What are your options if you own a growing business with several locations spread out over a metropolitan or rural area that doesn't have telephone connections readily available? One solution is to bite the bullet and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a telecommunications provider run wires for you. Or, there is another option.
Isleta Pueblo (Isleta Pueblo, NM), a Native American community that occupies a 320-square-mile reservation near Albuquerque, faced the same dilemma. The community had grown into a 5,000-member tribe with more than 40 programs including social services, libraries, hydrology, roads/maintenance, and recreation centers. "Some of our facilities were separated by woods, lakes, bridges, railroad tracks, and roads," says Terry Honeycutt, management information systems coordinator. "Our only means of communication was by driving back and forth. Payroll data, for instance, was saved on disk at each facility and then physically transported to a central location."
Option 1: Have Traditional Leased Lines Installed
Honeycutt contacted a local telecommunications provider to see about running phone lines over or under the reservation's terrain. "It would have cost $50,000 per mile to run telephone lines to each of our locations," recalls Honeycutt. "With about 45 miles of phone lines to be run, the initial investment would be $2.25 million. We knew we had to seek other options."
The telecommunications provider tipped Honeycutt off to several vendors of wireless alternatives. One such alternative was a fixed wireless solution from Solectek Corp. (San Diego).
Option 2: Buy A Fixed Wireless Solution
During the initial rollout, Honeycutt and a crew from Solectek set up the wireless wide area network (WWAN) to connect eight sites on the reservation. At six of the eight sites the SkyWay bridges/routers were mounted at the top of buildings. But, because of line-of-sight issues at two locations, they had to build 200-foot towers to get the signal above the trees. The overall installation took one month. The equipment - one SkyWay Link point-to-point bridge/router, two SkyWay Net base station bridges/routers, eight SkyMate end point bridges/routers, and two towers plus installation - cost Isleta Pueblo less than installing one mile of leased telephone lines. So, what's the downside to choosing a voice over IP (Internet protocol) solution that costs a fraction of its wired line counterpart and doesn't have monthly rental fees attached to it? Nothing. Even the throughput is much better than using a T1 line. "Most straight T1 lines provide about 1.44 MB per second throughput," says Honeycutt. "With our fixed wireless solution, we can transmit data at a rate of 11 MB per second."
With the solution in place, the Isleta Pueblo community is able to have a community intranet for sharing centralized data. Additionally, the WWAN is used for sending and receiving e-mails, and it is used for placing telephone calls to other facilities on the reservation. Since the first rollout of the wireless solution in November 2001, Isleta Pueblo has added network connections to seven additional sites.