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Playing Ball in the 2.4GHz Spectrum

BALTIMORE -- While Wi-LAN, Inc. waits to complete its acquisition of UC Wireless (formerly Utilicom), there's plenty of other 2.4GHz spread spectrum communication companies connecting with Internet service providers (ISPs) attending ISPCON in Baltimore this spring.

The deal is set to close on April 10, and Wi-LAN is at the tradeshow pitching UC Wireless' established portfolio of wireless wide area network (WAN) products, which complements Wi-Lan's 900 MHz, 2.4GHz, and 5.8GHz license-exempt gear.

Of particular interest is UC Wireless' patented Versatile Intelligent Network Environment (VINE) technology, which is a hybrid between point-to-point and mesh network topologies facilitating fixed wireless network deployment, one node at a time. UC Wireless' WIN Router 2411 beats at the heart of the technology as its capable of being configured as an Ethernet bride or an IP router.

The WIN Router 2411 spread spectrum transceivers provide an off-the-shelf solution for most wireless network applications and the spread spectrum technology allows ISPs to quickly deploy fixed wireless broadband networks without the need of a license or a call to an incumbent carrier.

The WIN Router 2411 uses direct sequence spread spectrum (DSSS) technology with variable data rates of 1, 2, 5,5 ir 11 Mbps. It's UC Wireless' VINE technology that adaptively sets the data rate, transmit power and other parameters for each individual link on a packet-by-packet basis. If interference weakens the signal, the software automatically dials down to a lower speed in order to maintain an error free connection.

Pricing and availability is available from UC Wireless U.S. sales offices.

Wave Wireless Extends Penetration

Wave Wireless Networking contends that 802.11b should stay indoors. But it's not, so in the meantime the Sarasota-based fixed wireless equipment-maker will continue to work with Internet Service Providers to supply the gear they demand.

The SPEEDCOM Wireless Corp. division recently debuted its PacketHopping technology last month, so if you haven't heard about its SPEEDLAN PH9000 series, now would be a good time to take note of the non-line-of-sight (NLOS) direct sequence system.

Patrick Pacifico, Wave Wireless vice president of marketing and product management explained that not only is line-of-sight a non-issue with a SPEEDLAN PH9000 customer premise equipment (CPE) is setup; its self-healing systems keeps it that way.

"Rather than needing to keep an eye on a Wireless Internet Service Provider's (WISP) base station, the SPEEDLAN PH9000 only needs to be aware of the next nearest node," Pacifico said. "So a short building with LOS problems that stands behind a tall building already connected to a WISP using the Wave Wireless gear only has to see the tall building -- not the WISP base station."

Wave Wireless's PacketHopping technology fills in the blind spots, which allows WISPs to make the most of its fixed wireless footprint. For example, most WISPs understand that their best-case scenario for market penetration averages about 20 percent. What Wave Wireless PacketHopping technology does is allow WISPs to provide broadband access to the other 80 percent of its service area.

But the system doesn't stop there, because each PH9000 setup is not only aware of which node its nearest, it knows a secondary node it can connect with should interference with the first node arise. That's how the Wave Wireless gear is capable of self-healing a fixed wireless connection to a WISP base station.

WISPs currently deploying Wave Wireless PH8000 series gear need not fret, the SPEEDLAN PH8000 series will simply overlay with the new PH9000 goods enabling networks to reach nearly all subscribers in a WISPs footprint, which maximizes revenue-generating capabilities of the network.

Average CPE setups run around $1,500 for the PH9000 series and units are available to ship now.

Hands-off Wireless Wannabes

While high-speed wireless broadband services sound like a sexy proposition for ISPs looking to leverage unlicensed spectrum, any service provider that has deployed a wireless point-of-presence (WiPOP) knows that set-up is no walk in the park.

Meet Clearwire Technologies, a Texas-based fixed wireless facilitator that will complete setups and CPE installations for its ISP partners. All the service provider needs to bring to the party is a dedicated cross-connection to Clearwire, in the form of a T1 or even an Ethernet connection to a POP if both the ISP and Clearwire are collocated in the same facility.

Clearwire charges its ISP customers a wholesale flat rate fee based on the speed of the connection -- 128k to 512k. After Clearwire completes the CPE installation -- taking only three to five business days, guaranteed -- then the ISP is free to charge business subscribers whatever monthly fee its established in the market.

Sound too good to be true? It's not. Partnering with Clearwire is a low-risk business proposition for ISPs. There's no money down, no equipment to purchase, and the company provides a 30-day money-back guarantee on all installations.

When asked about its primary rival in this service segment, Gerald Nichols, Clearwire regional director of business development, said "awareness."

"Fixed wireless technology is not an easy connection to set up," Nichols said. "ISPs try it, take a shot at it, and realize there's a lot of pieces to the puzzle. That's where we come in."

As a reseller, Clearwire ISP partners -- of which more than 30 currently operate in New York and Texas, as well as select markets in Oklahoma and Arizona -- maintain the direct customer contact. Clearwire isn't interested in selling directly to subscribers. ISP partners set the price for the service, control customer billing, and remain the primary point of contact for Clearwire.

Seems pretty clear? One caveat, Clearwire is available on a limited basis in parts of New York and Texas. And when it comes to deploying service to new markets, Nichols would only say that the company doesn't want to fall into the DSL trap.

"We don't want to get too big, too fast," Nichols said. "Ideally our ISP partners are selling business-to-business broadband and they have an active and passionate sales force in place. As an alternative to cable access, DSL, ISDN and the like, our broadband access program for ISPs leaves them in charge of their business."

Clearwire leverages radio frequency (RF) technology with its patent-pending, point-to-multipoint wireless network. When Clearwire enters a metropolitan market, it installs RF network base stations on pre-selected towers to provide maximum coverage for the market. Each base station is capable of reaching subscribers 25 miles away without any degradation in speed or service.

When an ISP partner's subscriber signs-up, Clearwire installs an antenna and radio transmitter/receiver at the users location the box is slightly larger than a typical modem. The box acts like a router to connect the user via a standard Ethernet connection. Clearwire technicians determine the best RF path from the subscriber to the base station; signals are transmitted between the base station and the user in the 2.4GHz spectrum. Nominal LOS is required for the system to work, but interference like rain, snow, or fog inherent with fixed wireless systems operating at higher frequencies are not a factor.

The Clearwire solution is transactional, just like the relationship with its ISP partners. The network uses fixed timing signals, based on the nation's constellation of global positioning satellite (GPS) systems to make sure users signals don't interfere with one another. For the non-do-it-yourselfer, Clearwire may hold the key for getting into the fixed wireless business.

Clearwire was founded in 1998, as a spin-off from Sierra Technologies Inc. Based in Arlington, TX, Clearwire develops and operates fixed wireless broadband networks with ISPs, value-added resellers, and others. Clearwire was steeped in defense industry culture for more than 30-years and transformed itself into a high-tech firm literally overnight. The company's technology provides ISPs with reliable, scalable and secure high-speed access to the Internet. Pat Fusco is managing editor of ISP-Planet.