Saturday, April 20, 2024

Looking Beyond Wireless Connections

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CHICAGO — Wireless Internet service providers (WISPs)
attending WISPCON here Monday found vendors offering
equipment that goes beyond straight connectivity.

Fixed wireless, the technology delivering Internet
over the airwaves in the license-free Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) spectrum — primarily
900 MHz and 2.4 and 5.8 GHz — has enjoyed widespread
popularity the past few years as an alternative to
“wired” high-speed Internet choices in digital
subscriber line (DSL) and cable.

To date, the equipment powering fixed wireless and
“hotspot” 802.11b has revolved primarily around
getting more distance from equipment without violating
Part-15 rules at the FCC, which limit the power of the
signal so it doesn’t interfere with licensed spectrum
operators in the U.S.

Three companies — Alvarion, MicroTik and KarlNet —
showcased equipment that improves on today’s equipment
and makes subscriber management easier.

Alvarion, a company that gained major clout in recent
years after its creation through a merger between
BreezeCOM and Floware, was showing off its new traffic
manager Monday, which puts a cap on the amount of
bandwidth an individual user can use at any given time
and tally the extent of their use.

For WISPs, it brings a whole new level of management
not normally used in the industry: finding out how
much bandwidth subscribers are using and billing them
appropriately. To date, most WISPs (and conventional
ISPs, for that matter) use the multi-router traffic
grapher (MRTG), a free application created by
developer Tobi Oetiker.

Now, in addition to passively watching what users
consume, WISPs can put a limit to how much bandwidth
is used, raise or lower that amount, and keep track of
that amount. It’s similar to what many cable and DSL
providers use today to “tier” its service at different
speed levels (i.e., 1.5 Mbps, 768 Kbps)

Latvian-based MicroTik software designers released its
first hardware product to WISPs Monday, after looking
for a hardware product tailored to their software’s
needs, MicroTik v2.6.

The software — which turns an ordinary home PC into a
network router — has many more features than a PC can
provide. Enter MicroTik’s Router Board 200, designed
and manufactured in the European company’s
headquarters in Riga, Latvia.

The card, “basically an ATX (motherboard form factor)
card cut in half,” according to one of the company’s
officials, is a plug-in PCI card filled with ports and
slots for a greater variety of network-based services.
They include: intrusion detection, optional mini-UPS
for power backup (15 minute battery life, enough time
to send out an alert to the administrator), and
Ethernet- and 802.11b-based slots.

The board supports most operating systems, including:
Windows, Linux and BSD.

John Sully, MicroTik managing director, said the lack
of a product suited to its software needs was the
reason behind creating a hardware product.

“We’re a software company, but the equipment out there
that could use it wasn’t there,” he said. “We went
out and ordered the design and had it manufactured in
Latvia. The competition’s similar product is much
less powerful.”

Officials are still working on a final price for the
product, though Tully said the board will run between
$150-$200 and be sold directly to customers for the
time being. Depending on the success of the board,
MicroTik will ramp up production and set up reseller
distribution and original equipment manufacturing

KarlNet was the third manufacturer with a product
released today, an all-in-one piece of hardware that
accommodates all types of wireless networking needs.

The KarlNet WISP Base is a 1U rack mount base station
capable of operating up to five different radios and
two 10/100-Ethernet interfaces, which can support up
to 320 remote wireless stations. It can be used in
either 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz radio systems.

Like Alvarion’s traffic manager, the KarlNet product
features a bandwidth and simple network management
protocol (SNMP) control feature at the remote station,
instead of at the network operations center (NOC).
Tied to the network’s remote authentication dial-in
user service (RADIUS), it can be used to manage and
bill individual users, as well as determine whether
the user is actually a customer.

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