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Philidelphia Municipal WiFi Analysis

MuniWireless cracks open the terms of the Philadelphia Municipal WiFi contract with Earthlink Inc. (ELNK). It’s worth a look. The contract outsources virtually all business risk to Earthlink. It seems like a great idea. I thought the San Francisco proposal looked economically solid, but SFO is about as tech-savvy as cities get, and is an ideal environment for MuniFi. I’m not so sure about Philly.
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San Francisco MuniFi Economics

San Francisco gave the green light to Google (GOOG) and Earthlink (ELNK) to offer wi-fi throughout the city. You’ll get free 300kb/s ad-supported service from Google, or $20 a month for 1Mb/s ISP service from Earthlink.

Total capex is $15MM to install, though I bet that number will at least double to deliver full coverage. Assuming Earthlink spends $15MM on it’s own, they would need around 8,000 subscribers at $250/year to justify the investment and deliver a 15% return. This seems very, very achievable in a city like San Francisco. If Earthlink can win peering agreements with guys like T-mobile to allow roaming outside of SFO, it looks even better.

San Francisco is always on the vanguard of both good and bad.

Correction I neglected to include any provision for Opex in the above calc. Anyone care to take a guess at what that might be?