This Laser Requires No License - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell

August 13, 2002

Priore is the first to admit that a 10 Mbps FSO link to service the 10 customers he was eventually able to sign up amounts to serious overkill. He could probably service hundreds of subscribers with that kind of bandwidth, he says.

"But we had these units [the FSO transmitters] already so I figured we might as well use them," says Priore. "It's just so fast and so slick. You set them up, turn them on and don't worry about them anymore. About the worst thing is that you have to come and clean the lenses once in a while."

He hopes eventually to generate more revenue from the existing FSO link and also to bring a second set of transmitters he bought out of moth balls.

"It's a lot of money [for the transmitters]," Priore concedes. "But in the right application it can pay for itself in no time. That would be anywhere you need to carry secure, high-bandwidth data traffic over a short distance and the only other way to do it is to use a telco line and pay the tariffs. It's especially useful if you need it up quick."

Priore is not the only entrepreneur in British Columbia, Canada's mountainous west-coast province, to see the possibilities of FSO for ISPs. Robert Lanz, director of business development at Vancouver-based Lasercom Telecommunications Ltd., recently helped launch this start-up devoted to providing services using FSO.

Today, says Lanz, the real market for FSO is 100 Mbps and higher links, which puts the technology into an even more rarified realm. The capital cost of equipment for a single 100 Mbps FSO link is approximately $15,000 to $17,000that's for two laser transmitters and related equipment.

"I think presently, the marketplace is not quite ready to simply go and make a substantial commitment to this technology or to a specific manufacturer," Lanz says. "So we've taken that upon ourselves. We essentially carry that risk and provide the service to our customers." Lasercom currently uses equipment from fSona.

His company is targeting competitive carriers in Canada that also offer ISP services, such as financially troubled Group Telecom, as well as pure-play ISPs. They need a way to provide very high-speed links to off-net customers both for LAN extensions and broadband Internet connectivity.

The market is ripe, Lanz believes. "Right now in North America, you've got about 5 percent of commercial buildings on some sort of high-speed local network," he notes. "But 75 percent of [the rest] are within one mile of [carriers' fiber] networks."

Not many enterprises need a 100-Mbps connection to the Internet all to themselves, Lanz concedes, but there are some. One of his firm's first customers was a large consumer software developer with offices in California and Vancouver.

When a team of developers moved from the company's California facility to Vancouver, they needed very high speed connectivity back to California through an Internet tunnel. Group Telecom, its local telecom service provider in Vancouver, couldn't provide the link because the software developer's building was not yet connected to GT's fiber grid.

"We had discussions about [this customer with GT] and said, 'Why not use free space optical?'," Lanz relates. "Instead of getting connected four or six months later [when the GT fiber link was built], we could set it up in four days. We did and it's been bullet-proof ever since, delivering guaranteed connectivity, perfectly."

Quite aside from faster provisioningwhich can often be a critical factor the Lasercom service is also cheaper than the carrier could offer. Lanz says the typical tariff for a 100 Mbps service from a wireline carrier is $4,000 per month. He can reduce that by a third or more, typically to $3,000 or less.

In the short and medium terms, Lanz sees the main requirement in the market being for temporary or redundant linksto back up a wireline service. Where it's being used for the former, many customers insist on RF back-up. Most in North America at least are still suspicious of FSO's fog attenuation and range issuesespecially in markets such as the Pacific Northwest that are in fact subject to heavy fog.

As a result, many FSO systems come with integral 60 GHz back-up systems to which they automatically "fail over" in the event of an outage with the FSO system. Another option is to add RF backup. Lasercom's software developer client didn't need this, however, since its building was within 1,000 feet of a GT POP.

"The distance we're talking about between these two locations was not great enough to worry about it being effected by fog," Lanz explains. "You don't see any effect on transmission capability except in situations when you can't see the other building. At 1,000 feet, even in heavy fog, you can still see the other building."

In the longer term, as the market comes to better understand the capabilities and limitations of FSO, Lanz believes it can evolve into a permanent solution in many places. In European countries such as Sweden, carriers are already using FSO for permanent links. "There are thousands of these systems in place in Europe," he says.

While Lasercom's primary target market is carriers, and the primary application is LAN extensions, there are applications for Tier 2 pure-play ISPs, he insistsespecially in secondary markets that do not have the same penetration of fiber as larger centers.

Nor does it have to be a big customer that needs a mammoth pipe into the Internet. An ISP could use FSO to get to a commercial building, bypassing the LEC, and then distribute to various tenants within using twisted pair copper wiring and Very high speed DSL (VDSL) technology, Lanz says.

Is FSO the greatest thing since sliced bread, a high-capacity networking silver bullet? Clearly not. But it's wireless, it's license-exempt, it works and in some situations, it may be just what the doctor ordered. That makes FSO well worth looking into.

Reprinted from ISP-Planet.

Pages: 1 2

Comment and Contribute
(Maximum characters: 1200). You have
characters left.