In the last couple years new wireless technologies have brought the vision of anytime, anywhere access to information a giant step closer to reality. It started with wireless hotspots in the downtowns. Hot spots are growing into hot zones, and cities ranging from populations of a few thousand to millions are starting to build city-wide networks. Laptop computers and personal digital assistants are adding wireless capabilities and new devices, such as telephones no bigger than a fountain pen, are being invented to take advantage of the emerging wireless infrastructure.
Despite its popularity, the availability of outdoor, high-speed, low-cost, wireless service in Silicon Valley is still very limited. WiFi service is limited to spots, and the new cell phone-based service is too expensive for many people, or too slow, or still not available everywhere.
To realize the anytime, anywhere dream, Silicon Valley needs to evolve from a collection of hotspots into a 1,500 square mile wireless region. The vision of Wireless Silicon Valley is to provide a low-cost, high-speed, outdoor, wireless infrastructure that will be available for a variety of purposes on the streets and highways, in parks and plazas, at construction sites, in recreational areas and business parks, and on buses and trains. When the network is in place, people will be able to connect to their e-mail, conduct research and execute transactions on the web while sitting in a park or getting a cup of coffee. We will only need to sign on once and we will not need to sign up with multiple service providers. Visitors to Silicon Valley will find it as easy to connect here as it is at home.
The network will support a wide variety of devices and applications. Sensors will use a low speed connection to transmit data on water levels in San Francisquito Creek, while a toxics specialist speeding to the site of a chemical spill on highway 101 uses a high-speed connection to review satellite images of the area and study municipal maps showing sewer lines and underground water flows. Personal digital assistants and game players will be able to send and receive video and music.
The network will support the region’s economy in a variety of ways. Silicon Valley is home to hundreds of wireless companies that can provide equipment and software. Our community colleges and universities are training workers in wireless technologies, and venture capitalists are placing their bets on which entrepreneur will become the next Yahoo! or eBay. As the network becomes more ubiquitous and trusted, entrepreneurs will develop new devices to connect to the network, and new applications that serve mobile workers, creating high quality jobs in the community.
Silicon Valley has a long history of big ideas made possible through regional collaboration. Working together will allow us to lead the world in the use of wireless technologies for the betterment of our economy and quality of life.