Trial by Broadband

Verizon is testing the ability of a new wireless technology — known as broadband fixed wireless — to deliver broadband communications services to consumers and business customers in Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County. In the field trial, the technology is being tested to determine if it can supplement and expand the ongoing delivery of Verizon’s digital subscriber line (DSL) high-speed Internet access service, currently provided over copper-wire systems.

The wireless system is designed to deliver speeds up to 1.5 megabits per second (Mbs) up to five miles from the system’s distribution antenna. This would be a significant complement to Verizon’s delivery of Internet access services via DSL, which is currently limited to homes and businesses within 18,000 feet of telephone central offices.

“We are always looking at economically sound investment strategies for deploying high-speed Internet access services. If this new technology works as designed, we can greatly expand the availability of Internet access and other products to our customers,” said Mark Wegleitner, Verizon’s chief technology officer. “We are testing this technology to examine its ability to provide our customers with the same functionality, quality of service and reliability of the current copper-wire based product. The obvious benefit here is that we’ll be able to reach more customers.”

The Verizon trial uses a wireless technology developed by BeamReach Networks of Sunnyvale, Calif. Verizon owns an equity stake in BeamReach.

The BeamReach system used in the Verizon trial has a centrally located base station with an antenna and receivers placed at customers’ homes or businesses. In the field trial, the Internet access service is being distributed over approximately a five-mile radius on a wireless communications services frequency band (2.3GHz). Verizon has placed two base stations in cellular tower sites in the communities of Herndon and Centerville. The base stations are connected to Verizon central offices via fiber-optic circuits.

Unlike earlier wireless broadband access technologies, the new technology does not need line-of-sight access to deliver Internet access to a customer, allowing the signal to pass through or around foliage and other obstructions.

The trial began July 18 and is expected to continue until the end of the year. Initially, the trial will provide Internet access to approximately 50 Verizon employees in Fairfax County. Later this year, the trial will be expanded to include up to 50 Verizon customers. Verizon selected Fairfax County for the trial because it offers a wide variety of terrain and foliage, as well as a high density of dwellings.

“In addition to evaluating how this technology works with customers, we’ll be looking closely at a wide range of related issues, including how we provision the service, integration of the technology into our operations support systems, and the tracking of service quality,” said Brian Whitton, Verizon executive director-network platform evolution.

If the trial proves successful by the end of this year, Verizon will consider wider-scale deployment to begin serving customers next year.

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