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Be Free: Wired Speed, Wireless Freedom

When fiber cabling isn’t an option over difficult terrain, long-range wireless link options offer affordable and effective solutions.

Living in the mountains definitely has its benefits: breathtaking drives, majestic mountain views and plenty of nature-oriented activities – one of which is hiking the dozens of trails covering the Western North Carolina landscape.  Spending a day along the peaks is great for the body and mind, and we take advantage of it as often as we can.

But when it comes to working in the mountains, those same slopes and terrains can pose technical and economic challenges to providing voice and data connectivity between buildings and campuses.  Running a fiber cable up the side of a mountain can be much more difficult than it might appear at first glance, and even what seems to be an insignificant hill can turn a straightforward cable run into a nearly-impossible nightmare.  None of it matters, however, when a customer absolutely has to get that remote office, cabin, or guardhouse connected to a data network.

Where cabling isn’t an option, consider the potential for a wireless bridge link to get remote staff tapped into a network.  Bridging technology has come a long way from the days when setting up a point-to-point wireless link meant expensive bridge hardware, pinpoint accuracy with special antennas, bulky coaxial cable, and extensive knowledge of a product interface – all to establish a connection that operated at a fraction of wired speeds.  And that is assuming a perfectly clear line-of-sight between the endpoints was available; a healthy tree in the way in summertime could stop your link cold. Now, in 2012, almost all the obstacles to wireless bridging have been eliminated.

TSAChoice recently conducted a survey for a potential client who initially was looking to connect all of its buildings with fiber.  However, because of tricky terrain on the site, a wired fiber solution would have carried an astronomical upfront cost.

We decided to propose an alternative solution whose foundation was a point-to-multipoint wireless network to connect five buildings.  During our site survey, we realized 240 Mb/s true throughput between endpoints – that’s almost 2½ times your standard wired link. What makes this even more impressive is that there was a beautiful cedar tree in the way that we were initially afraid would need to be trimmed to make the application work, but as it turned out the patented technology embedded in our bridges, which accounts for and mitigates physical interference, performed exactly as designed – the signal strength was high, the signal quality was perfect, and we were able to provide a workable, affordable solution for the customer.  Best of all, we saved the customer so much money that we were also able to replace their aging consumer Wi-Fi routers with a fully-managed, enterprise class network for their new iPads and laptops – all for a total cost of less than half of what a wired solution would have cost.

Of course, wireless bridging isn’t a magic bullet that can be applied to all situations.  If you have hundreds of users, for example, cabling is always going to be the preferred solution.  Voice over IP (VoIP) applications need real-time throughput and good network quality of service, something that can be difficult to achieve with wireless links (except on the smallest networks).  And while line-of-sight doesn’t have to be perfect any more, it does have to at least exist; if you bridge across a parking lot and a semi-tractor trailer drives between the bridges, the connection is going to drop.

On the other hand, wireless bridging is perfect for long-distance links.  Connecting two locations over a quarter of a mile using single-mode fiber can cost tens of thousands of dollars due to trenching costs, problems with terrain, and potential right-of-way issues – and if that cable gets cut by a rogue backhoe, you’re looking at those same costs all over again to fix it.  A long-range wireless link can reduce implementation costs to as much as one-tenth of the price of running fiber cable, and with proper configuration and testing, wireless bridging can be just as robust and reliable.  Best of all, it is backhoe-proof!

If you’re looking to network multiple buildings or sites together, let TSAChoice work with you to come up with the best solution for your needs and budget.  We offer line-of-sight and throughput testing, radio frequency (RF) analysis and solution design for all wireless applications and environments – and we strive to provide the best overall solutions for connectivity.

If you’re worried about being constrained by the cost of cabling, just remember that you could “Be Free” instead! Contact us for an evaluation or site survey.

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