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.”

OFDM ASIC Boosts N-LOS MMDS
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.

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