The City of Providence, R.I., will deploy a $2.3 million 2.4 GHz mesh network developed by Motorola that will provide high-speed mobile data capability to the city’s public-safety agencies. The purchase is funded by a variety of grants, with the largest coming from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice’s COPS (community oriented policing services) program. The city expects the system--which will cover 18 square miles--to be fully deployed in the first quarter of 2006.

Providence is the first city in the northeast and the first state capital to receive a city-wide mesh network, according to Rick Rotondo, director of marketing for Motorola’s mesh-networking products group and the former vice president of marketing for MeshNetworks, which Motorola bought last year for its mesh-networking technology. The city’s infrastructure and geography make it unique compared to the less urban cities that so far have received the bulk of mesh network deployments, Rotondo said.

“Providence is extremely hilly, maybe not downtown, but definitely in the surrounding areas,” he said. “Also, Providence has a lot of raised roadways--several interstates cut right through downtown. That creates a lot of shadowing when you’re underneath one of them. We had to ensure coverage above and below. One of the big advantages of a mesh network is that it provides end-to-end, non-line-of-site coverage.”

To ensure coverage that will be adequate for mission-critical communications, Motorola will “sprinkle access points like pepper,” Rotondo said.

“Providence is only 18 square miles, but we’re going to spread hundreds of access points across the city,” he said. “There are going to be so many that all of the coverage gaps will be filled.”

The system uses military-grade Mesh Enabled Architecture radios that transmit data at speeds up to 100 times faster than the analog radios they are replacing, which transmitted data at about half the speed of a home dial-up modem, according to Motorola. Rotondo called the $2.3 million price tag for the system “pretty reasonable” given the broadband capability and that the cost includes the equipment, engineering and installation.

“On a bit per dollar basis, it’s pretty impressive,” he said.

System nodes will be installed primarily on city light poles, but in-vehicle radios will act as routers and repeaters to provide redundancy. Should a node fail, a vehicle can be parked next to that light pole to restore capacity, or clustered at an incident outside of the coverage area to create an ad hoc network.

“The cars are relay points, which gives you more coverage,” Rotondo said.