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SkyPilot Shows Long-Distance Wares - InternetNews.
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SkyPilot Shows Long-Distance Wares

Next week at SUPERCOMM 2004 in Chicago, four year old SkyPilot Networks of Belmont, Calif., will unveil its new outdoor long range wireless system designed for carriers and enterprises.

CEO Mark Johnson says long-distance wireless, especially for carriers, is "an economic problem, not a technology problem. How can you enable a 24 dollar per month broadband service at retail?" That was the company goal.

It decided 802.11a, the 5GHz flavor of Wi-Fi, had the capacity and performance, but needed better range. To get that, SkyPilot uses higher power and directional antennas.

The result is the SkyPilot System for point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, and mesh connections in the outdoors. The products consist of the $2,499 SkyGateway which can connect to the network backhaul, and the $499 SkyExtender, which, as the name implies, extends the range of the network via multiple mesh hops. Both are made to be mounted on towers, buildings, etc. The company says that in tests the products can handle a line-of-sight (LOS) range of about 20 miles.

"We give lots of flexibility for operators to use the SkyExtender to cover dead spots," says Paul Gordon, the company's vice president of technology. He says the SkyExtenders can be used to "reach around" the topology, or can simply be added to the existing footprint to increase capacity. He says that with a near LOS at a moderate range, the network can perform up to 24 or 36 Megabits per second (Mbps).

The company also sells $349 SkyConnectors, smaller panels for use either indoors on a window or desk, or outdoors mounted on a roof or wall.

A SkyPilot network can be managed by a Layer 2 system called SkyControl which does active monitoring and can show the network in a graphical interface. Using the SkyProvision tool, adding SkyExtenders is plug-and-play: the network brings them online automatically.

Because of the way they've architected the products, the company says it's not limited to 802.11, and expects to be using WiMax/802.16 eventually.

SkyPilot has some trials underway now, including one in Reno, Nev., and expects to ship the products in volume beginning in August.