RealTime IT News

An Affordable FSO Last-Mile Solution

Optical wireless technology supplier Omnilux, Inc. released its new wireless broadband platform this week, designed to supply Internet service providers (ISPs) with an alternative to digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable high-speed services.

Omnilux uses proprietary technology innovations in free-space optics to deliver bandwidth up to 100 Mbps to a small, rooftop node that in turn delivers access to computers and other devices inside the building using an Ethernet connection or the popular Wi-Fi (802.11b) wireless technology. This combination of technologies enables ISPs to reach customers without having to gain access to existing DSL or cable networks as a last-mile connection.

Stephen Walker, Omnilux president and chief operating officer, said this is the breakthrough that the industry has been waiting for to open competition in residential broadband services.

"Now thousands of large and small ISPs have an affordable way to upgrade their customers to broadband without having to beg the FCC for open access to the existing infrastructure," Walker said. "Consumers will be the big winners as Omnilux-based services are rolled out across the country, and increased competition provides a greater range of more affordable offerings."

How it works
The Omnilux network combines proven wireless technologies with intelligent software that enables ISP to extend the local wired infrastructure and reach users homes or offices. The first technology link in the free-space optics (FSO) chain uses infrared light as a vehicle to transmit data wirelessly over distances of up to 400 meters (about one-quarter of a mile).

FSO has been deployed successfully in large-scale commercial applications using lasers as a light source. By using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in place of lasers combined with other patent-pending breakthroughs, Omnilux has been able to drive down the cost of FSO-based transceivers and yet provide ytransport rates up to 100 Mpbsthese are full duplex speeds equal on the upstream and downstream.

Dubbed the Omni-Node, Omnilux's small device can quickly be deployed at residential, small-office/home-office (SOHO) and small- and medium-enterprise (SME) customer locations using software that makes the unit as easy to install and maintain as a direct-broadcast satellite dish.

Each Omni-Node is capable of communicating simultaneously with up to four other nodes, which are deployed in a repeating mesh network configuration controlled by Omnilux's proprietary Clear-Mesh operating system. With this configuration, service to all users remains constant, even if an individual link goes down due to a temporary obstruction. This point-to-point network topology provides a robust network design capable of supporting home networking, multicast video, video-on-demand (VOD), voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), and data services at speeds not offered by competing technologies.

Once the signal reaches the Omni-Node attached to the home or office, it is transmitted to individual computers or other networked devices over a wireless 802.11b or cabled Ethernet connection. Wi-Fi equipped devices in the home or office within approximately 100 meters of the Omni-Node will be able to gain secure access to the network.

An Omnilux network is capable of delivering up to eight levels of quality of service (QoS) and can rate-limit both upstream and downstream traffic. This allows ISPs to deliver metered bandwidth services more efficiently than shared cable networks. It also guarantees that customers will get the bandwidth they pay for, regardless of the number of users on the network at any given time.

Carter Moursund, Omnilux vice president of technology and co-founder, said free-space optics has unique benefits for service providers.

"By using an unregulated portion of spectrum, known as IR light, our customers can avoid expensive and time-consuming radio spectrum allocation procedures," Moursund said. "And unlike other unregulated spectrum, FSO signals do not interfere with each other, ensuring ISPs that their service is not degraded or interrupted."

In the field
According to Omnilux, there are over 9,000 ISPs in the U.S. offering Internet access to consumers and businesses. Few independent ISPs have ownership or easy access to the existing network infrastructure of phone lines or cable connections for last-mile delivery of broadband services. The Omnilux technology provides ISPs with an affordable, comprehensive range of solutions that allows them to deliver broadband services to their customers, including:

  • Three service levels to meet the differing needs of ISPs, including management of the network operations center (NOC), customer service and technical support, and even installation of the network depending on the service level selected by the ISP.
  • Minimum upfront investments eliminating the costs involved in building out a comparable wireline broadband network. After an initial set-up fee averaging between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on the coverage area and network configuration, the cost of building out the network occurs only after a customer orders service.
  • Low cost per deployment, including an average cost of customer premises equipment of $250-$450 for residential customers and $1,000-$1,250 for commercial customers, and an average field installation time of less than one hour. Omnilux's Site-Guide technology, its line-of-sight (LOS) modeling software allows for rapid system deployment without the need for highly skilled technicians.

Built-in wireless home networking system using 802.11b technology, enables ISPs to offer additional value-added and revenue-generating services to their customers.

Located in Santa Rosa, Calif., Sonic.net serves over 25,000 customers. Dane Jasper, Sonic.net chief executive officer said the regional ISP is excited about the amazing speed and low-cost product that Omnilux offers.

"Their free-space optics technology and price point enable us to provide faster-than-DSL speeds to business and residential customers on an all-optical network that we can deploy and control, at a price per customer that we can afford," Jasper said.

Sonic.net is not alone in its enthusiasm for the FSO last-mile delivery solution. RedWire Broadband, one of Southern California's largest wireless broadband providers focuses on delivering in-building connectivity to SMEs in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties. Jim Comeaux, RedWire Broadband chief technology office said the company is very excited about the Omnilux product.

"It enables us to deploy higher bandwidth to our multi-tenant properties at a substantial cost savings," Comeaux said. "This in turn allows us to expand our IP business services and increase our average revenue per user without significant upfront investments."

RedWire Broadband customers can sign up for high-speed Internet access beginning in the fourth quarter of this year. Additional deployments are anticipated in early 2003.

More than anything else, Omnilux delivers a cost-effective FSO system that can help independent ISPs break free from local phone companies and cable operators because it provides an unfettered link to customers' homes and offices.

Reprinted from ISP-Planet.