An Access Alternative?
by Emmy Johnson

Published June 2001

 

Abstract:

 

When choosing high-speed broadband access technologies, the first criterion has to be availability, but for many network managers, that eliminates many of the options right off the bat. Geographic limitations eliminate DSL, cost acts as a barrier to installing leased lines or fiber, and cable, where it's available, is not secure enough. This leaves no choice but to access the Internet via painfully slow and inefficient dialup.

 

To address this issue, a handful of service providers and equipment vendors have developed fixed wireless networks for high-speed broadband access. The basic premise has been around for more than a decade; fixed wireless is a staple for point-to-point backhaul links for cellular towers and utility companies. But when the FCC licensed spectrum in the 2840 GHz and 2.5 GHz frequencies to fixed wireless access providers, the promise emerged of new solutions to the last-mile bottleneck. The three basic flavors are Local Multipoint Distribution System (LMDS), Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS) and Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (UNII). The first two are more carrier-class services than the third.

 

Fixed-wireless access for the masses has yet to prove itself, but it is a forward-looking technology for serving customers in locations where cable, DSL or fiber are either not available or prohibitively priced. As a new technology and service, business customers would do well to consider the following:

 

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Look for SLAs to guarantee bandwidth and uptime. 

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Longer-term contracts generally mean more savings. 

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Start by using fixed-wireless as a back-up technology, or inquire if trial service is available before switching access providers.

 

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