Stream floats wireless broadband

Stream Intelligent Networks Corp. of Toronto became one of the first broadband spectrum licence holders in Canada to commercially deploy wireless services when it went live with a 38GHz link in Toronto last month.

Stream is using broadband wireless as a last-mile option to connect carrier and enterprise customers back into Stream’s fibre network, which will serve users coast-to-coast. Stream obtained 92 38GHz spectrum licences across Canada in last winter’s Industry Canada spectrum auction.

The point-to-point Toronto pipe is serving a pair of ISP customers, said Bob MacCallum, Stream’s chief technology officer and vice-president. MacCallum said the link is an extension of an OC-3 ATM fibre service and gives the ISPs 40Mbps of bandwidth. Stream’s radio technology is capable of supporting speeds up to 155Mbps, he added.

MacCallum said Stream’s line-of-sight broadband wireless technology has 99.999 per cent reliability, making it a carrier-class service. All wireless links are monitored like a SONET service would be, MacCallum noted, by a 24 hours a day, seven days a week, network operations centre.

The transmission distance of the technology is dependent on rainfall in the area where it’s deployed, MacCallum explained.

“When you transmit it through a heavy downpur…the radio waves passing through the rainfall get somewhat dispersed and the signal to noise ratio increases,” he said. To transmit wireless signals through rainfall, Stream holds some transmission power in reserve. An adaptive control mechanism in the radio equipment automatically adapts the radio signal power to compensate for rainfall.

By the end of this year, Stream plans to launch its broadband wireless services in four more areas – Vancouver, Calgary, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. and Ottawa-Kanata. While Stream will install some wireless services in city cores, MacCallum believes much of the wireless service’s business will come from serving fibre-starved outlying regions.

All the wireless technology Stream will initially deploy will be point-to-point, rather than point-to-multipoint (also known as Local Multipoint Communications Services or LMCS), MacCallum noted. Stream has tested LMCS technology, but MacCallum doesn’t believe it’s mature enough for commercial deployment.

“We’re probably on the third generation of it, but I don’t think it’s cost-effective for the particular application we’re deploying right now,” he said. “It is a major application for the future…Obviously one of our requirements serving carriers is a highly reliable network and at this stage we don’t believe that the equipment is robust enough for that.”