Interference Issues

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Construction workers, architects and others working on the $4 billion redevelopment of the former Denver airport needed a better way to communicate. A wireless network made the difference.

Interference Issues

Interference issues were "not really a big deal with packet-data transmissions," Knasel says, because numbers and documents could be re-sent. "But with voice transmissions, you can't really repackage that.''

For the time being, Stapleton will use both frequencies.

One last obstacle was getting equipment into the control tower. That was delayed months, while title to the tower passed from Denver to Forest City. In the interim, developers put the equipment on the roof of a three-story visitors' center they had built.

"It was a place where we already had [high-speed data] lines and phone lines available," Knasel says. "Because we have some three- and four-story buildings going up between the visitors' center and the trailers, we just had to reposition antennas for the moves."

The equipment should be in place in the control tower in the next 90 days, after which it will be a relatively simple matter to properly aim antennae whenever construction moves.

The cost of re-aligning antennae is almost nil compared to putting new wiring in the ground each time a trailer moves to a new part of the project. Each major relocation, Knasel figures, would cost $100,000 in re-wiring for a project that could last as long as 25 years. That would have really added up.

There were unexpected side benefits. About 20 contractors were demonstrating broadband connections in model homes. The wireless approach made it easy to put in fast connections without waiting the 60 to 90 days that it might take Qwest to connect fiber to those homes.

"We could bring those model homes up immediately with this wireless technology," Knasel says. "That was attractive to the builders. We estimated that that would save us another quarter of a million dollars in the short term."

All told, developers estimate the $50,000 or so of wireless spending will lead to savings of $2.2 million over the first 15 years of the project.

For Baker, the payoff goes beyond savings. The "future-proofing" of the project originally envisioned fiber into every home for video and other services. Forest City intends to create a "Stapleton Online" portal that would make high-bandwidth life more attractive for would-be residential and commercial occupants. The portal will supply updated information on everything from neighborhood holiday parties to school lunch menus to chat boards on personal and professional interests. Baker said they are also encouraging merchants to offer discount coupons online. Workers can use the intranet to contact fellow employees and, in some cases, human-resources departments of companies they work for.

With a wireless canopy, prospective occupants will be able to hook up desktop and flip open laptop computers anywhere on the grounds to access the portal, the rest of the Internet and even corporate networks.

Not a bad byproduct for a project first designed to help hundreds of workers building homes and shops, malls and manufacturing space just get their jobs done on time and on budget.

"What we've managed to do with our construction site experiment was find a way to justify the technology and to pay for it,'' says Knasel. "Hank now has a network that will pay for itself three or four times over, and be ready to start doing things for residents right away. And that's pretty cool."

This article was originally published on 2003-11-01
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