A deal this week between Lucent Technologies, based in Murray Hill, N.J., and TeraBeam Networks, based in Seattle, places attention on the last mile in data's winding journey. Companies often pay substantial sums for optimal bandwidth; but if high-speed fiber conduits do not actually make it all the way to their door, those expenditures can be for naught. TeraBeam uses holographic receptors that can be positioned on window sills to receive data. With communications powerhouse Lucent's backing, its novel methods will bear more consideration. Still, some analysts question whether TeraBeam's throughput claims are fully merited.
This week, Lucent and TeraBeam Networks hammered out a plan to jointly develop and deploy a TeraBeam wireless service that beams data through the air at speeds as fast as 1 Gbps (gigabits per second), writes Cathleen Moore in an InfoWorld story.
TeraBeam's Fiberless Optical service, which was first announced last month, attempts to solve the last-mile bottleneck of getting data and services from wide area to local area networks, she writes.
TeraBeam's service beams data wirelessly from strategically located POPs (points of presence) in metropolitan areas to transceivers that can be mounted in office windows.
The two companies said that in addition to jointly developing TeraBeam's service, Lucent and TeraBeam will pool resources to create a new systems company that will deploy TeraBeam's technology. TeraBeam will own 70 percent of the company -- called TeraBeam Internet Systems -- and Lucent will hold the remaining 30 percent.
"With TeraBeam and Lucent together, they will provide a wireless metropolitan area network that runs at gigabit speeds," said Christopher Nicoll, director of optical infrastructure at Current Analysis, based in Sterling, Va. "It should let enterprises see multimegabit and gigabit rate service much more quickly."
Dead end for streets of fiber?
"Even if streets are getting dug up for fiber-optic access, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's bringing service to your building. With TeraBeam, if you want service, 'you' can get it in a matter of days or weeks," Nicoll told InfoWorld.
TeraBeam said that a prototype of the service has been used on a trial basis for the past 18 months in Seattle, and the company said it plans to roll out service in three more cities by the end of the year.
According to Nicoll, Lucent's established optical presence will give TeraBeam's technology a push into the marketplace. (Read a more detailed version of this story on the InfoWorld Web site.)
New beam in perspective
Still, service providers that buy into TeraBeam's fiberless optical technology with hopes of living a gigabit dream could wake up to a megabit reality.
Reports on the TeraBeam technology essentially lacked detail, writes Stephen Saunders, US Editor for LightReading.com. "No price was announced, and neither vendor would give specifics on throughput, range, or indeed how TeraBeam's laser-based wireless technology works," wrote Saunders in a piece published on Network World's Website.
TeraBeam says its product supports "gigabits per second speeds." However, on closer examination it turns out that the capacity of the network is shared between subscribers -- a fact confirmed later by TeraBeam. That means that service providers that deploy services based on TeraBeam technology, and businesses that buy into those services, are more likely to see megabit speeds than gigabit throughput, Saunders has concluded. (Read a more detailed version of this story on the Networkd World Web site.)