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In recent years, Broadband technology has rapidly become an established, global commodity required by a high percentage of the population. The demand has risen rapidly, with a worldwide installed base of 57 million lines in 2002 rising to an estimated 80 million lines by the end of 2003. This healthy growth curve is expected to continue steadily over the next few years and reach the 200 million mark by 2006. DSL operators, who initially focused their deployments in densely-populated urban and metropolitan areas, are now challenged to provide broadband services in suburban and rural areas where new markets are quickly taking root. Governments are prioritizing broadband as a key political objective for all citizens to overcome the “broadband gap” also known as “digital divide”.
Wireless DSL (WDSL) offers an effective, complementary solution to wireline DSL, allowing DSL operators to provide broadband service to additional areas and populations that would otherwise find themselves outside the broadband loop. Government regulatory bodies are realizing the inherent worth in wireless technologies as a means for solving digital-divide challenges in the last mile and have accordingly initiated a deregulation process in recent years for both licensed and unlicensed bands to support this application. Recent technological advancements and the formation of a global standard and interoperability forum – WiMAX, set the stage for WDSL to take a significant role in the broadband market. Revenues from services delivered via Broadband Wireless Access have already reached $323 million and are expected to jump to $1.75 billion.
There are several ways to get a fast Internet connection to the middle of nowhere. Until not too long ago, the only answer would have been “cable” — that is, laying lines. Cable TV companies, who would be the ones to do this, had been weighing the costs and benefits. However this would have taken years for the investment to pay off. So while cable companies might be leading the market for broadband access to most people (of the 41% of Americans who have high-speed Internet access, almost two-thirds get it from their cable company), they don’t do as well to rural areas. And governments that try to require cable companies to lay the wires find themselves battling to force the companies to take new customers.
Would DSL be a means of achieving this requisite of broadband and bridging the digital divide?
The lines are already there, but the equipment wasn’t always the latest and greatest, even then. Sending voice was not a matter of big concern, but upgrading the system to handle DSL would mean upgrading the central offices that would have to handle the data coming from all those farms.The most rattling affair is that there are plenty of places in cities that can’t handle DSL, let alone the country side. Despite this, we’ll still read about new projects to lay cable out to smaller communities, either by phone companies, cable companies, or someone else. Is this a waste of money? Probably because cables are on their way out. Another way to get broadband to rural communities is the way many folks get their TV: satellite, which offers download speeds of about 500 Kbps —faster than a modem, but at best half as fast as DSL — through a satellite dish. But you really, really have to want it. The system costs $600 to start, then $60 a month by the services provided by DIRECWAY in the US.There are other wireless ways to get broadband access
MCI (”Microwave Communications Inc.”) was originally formed to compete with AT & T by using microwave towers to transmit voice signals across the US. Unlike a radio (or a Wi-Fi connection), those towers send the signal in a straight line —unidirectional instead of omni directional. That’s sometimes called fixed wireless or point-to-point wireless. One popular standard for this is called LMDS: local multipoint distribution system. Two buildings up to several miles apart would have microwave antennas pointing at each other. One (in, say, the urban area) would be connected to the Internet in the usual way, via some kind of wire; the other (in the rural area you want to connect) would send and receive data over the microwave link, and then be connected to homes and farms via cables. Those cables would be much shorter and less expensive, with the bulk of the transmission being done through the ether.
WiMax delivers broadband to a large area via towers, just like cell phones. This enables your laptop to have high-speed access in any of the hot spots. Instead of yet another cable coming to your home, there would be yet another antenna on the cell-phone tower. This is definitely a point towards broadband service in rural areas. First get the signal to the area, either with a single cable (instead of one to each user) or via a point-to-point wireless system. Then put up a tower or two, and the whole area is online. This saves the trouble of digging lots of trenches, or of putting up wires that are prone to storm damage.
However there is one promising technology that still uses cables to deliver a broadband signal to, well, wherever. It doesn’t require laying any new wires (like cable Internet), and it doesn’t require overhauling a lot of existing systems (like DSL).It’s BPL: (broadband over power lines). As the name suggests, it piggybacks a high speed data signal on those ubiquitous power lines. Those aren’t the low-voltage ones that come to your house, but the medium-voltages ones that travel from neighborhood to neighborhood. The signal, like those power lines, can travel a long way thanks to “regenerators” that not only pass the data along, but clean the signal so it doesn’t degrade over distance. That means the signal can travel as long as the lines do. Those regenerators can also include Wi-Fi antennas, so if you space them properly they can be placed near homes and farms and whatnot. You can also connect a cable to one to take the signal to the door if you don’t feel like going the W-Fi way.
However there have been certain hiccups in the case of BPL. Unlike some early (and ongoing) attempts to do Internet through power lines, BPL doesn’t go into individual homes. That’s because in order to do so, the signal would have to make its way through a transformer and through a circuit-breaker box, both of which play havoc with it. The result is that the data get through, but much more slowly than leaving the power line before the transformer.Combine BPL with Wi-Fi, WiMAX, or even (short) cables, and we have an inexpensive way to get the power of the Internet down on the farm using the power of power.WiMAX is revolutionizing the broadband wireless world, enabling the formation of a global mass-market wireless industry. Putting the WiMAX revolution in the bigger context of the broadband industry, this paper portrays the recent acceleration stage of the Broadband Wireless Access market, determined by the need for broadband connectivity.
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