Pavlov upgrades free wireless in downtown Champaign

Pavlov upgrades free wireless in downtown Champaign

CHAMPAIGN — Pavlov Media has upgraded the Wi-Fi network in downtown Champaign, improving the system's download speed to 10 megabits per second.

The Champaign-based company began offering free Wi-Fi downtown in 2007 through a partnership with the city of Champaign. The upgrade was completed a few weeks ago, Pavlov spokesman Christopher Hunt said.

Today the newly refurbished network features six wireless access points, each with a range of 200 to 250 meters, and covers an area extending from West Side Park to the Illinois Terminal.

Hunt said the approximate coverage area goes from north of Church Street to a little south of University Avenue and from west of State Street to east of Walnut Street.

"More powerful and capable radio access points were installed," Hunt said. "Most of the work was done this spring and early summer."

A ribbon cutting for the upgraded network is scheduled for noon Friday at One Main Plaza at Neil and Main streets in Champaign.

Mark Scifres, Pavlov's chief executive officer, said the enhanced network "is both a showcase of how technology can help a community and a demonstration of the benefits of the downtown areas in our community."

Founded in 1994, Pavlov Media is one of the nation's largest private providers of broadband services — video, data and voice — to multifamily residences.

The company operates in more than 140 markets in 37 states. It has 95 employees, 85 of them in Champaign-Urbana.

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pattsi wrote on September 12, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Information questions:

1. If this method can be used to cover downtown area of Champaign, can this be expanded to cover the whole community?

2. If yes, what is the level of difficulty to do so and a range of costs, hypothetically.

3. If yes and the cost is less than anytcing proposed by Gigabit Square, then why is there any effort being put forth on such a proposal?

4. If yes, why then is the UC2B project being done at a huge cost, even though being paid for by federal dollars?

I am interested in any information that can be shared to help those in the community who do not have an extensive knowledge base about computer technology.

juandez wrote on September 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Wireless infrastructure requires a good wired infrastructure. The UC2B project is necessary even if some day the whole community was to be blanketed with wireless since you need a high bandwidth method of connecting all the access points.

For some reason non-technically inclined people always think wireless is magic or something and can be used entirely on its own without any kind of wired infrastructure.

Molly1 wrote on September 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm


These are good questions, and there is some validity to them contrary to what the previous post implies.  The previous poster is correct, that a wireless connection has to have a connection, typically wired, to connect it to the Internet.

1) The downtown area is pretty small compared to the size of the community, but is it possible to install enough of the wireless connections to cover the entire community?  I suppose, but some quick math looks like it would take 64 wireless access points to cover a square mile.  How many square miles are there in town? I'm not sure, let's say that we wanted to cover a 5 mile by 5 mile area, 25 square miles times 64 WAPs per mile equals 1600 Wireless Access Points.  Looking just now, I found some routers that are $125 to $200.   Perhaps one could buy in bulk, and get better prices.  Let's say that you could get the cost down to $100 times the 1600, would be $160,000 for the equipment only.  You have to pay the cable company monthly for the use of their connection, and pay an extremely minimal amount to Ameren for the power for the system, plus installs, maintenance, etc.  What the cost would be, I'm not certain for equipment that can reside outdoors and survive the weather.

2) What would have to be done is make an arrangement with the cable company that already has high speed internet connections zigzaging around the community.  Also, an agreement with ameren to get power to these WiFi connections.  Use of poles that are already installed for the purposes of phone, street lights, electrical cables, whatever, but the better the heighth, the better range of the WiFi radio connections.  Mount the Wifi Routers as high as possible for better range.  For that matter, if you got get them mounted on top of some of the taller buildings in town, that might cut down the number of routers needed.  (Also, in areas where the UC2B connections do already exist, you wouldn't have to have Comcast agreements, you could make the connections to the UC2B network for free.)

3) Yes, I would think that the cost would be less, and the only answer to why, would be politics.  This could be available to residents with no need for diggin up the community or installing equipment in the home.   I suppose it would even be possible to sell temporary logins to visitors, but the administration of that could get to be hairy.  But if there was a good self-service page that everyone could access, that would allow a person to purchase a login good for a day, a week, a month, or a year, at better rates for the longer time periods, I suppose it could work.  Many hotels use something similar, where you can login to a single page, enter a room number and a last name, agree to a certain group of restrictions, and click okay before being granted access to the entire Internet.

4) I would have to repeat my answer of #3 above, politics.

Now, the UC2B project is a lot faster than WiFi, but if the whole point of the project was to bring high-speed internet to underserved areas, there is no reason that this would not qualify as high speed at wifi speeds.  That is plenty fast to watch movies, tv, shopping, etc.

Depending on whom you ask, some say that it is easier to 'listen' to traffic on a wireless connection than a wired one.  I'm not sure, it is possible to read packets of data from a shared community wired resource as well.  With all of today's wireless connections, cell phones, etc., encryption is getting better.  But if you read the news, you know that it still happens from time to time.

This would also only help people that have a computer capable of wireless connections.  Most desktops don't have one built in, but they can be added for a reasonable price typically.  It would not easily allow a video game or phone system that requires a wired jack.  Unless there was a computer that was always on in the house, and the phone / game had a wired connection to the computer which shared its WiFi connection with the additional equipment.  Sound quality would definitely degrade though going through a slower wifi connection.

If you have any other questions, I'll try to answer.

juandez wrote on September 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm

You can't build an outdoor community wireless network using a few hundred linksys or other cheap linksys wireless routers. You need much higher end equipment. The requirement also varies depending on the number of devices that are connected.

It sounds like a simple problem, but you can't solve it by using what works on your home network and multiplying it by 100.

Politics has nothing to do with this. If it was as easy as you suggest it would already be done rather than being a very difficult problem. Even 100% of the U of I campus is not covered with wireless signals.

thelowedown wrote on September 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Something to consider also is that while planting fiber optic cables in the ground is expensive, wired connections are much faster than wireless connections.

pattsi wrote on September 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm

To all who took time to reply, many thanks for broadening my understanding of ways and means to help cover the whole community.

rsp wrote on September 14, 2012 at 12:09 am

And nobody brought up the security of your data. Using an open access wifi like that is less secure, you don't want to do any banking or things like that on it.