Wireless communication now a viable alternative

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Wireless data systems solutions have become a multi-trillion dollar per year global industry because of recent advances in telecommunications software and hardware. The following presents the first of a series highlighting different aspects of high-speed data transfer.

To understand wireless data solutions, it is essential we first understand the precious resource referred to as the radio frequency (RF) spectrum. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) controls the RF spectrum and is responsible for licensing certain frequencies of the radio spectrum to corporations or individuals who are able to afford them. It ensures fairness during the auction, prevents large monopolies from dominating the national market and regulates radio transmission power as well as guarantees that digital electronic equipment does not interfere with the use of the radio spectrum. The FCC enforces their regulation of the RF spectrum by imposing heavy fines and even incarceration for violating their regulations.

Licensed spectrum has advantages to the licensee as well as the serviced customer base since complete control of communications are guaranteed within a certain geographic area and within the licensed radio frequencies. Customers can communicate using spectrum that is controlled by a single entity. This important fact means that the RF spectrum licensee can provide a wireless system free of man-made radio signals in the licensed frequency that interfere with customers’ data communications.

On the other hand, wired communication technology is very advanced and capable of reliable and high-speed data communications. Its mediums include fiber optic and copper cables, which are very costly to lay and maintain. In this aspect, wireless technology is less expensive since there is no build-out or maintenance cost associated with the wireless medium. Wireless communications are literally accomplished through “thin air” without the costs or time penalties of cable installations.

Traditionally, wireless equipment has been costly and very low-speed when compared to wired technology. Until recently, the cost per bit per second (bps) of wired technology was so much lower than wired communications cost per bps that no one would even consider wireless data communications for most applications.

An increase in the modulation rate and receiver sensitivity of radios has resulted in lowering the cost per bps, while the consumer demand for wireless data equipment has intensified dramatically. Combined, these phenomena have had a net effect of significantly increasing the data transfer rate of modern wireless equipment while simultaneously lowering their cost. Moreover, the low-cost equipment is capable of transfer speeds that surpass many wired communications standards. In fact, current unlicensed wireless equipment is available which can reach transfer speeds of above one gigabit per second.

However, the FCC-regulated licensed spectrum remains costly. On the other hand, an unlicensed band is a portion of the RF spectrum designated by a national regulatory agency as being freely available for use. Despite their strict power, modulation and frequency limitations, many people use these bands for digital radio communications. The compelling economic reason for using unlicensed bands is that the spectrum is free to use; therefore, services using these bands can be sold at a fraction of the cost of licensed bands.

In 1985, when most of the unlicensed microwave spectrum was made available in the United States, there was a rush of amateur radio users beginning to use the unlicensed bands. As the technology progressed more of the bands were being used and by the turn of the 20th century these lower microwave unlicensed frequencies were occupied. In fact, they are currently so over-utilized that many radios interfere with each other. For this reason, unlicensed wireless communications have been considered an inexpensive but not very reliable medium.

To learn more about wireless services, visit www.digiowireless.com, or e-mail Digio Wireless, LLC at info@digiowireless.com.