RealTime IT News

WLAN Notes & Notions

MMDS Penetrating Tier-2 Markets
Most of the fixed wireless activity to date among Tier-Two and -Three ISPs has involved unlicensed 2.4 or 5 GHz technology, and most of the high-profile work on licensed two-way MMDS has been been done by big players like Sprint Broadband Direct and WorldCom Inc.

But there are signs of change.

Hybrid Networks Inc., a market leader in MMDS Internet access systems, recently announced that customer Winbeam Inc., a regional ISP based in Pittsburgh, will use Hybrid's head-end system and Wireless Broadband Routers to deliver fixed broadband wireless service in Altoona Penn.

Winbeam owns spectrum licenses in the 2.1 and 2.5 - 2.7 GHz bands in 15 small to medium-size markets, most of them in Pennsylvania. Winbeam also has coverage in New York, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. The company received FCC approval in May to use the spectrum for two-way Internet access services.

"Hybrid's system supports a number of services that are important to our business customers," says Robert Patterson, general manager of Winbeam. "With Hybrid's MMDS system, we can support virtual private networks and offer service level agreements."

Hybrid is clearly viewing Tier-Two players as a much needed new market. "As small U.S. operators begin to deploy fixed broadband wireless service in secondary markets, we can supply proven, reliable systems that provide cost-effective solutions to meet their ROI objectives," says Hybrid president and CEO Michael Greenbaum.

"As a supplier for the world's largest MMDS service providers, Hybrid is experienced in providing systems in diverse operating environments and is the best choice for new operators launching fixed broadband wireless service."

2.4GHz Router Targets Home, Small Office
Meanwhile, Spectrum Wireless Inc. announced the release of its "residential class" 2.4 GHz wireless IP router.

The residential router is an indoor unit with one Ethernet port and one console port and runs at 11 Mbps clock rate with throttling at 2 Mbps with an energy efficient 3 volt power design.

The new residential model is especially suited for service providers' residential customers and comes fully operational with DHCP, static IP routing, NAT, Simple Rate Limiting (SRL) and a Web-based interface for ease of configuration.

Software may be hot configured over the air so that upgrades can be done quickly, transparently and remotely. The resultant elimination of truck rolls—at least after the initial installation—saves service providers operating costs.

The residential router is an addition to the Spectrum Wireless product line and complements the company's existing business class router. The new product lists for $439 retail.

"As we charge ahead with transforming wireless architecture from best effort Ethernet bridging to routing at the edge, service providers and their subscribers will greatly benefit from our residential router by realizing higher profits from high performance Internet services," says Spectrum Wireless vice president of engineering Charlie Cheng.

"Spectrum Wireless' advanced technology enables ISPs to answer the public's demand for broadband access and our residential router demonstrates our commitment to helping our customers deliver high speed access to the end user."

So far, two-way MMDS is about the only broadband fixed wireless technology successfully being deployed on a large scale to provide residential access services. But that may change in the foreseeable future.

NextNet Wireless last year introduced what it claimed was the first non-line-of-sight (NLOS) fixed wireless access system for licensed MMDS (2.5 to 2.686 GHz) service providers—its Expedience system.

NLOS technology, featuring indoor, user-installable subscriber equipment, is widely viewed as a key to making the residential broadband wireless market economically feasible.

NextNet was to roll out its MMDS Expedience system in first quarter 2001, shipping in limited quantities to beta partners, with full production targeted for the second quarter of 2001.

More recently, the company announced it has developed the industry's first OFDM-based application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chip, for integration into the Expedience system.

The ASIC-based product is still targeted at MMDS service providers, but NextNet says the technology is also "being leveraged to address other frequency bands and wireless applications under 6 GHz."

Including unlicensed 2.4 and 5.6 GHz bands? NextNet has not been clear on this, nor on the timing of bringing to market products for other spectrum bands.

The OFDM-based ASIC enables NextNet to provide wireless operators with high-volume, low-cost subscriber equipment for mass-market rollout of next-generation broadband wireless services, the company says.

"The introduction of this chip is a testament to the maturity of our Expedience Non-LOS system," says NextNet chief architect Merv Grindahl.

"We believe that standards for broadband wireless should resolve the unique challenges of wireless communications. Rather than adapting existing wireline specifications, we developed our own signal processing techniques to address the critical issues of non-LOS, and integrated them onto a single, cost-effective chip."

That's great. But now could you please "leverage" this chip to develop systems for unlicensed bands?

Q2 Equipment Sales Outdistance Expectations
Second quarter sales of broadband fixed wireless, point-to-multipoint client and terminal equipment surged 10 percent over the first quarter, to nearly $70 million, according to a report from Dell'Oro Group of Redwood City Calif. Base station sales, however, were down slightly compared to first quarter.

"In North America," says company director Greg Collins, "MMDS wireless carriers appear focused on acquiring customers in the markets where they currently have base stations installed and infrastructure spending will likely be minimal until the next generation of products using non-line-of-sight technologies are ready for deployment in 2002."

"Internationally, 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz, base station shipments continue to be relatively strong, but pricing pressures and a change in product mix toward less expensive products have made sustained revenue growth a challenge."

The report focuses on point-to-multipoint base stations and client/network termination devices. Coverage includes market sizes and vendor market shares for 2.4 GHz (unlicensed), 2.5 GHz MMDS, 3.5 GHz, 5 GHz (unlicensed), 10.5 GHz, 24 GHz, 26 GHz, 28-31 GHz LMDS, and 38-39 GHz.

According to the Dell'Oro report, the top three market leaders overall, based on revenue, are Alvarion (the newly merged BreezeCom and Floware), which saw a 2 percent increase in sales, Alcatel, the French telecom equipment provider that sells mainly into the LMDS market, it saw a 16 percent jump in sales), and Hybrid which posted an 8 percent increase.