, and is destined to grow at rapid rates for the foreseeable future — even with the obvious questions surrounding the technical and political challenges.

Among other key findings of the study:

Growth is taking place with equal vigor in large and small municipalities alike. Growth will more than double annually for the next three years, both in cities with populations of more than 500,000 people, and those with less than 100,000 residents. More than 60% of total 2005 municipal wireless network spending is being done by large cities, a figure expected to hold fairly constant in the next two years, as more and more large cities issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for their wide-area wireless initiatives. The top application for current municipal wireless networks is public safety (police, fire, emergency services). Just over half of U.S. municipalities that have deployed municipal wireless have done so for public safety. Many municipalities are starting their “unwiring” efforts in an attempt to reduce skyrocketing telecommunications costs. But small municipalities often are driven to offer inexpensive broadband access to residents and businesses that are typically underserved by the large incumbent communications carriers. Since the majority of municipal wireless spending will focus on infrastructure build-out for the next several years, product vendors will be well-positioned to capitalize on demand for their products. However, that infrastructure is deployed, applications developers are going to be the most sought-after technology partners. Adoption of important industry standards, such as the next generation of Wi-Fi (802.11s) and WiMax, could spur even higher growth rates for the market, should those standards be widely adopted by technology vendors early next year. Still unclear is how dramatic will be the market impact of major technology players such as Microsoft, Cisco, Google and Intel. The study is based upon in-depth, personal interviews with municipal IT executives, elected officials, and municipal department heads. We received detailed statistical information about past, current and anticipated future spending for all-sized U.S. municipalities. The interviews were combined with U.S. census data to create a comprehensive “market map” representing the total available market for the years 2004 through 2007.

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