The other approach is to piggy-back on the 3G cellular broadband services that already blanket the country. This approach offers lower bandwidth, similar to a T1 line, but is available just about anywhere you can get a cell phone signal. That has made it perfect for rural locations, temporary stores and small businesses that need a broadband connection fast.
Accel Networks has been a leader in 3G fixed wireless in the United States and Canada. Their winning approach has been in contracting with multiple wireless providers and creating a proprietary hardware solution that is plug-and-play for the user. Your equipment package comes pre-programmed for the optimal carrier signal available at your location. The Maestro antenna system ensures a solid RF link. All you need to do is connect to the serial or Ethernet connection and you are ready to go in as little as 3 days from order placement.
What do you get in the way of performance. You have a static or dynamic IP address on a PCI compliant private Layer 2 connection. Typical 3G data rates average 1 Mbps download by 512 Kbps upload. A service level agreement assures you of 99.9% availability. Coverage includes 99% of all retail locations in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico.
As good as 3G fixed wireless is, businesses are pressing for more bandwidth. Fixed wireless providers are following the cellular upgrade path from 3G to 4G as it is fielded. Accel Networks has launched their 4G service with a proprietary antenna and embedded modem technology. Speeds are expected to increase to 6 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload with under 100 mSec of latency.
How long until you can upgrade from 3G to 4G? The industry changeover is expected to be completed within the next two years. It will depend on where you are located as to how quickly you can install 4G fixed wireless broadband.
If you’ve been following the consumer smartphone upgrades from 3G to 4G, you know that there are a competing technologies. The ultimate is LTE (Long Term Evolution), a GSM technology that looks like it will become the universal standard. That includes a switchover for CDMA carriers like Verizon. In the mean time, carriers are performing intermediate upgrades to their existing networks to squeeze out a little more bandwidth. Why? It’s quite expensive to install new circuit cards in every cellular base station to change the technology of the signals being transmitted. Simple evolutionary upgrades often involve only a software upgrade to existing hardware. T-Mobile is taking this approach with an upgrade from HSPA to HSPA+ prior to full deployment of LTE.
The other limitation to higher speed cellular deployment is backhaul. This is the connection between the cell tower and the centralized switching equipment. Up till recently, T1 lines were used for cellular backhaul. They offer 1.5 Mbps in both upload and download directions and are both highly reliable and available anywhere twisted pair telephone wire exists. That’s just about everywhere, including out in the boonies. Bonding T1 lines can increase bandwidth by adding two, four, six or more T1 lines in parallel. That’s good to about 12 Mbps. After that, you need either microwave backhaul or fiber optic connection.
Fiber optic is the way to go if at all possible. The bandwidth is nearly unlimited and you only pay for the construction costs once. The problem is that there are several hundred thousand cell towers sites that need to be upgraded to fiber. In remote locations, fiber is nowhere nearby and needs to be brought-in. Even in the cities, there is a cost and time involved to upgrade each cell. That, plus the cost of the hardware and labor for site just to switch to LTE limits how fast the carriers can move. Even so, cellular broadband is so lucrative that billion dollar investments will continue to flow until the job is completed.
Will fixed wireless work for your business situation? If so, prices are very attractive for both 3G and 4G fixes wireless broadband solutions. Check pricing and availability to see if you really need those landline connections after all.