Potential new customers look at 28 GHz with its limited range, expensive radios, and unavailable, crowded spectrum, and requirements to engage a consultant to survey, engineer, and "sign off on" any new links (which takes months, typically) and say... uh, no. Then they call up a company like Orthogon Systems...
Orthogon Systems makes a new generation of point-to-point BWIA systems that are nothing short of amazing. They threw an amazing amount of technology at the problem of maintaining reliable, high-bandwidth p-p links, even when the "Line Of Sight" path is obstructed. If a link can be establshed at all, it's reliable. Orthogon makes a simple proposition to prospective customers - our gear will almost certainly be able to establish a link with reasonable speed and more-than-acceptable reliability. If it doesn't, you're entitled to a refund. So, customers buy it, line it up (not too tough; it's very forgiving), and the radios automatically tune themselves first for reliability and second for speed. And you're done. Quantity One List price for a link (2 radios) is about US$12,000 for speeds up to 33 Mbps and range up to 100 miles (though that was a special build of software for one client). Oh yes... the Orthogon unit operates in the license-exempt 5.8 GHz band.
So why is Orthogon growing and thriving while Ensemble is planning its going-out-of-business sale? It boils down to two fundamental points of change in the Broadband Wireless Internet Access business:
1) License-exempt systems sell in far greater quantity, to a rapidly expanding market than do licensed systems, because anyone with the money can buy them and put them to use... yes, even individuals (how do you think all those Silicon Valley execs get fast Internet to their mountain retreats where there aren't phone lines, let alone DSL, cable modems, or even T-1 circuits?)
2) There is agressive competition for License-exempt systems. If the systems you're offering for sale aren't getting better, faster, cheaper all the time, the competition will happily "relieve your pain". No comfortable oligopies in the license-exempt BWIA industry!
Thus... subtly... but inexorably... the Darwinian Effect of License-exempt Wireless asserts itself. License-exempt systems have already far surpassed licensed systems in sophistication, usability, efficiency, and there is no less of an effect on "legacy" systems already in use in license-exempt spectrum. It's no real leap of imagination or faith to forsee the day when license-exempt spectrum allocation displaces licensed spectrum allocation, because the radios can work things out for themselves.
Copyright (c) 2004 by Steve Stroh. This article originally appeared on Corante / Broadband Wireless Internet Access.
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