Enterprises that need their own high-speed long range communications often lease them from telcos, but in some cases, it may make more sense to create their own.

DragonWave,  an Ottawa-based firm that makes long range microwave links, recently launched a point-to-point communications product designed to help companies install and run their own wireless long range links.

The product, Harmony Enhanced MC, is a point-to-point microwave communication system that can deliver speeds of up to 8Gbit/sec, depending on distance. The unit can communicate across tens of kilometers.

One of the DragonWave’s biggest markets is wireless operators; it sells to Canadian carriers, including Videotron, that use it for backhaul connectivity, connecting their mobile phone towers to the rest of their infrastructure. Microwave backhaul is proving particularly useful in connecting rural communities in Canada.

DragonWave is also finding traction in the enterprise space, said Greg Friesen, the company’s vice-president of product management. Companies leasing a couple of floors in a building would be less likely to buy and install the equipment themselves to communicate between sites. On the other hand, oil and gas, in which lots of data must be sent over long, inhospitable distances, is a fruitful sector.

“It happens more in cases like oil and gas where they already own their own infrastructure,” he said, adding that this helps to justify the cost of the equipment purchase and installation. Municipal users, for example, like the technology for roads that have lots of high-definition security video.

The equipment costs around US$9,000 for a point-to-point link, but then companies will need to install it, typically atop a tall tower or building, and must also pay a federal fee to use the licensed spectrum, which will cost up to $2,000 each year, said Friesen.

The new microwave product offers a 30 per cent higher range than the competition thanks to its use of gallium nitrade in its amplifiers, he said. That enables the product to use higher power with its amplifiers, while still meeting regulatory requirements around emissions.

The product sends all of its data using 256-bit AES encryption, and also includes a 10Gbit Ethernet port – the first to do so, according to DragonWave – along with four Ethernet ports to support multiple services. Its maximum 8Gbit capacity, shared among those ports, means that an application wouldn’t be able to exploit the full 10Gbit capacity of the port, however.

Microwaves are adversely affected by rain, but the problems are far greater with torrential downpours in areas like the coastal southwestern U.S. regions; the kind of rain that we get north of the border is far friendlier to point-to-point microwave links, Friesen concluded.

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