We Don’t Need No Stinking Wires

One of 2000’s big nonstories was the wireless application protocol (WAP). Wireless access to the Internet failed to take off because services like the web and email couldn’t fit inside those tiny screens and tinier blocks of bandwidth.

The big wireless story of 2001 may be different. It’s wireless access to broadband services from homes and offices. We’re talking speeds of 100Kbps to 1.5Mbps, from the same home and office computers you now use, all without the use of wires.

The ISPCON show floor in San Jose, CA, was filled with tantalizing glimpses into this future. If someone can find the capital to buy this stuff, all bets are off on who will take the coming broadband market.

I have written about some of these companies, such as Nokia and BreezeCOM, before. It is possible to use unlicensed 2.4GHz frequencies to create a cellular-like mesh that delivers the same service as DSL or a cable modem. What I didn’t know before was how many other companies are fighting for a share of that market.

SPEEDCOM Wireless Corp. of Sarasota, FL, is an example. The company announced a complete wireless broadband offering combining radios from its Wave Wireless Networking unit with systems from AccessLan Communications to serve whole office buildings without outside wiring.

A building could mount either an 11Mbps wireless Ethernet bridge antenna (and radio) or a 100Mbps wireless Ethernet backbone unit on its roof connected directly to an internal network. The backbone units can repeat signals at 10-mile intervals from a corporate campus to any fiber with an Internet connection using frequencies as high as 23-38GHz. The bridges can distribute these signals to individual buildings using frequencies in the 2.4GHz range.

I found one small release in the back of SPEEDCOM’s press kit especially interesting. The company has opened an office in Shanghai, China. Even before many buildings there get telephone service, in other words, they could have better broadband connections than you.

Western Multiplex Corp. of Sunnyvale, CA, meanwhile, was showing Tsunami, which it called the first gigabit Ethernet bridge without wires. You install these radios, antennas, and associated circuitry up to five miles from the nearest fiber cable. You can then deliver super-fast connections to a campus, a housing project, or an office complex, bypassing up to 20 trunk circuits at a time, each costing $25,000 per month.

ArrayComm Inc. of San Jose was showing a system called i-BURST that can get fast data signals through crowded urban areas that have a lot of radio-signal interference. Advanced Radio Telecom, a Bellevue, WA, company that owns spectrum rather than using unlicensed shared spectrum, said it had opened its network in Portland, OR, offering speeds to 155Mbps. Cisco’s Aironet unit, which makes wireless local area networks, said it signed a deal with BroadLink Communications in Santa Rosa, CA, to provide wireless broadband to residential customers through ISPs and competitive phone companies.

What this means is that wireless broadband is becoming available sooner than you think, and it’s becoming available everywhere at once. The Internet broadband revolution doesn’t need wires.

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