Bandwidth Options to Feed a WISP Wireless Internet Service Providers bring broadband to underserved areas, but need bandwidth to share wirelessly. Here’s where to get it.
By: John Shepler
We’re a wired nation, except when it comes to locations that are a bit off the beaten path. That includes farms, rural households, businesses beyond the city limits, new subdivisions and some industrial parks. While they may have telephone, thanks to universal service, the availability of broadband Internet access is less of a sure thing. This is where the wireless broadband supplier or WISP fills the gap.
WISP or Wireless Internet Service Provider is similar to a cell phone provider, except specializing in high speed Internet access. While even 4G cell service has fairly low usage limits, WISP services are much more generous and try to emulate the type of service you’d get from cable, telco or even fiber optic lines. The real cost to hooking up less populated areas is trenching cable bundles or flying them on utility poles. The WISP eliminates the wires and their associated cost. The tradeoff is that you generally need a small dish antenna and receiver outside to pick up the signal from the WISP tower.
Where Do WISPs Get Their Broadband?
While the WISP distributes broadband much like WiFi, the broadband they serve must come from somewhere. When the Internet was young, T1 lines did an excellent job of feeding the WISP, just like they did feeding cell towers out in the countryside. The beauty of T1 is that it can be sent virtually any distance over standard twisted pair telephone wiring. The downside is that the bandwidth is fixed at 1.5 Mbps per T1 line. Higher speeds can be accomplished by adding or bonding additional lines to double, triple or quadruple the speed. The practical limit is around 10 to 12 Mbps. Pricing goes up linearly as you add each line.
Higher Speed Copper Lines
A newer technology that also runs over twisted pair copper is Ethernet over Copper (EoC). This service offers higher speeds, say 20 or 30 Mbps or even higher. Transmission is distance limited, but EoC is now more available beyond the city limits. Cost is much more attractive per Mbps than T1, if moderate speeds are adequate for what you need.
Business Cable Broadband can provide hundreds of Mbps these days but has suffered from very limited deployment outside of metro areas. That has changed somewhat as the cable has been extended to outlying subdivisions and business parks. If you can get this service and the Cable Company is OK with using it for a WISP, the cost will be very attractive.
Fiber Optic Service
The new gold standard of bandwidth service is fiber optic lines. These used to be few and far between, but provider competition has made them far more common even in rural areas. You can thank 4G cellular for providing the incentive to trench fiber conduits into rural areas. Prices have come down dramatically with Ethernet over Fiber (EoF) services. These are highly reliable and easily scalable up and down in bandwidth to meet your needs. Bandwidths of 10 Gbps up to 100 Gbps are common now.
Why not feed wireless with wireless? That’s not a crazy idea and is being used more and more as telco companies upgrade to 5G towers. Microwave is a point to point wireless service. You mount a small dish on your tower and point it toward the service provider. It’s like fiber but without the fiber.
SDN Combines Bandwidth
What if you need more bandwidth than any one supplier can provide? One option is to combine them using a technique called SDN or Software Defined Network, also known as SD-WAN or Software Defined Wide Area Network. The SDN controller manages traffic to get the best performance for each packet. You can combine T1, EoC, cable broadband, microwave, fiber optic lines and even satellite Internet to create a higher speed robust feed for your WISP tower.
Do you operate a WISP service or have one in the planning stage? Find out what bandwidths and pricing are available for your desired locations now. A friendly consultant will help you sort through the options.
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