A new technology is under development which could open up a new era in telecommunications by allowing anyone to enter the market without the need for fixed lines and offer transmission speeds 400 times faster than ISDN. Alcatel-Alsthom SA’s Radio, Space & Defense Division and Stanford Telecommunications Inc plan to provide technology that uses microwave radio frequencies to bundle data, voice and video onto one high speed wireless channel. Wireless telephone companies like Ionica Plc in the UK have been expanding rapidly at the expense of established rivals but it uses a narrow band system, ideal for voice communications, while the new technology represents the next generation of equipment that offers broadband capacity at much higher speeds. The system, which will be available in less than a year, uses Local Multipoint Distribution Services (LMDS) technology. This would enable telecoms networks to be supplemented by microwave metropolitan networks, providing high speed broadband access. News of the development will terrify existing telecoms companies, particularly the cable firms who have spent millions to get into the market by laying expensive networks. Cable companies already face a problem because to speed up their networks to high speed fixed local loop technologies including ADSL asynchronous digital subscriber line and cable modems, they are going to have to modify their switches and networks to carry the traffic, and the cable companies have to make the extra step of modifying their networks to carry two-way traffic. The big advantage of wireless technology is it offers the cheapest way of connecting new users – by simply providing them with an aerial. But the big unknown for anyone entering the market is the cost of radio frequencies – and a new round come up for auction in both the US and UK later this year. With the threat that the new technology poses to their existing market, there is every incentive for existing telecoms to enter the fray and put the cost of new frequencies out of reach of potential rivals. Wireless technologies are already being pioneered by companies such as Cellularvision USA Inc, which has promoted a high speed Internet access package using Local Multipoint Distribution Services (LMDS) technology, which uses microwave radio frequencies to transmit high speed data, originally only downstream, but set to be two-way capable towards the end of the year, according to Cellularvision (CI No 3,208). Stanford and Alcatel are enhancing the Cellularvision service, and believe that a 1GHz frequency slice at around the 28GHz band will be used, enabling data on the wireless network to be transferred at multi-Gbps speeds, and giving individual subscribers 51Mbps(OC1) download and 10Mbps upload speeds. Stanford is customizing its LMDS technology for Alcatel, with initial use in the interconnection of Alcatel’s mobile telephone base-stations, which support the GSM, CDMA and TDMA standards, and the cordless DECT standard. Alcatel thinks there is an opportunity selling to operators trying to break into deregulated market, wanting an alternative to leasing lines from existing telecom companies, or laying their own.
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