Wireless plant extensions can quicken cable’s assault on the commercial services market, provided operators are able to decide from among a wide range of choices. "The motivation for wireless is two-fold," Pete Hicks, manager of product development for commercial data at Charter Communications, says. "One is to shorten our delivery time to commercial customers. The second is capital reduction." Charter is deploying wireless line extension technology from Wireless Bypass, in collaboration with integration and consulting services provider Anyware Network Solutions. Along with not having to sink capital into time-consuming highway or parking lot construction projects, Hicks notes an operational benefit of this particular solution. "It actually transmits the DOCSIS channel wirelessly," Hicks says. "From an operator’s perspective, we troubleshoot that wireless customer the same way we do a hardline," Hicks says. "If a signal-to-noise is too high or low, those operational parameters are the same kind for wireless." Wireless Bypass says it is now a corporate-approved and supported product line series in two of the three largest MSOs in the United States. Dan Heller, director of technical operations for central Oregon-based Bend Cable, is considering his options but says he cautiously is leaning toward an 802.11 Ethernet-based system from Cisco. "There needs to be some additional security, and Cisco and others are working on this," he says. In addition to security, he says bandwidth congestion-"when all the wireless devices are talking amongst themselves"-is a secondary concern. Charter’s Hicks has a caveat of his own regarding the Wireless Bypass product. "It’s not always deployed because of the line-of-sight issues," he says. "There are some environmental, or topological, issues that we have to consider." Then there’s multipath, notes Chris Martin, vice president of marketing for ArcWave. "Wireless places demands on a cable modem that aren’t there on a cable plant," he says. But using a robust technology with a sufficiently broad reach can ensure a quick payback, he adds. Martin says two California-based operators-USA Media and Matrix Cable-have deployed ArcWave technology, and that Time Warner Cable and Comcast have completed trials, respectively, in Los Angles and Atlanta. The options don’t end there. A Motorola spokesperson confirms it is directing its Canopy technology toward cable operators. And one systems integrator points to additional wireless access technologies offered by Advent Networks, Axxcelera Broadband Wireless, Dragonwave, Trango Broadband Wireless, Proxim, Viadux and Wave Wireless, and commends Wave and Proxim for their security encryption. -Jonathan Tombes

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