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Wireless: The Higher Bandwidth Alternative

By Jim Hong


In the highly competitive telecommunications arena that exists today, Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecom companies are continually expanding their reach and offering more services to stay afloat and thrive. Demand for higher bandwidth applications, such as VoIP, streaming video, and video conferencing is increasing and service providers are scrambling to equip their networks with the proper infrastructure to meet this demand. In an effort to expand their networks reliably and efficiently without compromising existing service, many providers are turning to wireless as a viable alternative � especially across spaces that are too difficult or too expensive to bridge with wires. Whether the requirement is to migrate from an analog to a digital network, communicate between buildings, link networks in a campus setting, or provide services to a rural or developing community, service providers are increasingly turning to broadband wireless for its ease of use, economic feasibility and adaptability for further expansion.

Traditionally, service providers have relied on leased lines to handle an increase in IP traffic. Now, many are choosing to handle traffic with microwave rather than laying new cables or incur expensive monthly lease charges. In another interesting move, they have decided to encode their microwave transmissions as IP data streams rather than convert to an analog circuit switch just to cover an air gap. This decision to switch to IP traffic end-to-end offers several clear cut advantages, such as reduced infrastructure complexities, lower equipment costs, higher throughput, and greater ability to overcome path obstructions.

Wireless Ethernet, in particular, offers providers multi-megabit speeds with significantly better performance than the T1 switch circuit networks. In addition, wireless bridges offer unique and powerful technologies to overcome the signal attenuation, fading, dispersion, and polarization that degrade all radio signals. Examples of these technologies include:

� Multi-Beam Space-Time Coding � Minimizes signal fading caused by path obstructions or atmospheric disturbances.

� Advanced Spectrum Management with i-DFS (Intelligent Dynamic Frequency Selection) � Self-selects the frequency over which it can sustain the highest data rate at the highest availability.

� Adaptive Modulation � Continually optimizes modulation to transmit the maximum amount of data across the path while maintaining the highest levels of link quality.

� Spatial Diversity � Combats ducting and multipath fading via space-diverse antennas at one or both ends of a link.

While the benefits to the service provider are clear, it is also important to note that the customer wins, too. By integrating a wireless network into existing infrastructures, providers can offer customers with an even higher level of service they have come to expect. Wireless links are extremely reliable, working 99.999 percent of the time and at higher speeds � a key benefit customers will gladly pay extra for. In addition, higher bandwidth networks enable the service provider to offer its customers premium service packages that include VoIP and other sophisticated multimedia applications.

This rapidly developing technology of point-to-point broadband wireless can give providers both new service opportunities as well as a growing revenue stream. However, while the rush is on to switch from traditional networks to broadband wireless, careful planning must take place. Service providers cannot lose sight of the importance of maintaining excellent customer service. Avoiding unplanned interruptions, providing dependable connections in even the most challenging environments and anticipating the growth of their network, in part created by an increase in IP traffic, is crucial. In a process known as �path planning,� it is imperative to follow the steps leading up to the placement of the wireless hardware (e.g., software-defined radios) to ensure their accuracy and reliability.

Successful path planning starts with the right tools. A good software program that enables tracking latitudinal and longitudinal points is an essential component of this process. Ideally, each architect or engineer involved in the path planning process will visit each site where the Ethernet links will be installed to collect GPS waypoints. In addition, this onsite visit will ensure that the planners capture additional and important details such as obstructions and interference sources. Once this data is collected, it can be entered into this online path profiler software that will enable an accurate and reliable viewpoint of the optimal placement of the radios. When used in conjunction with a service such as Google (News - Alert) Earth (which visually pinpoints a certain location), the user should already have enough information to confirm the specific location for the radios. All that is needed at this point is adjustments of antenna heights and sizes, to account for any obstructions that may be in the Ethernet link�s path. This comprehensive path planning process allows for incredibly accurate modeling for desired throughput and link availability.

Economy, reliability, availability, security, and performance of a service provider�s network are the fundamental factors that will mean the difference between staying ahead of the competition or lagging behind it. The wide array of wireless network solutions available to providers today, and the rapid adoption of these technologies reflect a significant paradigm shift that will continue to shape the industry now and in the future. IT

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