Yodel-ing from the rooftops 

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"Our village is essentially the beta test for this kind of technology – for the world. This is cool."

The entire Yodel network is comprised of a system of 25 radio antennas around the village, about 12 of which are already up and running.

If you’ve walked by the library, municipal hall or the 2010 Olympic Bid Office, you might have noticed the radio antennas. They are short, between two and four feet long, with nondescript white boxes that will eventually be painted to better blend in with the background.

Once the system is up and running, customers that own devices with wireless capability will be able to walk up to front desks and into Internet cafés around Whistler to purchase prepaid cards, or to log online to and buy chunks of wireless Yodel time.

Not wanting to upset Whistler’s thriving Internet café industry, Yodel met with the owners of the local companies and determined the areas where they could work together.

Yodel will sell large chunks of time, starting at around $20 for 24 hours. The Internet cafes will continue to sell shorter lengths of time. The Internet cafes will also provide Yodel cards and technical help for wireless users by giving them a place to print documents, and download, send and save large files.

The transmission rates of wireless systems are fast, with download times that have been clocked up to 11 megabytes a second.

There are currently over 30,000 wireless "hot spots" in Canada, and more than a million wireless areas in the U.S. These systems are usually confined to indoor areas, like office buildings, airports and hotels, and are starting to become common in homes as well. To date, the Whistler project is one of a kind.

"One of the most important parts of this project as a public-private partnership is that the wireless Internet will always deliver incremental revenue to the municipality. If the model is strong enough, with Whistler’s leadership role among other resort communities, one day we may be able to take it on the road and sell it as a package to other communities, which would give us income as well," said Rae.

Whistler council approved the Yodel project in September of 2002. The soft launch for the project is July 7, with about 35 per cent to 50 per cent of the coverage in place. The technical glitches will be ironed out over the next few months in advance of the main launch in October, when more than 90 per cent of the network is expected to be complete.

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