Wireless Fiber Optic Bandwidth
via Gigabit WiMAX
WiMAX is hardly begun deployment
when here comes the IEEE with a proposed spec for Gigabit WiMAX.
What's that about?
It's pretty much a slam-dunk that massive
bandwidth requirements have one transport technology available
and that's fiber optic carriers. Oh, there are flavors of fiber
transport to pick from. You can employ SONET-based metro and
inter-city rings, coarse and dense wavelength multiplexing to
light-up dark fiber, or long haul IP transit services. Over very
short ranges, such as building to building links, free space
optical systems can be highly cost effective. But how about point
to multipoint where fiber hasn't been trenched? Or what about
high bandwidth mobile?
Fiber is the new copper and Gigabit WiMAX
is going to be the new microwave. WiMAX hasn't even gotten its
legs yet, but the IEEE is launching an initiative to increase
mobile wireless bandwidths to 1 Gbps. The new standard will be
called 802.16m. Why, you might ask, is an order of magnitude
increase in WiMAX bandwidth called for at this early stage?
What's Wrong With The WiMAX We Have?
The applications, they are a changin'. What looked like broadband
a few years ago is starting to look like too small a pipe today.
Let's take a look at the story on WiMAX.
WiMAX is specified as having 70 Mbps of bandwidth and a 70 mile
range, although not both at the same time. There is a bandwidth
/ distance tradeoff. Even so, many users will be able to get
1 to 10 Mbps service within a metro area or decent broadband
Internet service in rural areas. One application of WiMAX is
replacement service for DSL or Cable Internet. Think of WiMAX
as a really, really big WiFi hotspot and you've got the idea.
Another intended use is for cellular backhaul. Right now every
cell tower needs one or more T1 lines to connect to the mobile
switching office. As cellular data rates increase, like they
are with EVDO Rev A, more and more lines are needed to keep up.
Fiber might be a better match to the increasing bandwidths. Yet
many cell towers are out in the boonies where the only fiber
is in the foodstock for farm animals. Cellular operators eye
WiMAX as a way to get the backhaul bandwidth they need without
prohibitive construction costs.
All of this is well and good except that
bandwidths of 500 Kbps to a few Mbps are yesterday's news, not
tomorrow's. Have you noticed that major Cable operators have
been voluntarily bumping up the bandwidth of their broadband
services. Insight, a major operator in the Midwest, is running
ads promoting its 10 Mbps service. Verizon is moving even faster
with its fiber-to-the-home FiOS service. They're up to 50 Mbps
and counting. AT&T is jumping to get 25 to 50 Mbps over legacy
copper using advanced DSL techniques.
None of this has to do with surfing the
Web or even downloading music. That was the impetus for the original
move to broadband Internet service. Dial-up was fine for email,
but VoIP and streaming anything demanded an order of magnitude
speed increase. Even that is proving to be too little. It is
estimated that much of the ISP bandwidth today is consumed by
video downloads, not audio and certainly not by users casually
reading Web pages. The emerging killer-app is going to be a bandwidth
killer application. It's high definition streaming and on-demand
video. In other words, television.
The Insatiable Bandwidth Demand
Bill Gates was once convinced that 640 KB was all the RAM a personal
computer would ever need. For text processing it was. Now you
can't get by with less than 1 GB for Vista. That's over a thousandfold
or three orders of magnitude increase. The same factor applied
to bandwidth takes us from 56 Kbps dial-up to 56 Mbps broadband.
It's even more dramatic when you consider that the early 640
KB PCs had 300 bps modems.
In the consumer arena, the big bandwidth
sink is going to be HDTV everywhere. Over the air broadcast is
the small piece of this action. The rest will be streaming and
video on demand over wired networks. These are Cable MSOs and
telcos competing with Cable, plus Internet video services and
mobile video. Mobile devices want a piece of this action and
are starting to get it now over cellular broadband such as EVDO
and UTMS or EDGE. WiMAX will support the lower rate, lower resolution
streams. But Gigabit WiMAX can support a real television-like
In the B2B space, Gigabit WiMAX can truly
make the desktop workstation mobile. This can include huge business
file transfers, video conferencing, medical image transfers,
backup and recovery, and software downloads. Other wireline or
P2P microwave applications such as audio and video broadcast
remote pickup might also find high bandwidth mobile wireless
service a good match.
Find Fiber Optic Bandwidth Services Now
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