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Five Applications for Fixed Wireless Internet Access

Posted on by Trevor Jones

Recently, a business partner asked me how we use fixed wireless Internet in our network – “Is it really something you can use for business?”  It seems that he had a perception of these products as inferior to traditional wire line services.  It’s a common misconception, but as this Tweet from a fixed broadband user shows, there is no reason at all why fixed wireless can’t provide faster connections than DSL or Cable:

(Disclosure: Cam is a former employee of Midcoast Internet Solutions currently working at Tilson Technologies.)

Benner Hill fixed wireless Internet tower

GWI”s fixed wireless Internet tower on Benner Hill.

Every technology has its strengths and weaknesses, but we see fixed wireless, in both point-to-point and point-to-multi-point deployments, as having a variety of uses for both business and residential applications.

  • Rural Access. Point-to-multi-point fixed wireless Internet access is often used to expand coverage in rural areas because it has a lower cost to build out than wired solutions like cable modems and DSL when the number of connected users is low.  GWI’s Midcoast division has been providing service using this technology since the mid nineties, and we use it today to provide service in places like North Waldoboro, Jefferson and Glen Cove. Other Maine companies like Axiom Technologies and Pioneer Broadband use it in a similar fashion, but there are some creative ways to use this technology to enhance connectivity for both homes and businesses including:
  • Backup business connections.  Even if a business has fiber-optic connectivity for its primary connection, a wireless connection can provide an exceptional backup that isn’t dependent on telephone poles feeding the business. This is an important consideration for businesses that are installing VoIP phone systems and cloud computing or are otherwise unable to be without Internet connectivity. Often even if you get a fiber connection from one ISP and a cable modem backup, both can be dependent on the same telephone poles, leaving you vulnerable. A wireless solution can avoid that pole line.
  • Island Broadband.  In the Midcoast, we’ve used point-to-point wireless backhaul to feed fiber-to-the-home networks in areas like Georgetown and Squirrel Island.  This is a very cost effective solution to the prickly problem of getting broadband to both summer communities and fishing villages offshore.
  • Short-haul, wide area networks.  This isn’t Internet, really, but it is a great application for the technology.  For a few thousand dollars, point-to-point wireless radios such as the Ubiquity Airfiber can enable businesses to connect offices up to 2.6 miles apart at gigabit speeds.  This can be very compelling when constructing fiber costs as much as $20-30,000 per mile and could be applied within business parks, across town or anywhere where there is an unbroken line of sight.
  • Short-distance Internet network extensions.  Very often, we find a cluster of businesses a few miles away from the fiber backbone that need a better broadband connection, but there isn’t enough business to cost justify building miles of fiber to connect them.  With short-haul, high capacity wireless systems like the Airfiber, it may be possible to serve these clusters of businesses much more cost effectively.  This same technology could be used to feed DSL equipment in a remote community that would be difficult to build with fiber.

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