Azulstar upgrading its wireless network

A company that started in Grand Haven announced this week that it is enhancing all of its existing municipal Wi-Fi networks with WiMAX technology, using equipment from Airspan Networks and Redline Communications.

The networks being upgraded include Grand Haven, which became the country’s first municipality to establish a wireless Internet network in 2004. Other cities that have since established Wi-Fi networks, like Grand Rapids, will also be upgraded to WiMAX.

“We are very excited to bring Grand Haven back to the forefront of municipal wireless by adding WiMAX to our existing citywide Wi-Fi network,” Grand Haven Mayor Roger Bergman said in a statement released by AzulStar. “We believe this is a technology platform that directly benefits our community’s future and immediately reduces our internal IT costs.”

The licensed WiMAX network is in the final stages of testing in Grand Haven, AzulStar officials said. The new service is designed to deliver faster speeds and broader coverage that’s targeted at the enterprise, municipal and high-end residential markets, but the company did not announce whether it meant a price increase or not.

The network will overlay the existing unlicensed Wi-Fi mesh networks, which will continue to operate in supporting visitors and residential customers as long as there is demand, company officials said. Legacy Wi-Fi customers wanting to move to WiMAX will receive a discount towards an adapter.

Tyler van Houwelingen, the founder and CEO of AzulStar, said WiMAX dramatically improves the economics, performance and reliability of municipal wireless.

“We applaud the FCC for making more WiMAX spectrum available in the USA,” he said. “Our customers will be delighted with the service.”

Highlights of the planned WiMAX network now being tested include licensed-spectrum operation that the company says will provide nearly 100 percent service reliability; and direct support for VoIP telephony, IP Television and municipal applications such as automated meter reading, intelligent transportation and public safety security access.