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Broadband FAQs



Wireless Broadband FAQs

What is wireless broadband service?

A broadband feed delivered to your home or workplace over a ground-based antenna system or via satellite signal.

Why would I be interested in wireless broadband?

It's a third option if your local cable TV company won't be rolling out cable modem service in your neighbourhood for some time. Or you may too far -- more than three miles or so -- from a telephone company central office to get a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) broadband link. Or you may live or work in the middle of nowhere where your chances of running into Howard Hughes are better than getting a broadband connection via wire.

What kind of benefits would I get from wireless broadband service?

  • The connection is always on, which means you can access the Internet without the nuisance of dialling up your Internet service provider over a telephone line.
  • The speeds at which information is downloaded into your computer are at least 50 times faster than a dial-up modem's.
  • Users can go online without tying up their telephone lines.
  • Businesses can use broadband networks for video conferencing, for example, and to let employees telecommute.
  • It can tap into a fast-growing number of entertainment resources.
  • Links can be established in even the remotest parts of the country.


How many kinds of wireless broadband service are there?

Today, there are two major technologies: fixed wireless and satellite.

How does fixed-wireless service work?

It gets its name from the fact that its signals are delivered from stationary, or "fixed," antennas and towers to antennas mounted on buildings, homes and other structures. The systems use microwave radio frequencies to deliver Internet-access speeds of up to 1.5 megabits per second (mbps) compared to the 56 kilobits per second (kbps) that a dial-up modem offer.

How many kinds of fixed-wireless service are there?

  • MMDS (Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Systems), which used to be called "wireless cable." It also delivers TV service to about 1 million U.S. households.
  • LMDS (Local Multipoint Distribution Systems), which primarily serves the business community in most major U.S. markets.

Which one is best for me?

MMDS service is dependable, and it can support e-mail, newsgroups and Web hosting. Its service providers mostly target residential users, including telecommuters. LMDS is more powerful and can support more services, such as video conferencing, Internet Protocol (IP) telephony and interactive TV. That makes it a better fit for businesses with medium to heavy broadband needs.

Who sells fixed-wireless service?

WorldCom, Sprint, WinStar, NextLink and Teligent, among others.

How much does fixed-wireless service cost?

Sprint Broadband Direct charges $99 for equipment and $39.95 a month for residential service. NextLink, WinStar, Advanced Radio Telecom Corp. and Teligent, which mostly serve businesses, typically charge about $300 for equipment and installation. Monthly charges run from $89.95 to $699 depending on the service's speed.

Is it difficult to install a fixed-wireless broadband connection?

No. It requires only a pizza-box-size antenna attached to the roof or side of your household or workplace; a modem next to your computer; and a cable and Ethernet card to attach them all.

What drawbacks does fixed wireless suffer from?

  • LMDS service can slow down in a heavy rainstorm or blizzard.
  • MMDS and LMDS service can suffer if trees, hills and other geographic features get in a signal's way.
  • An MMDS system signal sometimes has trouble penetrating a building's thicker walls.
  • LMDS and MMDS, for the most part, can only download information from the Internet. To send information from your computer back to the Internet, you need a telephone line modem, which moves data much more slowly that a wireless link.

How does satellite-delivered broadband service work?

You could call satellite-delivered service Internet access from outer space. Satellites beam their signals to an antenna the size of a large pizza pan mounted on the side or roof of your household or business. That dish is connected to your computer by two cables and a special card -- a link that can download information at the rate of 400 kbps.

How many kinds of broadband satellite service are there?

  • Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) services: In the U.S., DirecTv and EchoStar, which deliver TV signals to 11 million homes, serve some 200,000 broadband subscribers.
  • Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) satellite systems: Lockheed Martin's AstroLink service and iSky Inc., among others, will launch high-speed broadband services primarily to businesses in the next two years.
  • Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite systems: Skybridge and Teledesic are scheduled to turn on "broadband-in-the-sky" services in 2001 and 2002, respectively.

How much does DBS broadband service cost?

The software, antenna, cables and other items for DirecTv's DirecPC service will cost about $300 if you install them yourself. If you have someone else do it, add $250. Then, you'll pay $29.99 a month for service. EchoStar delivers broadband access through Microsoft's WebTV service. Its hardware costs from $99 to $250; monthly service starts at $21.95.

What drawbacks are there with satellite-delivered broadband service?

  • The antenna must be able to face the satellite delivering your signals.
  • You'll need a Pentium computer with lots of random access memory (RAM).
  • Installation can be a chore if you're not very handy.
  • You'll need a modem and a phone line to "talk back" to the Internet. Satellites send info down to your computer, but they can't receive it.

What does the future hold for wireless broadband service?

Wireless broadband systems are expected to get more powerful -- and less expensive -- as the technology advances and more service providers enter the market. In the next few years, you may see more use of laser beams, for example. This so-called "infrared broadband" service can deliver Internet-access speeds two or three times faster than today's speediest connections.




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