DragonWave (Ottawa, Ontario), a provider of packet microwave radio systems for next-generation IP networks, announced on Nov. 8 that Choice Communications, LLC (St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; USVI) chose them as the provider of a high-capacity, next-generation wireless backhaul system for its converged mobile-services network in the USVI. The system, launched in November, is part of the first 4G mobile-broadband network in the USVI.

“Our selection of DragonWave backhaul services was a crucial decision in the launch of our best-of-breed converged CDMA [code division multiple access] WiMAX and [worldwide interoperability for microwave access] mobile network,” said Tony Shepherd, general manager for Choice Communications.

Choice selected DragonWave’s wireless Horizon products for both cell-site backhaul and as an alternative to the submarine fiber-optic cable interconnection between the three US Virgin Islands. Future Technologies (Atlanta, GA) served as the turn-key integration partner for the project.

Choice Communications officially launched its commercial services in November, offering unlimited voice services on the USVI’s first 4G mobile-broadband network, with speeds up to 5 Mbps, utilizing both EVDO [Evolution-date optimized, a 3G standard] and mobile WiMAX technologies.

DragonWave’s primary technology is microwave wireless backhaul (communications systems bringing data from an end user to a node) mostly in the licensed band between 6 – 38 GHz. According to Alan Solheim, vice president of corporate development at DragonWave, “Installing wireless backhaul is faster and less expensive than wiring buildings or base stations to a fiber backbone.”

DragonWave bills its Horizon Quantum as “the world’s highest capacity microwave system” with a capacity at maximum configuration of 2 to 4 GHz over a single link (see the whitepaper, “The Big Skinny–More Bits through the Same Pipe at a Lower Cost”). The Horizon Quantum is used at the nodes for handling high-capacity traffic.

Top buying considerations

As a provider of converged services, Choice Communications offers cell phones, cell-phone service plans, internet, and soon, VoIP home phone service. When a service provider like Choice wants to expand capacity and ramp up their system, says Solheim, their top concerns are:

1.      Capacity, the cost per bit metric. The data rates are going up but the revenues are staying flat, so the cost per bit needs to go down. Providers have to invest to improve their backhaul spectrum, so they’re looking for cost savings that affect the total cost of ownership.

2.      Reduced collocation space. Customers want the communications equipment to take up less space in the cabinet or on the tower. Less real estate means less rent.

3.      Reduced number of antennas. Clients want to be able to offer more capacity—more transmission, more availability, more bars for their users—on the same number of antennas.

4.      Efficient use of the network. This means whether the network can support flexible deployment topologies such as ring and mesh; whether it accommodates load sharing; all the things that make networks work harder.

“We’ve done too good a job of driving down costs,” says Solheim, “so the capital equipment is only about 10-20% of the system cost. The rest of the cost is leasing space on the tower, collocation costs, spectrum costs, maintenance, insulation, etc. It’s become more important to look at how all those things interact to affect cost of ownership. That makes the buying decision complicated.”

DragonWave's Horizon Quantum, Horizon Contact microwave backhaul

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