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The road to broadband wireless–An industry overview

Written by  Majed Sifri
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Majed SifriIssue:Asia-Pacific I 2005
Article no.:12
Topic:The road to broadband wireless–An industry overview
Author:Majed Sifri
Title:President and CEO
Organisation:Redline Communications Inc
PDF size:88KB

About author

Mr Majed Sifri is President and CEO of Redline Communications Inc., a technology leader in the development of standards-based broadband wireless access solutions. He has extensive experience in information technology and telecommunications, having founded and led several companies in these fields, including: CTI Datacom (Chair and CEO), an International communication network services firm; SIC partnership (Managing Partner), an investment management partnership; and Applications Technologies Inc. (Chair and President), a McLean Virginia natural language processing software corporation which was sold in 1998 to Lernout & Hauspie (L&H). Mr Sifri also founded and continues to serve on the board of Polymore Circuit Technologies, a Tennessee-based innovative circuit board manufacturing company. Mr Sifri also serves on the board of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) and on the Wireless Communications Alliance (WCA). Mr Sifri holds an MBA degree in Finance from George Washington University and Juris Doctor (JD) degree from the Washington College of Law at American University.


Article abstract

There is increasing need for high performance voice, data and video communications for e-learning, e-government, surveillance and other bandwidth-intensive services, beyond traditional voice and data. Broadband wireless equipment can provide data and voice backhaul for both mobile and fixed wireless networks and serve as a bridge between widely separated local area or Wi-Fi networks. It offers cost-effective bandwidth, coverage, quality of service (QoS) and security in areas where cost or access difficulties preclude traditional broadband deployment.


Full Article

The communications industry has been in a constant state of flux over the past 20 years. As market conditions and technology evolve, there has been unprecedented interest in the adoption of broadband. The wireless market is poised for explosive growth. The growing momentum in broadband wireless is driven by factors ranging from economics and market conditions, to new technologies and standards development. Reliable and secure broadband wireless services create opportunities for enterprises to expand their existing telecom resources, improve inter-office communications, deliver connectivity to remote sites and build redundancy faster and at lower cost. The business case for broadband wireless Broadband wireless fills an important communications gap. While high-speed wireline services provide the bandwidth needed to transfer large files, the cost of expansion is high, installation complex and time consuming and the ability to connect to remote sites limited or in some cases, non-existent. Users must depend upon a limited number of service providers that have the infrastructure to provide the connectivity they need. In many cases, these service providers cannot connect networks over great distances since the investment in infrastructure would far outweigh the returns. Wireless has provided some relief, but at a price. Satellite and microwave services do provide connectivity to remote sites, but coverage can be erratic and equipment costs and airtime fees can be quite expensive. Wi-Fi, while effective within buildings, cannot cover long distances, nor does it offer the speed or security needed for mission critical applications. Broadband wireless, on the other hand, provides the bandwidth, coverage, quality of service (QoS) and security of leased line services. Wireless also provides greater flexibility, significantly lower costs and eliminates monthly leased line or airtime fees. In addition, it can be deployed rapidly, allowing businesses to compete more effectively through improved communications between sites. Rapid deployment combined with better performance bodes well for businesses in cellular, internetworking and voice over IP (VoIP) service adoption. In addition, the relatively low cost of equipment and the ability to cover great distances, opens the door for smaller, non-traditional service providers to provide connectivity to organisations at virtually any location. The evolving telecom industry Over the past 20 years, the telecom industry has gone through several stages. The early conversions from analogue to digital networks preceded a period in the late 1990s of unprecedented acceleration in investment in incremental upgrades to core networks. Since that time, enterprises have retrenched due to capital constraints; the focus is now on controlling costs and capital expense. This has dramatically changed the way networks are developed. Uncertain revenues and rates of return, combined with slashed capital programs, have led to incremental upgrades on an ‘as needed’ basis. There has been a significant refocusing of effort on finding economical ways to expand networks, especially broadband and wireless. There is overwhelming evidence, for example, that wireless ISPs (Internet Service Providers) can generate profits with broadband wireless. Although the industry is still proceeding with caution, growth in broadband promises to set the stage for a new communications era and enterprises both large and small stand to benefit. Broadband adoption Broadband demand is significant and growing. As such, there is a tremendous worldwide need for cost-effective, easy to deploy, broadband wireless systems to help organisations address the ‘last mile’ access challenge. The increasing need for high performance voice, data and video communications has fuelled the adoption of new broadband services. Broadband offers: √ Faster uploading/downloading of bandwidth-intensive applications including video; √ Always-on communication; √ Delivery of VoIP (voice over IP) services over general-purpose Internet backbones at far less cost than traditional telecom networks; √ Elimination of per-minute charges associated with traditional fixed and mobility PSTN (public switched telephone network) for VoIP services. Where does broadband stand today? According to the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) in their report ‘Birth of Broadband’ (Source: Birth of Broadband–ITU 2003), of the over 580 million Internet users in the world, approximately 63 million are broadband subscribers. The current leaders in broadband penetration are: South Korea with 21 subscribers for every 100 inhabitants and Hong Kong 15 per 100 subscribers. Penetration in Japan is eight per 100 inhabitants, placing it ahead of the United States (6.5 per 100) in the G7 nation rankings. Broadband coverage is low even in the business sector. Today’s broadband access technologies have significant deficiencies and cannot cost effectively deliver broadband to large numbers of potential users. In the US, for example, 95 per cent of businesses do not have adequate fibre service. The key challenge faced by fixed broadband service is the limited area covered—due to cost and complexity of installation—especially over long distances or in remote areas. Analysts at TD Capital in New York report that only three per cent of business buildings worldwide have fibre. Still, broadband has compelling appeal. Installation issues aside, according to the ITU, broadband services—when measured on a per bit basis—can be up to 111 times less expensive than traditional leased line services for business users. This cost savings is motivating governments at the local, state and national levels to consider such broadband applications—beyond traditional voice and data services—as e-learning, e-government, surveillance and other bandwidth-intensive services. The emergence of broadband wireless Broadband is rapidly changing in response to the growing adoption of wireless broadband. Today, wireless technology can deliver better performance than conventional broadband services, without the high deployment costs and installation complexities. Potential applications span everything from commercial and industrial to military and healthcare. Broadband wireless is used in a number of ways to bridge the gap between existing networks and expand services to previously underserved regions: √ In rural regions the ease of installation and ability to cover long distances permits greater throughput at lower cost than DSL or cable; √ Today’s broadband wireless equipment can provide data and voice backhaul (connection to the backbone network) for both mobile and fixed wireless networks and provide a bridge between widely separated local area or Wi-Fi networks; √ Broadband wireless has been highly effective in accelerating the adoption and expansion of cellular networks, especially in regions of Asia and Europe where the telecom infrastructure is limited or costly to maintain. Using broadband wireless to backhaul their signals, cellular service providers can leverage existing infrastructures to bring coverage to more people in more regions in a significantly shorter time period at a very affordable rate; √ The high security levels and high bandwidth makes broadband wireless an ideal choice for multiple local area networks over a geographical area; √ Deployments by financial and healthcare institutions throughout the Asia-Pacific region have allowed for fast and easy communications between sites, distance learning and other bandwidth-intensive applications; √ The rapid deployment capabilities of broadband wireless have made it a valuable resource for mobile and temporary deployments, such as emergency communications; √ The Huaihe River Water Commission in China, for example, used broadband wireless following the torrential rains of 2003 to provide communications during the disaster recovery period; √ Broadband wireless is a highly cost-effective means to provide network redundancy and backup; √ Organisations are taking advantage of the bandwidth offered by broadband wireless for a wide range of voice, data and video applications that include distance learning, video-conferencing and broadcasting; √ Oil and gas exploration, military operations and other nomadic applications are using broadband wireless to provide highly secure, real-time communications within hours of relocating. Broadband wireless in Asia The broadband market is growing at a healthy pace in the Asia-Pacific region. Taiwan Wireless, for example, introduced a project to provide Wi-Fi service covering the entire area of Taipei City. Similar initiatives by wireless Internet service providers in Malaysia have taken place, but on a smaller scale. Similarly Unwired Pty launched a nomadic broadband wireless service in early 2004. As for enterprise and government, many are planning to establish their own wireless backhaul infrastructure. This has exerted considerable pressure on telecom operators who no longer can rely on regular leased circuits. Some operators are already planning to provide better integrated service packages to enterprise and government entities. Breakthroughs in broadband wireless Technological issues have held back broadband wireless in the past, but recent industry advances are now bringing it to the mainstream market. Wireless technologies today offer a number of enhancements that overcome the past difficulties. One such issue was the inability to provide clear and consistent signals in non-line-of-sight conditions, such as over uneven terrain or through trees. Channel interference was another problem. A lack of standards was another, so interoperability between systems and networks was difficult and costly. These issues have now been resolved and many more deployments can be made than were once thought possible. Also, new low-cost chipsets have caused a substantial drop in equipment costs. This has allowed more widespread distribution of laptops and handheld devices. The use of the new generation multimedia handheld devices is expected to grow rapidly in 2006 to 2007. Another technological development that is having significant impact on the widespread adoption of broadband wireless is the availability of equipment that operates in unlicensed bands. This is allowing organisations that were unable to attain—or afford—licensing fees, to operate in these bands, without incurring exorbitant costs. While North America is well ahead of the world in license-exempt band applications, Asia-Pacific countries are rapidly gaining ground as governments and regulatory bodies are opening up access as a means to support broadband wireless adoption. Pilot projects in license-exempt bands have already been deployed or have been announced in China and India in recent months for Internet telephone cafés and hotspot access. A new era With the demand for broadband growing exponentially and the recent advancements in wireless technology and standards, the industry is entering a new stage of development. Over the next few years, we can expect to see major progress in the delivery of broadband wireless services around the world. As deployments grow, so will the scope of the applications. Since broadband allows for dramatically shorter download times for extremely large files, it is enabling a whole new class of content distribution, including two-way video feeds for mobile news delivery and security surveillance, sharing of medical images over distances, collaborative learning and in time, digital set top boxes for distribution of video on demand. Broadband wireless specifically will play a major role in bringing high-performance communications capabilities in areas where broadband was previously cost-prohibitive or difficult to deploy. The lower cost of deployment, increased mobility, portability, range and performance promise to make broadband wireless a significant part of the broadband landscape.

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