The skinny on MMDS

By Joanie Wexler, Network World |  Networking

Last time, I talked about efforts by Sprint and WorldCom to get multichannel, multipoint distribution services deployed as a last-mile access alternative, despite some industry obstacles in moving to more affordable, broader-reaching second-generation equipment. This time I’ll explain what makes MMDS technology worth the effort.

MMDS transceivers and base stations in use today must be installed in a line-of-sight configuration. A transceiver mounted on top of your office building or home must be able to exchange a clear signal with an MMDS base station, which could be 30 miles away. In the spirit of DSL’s disheartening " too-far-from-the-central-office " refrain, MMDS in its current form is simply not available to everyone. But second-generation technology, which will alleviate the line-of-sight requirements and is expected to emerge late this year, will greatly increase service availability. Similarly, there are quality-of-service technologies in the works from companies such as Malibu Networks and Nortel Networks to improve user response times and enable traffic management.

Now, as a large company, you may not think MMDS pertains to you, and that local multipoint distribution services, which in theory can run at 2G bit/sec speeds, might be a better fit. You might be right. However, many companies have become distributed in nature, with smatterings of small and midsize offices in different regions. Similarly, many companies now support full-time or occasional telecommuting. For such situations, the 2M bit/sec speeds MMDS is capable of may be adequate.

MMDS can be installed in a matter of days (not the multimonth lead times of dedicated circuits), and the $50-per-month fee for a 2M bit/sec downstream flow beats $500 to $1,000 per month for a T-1, particularly if DSL and cable modem alternatives are not available, say, on your CEO’s ranch in Montana.

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