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Earthlink Launches Fixed Wireless ISP Service 169

rkischuk writes: "As an alternative to cable modem and DSL, Earthlink is launching "High Speed Internet Fixed Wireless Access". You lock a 14" square dish onto your home, and all that comes inside is the network cable that connects directly to your NIC. The connection is transmitted over radio waves, probably to transmitters mounted on local towers. Service seems comparable to DSL in both price ($42.95 / month) and speed (1.5 Mbps downstream, 128 Kbps upstream). No idea on the latency. Service is currently only available for pre-order in the Atlanta area. This seems to finally get the behemoth cable and phone companies from trying to monopolize such services, but brings the wireless providers into the mix (it's probably their cell-phone towers)."
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Earthlink Launches Fixed Wireless ISP Service

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  • Sprint tried it, in the SF bay area, and it died. Will Earthlink fare any better?
    • by amitv ( 165482 ) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @01:29AM (#2730557)
      I'm not sure what you're talking about. I have sprint's fixed wireless service and I live in San Jose.

      The service was pretty horrible a few months ago, but they sent out an e-mail to all the clients saying they would be upgrading the network soon and things would get better, and they actually (*GASP*) came through on their promise. The mini-outages dropped from 10/15 a day (by mini outage, I mean a 30 second - 5 minute period where the service didn't transmit or recieve any data, kicking you off IRC, stalling HTTP ,etc) to maybe two or three a week.

      The latency is still questionable, you get the same performance in online games as you would from a 56k, sometimes worse, and the upload speed is particularly sucky (about 10kB/s) but the download speed is unquestionably better than DSL and comparable to cable. I can usually pull 300kB/s from kernel.org on off peak hours, 200kB/s on heavy use times.

      This service is particularly good for me because I'm out of range of both cable and DSL in my area. In its current state, I'd recommend it to anyone who cares more about download speed than latency, or those who can't get DSL or cable to begin with.

      Another interesting quirk is Sprint provides the hardware and earthlink supplies the bandwidth and backbone connection, so I have the creeping feeling that earthlink's service will be exactly the same as Sprint's, except under a different name.
      • by creep ( 150035 )
        Sprint is still providing service to their existing customer base, however, they have suspended all new install orders [sprintbroadband.com].

        It seems pretty easy to understand to me: they tried to expand too much too quickly, and their network's limitations started being painfully obvious. I actually had the service for a while in Arizona, as did some of my friends, and they had started to notice pretty high latency on their connections.

        Let's hope this doesn't happen with the new wave of wireless companies that are venturing (bravely, I might add, in light of all that's happened) into the market.
    • We are currently testing this server with our ISP in .AU (can't tell you who because of NDA) - We surfing is a little slower then our DSL service, but still a great user experience compared to dial up. Latency is not detectable. Currently downloading at around 90k/sec over the link.
    • First, Sprint didn't create the service, they bought it. Second, it hasn't died; in fact, I'm using it right now. It has worked flawlessly since I got it about a year ago. Throughput and latency are both as good or better as any wired connection I have ever had.
    • This isn't exactly new to Earthlink either. Several of the ISPs they purchased have been offering similiar products for a couple of years. Such as the "wireless" T1 that jps.net offered.
    • by i_am_nitrogen ( 524475 ) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @03:55AM (#2730926) Homepage Journal
      I live out in the boonies in Utah (Syracuse). I also have Sprint wireless, which happens to run over Earthlink's networks IIRC. It works excellently. I live 30 miles from the tower, and I get up to 600 or 700 KB/s download from fast or multiple sites, and 19KB upload. On a pget (see man lftp) from kernel.org, speeds are usually around 500KB during any time of day. There used to be occasional problems (500ms+ latency during peak hours once every few days), but now they are solved. My ping time to time-nw.nist.gov (which is hosted in Redmond, Washington, by you know who) is 41ms average in the middle of the night, and 50ms average during peak hours. Sourceforge is 61ms average. It sounds like they're using the same antenna system Sprint is, except that Sprint had a box in the house. Fixed wireless has been really great for me because I'm too far away to get DSL, Cable, ISDN, or even a 56k modem connection (26.4k is my max), and you can be up to 35 miles from the tower.

      So, in summary, Sprint fixed wireless rocks (for me) in the bandwidth, tech support (they have live operators in the middle of the night with short wait times during outages), and latency arenas, and Earthlink probably will as well.
    • The problem with Sprint is that they are a large company that tries to solve problems by spending large amounts of money and not using common sense. To see what is going on with the broadband wrieless industry, people should look to see what the smaller ISPs are doing with wireless technology.

      I actually worked for SpeedChoice, the company that Sprint bought for its new two-way wireless technology that had been launched in Phoenix before SpeedChoice was bought out.

      The first mistake Sprint made was running off the engineering team that invented the two-way wireless system. Sprint's managment team figured their PCS wireless guys knew enough about MMDS to do the same job as the existing engineering team and besides they all had MBAs and were much younger and wiser than the experienced MMDS engineers.

      The second mistake was selling the service at a price point that was too low. During SpeedChoice's initial launch in Phoenix, we went after business customers that could afford $150+ per month. This was a great deal compared to a $1,000 per month for a T-1 that these customers would usually buy and this price point would cover the cost of the expensive CPE equipment and the truck roll necessary to install the equipment. But instead of serving 500 customers at $200 a month, they decided to serve 20,000 customers at $50 a month. Providing customer service to 500 customers would have been a much easier and responsive scenario than 20,000.

      If you are interested in the broadband wireless industry, the companies to watch are the smaller guys that are real entrepreneurs that have very little money to work with and that are very cautious on how they spend it. They are quitely building out broadband wireless networks across America one cell at a time. This has been going on for several years, but since they are smaller companies, they don't have a PR or marketing staff to churn out press releases on the progress they are making.

      As the editor of the Braodband Wireless Exchange, we have been tracking this market for a long time. There are well over 1,200 companies in this space serving over 1,400 small, medium and large cities with fixed wireless service. To prove this point, please check out our nationwide directory at http://www.bbwexchange.com/wisps/

      There was also a story on Cnet recently that might be worth a read.
      http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1004-200-8179971.htm l? tag=mn_hd

      The BWE web site is basically a giant electronic press kit for anyone who wants to learn more about the fixed wireless industry and track our progress. The site has everything an entreprenuer needs to research, plan, build and manage a wireless ISP. There are tutorials, white papers, research, magazines articles, directories of vendors, system integrators, consultants, etc. Basically everything you need to build out a wireless ISP.

      It is worth a look if your neighborhood or business park cannot get access to DSL, cable modem or fiber optic access. The wireless technology is inexpensive, mature and fairly easy to implement compared to working through another carrier to build out or resell another carrier's network infrastructure. Wireless connnections let the ISP own the broadband connection all the way to the customer and they have to pay no one for the right to reach the customer. There is a tremendous benefit to this approach.

      Broadband Wireless will keep growing and may eventually gain the same respect and recognition as other larger broadband competitors.
  • by 71thumper ( 107491 ) <steven.levin@interceptor.com> on Thursday December 20, 2001 @01:16AM (#2730511)
    Sprint recently abandoned both it's ION offering as well as it's MMDS (wireless) product.

    Given the strong ties between Earthlink and Sprint, I suspect this is the same product, only (perhaps) with a better marketing and support campaign.

    Especially for rural 'last miles' MMDS remains the only truly practical alternative to, well, anything else.
    • Can't be -- Sprint owns no MMDS spectrum in Atlanta; BellSouth owns it all. (BS used to offer "wireless cable" using the spectrum, but shut that system down a few months ago.)

    • Given the strong ties between Earthlink and Sprint, I suspect this is the same product, only (perhaps) with a better marketing and support campaign.

      Most likley you're correct. In the world of free trade you can't sell a product that is linked to failure, like ION. However you can sell the much improved product to your partern, that you own 50% of, for a few millions or so; recope your lost then make profit on the bandwidth you sell your patern to support such services.

      How ever, ION was mainly ATM over POT lines with a little bit into wireless. So who knows...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, I have the service from sprint. I'm in Denver, CO, and I didn't ever know they dropped the service, seems that they haven't here, or something. The service always had Earthlink as an ISP. Aside from the poor newsgroup coverage, it is pretty good service.

      I usually have full access to the 1+Mbit speeds (except on peak times - later friday and saturday). Latency is respectible for this kind of service (120ms average to west coast servers, 80ms to local servers). It's quite acceptible to play FPS games (or as I do often-Diablo2) with this service.

      I see these antannea all over hells half acre, so they serve alot in this area (in fact, I think they have reached capicity on their wavelength here), but I have not experieced signifigant down times, or other such problems. If I have, I received forward notice about it. I give it an 8 out of 10 (mostly because of Earthlinks NNTP service) It's also unix friendly (they have a desktop router to install, that also serves up DHCP). Additional IP's are expensive (like $10 a pop), and that also makes this not a perfect 10, but NAT can solve my problems with that. IPV6, save us all!!!
  • More Dishes (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2001 @01:18AM (#2730520)
    I swear between DirectTv, my FM antenna, Scanner Antenna, and Ham antenna on my roof one, and planes will start trying to land on my road or the FBI is going to show up and ask some pointed question about the last Bin Ladin Radio Tranmission.
  • Will Earthlink be liable for the sudden cluster of nine-headed babies in the Atlanta area? Or will these kids be autistic [slashdot.org] too?

    • I think nonocephaly is incompatable with life, and likely to result in spontaneous miscarriage or a very limited life span.

      That said, the medical effects of EM fields are an important consideration. I was really excited about working with 802.11x until somebody mentioned not to look at a high-gain antenna because it would "turn your corneas white like fried egg whites".

      OTOH, if there are any real consequences from normal use of such technologies they are minute. I actually feel better about having the antenna on the roof than I do about having a cell phone right next to my head.

  • MHO.net (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    mho.net, one of the oldest isp's in denver, colorado, has been providing that type of service for close to a year now. Works great for me! I get a pretty well rounded connection, with 1.2mb down and about 512kb up.

    just my 2cents
  • It is really required for the dish to lock to the home? Assuming that the dish was repositioned with each new geographic location in corelation with the satelite and Earthlink provided full coverage, would it not be possible to bring this dish with you? For instance, how about bringing the dish with me when I visit my folks (again assuming the above hypotheticals)?
    • This doesn't go to a satellite! It goes via line-of-site to their tower, presumably on a tall building or somewhere with a wide view of the surrounding area. I guess you could move it a little bit, but if you started showing up on another antenna (maybe at the same site, but pointed in a different direction), they'd know.

      I think that you could what you say with satellite-based services, such as starband, since those satellites cover 1/2 of the country (as long as you didn't switch coasts)
  • Cable connection (Score:5, Informative)

    by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @01:21AM (#2730528) Journal
    .. and all that comes inside is the network cable that connects directly to your NIC.

    Actually, there's a power cable, too. The cell tower doesn't have that much power! From the faq [earthlink.net]:

    Your equipment includes:
    * A 14" square dish, which is mounted on the side of your home that best faces the Wireless Internet Tower.
    * A receiver, approximately 14" x 10". This small box is mounted outside your home near the dish. This is the device that sends and receives data to and from your PC.
    * A cable that runs from the receiver into your home. The cable will connect to an electrical outlet and to your computer's Network Interface Card (NIC)

    I wonder how they mount the fairly big receiver box. Even though it has to be weather proofed and operate over an extended temperature range, there are far fewer mistakes that a customer can make with a CAT5 cable than an RF cable.
    • Ironically, I'd say the power cord is more apt to provide horors for the average consumer.

      Just look at the simple fact that people have to use Ground Fault Circuits in their bathrooms today, if you don't understand that 110 volts + bathub = more than a bad hair day. . .

  • WISPs = old news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by nyquist_theorem ( 262542 ) <mbelleghem.gmail@com> on Thursday December 20, 2001 @01:23AM (#2730540) Homepage
    shortrange wireless ISPs are old news, I thought?

    Look.ca [www.look.ca] has been doing it in Canada for some time, although they've been in rough shape financially - perhaps they're out of business already?

    At any rate there seems to be no shortage of 'em in Canada [bbwexchange.com]. I can't imagine this is the first in the US, either.

    Now, in order to turn this thread / article into something other than another "groan /. is posting old news waaah waaah" I will posit this:

    How long until "real" wireless internet is a reality? I mean not point-this-at-the-antenna-a-block-away, but real iridium-style satellite-driven internet? Those of us stuck on dialup in the middle of nowhere [antigua-barbuda.org] want to know! :)
    • Teledesic [teledesic.com] has been saying they're going to do this for years. However, this is really bleeding-edge technology, and if you know how often iridium phones drop calls on hand-offs, you won't be looking forward to an iridium-style internet =)

      Realistically, though, I don't think there's a real market for it. Deploying 844 satellites (or whatever it is) is prohibitively expensive for covering that 1% of the population of people that can afford this stuff.

    • How long until "real" wireless internet is a reality? I mean not point-this-at-the-antenna-a-block-away, but real iridium-style satellite-driven internet? Those of us stuck on dialup in the middle of nowhere want to know! :)

      A coworker of mine has a home on a lake someplace in Michigan; he nominally works out of our Detroit office, but I gather that his residence is fairly out in the sticks.

      He has had a satellite Internet service for some time from a provider called StarBand. It's two-way satellite: incoming and outgoing packets both hit the bird, rather than sending outgoing packets over a POTS line.

      Everything I know about the service I know secondhand; I've never even been to this guy's house. All I know firsthand is that, from a technical point of view, It Is A Piece Of Shit, And It Stinks. Typical ping times exceed 500 ms under the best of circumstances. Look:

      PING 148.64.XXX.XXX (148.64.XXX.XXX) from : 56(84) bytes of data.
      64 bytes from 148.64.XXX.XXX: icmp_seq=0 ttl=114 time=680.534 msec
      64 bytes from 148.64.XXX.XXX: icmp_seq=1 ttl=114 time=669.960 msec
      64 bytes from 148.64.XXX.XXX: icmp_seq=2 ttl=114 time=689.971 msec
      64 bytes from 148.64.XXX.XXX: icmp_seq=3 ttl=114 time=709.969 msec

      This makes sense, because every packet has to go to geosynchronous orbit or come back (a one-way trip of slightly over 1/10th of a second) four times: twice for the ping and twice for the return. So even with no latency of any kind, anywhere, there would still be a minimum round-trip time of about 470 msec.

      Sure, he can surf the web. But his experience using our VPN is, to say the least, unpleasant. When we were first getting him set up with a home office, the joke making the rounds was that he should just write down the packets in hex and fax them to us so we could key 'em in manually. Take about as long. I mean, half-second lags between keypress and echoback in a telnet session! And that's the best case! Augh!

      If only there were a way to do low-bandwidth, low-latency transmissions over terrestrial wired or wireless links, and use satellite links for the high-bandwidth bulk data transfers. Maybe split the TCP connection into control vs. payload, the way FTP does, and use QOS routing or something similar to discriminate between the two.

      Anyway, until that or some similar solution to the latency problem becomes available, I won't be considering satellite-based Internet access for myself.
      • I think that there is something about the satellite link that makes VPN not work as well. I definitely noticed some control packets being sent to a non-routeable IP address (192.168.x.y) when I was troubleshooting problems that a co-worker had with our VPN. I think that the StarBand software sends some kind of info up to the satellite. So, when he would "dial-in" to the VPN, and his default gateway would change from some machine on the provider's network to the PPTP server, those packets would just stop getting to the satellite.

        He had StarBand, and (on-topically enough) switched to a fixed wireless ISP to solve the latency and VPN issues.
    • If this is anything like Sprint's wireless service [sprintbbd.com], it's not a short-range wireless, unless 35 miles is considered short. Whatever protocol they're using, it seems quite resilient to load (as many as a third of the houses around here might be using it) and interference (the dish was covered in snow for a few days, and I didn't notice any problems, although I have a perfect line of sight to the tower 30 miles from here -- that's right, a perfect 30 mile long line of sight).

      As for the possibility of satellite internet, there's no way to do it and have latency lower than 500ms (as pointed out by someone else), until we can transmit using subspace or torsion fields [google.com] or something like that...

      • It's not like Sprint's service. Sprint uses MMDS based technology, Broadlink uses 802.11b commodity parts and an unusually 'intelligent' edge device.

        (note: I work for broadlink but I'm a programmer not PR so please consider anything I say as unofficial)
    • I have Starband at home. (www.starband.net) It's great. Sure, there is 600ms average ping times. It doesn't matter. Download speeds about the same as a T1, in the middle of nowhere for like $50 a month.

      Telnet is a little hard to get used to, but it isn't unbearable.

      I'd say the only real drawback is that you must use a Windows box as the firewall and proxy, with their special windows-only drivers installed, if you use anything else, the speed is terrible.

      The other more minor drawback is that Gnutella type stuff sucks shit on there, It just doesn't work basically. The full uncensored usenet feed for free that they give you makes up for that though.
  • by Manuka ( 4415 ) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @01:24AM (#2730542)
    This is exactly what Sprint got OUT of doing a few short months ago.

    Now, given the close relationship between Sprint and Earthlink, it's quite conceivable this is the same service and equipment. It sure sounds like MMDS.
    • I have Sprint Broadband. The only service they've dropped is the fixed ION service. We have heard no mention of them dropping the wireless service at all.

      OTOH, they did close the service to new subscribers, because they couldn't keep up with the demand (at least in the Phoenix area).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2001 @01:25AM (#2730543)
    I used to work for at&t worldnet when they were testing their fixed wireless.. there are a ton of inherent problems with it.. first off, there are issues with interference from things from birds to weather / snow, etc.. and of course most people who actually played w/ the units and had all the specs usually said "yeah, it works ok, but i wouldnt install it on my house" (as in - the radiation is enough to leave me w/o any functional sperm) .. so good luck to earthlink .. perhaps they overcame those hurdles :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The last thing I want to do is run a hunk
    of Cat 5 from a lightning rod into my machine..
    • Probably no worse than getting lightning through your power cables or your phone cables, which also happend.

      The fixed wireless antennas are not very exposed and they should be grounded separately. Ideally, there would also be opto-coupling in there, but that may not be the case.

    • by adolf ( 21054 )
      My wireless ISP (Comwavz - not recommended, unless it's your only option) installed a lightning arrestor in line with the antenna, and did some fairly serious grounding of it. They acted as if they -always- install one.

      I'm not worried. Much more bothersome is the utility pole in front, which I've seen get hit, twice. No trouble to report there, either - except for a few seconds of darkness...

      The installation, for the curious, consisted of hanging a plastic antenna, resembling a white Pringles can with the lid on, on the outside wall of the (attached) garage. Large (~1/2") coax connects to this, which then enters a plastic box -- also outside.

      Inside this box is the lightning arrestor, which is in series with the antenna, and a splice for the two ground wires.

      One ground wire sneaks down the siding to an 8' ground rod directly below - the other, across the garage attic, down the garage wall, under the house, and then to the main electrical ground. This is fairly stout wire - perhaps 6AWG - and solid.

      The antenna wire, after the lightning arrestor, heads through the wall to a Cisco 802.11b access point just inside.

      The Cisco box plugs into an RJ45 directly beside it, which I nailed up and wired prior to the installers' (there were two of them) appearance. I simply plugged this into the hub along with my computers.

      With the hardware done, I helped them set up the Windows box to talk to the world. They didn't ask about my other machines, and I'm glad - they were scarcely qualified to handle Win98SE, let alone FreeBSD.

      After they left, I removed the extra NIC from said windows box, and slammed it into my FreeBSD firewall. Set up dhcp (god bless the ports collection!), changed natd.conf, and was running.

      I then collected the flashlight, hardhat, and bag of fasteners that they left behind, and put them outside in the rain - in case they felt like returning to get them. They eventually did, I think - or someone stole them.

      802.11b, in this arrangement, seems to work quite well. Things are synced at 11mbps, and I never have any trouble with rain fade - even with near-zero visibility. Latencies are consistantly 3-4ms across the wireless link, and packet loss appears to be about nonexistant in all weather I've experienced since it's been here.

      Of course, the tower is several hundred feet high, and only 2.2 miles away. I suspect others might have more difficulty, at greater distances.

      Of course, things aren't all green. While the service is good (occasional router trouble on their end, plus one time when they called to tell us it would be down for awhile), I'm stuck NATted behind some firewall over there due to what they claim is a shortage of IP addresses. So, my IP is currently or somesuch.

      With PPP over SSH to a T1-hosted Linux box that I control, this isn't much of a problem for me, but it could be for others who are accustomed to having a real IP address.

      Sometimes, I wish I still had the solid 24x7 static IP dialup I had before, but then I download a big file at a few hundred K per second, and those wishes vanish.

      • What about trees? I'm surrounded by a mile or more of 50 - 80 foot trees. I see a significant difference in cell phone performance between summer and winter. Anyone getting wireless that can address green leaf attenuation?
        • Probably not, unless you're able to get up high enough in the air to see the tower over the trees.

          2.4GHz, where 802.11b operates, is shared with things like microwave ovens. Microwaves use this frequency because it's the most efficient at heating water -- that is, it is the frequency at which water absorbs the most energy.

          Trees are -full- of water...

          I'm fortunate to have a clean line of sight, with no obstructions of any sort other than cornfields.

          FWIW, I haven't noticed any decreased performance from combines and other farm machinery breaking LOS.
  • by Harumuka ( 219713 ) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @01:28AM (#2730556)
    Forbes has an article on Fixed Wireless Internet Access [forbes.com] services. Fixed wireless ISPs utilize Multipoint Multichannel Distribution Services (MMDS). Interesting read, although the article only covers Sprint's service.
  • If this has better latency than the lousy mini satellite dishes who do I have to beg to get it here now?

    I've been waiting forever for my cable company to give me broadband. Originally I was promised by the end of this year. Last month they promised it would be the end of next year. My phone lines are so bad I can only connect at 19.2k and I still get disconnects regularly. Its very difficult being a professional web developer working from home when my internet connection is so miserable. I WANT MY BROADBAND.

    • A DSL company I supported was trying to break into this market when their sole DSL supplier (Northpoint) bit the big one. It would have really changed things, not having to be at the mercy of both Northpoint and Verizon installers who constantly pointed fingers at each other when installations didn't go well.

      They had a running demo and the latency was pretty minimal. They had the potential for 11 Mbit transfer rates to individuals at the time (mid summer). It woulda been nice, but their VC (remember those guys?) chose to sit for 6 months before making a decision. Unfortunately, the company couldn't wait that long, and when they heard, they folded pretty much the next day.

      Pity, really.
  • as someone who just had their fixed wireless equipment removed, I was not too pleased with the way that AT&T did fixed wireless, and I don't see earthlink doing it any better.

    In Vegas, AT&T was able to generate a good-sized customer base pretty quickly, and they deployed the equipment fast. But, they went bankrupt. I was paying $35/month for 512/128kbs (same price as cable modem in town if you own the modem). If AT&T couldn't make money doing it, I don't see how earthlink could do it.

    The infastructure costs are very low compared to cable or dsl, but the equipment cost per user is greater.
  • Just wondering how users would be authenticated
    Would they be using pppoe or some other system..
  • Latency (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The latency you get from wireless...Well at least with my home ISP is excellent. I gamed alot, and i could connect to a server in florida at 40 ms.

    Although the area for the wireless was limited(reached about 8 miles from the towers), they did have options if you had a laptop and wanted to be mobile. It was very easy acutaly. Small dish(not sure how small but it is small) or if you were within about 2 miles a small(2inch) intenna that you could attack and be mobile.
  • Remeber all the ESPN this is Sportscenter Promo's, where they're hitting golfballs of the sat dish. I will probally have the joy of riding down steets at night, with a bucket of golf balls. . . Oh, I can hear Earthlink's tech support going of the hook.

    The idea sounds great, but if the service is given by radio waves. One would have to guess that the strength would be something like a Digital Cell phone signal. If this were the case, wouldn't DSL or Cable already be in the area. Making this a technology that may be "Betamaxed" by cable and DSL?

  • How much longer until you can get add-ons for these things that'll turn them into an 802.11 hub/gateway?

    I might buy one for my neighbor... when he's out.

    • Linksys, D-Link, Netgear and several others make them. They're called Cable/DSL routers w/ Wireless Access Points. They all work on the same principle of outbound WAN port on one side, smal hub/WAP on the other.

      Avery Zero
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2001 @01:34AM (#2730576)
    Tons of small ISP's have turned to fixed wireless using DSSS or FHSS 802.11b as a way to route around their local telephone companies and the cable monopolies. Most people will tell you that wireless service is better than DSL and Cable. The only limitations with it really are interference in highly suburban areas and line-of-sight. But even in heavily populated areas FHSS is pretty reliable.

    The most popular mailing list for these types of small wireless ISP's is here:
    http://isp-lists.isp-planet.com/isp-wireless/archi ves/ [isp-planet.com]

    An organization created by alot of these wireless ISP is here:
    http://www.wispa.org/ [wispa.org]

    and you can find wireless ISP's in your area here:
    http://www.bbwexchange.com/wisps/ [bbwexchange.com] Some of these WISP's have thier systems attached to Grain towers [odessaoffice.com] with their equipment covered in bird shit, but they're doing somethings the big boys aren't, like making money.
  • The latency is still going to be high and it will remain constant for the forseable future. Round trip time is about 250ms for statellite communications and until we can increase c or make our atmosphere smaller, there isn't a technolgical solution that will make the latency problem go away.
    • Right, except this isn't satelite communications this is fixed wireless. Both the blurb and the link make that clear I believe.

      Thank you.
    • The latency is still going to be high and it will remain constant for the forseable future. Round trip time is about 250ms for statellite communications and until we can increase c or make our atmosphere smaller, there isn't a technolgical solution that will make the latency problem go away.

      You seem to be missing the point that this is not a satellite system. Although it does use a dish, this system points it at a local cell tower or skyscraper. Even in the worst case the signal is not going to travel more than 20 miles at the outside, and that's insignificant compared to orbit-and-back times.

      There's no technical reason there should be bad latency with this system, and if there is Earthlink's got something screwed up on their end.

    • I do fixed wirless in Sioux Falls SD. From home I get ping times of 25-45ms there is really not that much latency. Even folks out 15miles are under 70ms
  • by freebsd guy ( 543937 ) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @01:38AM (#2730595)
    I live in one of the wealthier (better) suburbs of Atlanta and our service has been going for a few months. My observations:
    • It's lightning fast. They only have a handful of subscribers in my area though, so it is unclear how well they will deal with demand.
    • It is very reliable. We have had maybe three outages, two of which were caused by the crappy openbsd router panicking for no apparent reason.
    • Rain fade is an issue. It doesn't cut out completely, but it is noticably slower when the weather is bad. Same goes for snow; it caused us some packet loss.
    • They haven't completely figured out how to do billing accurately. We have gotten about two months for free because of their mistakes. Oh well, they are a big faceless corporation so they can afford it.
    • Installation was a snap. Compared to pointing a DirecTV dish, this was *very* easy to set up.
    • Latency is sometimes not cool. But I don't have the time to piss away on games and it's good enough for telnet/ssh.
    Many of my friends are just itching to replace their overpriced DSL/cable modems with this. I wish Earthlink the best of luck in expanding this service everywhere; the demand is there.

    freebsd guy

    • I live in one of the wealthier (better) suburbs of Atlanta and our service has been going for a few months.


      Same goes for snow; it caused us some packet loss.

      It was snowing a few months ago in suburban Atlanta? That is quite amazing!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...with a local ISP using 802.11(b?) equipment and parabolic antennas. They've been doing it for quite a while (relatively speaking) and apparently have been having good luck with their setups. At $48.95 for 500/500k it's comperable with cable and DSL ($50 each at 768/128 and 1500/128 respectively). 500k incoming isn't very exciting these days but 500k out is faster than any other consumer system available in the area.

    Latency should be decent and I don't have to deal with the fools at SBC PacSmell. Those jokers took a week to tell me it would be a month before I could get a phone when I moved into my current house. My roommate's moving out and they say they're "required by law" to shut down the DSL service, turn off the line, then turn the line back on and set up DSL service again. Only 5-6 weeks. Can't say I'll miss dealing with them. Our cable company is still sticking to their moronic "no servers" policy so they're out of the running, too, despite their excellent startup time of 2-3 days.

    One of these days, the Bells and the cable companies will figure out that alternative connections are showing up all the time.
  • I've been on the verge of getting a similar service that StarnetWx [starnetwx.com] just started in Chicago but that offers 2 Mbps both up and down for $40-50/mo. They seem to have a smaller dish (12" square) than the one mentioned in the story but otherwise seems to be the same technology.

    I'm still working on convincing my landlord to let me install it in my apt .. so far his best offer is to put the antenna in the balcony but Starnet isn't sure if I'll get enough signal there.
    • Disclaimer: I actually work for the above-mentioned company.

      Something that a lot of potential customers have discovered is that getting a landlord to agree to a 'satellite dish' is easier than mentioning wireless Internet at all.
      I used this approach for my own install, but they'd still only let me put the dish on my balcony which faces completely the opposite direction :(

  • 802.11b (Score:4, Informative)

    by God of Lemmings ( 455435 ) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @02:02AM (#2730660)
    This looks to me very very much like a setup using 802.11.16 or the like. judging from the upload and download speed. It is easily conceivable that one could set up several transmitters in only a few locations around Atlanta (since 802.11b's optimal range is 16 miles) and cover the whole city.
    When the transmitter is less than 20 miles away, matters such as latency aren't so much a problem as things such as air collision.
    However I doubt everyone will be able to obtain the download speeds advertised, since any amount of interference, like bad weather or anything else on the 2.4ghz band, will cause the speed to drop in half.

    If anyone would like to read up on this you can see the antennas at:

    And of course the orinco wireless router at:
    http://www.cdw.com/shop/products/default.asp?EDC =2 90425
  • by richie2000 ( 159732 ) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Thursday December 20, 2001 @02:19AM (#2730706) Homepage Journal
    Jämtkraft [jamtkraft.se] is a major regional power producer/distributor that last year formed a Telecom subsidiary together with some major (inter)national telcos (among them Telenordia, heavily owned by BT) and they offer Breezenet [alvarion.com]-powered 802.11 broadband access to most of Jamtland, a mostly rural region in the northern parts of Sweden.

    I have two of these, one at home and one at work. Due to their creative billing capabilities, I only pay for one of them. :-) The high cost of end-user equipment is offset by a one-time payment (non-refundable) of ~600 USD. This gives you 5 or 10 meters of high-gain RF cable, a choice of three antenna sizes (medium, large and Mr T), a Breezenet SA-10 Station Adapter and some clamps to put the antenna on your TV antenna pole, chimney, wherever. The monthly fee is $30 for up to 3 Mbps (this is the maximum radiolink bandwidth, you have to be pretty colse to a tower to get that, I typically get 2 at work and 1 at home (longer and there's a tree in the way. Now, where did I put that chainsaw?).

    Authentication is done by logging in to a webpage (DNS and traffic within their network works when logged out, but port 80 is basically blocked without the login. This means that I can ssh or do a Terminal Server login from home to work even if both networks are logged out). They log you out for inactivity, but a ping -i 600 wherever.com seems to keep it alive. The DHCP lease is for 24 hours and I have lost my (public) IP three times in a year, all of them due to major maintenance of the login servers.

    This all works beautifully, except for Telenordia's inability to manage 24/7 server capabilities. I get some rain fade and snow issues (especially with the large, wet flaky, kind) but no fried sparrows and no other major issues - both my kids have just one head each. :-)

    Standard disclaimer: Your bandwidth may vary.

  • Wireless is cool, and will shake up the wire guys. Bluetooth, Wireless LAN, GHz Cellular, it's all good. There's going to be an interesting mix of "last mile" technologies in the next decade.

    I'm fine with DSL for now, but I can't wait till I can lock a transceiver onto a litte tripod inside my window and get a gigabit connection over infrared laser to a satellite.

  • (1.5 Mbps downstream, 128 Kbps upstream).

    I don't know about YOUR DSL service, but MINE offers a 256k upstream. (The web-site only promises a 128k though, so apparently not everybody is so lucky...)
  • Earthlink and Sprint have been partners for a while. It seems more likely that they're just using the Sprint Broadband service.
  • How do these speeds compare with DSL and cable modems?

    EarthLink High Speed Internet Fixed Wireless Access offers downloads at speeds up to 1.5 Mbps, which is equivalent to DSL and slightly superior to cable at its fastest. This service offers upload speeds of 128 Kbps, which is equivalent to DSL's maximum upload speed.

    Ummm... My cable modem says:
    01:41:44 (264.24 KB/s) - `fw_gnu-emacs-20.7.tardist' saved [41277440/41277440] (From SGI)

    01:48:18 (235.59 KB/s) - `8_Recommended.zip' saved [54519576] (from Sun)
    Both of which are considerably faster than 1.5Mbps
  • Tower Owners (Score:3, Informative)

    by kf4lhp ( 461232 ) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @02:55AM (#2730773) Homepage
    "... but brings the wireless providers into the mix (it's probably their cell-phone towers)."

    Not really... most of the towers are owned by companies like American Tower, SBA, Signal One, and others who just lease the space to anyone who can pony up enough $$$.

  • ...but Earthlink isn't.

    If this is the same technology as Sprint Broadband just got out of the business of selling [sprintbroadband.com] (as posited in an above posting), then yes, this is a "Lightning Fast" connection. I can download .zip files from Sprint's 1-hop FTP servers at 6 Megs a second.

    But. As soon as the hopcount hits Earthlink on it's to the internet, things slooooooow doooooown. I can top out at 150kps, but only on the best of days, and it's usually more like 50kps.

    Also, latency isn't bad until you hit Earthlink. It's about 50ms for the 1st 3 hops or so. It ramps up to 200-300ms once it hits Earthlink.
  • I find it amusing when people worry about the radiation "danger" from using a wireless radio network point.

    Here's news for you -- the radiation from the tower is already reaching you! If anything, stand behind the receiver, it'll reflect some of the incoming photons...

    And since the antenna you install on your house is fairly directional, I doubt signal leakage produced by outgoing radiation is going to be causing you trips to the oncologist...
  • What I dont quite understand is the following:

    Availability To get EarthLink High Speed Internet Fixed Wireless Access, you need a clear, unobstructed view of the nearest tower in your area

    Does that mean if I cant look out a window from the top story of my building and SEE one of thier towers, I am out of luck?

  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @04:27AM (#2730981) Homepage Journal
    Read my plight before you hurt me moderators.

    Around january or so I was looking for a good deal on DSL. I called around everywhere, pacbell kept insisting that I wasn't in a coverage area for POTS service DSL. I kept calling every ISP I could until I got in touch with sprint...

    Now here is where it get's hazy.
    The sales rep at sprint told me THIS WAS DSL. I repeadedly asked him because I knew about the sprint wireless service and he assured me that it was DSL. I asked him 7 or 8 times at least. I went ahead and authorized the service tech to come out and install it. My retired neighbor was gonna let him into the house to do the work.

    When I got home that night a small crowd of about 4 or 5 neighbors were out in front of my house pointing at my roof and talking about something. I got out of the car and low and behold THERE WAS A FRIGGEN 15FOOT TOWER ON MY ROOF!!! The sales guy had obviously lied to me, I was really ticked off.

    I figured I would give it a try before I canceled it. It sucked horribly compared to a real wired connection. I called my salesguy back and ripped on him, then I asked to be transferred to his manager and ripped on him for a while. I reminded them that the winter season was approaching and if there was a single leak in my roof I would sue for something, let the lawer figure out what it is.

    That night, around 8pm they had another tech on the roof removing the equipment. A week later pacbell changed their tune and I got my DSL self install kit and was up and running.

    Considering sprint's track record with long distance slamming, this did not surprise me in the slightest. If I controlled every geek on slashdot I would make them NOT buy anything sprint because they basically slammed me, and falsely represented their product. Since I don't control the geeks, maybe they'll just read what I just said and make their own good choice.
  • > "... brings the wireless providers into the mix (it's probably their cell-phone towers)."

    Why bother with cell towers... the power company owns more towers, is much less likely to worry about future competition when fixing lease rates etc... and most of them are already leasing space on their towers to lots of other companies for traditional radio relays etc. The power co I used to work for even has wan connectivity to a lot of local towers for that very reason... truck radios etc, broadcast only as far as the local tower, any relaying is then done over land line.
  • Tis Not Sprint (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lord Smut ( 545166 ) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @04:46AM (#2731000)
    The wireless is being provided by a company called Broadlink [broadlink.com]. Due to my employment with Earthlink I can't go into much detail (damn NDA), but here's the skinny. Customer Joe Bob has the install, he gets the receiver and a cpe. Broadlink has both routing and bridged cpe's, but for the consumer account Earthlink is going with the bridged configuration, and yes that means PPPoE. The receiver connects to a Wireless Access Point (WAP) by microwave of which several are located in a city, and the WAP connects to a "exchange", and from their onto Earthlink's network and then the Internet (sorry for the lack of detail but I like working). Installation time has yet to be seen yet since we're just coming out of beta testing, however it is a full install so I suspect it should As far as the performance goes, we've testing here in the office for about two months now and it has worked flawlessly, ping times range between 8ms and 15ms (the drool on my face was quite noticeable after seeing this since most other "broadband" services have really crappy latency). The speed is set for 1.5 megabits but I have seen it burst up 2 megabits. The Broadlink people seem really cool and have a lot of knowledge on the tech involved unlike like most of the ILECs and CLECs I deal with on a daily basis **cough** **cough** **Verizon**. As far as Sprints involvement in all of this it is non-existent.
    • Re:Tis Not Sprint (Score:3, Informative)

      by rick446 ( 162903 )
      I've had the service for about a month now in Atlanta and would definitely recommend it. The ping times and access times are about the same as mentioned above, and the install was completed the day after I placed the order. (Yes, one day. YMMV, as I was one of the "early adopters," and lag times might increase as their number of installations ramps up.)

      By the way, Broadlink's website seems to indicate that they also provide service in CA, so if you're in the bay area or LA, I'd check directly through broadlink. Also, I don't believe there's a need to go through Earthlink for this service. (I'm not...) They set me up with a routed 1-port NAT connection which seems to be working just fine.
  • In Germany almost a dozen companies started rolling out this technology (since late 2000).

    Almost all (but one) have either ramped-down / ceased operations, and several have gone bust. A lot of this was due to the market downturn = financing slashed, but it shows that this stuff ain't that easy to make money with.

    From personal experience I can say the technologies are reliable and powerful when implemented right, but it's expensive stuff and not exactly "plug-n-play".
  • Almost forgot to point out, that if Earthlink wireless does use 802.11b, it is possible that it will interfere with bluetooth devices, since they both use the same 2.4ghz band. I would be sure to call and find out if you happen to already be using bluetooth stuff.

    http://www.zdnet.com/products/stories/reviews/0, 41 61,2470132,00.html
    http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~wireless/papers/bt_80211 in ter.pdf
  • Slashdotters bitch about a lack of last mile broadband and then when someone rolls out yet another broadband scheme and people still bitch. I spent a year in an apartment with shitty phone lines which got me a whole 24kbit dial-up connection. Now I've moved back into an area covered by Charter which means I once again have a cable modem. I haven't had any complaints about it yet. Fixed wireless I don't think will replace DSL or cable but it will definitely augment it. Even in a decent sized city it can be tough to have everywhere covered by either DSL or cable. My apartment for instance didn't have cable and PacBell fucked up DSL here so bad it is ridiculous. There's plenty of places here in town that either don't have coax to splice onto and are too far from a CO or DSLAM to get DSL service. Most parts of town probably have a direct line of sight to at least one radio tower (well when the smog isn't so thick that your visibility is cut to about four feet).
    • Your comment about crap phone lines in apartment buildings made me think... I was recently in a hotel in Mumbai (India), where they had ADSL from the hotel room to a comms room in the hotel (i.e. re-using the existing phone wiring), and then a leased line to an ISP.

      This is a great model for apartment buildings where there is no prospect of re-cabling with 100baseT or fibre - you can justify a high-bandwidth connection across a range of guests (the leased line was too small for the size of hotel, but bandwidth in India is expensive until deregulation hits the monopoly telco a bit harder), and of course you get what looks like an ADSL service to the end user. The same model would also work for older multi-tenant office buildings where there is no Ethernet cabling pre-installed. xDSL is a great way of getting decent bandwidth out of legacy copper, whether it's in-building or (more commonly) the last mile of the public phone network.

      To make this slightly on-topic, the uplink to the ISP from such a building could of course be fixed wireless, which is good for rural areas or suburban areas with poor cable/xDSL coverage.
      • I actually suggested that to the landlord but they really weren't interested in providing broadband access to anybody in the complex. We were lucky to get somebody to come out and fix something let alone install a network infrastructure in the complex. Though now they would probably do it, they got bought out by somebody and increased rent by 25% (which is why I moved) because a new high income housing tract...I mean living community is being build next door so they are considered Luxery apartments now.
  • The lightning strike worry has already been mentioned, but less dramatic (and less in our minds) is damage due to a potential difference between the receiver and the computer which are electrically connected via the CAT5 cable coming in off the roof.

    So the dish plugs into the receiver box, and the receiver box is mounted outside - it would make more sense to have the dish outside and the box on the inside - now it doesn't have to be ruggedised (which can be a considerable cost) hailstones are a bitch, and the receiver box now provides some isolation between the outside environment and your internal LAN.

    Maybe I'm being overly worrisome, but i can't help thinking of buildings that have been connected via wire with no isolation from each other and the potential difference between each other frying some electronics.

  • Look Communications has been providing line-of-sight dish-based wireless Internet service in eastern Canada for over two years now.

    This is nothing new.
  • my friend in Ok. has wireless access from his friend's uncle's ISP, he has a max speed of 2mb/s up and down...although he only get's about 1.5 both ways. His latency is almost nil...getting 7ms to the towers..and and avg of 55ms to yahoo (that's right now) - so ping isn't real too bad, although I get 24ms to Yahoo on my Verizon DSL account. His avg ping to me is 88ms and vise verca is 79....but...there are a lot of factors with his, such as I'm running the pings on his Sparc...which could slow things down..I'll see if he can't run them from his NAT machine. But, as I was saying..I host a website off it, an internet radio station too: http://madc0w.shacknet.nu
  • Well I guess this is why they are trying to charge me multi-system access to my single dialup account for which I cannot possibly have more then one system connected (1 modem and a hard switch between 2 systems). I wonder how many other people they are trying to do this to, you know, to subsidize this wireless deal..
  • This sort-of sounds like Sprint BroadBand direct, except they're not trying to claim it will be as fast. When I got Sprint BBD, they claimed 5MBit down, 256kbit up. And I still can get ~5MBit down (apt-get'ing from http.us and non-us), but I've never gotten more than 10kB/s upload.
  • Where I live, DSL is out of reach, and SWBell has no timetable to extend it. Cable modem is being "tested" in our area, but not in wide use. And the quality of the phone lines themselves is such that I was lucky to get much above 28.8. SO, in steps Nucentrix [nucentrix.net], a wireless microwave ISP here in the Austin area. For about $70/month, I get a 354Kb/s download (actually bursts well above that) and a 128Kb/s upload. If I wanted it, for about $230/month I could have T1 speeds.

    Upside: Latency is tiny (nothing like those satellite wireless solutions) and the speed is great. Works fine in good weather and bad, and I'm even a good 20 miles from the tower.

    Downside: more expensive than DSL/Cable, is only available if you have line of site to their antennas, and requires installation of a truly ugly antenna on/near your house (in my case, 30 feet tall). It's hideous. It looks like we're aiming a deathray at Austin.

    Nucentrix was originally providing cable TV via microwave to rural areas for years, and have now added what is basically a cable modem to the end of a microwave antenna. The product is going to be a niche... I don't see these deathray antennas popping up on every house. But for folks with my combination of problems, Nucentrix makes a great solution.

    [this is kind of a repost of comments when we discussed this last Dec 6...]
  • here in kamloops, bc, canada our rates are

    $39cdn/m for cable 1-2Mbps down, 512Kbps up
    $39cdn/m for dsl 1.5Mbps down, 512Kbps up
    $39cdn/m for wireless 1.5Mbps down, 1.5Mbps up

    no waiting list for either, hell they give you irst two months free and a free webcam. no contract.

    thats $25usa/m for your choice. why so expensive in the usa ?

    Chris Lee
  • I tried to get the Sprint wireless service a while back. It would work if I put a 40' pole on top of my house, to see over the trees. Not exactly allowed by the homeowners association. :(

    Microwave has severe limitations if you have any reasonable amount of vegetation in the direction of the antenna.

    - Necron69
  • Those of us lucky to live in Northern Ohio were the first to have cable modems, back in 96 with Road Runner and we were also the first to have wireless internet access (too bad I was living in Silicon Valley at the time) http://www.windcastbroadband.com/ has been here for over 2 years providing wireless internet for the town I grew up in, and moved back to; Norwalk, Ohio and surriunding cities. Supposedly it isn't affected by rain or heavy snow, which is something I'd like to see in action. But as they insanely charge $750 for the install (they give you a wireless router and some other things) I haven't even considered switching to it. No idea how they stay in business, but they do.
  • I've already got this. Not Earthlink's version, but the same thing provided by another company. I get 1Mbps in both directions, unlimited usage and a static IP for $120 a month after tax. Damn slick.

    There is no latency. The antenna itself is a direct 10Mbps link to/from their equipment located on a mountain, roughly ~5-7 miles away (line of sight).

    Other than the fact that they've had problems with their upstream providers (they've switched a couple of times and bandwidth has suffered), it works great. A little expensive, but I run all of my servers over it with no problems.

    Maybe Earthlink will buy these guys out and put a real backbone behind it. It would be nice to get my full 1Mbps (most of the time I get 500-800Kb), assuming they'll offer a faster return path - 128k doesn't cut it when you're hosting web sites.

When I left you, I was but the pupil. Now, I am the master. - Darth Vader