MMDS to the rescue?

Have you ever moved into a new office site, only to wait with bated breath to find out if the local phone company could hook you up to its telephone service? Nah, didn’t think so. Most of us take for granted that we’ll have access to a local phone switch from wherever we are. I’m hoping that the situation with broadband last-mile Internet connections soon will be the same. With workers getting increasingly dispersed to small office/home office environments and network files growing humongous, we need to be able to get really fast Internet connections to many more places without breaking the corporate budget.

In places where DSL is still not available because of distance to the telco central office -- or where cable-modem services have not penetrated the business community -- broadband wireless providers should hurry in and grab market share.

Multichannel Multipoint Distribution System (MMDS), for example, has finally come to my rescue. For the past year or so, I’ve been receiving bubbly e-mails from my ISP exclaiming that DSL is available in my area with free installation. Excited, I’d instantly drop what I was doing and call the ISP, only to be told that, well, it’s available to almost all users in my area, but, unfortunately, not to me. Then I became aware of an MMDS service in my area. Finally, I’ve joined the elite who can download a PowerPoint file in less a half an hour.

A few pointers, based on my experience:

* Even if they tell you on the phone that you can get the MMDS service, they don’t really know that for certain until they come out and test the signal from your rooftop.

The reason has to do with line-of-sight requirements. Though you may have read that MMDS, unlike local multipoint distribution services (LMDS), does not require line of sight, that is only partially true with most of today’s technologies. The MMDS transceiver on your rooftop doesn’t need to literally "see" the carrier’s radio transmission tower, but it does need a clear path to it. That can mean no trees in the way for the up to 35-mile distances the MMDS signal can travel. So your provider often needs to mount the antenna pretty high up. Be careful: Most zoning laws won’t let you mount an antenna more than 12 feet higher than your rooftop. For FCC rules on antenna placement, see http://www.fcc.gov/csb/facts/otard.html.

* For carriers, installation is trivial, compared to running coaxial cable or fiber to a site. For users, installation time is pegged at about 3 hours; in my case, installation took 5-1/2 hours.

* Find out upfront if your software versions need to be upgraded or if you need extra memory on your computer. Don’t let anyone muck with your software.

All that being said, I can vouch that my MMDS connection has, indeed, improved my Internet access speeds by the 50-times advertised. For a mere $50 a month, it’s certainly worth it. Eat your heart out, DSL!

This story, "MMDS to the rescue? " was originally published by Network World.

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