Start-up bridges last mile with "virtual fiber"

GigaBeam Corp., Chantilly, Va., has developed a point-to-point wireless technology that uses very high radio frequency to deliver the speed of fiber networks directly to agencies and enterprises.

Although much on the nation's communications infrastructure has moved to high-speed fiber optic networks, those connections don't yet extend to most buildings?the so-call "last mile."

GigaBeam's technology employs radio frequency spectrums at 71 to 76 GHz and 81 to 86 GHz to transmit data at multi-gigabit-per-second speeds, the company said. One gigabit-per-second is the equivalent of 647 T1 lines or about 1,000 DSL connections.

On Oct. 16, 2003, the Federal Communications Commission authorized commercial licensing rules for this very high frequency spectrum, paving the way for widespread use of technologies such as GigaBeam's.

"We worked with the FCC [on] the rulemaking for this spectrum, allowing any organization to deploy multi-gigabit speed communication links," said Lou Slaughter, chief executive officer of GigaBeam. "These new ultra high frequency bands are the only ones that allow wireless fiber-equivalent speeds with reliability similar to fiber. Lower frequencies are too crowded with insufficient bandwidth to enable multi-gigabit-per-second speeds."

GigaBeam's "virtual fiber" uses very thin pencil beams that can transmit through windows. Two small antennae in the same line of sight, positioned on a window inside an office or outside of a building, form one wireless link. According Slaughter, GigaBeam technology offers 99.999 percent weather reliability at distances of a mile.

In addition to last mile access to the fiber backbone, the system could support other applications, including network redundancy, connectivity among multiple locations, offsite storage area networks, metropolitan area network links and others.

Slaughter co-founded GigaBeam with the company's chief technology officer, Douglas Lockie, an expert in millimeter wave technology. Lockie was previously involved in rulemaking for other radio spectrums, including the Local Multi Point Distribution System, which operates in the 28 GHz and 31 GHz frequency bands.

GigaBeam's executive team also includes Thomas Wetmore, senior vice president of sales and marketing and former vice president of wireless communications for EDS Corp.

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