Using Fiber to Back the Mesh

By Eric Griffith

April 16, 2004

BelAir Networks commits to Wi-Fi interoperability for clients and offers an optical input for fiber backhaul.

Most wired backhaul connections to the Internet, be they T1 down to a cable or DSL line, use a standard 10/100Mbps Ethernet connection -- plug it into your wired or wireless network and you're connected (to put it in the most simplistic terms possible). So what happens for those lucky enough to pull in a fiber optic line cable of much faster connections-- enough for a whole city?

BelAir Networks has what it thinks is the first optical interface that would connect such backhaul to a Wi-Fi network (it's likely some of the proprietary fixed wireless vendors have this covered). BelAir makes two products that use mesh networking for interconnecting its hardware, and only one or two of which need to have a connection to the actual backhaul to the Internet. Each unit then provides Wi-Fi connectivity to clients.

Phil Belanger, vice president of marketing at BelAir, says that fiber optics can use an Ethernet connection if needed, but that "this is a more direct connection. Since its fiber, it's made for what we do: deployment on the outside."

The optical link is a module used in the BelAir200 or BelAir100 units, which are usually mounted on light poles to surround a building or area with a Wi-Fi cloud. The typical Ethernet module can be swapped out and replaced by the optical LIM interface. It is compliant with IEEE 802.3u 100BaseFX fast Ethernet standard and has dual LC or single LC connectors. It's environmentally sealed against water and dust.

"We also include a 100 meter length of cable with the interface, to facilitate splicing it into a fiber network," says Belanger, describing a last minute change they made to the offering.

BelAir also joined the Wi-Fi Alliance this week, where Belanger says the company will, among other things, work on expanding support for metropolitan-based Wi-Fi use. The Wi-Fi modules used in the BelAir100 and BelAir200 will soon go to the Alliance testing labs to ensure they are interoperable with all 802.11-based equipment.



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