Multi-gigabit speeds using 'wireless fiber'
Aug. 29, 2016
by Mark Ollig

While searching for “the next big thing” in technology, yours truly’s attention was directed toward what’s being tested by a few Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

AT&T, Verizon, and Google are performing tests to deliver extremely fast, high-capacity broadband data transmissions from their respective networks, wirelessly, to buildings without a direct fiber optic cable installed.

Today’s home and business Internet users are more mobile – they’re moving away from using a laptop or desktop computer tethered to a router via an RJ45 Ethernet cable.

Providing reliable, high-speed, high-capacity broadband Internet into the homes and businesses located in remote rural areas, or “the last mile” has been challenging for ISPs.

These remote areas are not always served by fiber optic cables, or receive adequate signal strength from a cell tower.

Cellular towers providing Internet access shares its data bandwidth with cellphone users.

It’s not a direct, or fixed broadband dedicated connection to each wireless computing device.

In my experience, Web browsing, downloading video, and using social media from the Internet works well on my smartphone – as long as it receives excellent cellular signal reception.

Some folks living in rural areas obtain Internet service by use of an antenna atop their house which “sees” their ISPs’ radio tower.

The ISPs’ tower’s facilities are usually connected to the Internet via a high-capacity fiber optic cable.

One person I know living in a rural area, is accessing the Internet by means of a “direct line-of-sight” radio antenna attached to the roof of their house.

This radio antenna is pointed towards the ISPs’ radio tower located eight miles away.

A twisted-pair Power over Ethernet (PoE) cable runs from the radio antenna, to inside the house, where it terminates into a power module box.

This module box is plugged into the commercial AC, and provides power for the radio antenna.

The module box also has an RJ45 jack/outlet with an Ethernet cable plugged into a wireless Wi-Fi router.

Wi-Fi is used to connect his wireless computing devices with the Internet.

He is currently participating in a beta test with a broadband mobile radio ISP (new ISP in his area), where the data speed is not “throttled down” or restricted in anyway.

I was shocked when he told me he was seeing nearly 70 Mbps of unrestricted download mobile/radio data speed.

He had plugged his laptop directly into the module’s jack (bypassing the wireless router), and performed several speed tests using the www.speedtest.net website.

After his beta testing period expires, he will go back to his originally selected Internet plan: 5 Mbps; fast enough for Web browsing, video, gaming, and television viewing.

He told me this plan is less expensive.

I learned his ISP will be offering a 50 Mbps plan, which of course, costs more.

The “wireless fiber” expression was aptly named because the wireless connection the technology provides has all the bandwidth capacity of a direct fiber connection; without the need for a fiber optical cable to be physically connected to your home or business’s building.

It’s analogous to using a Wi-Fi router inside your home for wirelessly extending your cabled Internet connection to your mobile iPad or cellphone.

Wireless fiber technology would allow Internet service providers to extend their broadband networks, without incurring the costs of physical cable or fiber installation to the building, which will be a big money-saver.

Wireless fiber will provide “multi-gigabits that represent an orders-of-magnitude improvement over today’s typical home Internet services,” according to a recent Washington Post article.

“Users of wireless fiber can expect speeds that are 50 to 100 times greater than what mobile users currently get on 4G LTE,” said AT&T, who is conducting field tests of wireless fiber in Austin, TX, later this year.

Future 5G LTE (available by 2020) will provide speeds 30 to 50 times faster than 4G LTE.

Verizon is planning wireless fiber tests near its facilities in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Texas.

Google is seeking federal permission to use high-frequency airwaves, reportedly in the 3.5 GHz frequency band, for wireless fiber testing in conjunction with its Google Fiber Project.

Wireless fiber industry standards and norms still need to be established.

I read, it may be five years or longer before wireless fiber is being commercially used by the public.

For now, I feel having a direct, fiber-optic cable connection (where available) is the fastest and most reliable way to go for one’s Internet, phone, and television services.

We’ve come a long way from accessing the Internet by dialing a telephone number from our computer’s modem.

Today, we’re able to send text messages via Internet social media sites to other folks around the world within seconds.

Looking back, the first message to travel around the world was sent July 4, 1903, and was composed by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Roosevelt’s holiday memo was the first round-the-world message transmitted using undersea and above-ground, copper telegraph cables.

The message wished “a happy Independence Day to the US, its territories, and properties.”

This presidential “priority status” message took nine minutes and 30 seconds to travel around the world.

Rest assured, your messages sent to my @bitsandbytes Twitter username will be received in less than nine minutes and 30 seconds; however, a reply might take a bit longer.

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