A New Hampshire wireless outfit is offering cable operators a way to bridge the gap between their residentially based hybrid fiber-coaxial networks and enterprise customers in commercial areas: literally taking to the air.
Salem, N.H.-based Wireless Bypass has hit the market with a means for operators to connect to commercial areas without having to rip up pavement and install coaxial spurs. The two-way DL-5800 transmission system uses the unlicensed 5.8-gigahertz spectrum. It's also Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification-compatible.
Able to support a full 16-quadrature amplitude modulation, 6-megahertz channel of data or voice traffic, it can be configured for point-to point or point-to-multipoint links.
The point-to-point version can extend up to 20 miles, while the multipoint version creates a link with a maximum range of two miles.
While some were skeptical at first that the system could duplicate a wired DOCSIS channel, demonstrations and several field trials have proven out, said Wireless Bypass vice president and chief operating officer David Blumberg
"It took a while for people to believe it actually worked," he noted.
But the idea appears to be gaining some interest among MSOs. Time Warner Cable has some early, proof-of-concept field trials under way with Wireless Bypass, but it has not signed a contract for the technology, according to Time Warner Cable spokesman Mark Harrad. Trials also are in the works with Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc.
The system consists of a $10,000 hub unit that taps the endpoint of the cable plant as either a pole-mounted unit or a slim wire hanger. On the subscriber side, a $1,000 transceiver unit can link to standard cable modems in a business or office complex. Because it simply passes the traffic to and from a DOCSIS channel, the system doesn't require and additional billing or back-office software. More importantly, it doesn't require a backhoe to install.
"If they look at a situation where they will have to spend $100,000 just to rip up a parking lot and our solution costs $10,000, it isn't hard to see the benefit," Blumberg said.
But it isn't entirely perfect.
Using unlicensed spectrum also means there are potential interference issues. But Blumberg said the conflicting user would have to practically be in front of the radio beam to interfere, so it's not a huge threat.
Wireless Bypass also offers systems that transmit in the licensed 15-, 18- and 23-MHz ranges, but Blumberg said because of the difficulty and expense in obtaining licenses for these frequencies, most cable operators will likely opt for the unlicensed 5.8 Ghz version.
The more pressing limitation is the fact that it requires a line of sight between the tap and the transceiver.
"Obviously we can't beam our signal through a building or big chunks of foliage, so that is a limitation to the system," Blumberg said. "But we are talking to these guys and saying, 'Look, if you want to get into a strip mall that is a half a mile away from your plant, you can set this up and beam it in at a relatively low cost.' "