article

It Takes More Than Equipment to Run a Broadband Wireless Network

Posted: 02/1999

Networks

It Takes More Than Equipment to Run a Broadband Wireless Network
By Volker Tegtmeyer

For carriers just entering the highly competitive local exchange market, one of the
most significant challenges is delivering broadband services over the "last
mile" to the customer premise. Because incumbent carriers control the vital local
loop, competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) hoping to capture market share obviously
need an alternative way to provision services–particularly high-speed data/Internet
access–quickly and cost-effectively. Furthermore, if they intend to expand beyond their
initial footholds in the local exchange, these new market entrants need
service-provisioning technologies that scale easily as the customer base grows.

The inherent flexibility of wireless broadband enables a competitive
local exchange carrier (CLEC) to deliver service precisely where and when each customer
requires it, simply by deploying infrastructure quickly to targeted customer sites.

More and more CLECs are betting that wireless broadband systems are the most effective
way to penetrate the market and sustain growth. That appears to be a fairly safe bet.
However, exploiting the full potential of wireless broadband, both to satisfy end-user
requirements and obtain a competitive edge in the market, requires a lot more than simply
deploying radio equipment and rooftop antennas. Many CLECs that have opted to deploy
wireless broadband networks are looking to their equipment vendors to supply not only the
"boxes" but a lot of added value as well, particularly systems-integration
expertise.

A Double Challenge

Wireless broadband technology enables CLECs to meet challenges on both the end-user and
operational sides of the equation. On the customer side, business organizations require a
greater mix of services than ever before, especially when it comes to high-speed data
communications and Internet access. Not only do they want more, better and faster
services, they also want those services to be available when and where they need them, for
branch offices as well as headquarters. Furthermore, because of their own budgetary
constraints, customer organizations demand competitively priced, reliable switching and
transport of their applications.

On the operational side, CLECs know they must deploy a broadband infrastructure that
can support a complete portfolio of data, video and voice services. Second, that
infrastructure must be future-proof, one that not only scales easily for incremental
growth, but also allows for cost-effective integration of new technologies. Third, the
broadband infrastructure must enable CLECs to minimize their operational costs; in today’s
ultracompetitive market, the most successful service providers are the low-cost service
providers.

Wireless broadband technology is suited ideally to both customer and CLEC requirements.
Using radio equipment operating in the 28 gigahertz (GHz) and 38GHz frequencies and
rooftop antennas, CLECs can respond quickly, easily and cost-effectively to customer
needs. The inherent flexibility of wireless broadband enables a CLEC to deliver service
precisely where and when each customer requires it, simply by deploying infrastructure
quickly to targeted customer sites.

In addition, customers receive the same quality and reliability from wireless broadband
that they receive from fiber optic technology. Operating at fractional T1 speeds up to
OC-3 (155 megabits per second [mbps]), wireless broadband supports everything from
high-speed Internet access and data transport to voice and video applications.
Furthermore, unlike such competing technologies as 56 kilobits per second (kbps) modems,
cable modems and asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) technology, wireless broadband
systems operate at symmetrical speeds, assuring customers high speeds both upstream and
downstream.

Finally, wireless broadband enables customers to control their communications costs
better. Because a CLEC using wireless broadband asynchronous transfer mode (ATM)
technology can provision bandwidth on demand, customers pay only for the bandwidth they
need, rather than having expensive bandwidth sitting idle during off-peak hours.

Reduced Costs, Faster Return

From the CLECs’ operational perspective, wireless broadband, compared with fiber optic
systems, requires a smaller upfront expenditure–the rooftop units and a single switching
hub that serves multiple customers. In addition to not wasting the CLECs’ investment,
wireless broadband can deliver a rapid return.

Consequently, a CLEC can enter the market quickly, provide service precisely tailored
to customer needs and easily configure the network for low- and high-capacity areas. This
kind of cost control and flexibility contrasts starkly with the time and money required to
dig up streets and install fiber optic systems, all in the hope that enough customers will
sign up to deliver an eventual return on that investment.

As the customer base grows, the CLEC can install remote switching units to accommodate
increases in traffic volumes. In addition, a wireless broadband system configured for
point-to-multipoint service offers the CLEC further economies of scale. Rather than
dedicating hub equipment to a single customer–a requirement in point-to-point
configurations–the CLEC can serve multiple customers through common hub-site equipment.
Such configurations also enable the CLEC to respond even more cost-effectively to multiple
customers’ bandwidth requirements.

In addition to flexibility and scalability, wireless broadband systems feature lower
network maintenance, management and operating costs than other types of technology. The
combined characteristics of wireless broadband enable the CLEC to position itself as a
value-added and cost-effective service provider right from the outset.

Beyond the Box

Many CLECs understand that deriving the maximum benefits of wireless broadband for
their customers and themselves depends on vendors’ ability to deliver added value. More
and more CLECs are evaluating potential vendors not only for the quality and reliability
of their wireless broadband product portfolios, but also for their expertise and resources
in other areas. In addition to radio frequency (RF)-engineering and site-evaluation
capabilities, many vendors offer systems-integration expertise and knowledge of
international standards and regulations.

By relying on the vendor’s expertise rather than outsourcing such activities to a third
party, the CLEC can simplify system installation and integration. Further, such added
value from the vendor gives the CLEC even more cost control.


Graph: Wireless Broadband Point-to-Multipoint Solution

Given that the wireless broadband system comprises only the access portion of the
customer’s network, a CLEC should expect the vendor’s help in interfacing that system with
the interexchange carrier’s (IXC’s) backbone network. The vendor also should be able to
help integrate the wireless broadband system with the CLEC’s legacy back-office systems,
including provisioning, accounting and billing. Despite the fact that IXCs and back-office
system vendors use standard specifications, there are different ways to implement every
standard.

As a result, a CLEC should make sure its wireless broadband vendor can develop test
plans, based on the CLEC’s actual network, to isolate potential failures and determine the
source of the problem–whether it is the IXC’s equipment, a switch, a multiplexer or even
a legacy application.

Speaking of applications, a CLEC should expect help from the vendor in integrating
those as well–and that means vendor experience not just in wireless technology but in
voice, data and video. If, for example, the CLEC wants to offer voice service over ATM,
the vendor should be able to assist in making sure the voice equipment works with the ATM
equipment. The vendor also should be able to help choose the appropriate parameters, such
as quality of service (QoS), on the ATM switches.

Eventually most CLECs will at least touch, if not participate directly in,
international markets. Certainly many of their customers will have overseas facilities
that require international voice and data services. Thus, CLECs deploying wireless
broadband networks should expect added value from their vendors in this area, too.

For one thing, the vendor should be familiar with variations between standards as
defined by the Amer-ican National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the European
Telecom-munications Standards Institute (ETSI)–and have experience in implementing both.

By capitalizing on the vendor’s in-place support structure and regulatory knowledge, a
CLEC can shorten its learning curve, maintain cost controls and ensure that wireless
broadband technology can satisfy customers’ domestic and international
communications requirements.

Volker Tegtmeyer is senior market development consultant, Siemens Information and
Communication Networks Inc., Boca Raton, Fla. He can be reached by phone at +1 561 955
6145, or by e-mail at volker.tegtmeyer@icn.siemens.com.


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