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What is Wireless Internet Access?
Broadband is a term that has suddenly become the techno buzzword of 1999. Every TDH has a wireless scheme going. There is high speed access being offered by cable, telco and wireless in some areas of the country, but no one method has become ubiquitous. Broadband is all the rage and is the new "buzz-word" in the Internet field. This comes as no surprise to us; in fact we don't understand what took everyone so long. There are three major camps in the wireless game at this time. The Cell guys have their pitifully slow data rate for use in the PalmVII and soon to be released cell phones. The big guys have adopted the LMDS/MMDS licensed band system that has a 3-5Km range and uses a higher frequency and sports throughput up to 30mbps. All of these systems use radios to send packetized data between the distribution point and a client system. 2000 has brought the advent of additional licensed and unlicensed vendors and it should prove to be an interesting decade.
Why the 2.4 Ghz Frequency range?
This frequency range has been set aside by the FCC, and is generally labeled the ISM band. A few years ago Apple and several other large corporations requested that the FCC allow the development of wireless networks within this frequency range. What we have today is a protocol and system that allows for unlicensed use of radios within a prescribed power level. The ISM band is populated by Industrial, Scientific and Medical devices that are all low power devices, but can interfere with each other.
Who designed these radio units?
Our ISP uses radio units made by BreezeCom. They are an Israeli outfit, originally named LanAir, that designed these systems for use in tank-to-tank, and tank-to-HQ, real-time communication for telemetry and computer communication for the Israeli military. Each unit is programmable to use different frequency hopping patterns within the 79 frequencies in the spectrum, and to hop between these frequencies at 10-30 times per second. A client radio picks up this sequence from the sending unit and they hop in an identical pattern. Individual packets can be lost or dropped and there is no data loss.
What is the 802.11 standard?
802.11 is the wireless Ethernet standard. This allows a standard Ethernet system to have sections that are wireless without modifying the standard Ethernet standards or methods. A short 802.11 tutorial is available here.
What about all MMDS/LMDS?
These systems are still in initial stages of deployment. They all tend to use licensed frequencies, the drawback there being the cost of acquiring licenses. The systems promise to scale well in densely populated areas, but are very costly to use in a rural territory. Startup costs for these systems have been said to be in the 6 figure range.
What about wireless data using cell phones?
Current cell phone technology operates at between 9600bps and 14,400bps. It's just too darn slow for today's Internet uses. So much so that the cell industry is having to make up a whole new protocol and web server system just to pare down the data into transmittable size for use on a PDA or the newer cellular phones. Note that you no longer see the term "cellular" being used by the cell phone industry. Cell Phone carriers are trying very hard to establish a foot in the door of the emerging wireless data market.
Will this work with the Palm units?
Not at this time, but it is very possible to do. There are voice phone products on the market that interoperate with some 802.11 wireless systems.
How does this access method compare to Cable?
It is faster than Cable access, capable of full T1 speeds in both directions. Easier to upgrade, doesn't rely on a wiring system with many potential points of failure. Not as proprietary. Doesn't require a basic service package to obtain. Is available in many places where Cable data hasn't arrived and isn't likely to.
How does wireless compare to DSL?
Wireless is much faster, more widely available in rural areas and is less expensive. DSL is limited to the copper plant in use by the Telco. Wireless speeds range from 500kps up to 1800kps ( a T1 is 1544kps) DSL services are not currently available in much of rural Maine. Some folks are making a bit of noise about how they are going to be doing this. Even when DSL does arrive, it will not be deployed outside the zones that are close-in to the Telco hub. Wireless will go anywhere you can create a relay point.
Do you have a visual comparison of Wireless access to DSL, Cable and Telco?
We have a couple of charts that help in comparing Wireless Internet to Cable, DSL and other Telco services. The Performance Comparison pits wireless against the other means of Internet access and the Price Comparison chart shows why we think wireless is a great way to go! These charts were made in Fall of 99, and the data used will eventually get out of date.
I live in a valley. Is there any hope for me?
Perhaps, but unfortunately there will be places that will be impossible to service with wireless. Being in a low spot will not help, unless of course you're right next to the hill where a broadcast point is. We have made a commitment to take the wireless service wherever there is enough demand to justify the expense of creating a relay point. Give us you and 15 other people that would use the service and we'll plop a mini tower down to service you.
Why aren't the HUGE corporations using this?
The large players are after large dollars and that means heading for densely populated areas. In heavily populated areas there is a much greater chance that this bandwidth would be saturated, not only by other users, but by lighting and other ISM band devices. 2.4 Ghz is also unlicensed and would reach a maximum density point long before they ran out of customers. The 2.4 Ghz is an unlicensed frequency, so they cannot buy an exclusive right to use it, the way they can with the LMDS/MMDS bands. ISPs that want to deploy 2.4 gear are running into frequency congestion in heavily populated areas and are finding out that DSSS systems have some very serious shortcomings in many deployment scenarios.
What are the radios and who makes them?
The radio units are a little bigger than a can of SPAM. The radios are currently being produced by a variety of manufacturers and the various chipsets and parts are also being produced by several companies. DSSS chipsets are made by Lucent and Harris. FHSS chipsets are made by Symbol and BreezeCom and a host of other companies. Everyone who employs a FH system is making their own chipset. Many companies are now rushing to create FHSS products. The BreezeCom units we employ have a rugged metal case and are extremely lightweight. The units come either with built-in 2db gain antenna or have connectors for external antenna.
How do I connect to the radio?
You connect your computer to the unit using a standard Ethernet cable that runs between the radio and the Ethernet card of your computer. This cable can be up to several hundred feet long, allowing the radio and antenna to be in one place and the computer to be where you want it. The antenna connects to the radio with a short proprietary "strain relief cable", and uses a larger and longer section of radio signal cable to continue the run to the antenna. Antenna cable comes standard at 15' to 50', and extension and custom length cables can be added to gain length.
How do I control the radio?
The radio is programmed by the ISP and is not programmable by the end user without the proprietary configuration cable. This helps to ensure the security of the Wireless network. The next generation of client radio will have the ability to be reprogrammed on the fly, to allow for upgrades to the firmware as well as service adjustments.
Will radios from different manufacturers work with each other?
The 802.11 standard(s) were designed to, and should, allow manufacturers to produce radios that will interoperate. It *is* up to those manufacturers to fulfill the promise of the 802.11 standards. This scenario is similar to the v.90 modem rollout, where modems that should have interoperated took a year or more to actually do just that. One of the reasons we chose the 802.11 standard was the potential for competition that will drive down the cost for the end user. We like the idea of consumers having choices.
What are the antennas like and who makes them?
The antennas range in size from a 14" long ¾" round pole, to a 24" x 36" grilled directional unit. There are also many other antenna choices within the range of the frequency. A link to a few antenna pictures and other data is here. Most of them are very lightweight and are no more difficult to install that a DishTV or DirectTV dish. The cables used for exterior mounting come in set lengths, but can be ordered longer, and sometime shorter depending on the application. The cables are 1/2" and 3/4" in diameter, with the connectors being slightly larger. The cable is fairly stiff and should not be bent too sharply. LMR600 and LMR400 are the two most common cable types.
What is the power output?
The radio outputs less than 1 Watt. Through antenna gain, a EIRP 4 Watt signal is as high as the unlicensed use of the band is allowed to go in point to multipoint(PtMP) and 6 Watts EIRP in point to point (PtP).
What is the power consumption?
The BreezeCom radio unit uses 5 Volt @ 1.5 Amps, and uses a power block that plugs into 120AC. There is work being done on power supply gangs.
What are the environmental concerns for using wireless?
The radio should be protected from the elements and should be not be used below freezing or above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Our ISP has seen only water intrusion as a source for weather related problems. This was usually caused by improper connections being made. Some minor cable problems have also been encountered, but we see these as inconvieiences.
Can I "mix and match" cable and antenna combinations?
Manufacturers must submit and obtain approval for radios in conjunction with cables and antenna bundles, prior to being able to sell them. They are allowed to use and sell small quantities of prototype units for testing. The manufacturer of this hardware cannot sell outside the boundaries of these approved assemblies. No radio manufacturer can sell a combination outside the maximum power, and they must sell you only antenna combinations that restrict the operation of that antenna.
However, end users can modify their use, as long as they do not exceed the power output of the FCC regulation of 4 Watts EIRP. In certain cases, one might use a long extension to the antenna. The resulting cable loss from the added length is made back up by installing a one half watt (500 milliwatt) amplifier in the line to boost the signal back up.These regulations were created way before these products were used for last mile Internet access. Remember that when getting your brain around the entire sceanrio.
Can higher gain antennas be used?
As long as the signal strength does not exceed 4 Watts EIRP, the end user may use a high gain antenna. With the BreezeCom radios we use, we have thought to try, using an LNA on a directional 30 dbi gain antenna, on a dedicated receive antenna port. This would be used on a very long haul connection. We would then use a standard 24 dbi directional antenna as the send side. Repeat at the other end. Normally a 30dbi antenna would be dissallowed under the FCC guidelines, but by using the ability to turn the antenna port into a receive only we can access the better "ear". Higher gain Omni directional antennas are also in use by many people.
What the heck is gain, anyway?
Think of a radio signal being a ball of radio waves being emitted from a single point. By reshaping the signal you add gain, or power, to the signal strength. In the case of an omni-directional antenna, the top and bottom of the ball are squished down and up to flatten out the signal, creating a doughnut shaped pattern.
In the case on a Uni-Directional antenna, the signal is reshaped by not only squishing the top and bottom, but by changing the shape as well. Imaging looking down on the ball and being able to cut into the six o'clock position and then reshaping it so it looks like a piece of pie with the left edge at 10 o'clock and the right edge at 2 o'clock.
In each case the total power is compressed into a tighter pattern thus resulting in a gain of the effective strength of the signal.
How many radios can co-exist in one area?
BreezeCom recommends no more than 15 Access Point radios be deployed in such a way that they can see each other with their antennas. Instances have been reported of hanging antenna units off the four sides of a large building, thus quadrupling the density .Clever shielding and creative use of lower powered directional antenna can increase densities dramatically over larger areas. Using a micro-celluar deployment approach allows for even greater desities to be supported, facilitating rollouts in even extremely dense areas.
What is the power level of 2.4 Ghz?
The FCC limits the signal strength to an EIRP of 4 watts. At the radio connector the signal is 100mW of power. ( a PC-Card runs at 50 mW) Through the process of antenna gain the signal is effectively boosted to higher levels, not to exceed the equivalent of 4 watts EIRP.
What is FHSS & DSSS?
Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum and Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum is the quick answer. Both operate from 2.400-2.485 GigaHertz, in what is known as the ISM band. The 802.11 wireless standard covers both DSSS and FHSS, although not all manufacturers employ or fully adhere to 802.11. Both FHSS and DSSS use the middle 79 frequencies and must leave the top and bottom 3 alone as a "buffer".
The DSSS system utilizes "sets" of frequencies in a sequential progression and uses "channels" 1,6 and 11. There are 11 channels available in the spectrum, but each uses frequencies such that only three channels can coexist and not overlap. To obtain 11Mbps under the 802.11 DS must separate the carrier frequencies of each channel by 30 frequencies and there are only 79 to go around restricting colo use to 3. DSSS can sustain throughputs from anywhere from 4.2Mbps and up depending on the manufacturers claims and methodologies. DSSS can also maintain a higher throughput over distance than FHSS. DSSS is much more susceptible to detrimental interference. DSSS can only coexist with 2 other units in RF proximity, severely limiting its use in a point to multi-point application. A BreezeCom DS11 WBS can associate with 128 WBC clients, although throughput would suffer greatly at those densities.
SS was coinvented by Hedy Lamarr in 1942. Her genius gives us, some 50 years later, a technology that allows us to utilize radio frequencies in a much more secure, reliable and efficient way. Read all about Hedy Lamarr at this web page. FHSS uses 78 frequency hopping patterns employing all 79 frequencies. This allows for the collocation of 15 FHSS radios in one location without loss of throughput.
FHSS also can overcome moderate signal interference better than DSSS. FHSS can have packet loss on several of the frequency hops with no need to retransmit packets. The 802.11 standard and the FHSS has redundant data built into its methodology that allows for radio packet loss without the loss of the data being sent and the need to retransmit that data.
What can I expect for sources of interference?
The 2.4 Ghz frequency range is affected by some industrial lighting devices, some wireless house phones, microwave ovens, the coming Bluetooth (although BT is such alow power device it is likely to be useless in an area where any other 2.4 is deployed) and other radio equipment that uses the 2.4 Ghz range. In rural settings, these sources of interference are minimal and can be avoided by proper positioning of the antenna units. In an urban or city environment the sources of interference could be extremely debilitating.
Will this signal interfere with any/one/thing else?
These radios put out a very low power signal and as such are not likely to interfere with other devices. Some hospital equipment can be affected by these signals if, and only if, the unit is used in very close proximity to some devices. Hospitals are one of the largest users of 2.4 Ghz Wireless LANS.
What is "clear line of sight"?
The ability for the antenna units to see each other without obstruction is clear line of site.
Do I have to have
Live by this phrase, but know that there are no absolutes. "If you can''t see it and you can't hit it by throwing a rock at it twice, it liekly won't work". With that said there are always exceptions. Reception points within a half-mile (give or take) have been shown to operate without line of site, but these are conditions where the signal is capable of either penetrating or reflecting. Many factors influence and affect the radio signal. Building materials such as "Low-E" or other coated glass as well as foil insulation are very good barriers to the signal. Concrete can be penetrated in close proximity to the antennas. Wooden buildings can be penetrated.
trees baaaaad Trees are mostly water and stop the signal very effectively, but again, if proximity to the antenna is close enough, the signal will penetrate some foliage. BUT, and this can not be stressed enough, the signal willnot penetrate any volume of trees at distance. Distance being defined as motre than a 1/2 mile, but again, it isn't a black and white issue. There are cases where ISPs have literally burned through trees using amplifiers and highly directional antenna, but these are exceptions not rules, and they may be overpowering the systems in order to acheive these pentrations. In some cases, trees can be over come by using more frequent installations of access points in a micro-cellular deployments. PIne trees are easier to penetrate than an oak or maple tree. Installations performed during winter months may stop functioning during leaf out in the spring.
What is the fresnel zone?
The fresnel zone is a conical shaped area extending out from an antenna in the direction the signal is traveling. Think of it as a megaphone. The fresnel zone for antennas one mile apart, has a radius of 27' in the middle where the two cones are as large as they get.
What is the range of the signal?
Currently we are running a 9-mile link from one high point to another, and have tested links as far away as 18 and 32 miles. Longer runs must absolutely have clear line of site. Servicing customers from an Omni antenna can be supported up to 9 miles out with the use of an Amp at the both the client and the access point. Un-Amped Omni antenna can service out to 5 miles, while an amped omni will improve signal strength for most clients and extend the range to 7 miles. Panel antenna can generally be thought of as doing the above, but without the amp, and can increase the range ability. All of the above is conditional on the LOS qualitites of each link.
Can the signal be boosted?
Yes! Amplifiers are being used by us and many other people. The same FCC regulation applies that you cannot exceed the 6Watts EIRP. An Omni 8 antenna with 100' of cable can be used with a 500mW amp and not exceed the power restriction. Amps can significantly improve signal quality, but line of sight is still required.
How secure is the signal?
We think it's secure enough for most uses. The Israeli Military used this stuff long before we ever got to see it.. Obviously, if we can use it, they have something much better. The nature of FHSS makes it very difficult to intercept. The hopping sequence could be observed but only in the case of one unit transmitting as an access point without other units in proximity. As soon as more than one unit is in use, it becomes exponentially more difficult to isolate one signal. A community string is used to allow only approved radios clients to associate with an Access Point. If this is not enough security, encryption can be used to further secure the signal at the radio level. In addition, more robust encryption boxes can be positioned at each end of the link to further protect the signal.
I live in a heavily populated area, how will this affect the signal?
As was mentioned in various places in the FAQ, the higher the density of population, the more likely other devices will cause detrimental interference. In point-to-multipoint applications this interference will be much more of a problem in densely populated areas. In point-to-point application, the directional antennas will greatly reduce the likelihood of interference being noticeable. The largest source of interference in the city/urban environment would most likely be lighting systems and other ISM band communication devices. You just might encounter a few other ISPs out there too, so do not be surprised.
How does a user interface with Wireless?
Their computer needs an Ethernet card and a Cat-5 Ethernet cable to connect to the radio. The end users system is configured as if it was using a direct Ethernet connection to a LAN with Internet access.
Will any Ethernet card do?
Any standard 10BaseT Ethernet card will work fine.
Can I plug in a hub instead of a computer?
No. The signal must terminate to a device with a valid MAC address, such as a computer, router or other "boxen".
How may computers can a client radio support?
There is a single client radio and a 4-client radio, having one and four Ethernet ports respectively. For wireless links above a single computer, a wireless bridge unit can also be employed. A computer acting as a proxy/masquerade/router/mail-server could be the one machine attached, and also provide services to the other computers in the system. The wireless link is much more flexible than a standard leased line.
How fast will it go?
This is very dependent on the strength of the signal. The lowest throughput we have seen is 700kbps and the radios support up to 1.8mbps throughput. Systems will be in place eventually that will allow the offering of speed levels similar to Cable and leased line access methods.
Can I buy a slower/faster connection through Wireless?
Eventually. The BreezeAccess system allows for CIR,CDR, RADIUS, Telnet, Voice services and many other handy capabilities. Our ISP is only using the BreezeNet product at this time.
Can I buy a guaranteed throughput?
Yes. On a point-to-point connection we can work with a customer to guarantee throughput. This would require a higher setup fee, similar to a leased line setup fee, but the recurring fees would still be less than a leased line.
What will I need for hardware for a wireless Internet connection?
The client will need a receive radio, a network capable computer, the antenna and the cable running to it. Oh, and electricity at the radio site will really help. We also highly recommend that battery backup and surge devices be used with all computers and their various connections.
How can I tell if wireless will work for me?
A site inspection will need to be performed for almost all potential customers to evaluate the ability to use wireless where you are. If you know where our antennas are, and you can see one, then you should be able to get a working signal. A site survey must be done prior to installing any wireless hardware.
How much does the hardware cost?
The minimum cost is less than $600 for a client unit with built-in antennas. Units for multiple computers locations can run as high as $1500. A single computer installation would run no higher than $1000 for everything.
Can I rent the hardware?
At this time we have no plans to provide the equipment in this way.
Is wireless as reliable as Cable or Telco services?
We have found that it is more reliable than the Telco systems we currently use. We have no first hand information on the reliability of Cable Internet, but we assume that since it is a wired system, it is subject to those types of problems.
What about lightening?
This is probably the most significant threat to your wireless gear. Although it is just as likely to affect a cable of Telco connection as well. Proper protection devices are available to protect the antenna and radio units, as well as protecting the Ethernet connection to you computer system(s).
Will it interfere with pacemakers?
It is suggested that people with pacemakers not be in the immediate path of the signal. This means closer than a few feet. These units are less likely to cause a problem than a microwave oven.
What Operating Systems is this compatible with?
Any Internet/Networkable computer can use wireless. MIS will still apply the OS limitations it has in place for any new customer. Win95 or above and OS 7.51 or above.
Will I still need my modem?
All wireless customers will be given a dialup account to use as a backup in the event their wireless link stops functioning. This dialup account is not meant to be used as a primary access method, nor should it be shared or used in combination with a working wireless access system. Wireless customers who abuse their dialup access while a wireless customer will be charged for a standard dialup account in addition to any wireless charges.
Will I need to keep my second phone line?
No. But remember that you will have a dialup connection available in the event the wireless link goes down, so be sure to account for that potential need.
Is there a limit on the amount of traffic I can send/receive?
Until metering/throttling systems are in place, we will be watching Bandwidth usage very closely. We want everyone to have the speed of wireless available to them. Those that misuse this availability of speed will face additional charges. We have found that the average user doesn't really need all that much BW to do what they want. What they will love is the speed at which the webpages load when connected via wireless.
Can I run servers on this connection?
Yes. Clients wishing to resell services over a wireless link will need to pay for that ability. The running of servers of any kind is prohibited in the basic wireless access plan.
How big are the antenna units?
See for yourself. A typical client antenna would be a Uni-16 is 16" square. The largest unit is the "Uni-24 and it is 36" wide and 24" high. The mounting process in very similar to a TV antenna or a DishTV/DirectTV dish.
Can I put my antenna in my attic?
Most likely the answer is, no. If you are very close to a broadcast point and your attic is uninsulated, you might be able to get away with it, but even then, any blockage to the line of site will have a negative effect on the signal.
What about lightening protection?
Lightening arrestors are available for the external antenna units. Further measures are recommended to protect your entire system(s). A surge arrestor is available for the Ethernet connections, as well as power the phone connections. We highly recommend that be used, in addition to a battery backup for the power pack on the radios and the computer.
Is wireless reliable?
Yes. Our wireless network has been designed to provide reliable wireless data connections to the areas we service. By design, weather conditions do NOT affect our wireless data network. Reliability wise, our network does not behave like wireless cable, satellite, or wireless telephones. It is much more reliable.
What equipment will be needed?
An antenna is mounted on a tripod fastened to the roof. From the antenna, a 1/2" diameter coax cable will be run into the telecom room via a small hole drilled into the roof. At the terminating end of the coax cable, a small 1" x 4" x 6" radio transceiver will be mounted to the wall. Category 5 cable will then be run from the radio to the computer server room. All penetration from the roof will be sealed and weatherproofed.
Will cell phones or cordless phones interfere with Data Link Wireless?
Cell phones and 900MHz cordless phones will have no impact on Data Link Wireless service because they operate on a different frequency. Any device such as a phone, or baby monitor that operates at 2.4GHz may cause interference, but not to the extent that you would notice.
How fast is it really?
Your dial-up modem connections connect at a maximum of 53 thousand bits per second. In addition, analog dial-up connections are inefficient and often have to resend data because of telephone line interference.
Our wireless system connects to our remote sites at a maximum of 11 mbps (11,000 kbps). Data Link Wireless is up to 50 times faster than an analog modem and up to 12 times faster than a dual-channel ISDN connection.
Can I get it installed on my home network?
Yes, you can have all the clients on the home network have an internet connection. However, you need to contact us about how many clients you expect on the network. Pricing plains may vary.
Does rain or snow interfere with Data Link Wireless?
The only time you could experience any type of minimal signal loss would be during Heavy precipitation. Our type of system successfully operates wireless networks in rainy, tropical areas, with no significant degradation of service.
Does it matter which web browser I use?
Any standard, established browser like Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer will work with our system. Since the Wireless network relies on the same protocol as the Internet, TCP/IP, practically any program can view the Internet.
What if I'm already an AOL user and still want to access AOL?
You can use your AOL account on our wireless service. You can also change your billing plan to BYOA (Bring Your Own Access) and save more then ten dollars from the standard AOL dial-up charge.
Is there any wiring involved with the Data Link Wireless installation?
Wiring would be required only if you need an external antenna.
Do I need a clear line of sight to a Data Link Wireless network antenna to receive service?
Usually you do need line of sight. But our signal can pass through various types of buildings and obstructions, (depending on your distance from a Data Link Wireless network antenna), so you may be able to get service even if you can't see the antenna.
Can I connect more than one computer to my Data Link Wireless modem?
With the standard plan, you can only connect one computer to the modem. See the terms and conditions page for information and costs to setup a proxy server.
How does Data Link Wireless security compare with cable service security?
The security of Data Link Wireless is superior to cable.
On a cable network, every computer in the neighborhood can listen to all messages on the local network using readily available "sniffer" software. With Data Link Wireless, each wireless modem receives and passes its associated Ethernet card's data and not the entire networks.
Another area of concern with cable networks is that if you have turned on "file sharing", other computers in your neighborhood can access your files and programs. This is not possible when connected to the Data Link Wireless network and its segmentation of clients.
Can other users see my messages?
No, to any practical extent. Data Link Wireless uses a signal scrambling technology that was developed for use in secure communications such as for the military. The radio signal hops from channel to channel using up to 79 channels, for each message, in an apparently random fashion, hundreds of times a second.
For outsiders to read or "see" your message, they would have to simultaneously monitor all channels, figure out where message fragments from one user begin and end, reassemble the fragments, decrypt the data, and decode the message - an extraordinary complicated and expensive process.
Can other users see files on my computer?
No. Unless you use a file-sharing program or service. However, it is also wise to download hot-fixes off of Windows Update and to remove file-sharing capabilities off of a Windows 9x Machine.
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