While other providers continue to fight the growing trend of Municiple Wi-Fi networks, AT&T has decided to launch one of its own.

This summer, in a move that is sure to catch the attention of its competitors, AT&T announced it was launching its first municipal high-speed wireless Internet service in Riverside, Calif.

The telecommunications company has teamed up with the Mountain View, Calif.-based wireless Internet provider, MetroFi, to deploy the Wi-Fi mesh technology on existing, city-owned infrastructure. The network initially will cover a three-square-mile area that includes downtown and adjacent industrial and commercial sites.

With 300,000 residents, Riverside is one of the fastest growing cities in California.

When fully built out, the network will be the nation’s largest, spanning a 55-square-mile area of the city, and providing free Internet access to low-income residents and a subscription-based service for out-of-towners.

A number of cities across the country are deploying municipal Wi-Fi networks, despite opposition from broadband providers who fear the competition and object to the loss of revenue to the free, municipally owned services. Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco have deployed similar networks.

In addition to the free and subscription access provided to residents and visitors, the network is designed also to provide wireless broadband services for municipal departments. The initial emphasis seems to be on law enforcement.

“We anticipate great benefits of the system for our public safety agencies,” Riverside Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge said.

The city is testing the service to run video to and from police department patrol cars. Additional applications available will include traffic monitoring and coordination, video surveillance to minimize graffiti and illegal dumping, and facility security.  EC