There have long been impediments to wireless broadband for internet expansion—limited bandwidth, high cost and complexity among them. But now bandwidths are topping gig speeds for insanely low prices, and powerful, intuitive functionality is the trend. Reflecting on the trials of my early field education, it almost pains me to say that now even rookies can get professional results. So if you've been a holdout, look into the latest advances and I think you'll be impressed.
Last week I helped NeueHouse with a gigabit wireless connection between two of their buildings in lower Manhattan. NeueHouse is a world-class, multi-level coworking space that offers a stunning variety of work environments and accoutrement. They're growing so fast that twelve stories aren't enough, so their staff is moving to a second building where they needed bandwidth in a few short weeks.
The wireless solution was the B5 backhaul radio from Mimosa Networks, and we shot the signal from behind a window on East 25th to a rooftop antenna on East 23rd. We used two sets of radios, installing one dish above the other by about a foot. The second system gave us redundancy, and the added bandwidth put us solidly above gig territory.
As for the installation, the most time-consuming part was connectorizing the Cat5 cables (8-per side including lightning arrestors). Mimosa's web-based tools gave us a handy spectrum analyzer, and while it was interesting to see other signals around me, I set the radio to auto select frequencies and channel sizes and didn't give it another thought. What I really enjoyed was the aiming app, which provided real-time feedback to my iPhone as I aligned the dish to the recommended signal strength for my path.
"The installation couldn't have been easier and the performance was amazing—and I'm talking lower Manhattan. Is there a more congested place than that? The kicker is that the entire end-to-end link cost only $699."
Wireless advances bring the promise of affordable high-speed internet without tearing up roads to lay fiber. Henceforth, it shouldn't be an either/or proposition, but wireless and fiber should complement each other for the greater good.
The technology that helped NeueHouse in New York, could also extend access to underserved suburban communities where fiber to the door is prohibitively expensive. It's going to happen. Silicon Valley geniuses are lit up by the prospect, including at Google and Facebook. I'm lit up by it too, and so I'll have more to say on the subject in coming posts. Stay tuned...things are going to get very interesting.