Wireless networking vendor Proxim Inc. today announced a new line of wide area network (WAN) products for point-to-multipoint, or "last mile," data transmission in enterprise and service provider networks.
The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm introduced its Tsunami MP.11a line, which includes three devices: a base station, subscriber unit and residential unit. Ken Haase, Proxim's director of product marketing, said the products are ideal for service providers looking to extend wireless connectivity, as well as for enterprises and government organizations that want to provide building-to-building connectivity without fiber optic cabling.
The base station acts as a central node in a multipoint system by directing traffic to and from the subscriber units, which support an unlimited number of local devices. The residential unit is similar to the subscriber unit, but it has increased antenna flexibility for better range and performance. It can only support eight local devices, however.
Haase said the MP.11a line is capable of speeds of up to 54 Mbps, which is about five times faster than the original MP.11 series that it replaces. Its typical speed is about 30 Mbps, and Haase said that is still faster than the 22 Mbps performance of the average wireless LAN.
The products are especially well suited for metropolitan areas because they employ non-line of sight technology. Haase said that ability enables service providers to not only reach more customers, but also to provide them with better performance because physical barriers can't block the signal.
"If you're a service provider and you're trying to reach the rooftop of a home, a solution that requires a line of sight can be cost prohibitive," Haase said. The new Tsunami line uses orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM), which he said enables the product to provide reliable data transmissions through obstructions and to get around tall buildings.
The product line, however, is not suitable for use as an 802.11a wireless LAN. Even though the product uses .11a chipsets, Proxim's Tsunami line is not .11a compliant because it transmits data using the company's proprietary Wireless Outdoor Routing Protocol (WORP).
"The WORP protocol, which resides on both ends of the devices, manages how they speak on the network," eliminating packet collisions and extending the products' range, Haase said. "We're leveraging the low cost of .11a chipsets but applying the WORP protocol to make them more effective."
Daryl Schoolar, a senior analyst with In-Stat/MDR in Scottsdale, Ariz., said 802.11 technologies aren't suitable for outdoor wireless WAN usage because of interference and security issues. He said the WiMax Forum and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) are developing the 802.16a standard, which could begin to replace WORP and other proprietary wireless WAN protocols as early as next year.
For now, Schoolar said, it still makes sense for most companies to invest in products like Proxim's even though they use proprietary protocols.
"Service providers can't wait 12 or 18 months for 802.16a products. They have to keep generating revenue and growing now, and [Proxim's] product helps address their issues now," said Schoolar. He added that point-to-multipoint products aren't as expensive as point-to-point products, which reduces customers' risk amid a changing technology landscape.
Proxim is likely counting on the new product line to boost profits following a difficult second quarter. Last month, the company announced a quarterly net loss of about 40 cents per share, along with the resignations of its chairman and vice chairman.
Pricing for the MP.11a series is as follows: $1,295 for the base station; $695 for the subscriber unit; and $495 for the residential unit. Those prices represent an increase of approximately 20% over the original MP.11 line.
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