Pipeline Publishing, Volume 4, Issue 9
This Month's Issue:
New Doors, New Access
download article in pdf format
last page next page

In with the New:
Changing Access Technologies

back to cover
By Tim Young

A couple of decades ago, an oft-repeated slogan for an American hamburger chain crept into the political landscape, and eventually into the cultural lexicon to be batted around for years. That one little question became an encapsulation of the frustration of anyone who had, time and time again, encountered form over substance. It became the rallying cry for those sick of posture and craving action. Where's the beef?

Well, for at least the last decade and a half, industry types (and certainly I, too, am culpable) have been batting around talk of changing access technologies and “the last mile” and other such jargon to the point of rendering the entire conversation passé. And yet, even after years of prattling on, access technologies are still growing and changing and, in many cases, still not fulfilling the promises many people saw in them years ago.

Three access technologies are particularly relevant these days, and we want to take a look at their strengths, a few of their weaknesses, and what OSS professionals should be aware of in approaching them.

No Strings Attached: WiMAX.

WiMAX is an attractive technology for a couple of reasons. As a means for providing last mile services, WiMAX doesn't require the same costly and labor intensive installation process. Cable and fiber don't have to be run to every single office and cubicle. In areas with difficult terrain, buildout can be a relatively painless process.

Then there's the mobility factor. WiMAX holds the promise of true wireless broadband. As Craig Clausen, Co-founder of New Paradigm Resources Group, points out, “the current so-called 'broadband' wireless EVDO services offered by cellular carriers aren’t true broadband.” Ask any twenty-something who has tried to impress someone by pulling up YouTube on his iPhone away from a WiFi hotspot. Not exactly fluid streaming.

The technology isn't without its detractors,

WiMAX holds the promise of true wireless broadband.

though. Sprint has taken heat for its choice to focus on WiMAX in a meaningful way. Some investors seem nervous about the choice, but there are those who are optimistic.

A few weeks ago at the Consumer Electronics show in Vegas, Motorola Senior VP Fred Wright talked about the several thousand access points Motorola has shipped, which essentially serve as broadcast towers, and the 20,000 end user points that have also been shipped. Those are worldwide numbers, but in Chicago alone there are 300-400 WiMAX access points in place as a part of Sprint's WiMAX project, expected to go through soft launch in just a few months. Other projects he mentioned include the Wateen WiMAX network in Pakistan, which includes 700 access points and counting.

Still, WiMAX is, to date, a largely unproven technology. In spite of its promise, it still will take time to determine limits and optimize the technology.

It's fairly expensive to implement, as well. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in the UK estimates that a nationwide WiMAX network in the United States would cost some 3 billion dollars to implement.

Likewise, there have been issues over the spectrum range in which WiMAX would operate. Globally, WiMAX operates between 2.5 and 2.7 GHz. In India, for example, that band is reserved for satellite based mobile and broadcast applications, like national emergencies. Therefore, India must conduct its WiMAX operations on different bandwidths, which complicates the situation.

Time will tell the tale of WiMAX, and we will determine if it was all, in fact, it was cracked up to be.

Cable: The Seeming Heir Apparent.

Whereas the jury may still be out on WiMAX, cable has certainly proven its worth. We know it works, and works well. Cablecos are currently delivering triple-play services that are reliable and high-quality. VoIP is old news, and call quality is strong. It seems, as far as residential service, that cable has come into its own. Still, there are considerations to be made.

First of all, cable has outgrown its original design paradigm. “Cable, when initially installed, wasn't intended for telecom/data services,” says Clausen. “This continues to present problems for cable companies as they have to refit systems to accommodate new demands on them.” Indeed, cable is

article page | 1 | 2 |
last page back to top of page next page

© 2006, All information contained herein is the sole property of Pipeline Publishing, LLC. Pipeline Publishing LLC reserves all rights and privileges regarding
the use of this information. Any unauthorized use, such as copying, modifying, or reprinting, will be prosecuted under the fullest extent under the governing law.