Fixed wireless goes after DSL

By Jennifer Jones, InfoWorld |  Networking

"Then it is a matter of us getting enough of a learning curve so we can reduce the truck rolls and begin more self-installation," Hamilton says.

Truck rolls, a reference to the need to have a service provider show up to have service installed, is one of several complications that hit DSL hard. Another DSL barrier has been the restrictive distances between a user and the phone company's central office facility.

For fixed wireless, the main barrier is now perhaps the limit of the number of cities where the technology is available. But the promise of more availability has some corporate IT managers taking note, Morgan Keegan's Threadgill claims.

"A year ago, you heard a lot of companies talking about fixed wireless. Now you are starting to see a lot of companies coming out with business-class products, and that makes people take it seriously," Threadgill notes.

Avoiding crowds: UNII sparks interest

While Sprint and WorldCom scramble to build out their fixed wireless spectrum, vendors in the unlicensed portion of the broadband spectrum are also stacking up. MMDS (Multipoint Multichannel Distribution Services) is now perceived as an expensive and crowded market, because it is dominated by the two titan carriers. That is feeding interest in the Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (UNII) band.

Vendors there also rage against the difficulties of doing business in the wireline world. "Our rationale is basically that we want to control our own destiny. We don't want to become a DSL provider that has an ISP sitting on one side and the RBOCs [regional Bell operating companies] on the other," says Jerry Sullivan, president and CEO of Kite Networks in Ridgeland, Miss.

Operating in the 5GHz band of unlicensed spectrum, Kite offers Internet access, e-mail, and Web hosting to smaller businesses. Similar to options available in the MMDS frequency, Kite offers point-to-multipoint solutions. "This is a fiber replacement," Sullivan says. "We looked at MMDS, but we thought it was a crowded space."

Wave Wireless is another vendor offering solutions in the unlicensed spectrum. Sarasota, Fla.-based Wave, a builder of systems for broadband wireless service providers, also eyed MMDS before settling on a different part of the unlicensed spectrum.

"Our customers are the ISPs and other bandwidth providers that don't have access to technology like MMDS and can't afford to bid on [spectrum blocks]," explains Patrick Pacifico, marketing director at Wave, a division of SpeedCom which manufactures a variety of broadband wireless products, including Ethernet bridges and routers.

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