Why WiMax misses the connection in Truckee | SierraSun.com

Why WiMax misses the connection in Truckee

Ian Fitzgerald

I would like to respond to the My Turn column “Why the big rush to broadband?” in the Sept. 1 Sierra Sun. The writer has great confidence in WiMax as a preferred option to the fiber-to-the-home system being proposed by the Truckee Donner Public Utility District. I offer the following comments for consideration.According to the same Intel Corporation information referenced in the column, although WiMax is touted to serve up to 30 miles, the average WiMax base-station installations will likely cover between three to five miles. Meaning the 50 to 75 square mile area-requiring coverage in Truckee would necessitate around 25 sites. WiMax is also designed for “last-mile” broadband connections within metropolitan areas, not for large, rural, mountainous terrain. Also, because WiMax towers only act as the last-mile connection, there still needs to be a backbone connection between the telecommunication headend and the WiMax points of service. This backbone system would be constructed of fiber-optic cables. The end result is still a significant cost to build WiMax, which could easily approach or surpass the $24 million to build fiber optics right to each and every Truckee-area resident’s door. Again referencing Intel Corporation’s data, the IEE 802.16 standards currently in use by WiFi / WiMax devices operate in the 1066GHz frequency band requiring line-of-sight towers. Considering recent studies of wireless technology in the Truckee region using line of site and frequency loss as criteria, the Sierra relief would find many residents experiencing weak signals, as is often seen in current cellular coverage in this area. It would also be appropriate to note the IEE 802.16 standard can only offer performance comparable to traditional cable modems, DSL, or T1 offerings, which will not attain the same level of service fiber optics provide. Fiber optics provides uninterrupted, high bandwidth (up to 500mbs per fiber strand), allowing for surge capacity (ramp up) and multiplex capabilities. No other telecommunication technology can currently achieve the speed, capacity or reliability of fiber optics, nor provide offerings of true on-demand video, music, and gaming as currently seen at many high-scale hotels.I am sure there were people suggesting back in 1904 that we should not run out and buy an automobile, but instead wait for the jet pack. Imagine our lives today if such advice were accepted as gospel.Large telecommunications companies will not- and don’t want to – build advanced systems in Truckee. These companies are looking for profits. The population, thus the money, is just not here to entice those organizations. Large electric companies didn’t want to build in rural USA in the early 20th century, so smaller companies, run by local residents, stepped up to the plate and stated, “If you don’t want to come and give us what we need, then we’ll build it ourselves.” Well, the PUD recognizes the need for faster, more reliable telecommunications in this region that no company has yet stepped up to provide. The community is calling, and as a community organization, the PUD is listening and willing to build an advanced broadband system for our residents’ benefit.Finally, how can any improvement on current technologies, in a town crying for telecommunication advancement, be considered a bad idea? Because of the $24 million price tag? Considering the PUD is using an already developed infrastructure, namely existing poles and conduit, the price tag is considerably lower than would be for a startup company building its own infrastructure from scratch. Remember, it is mostly PUD infrastructure that current telecommunication services are constructed upon to serve this community.Truckee is not typical of American communities as a whole. Truckee has a level of sophistication that sets it apart from the average. The column writer appears to be among the many Truckee residents who are sophisticated in broadband issues. This community-wide sophistication is crying out for improved service. It is this need that the PUD is trying to address, and has slowly taken every step with precaution to ensure the success of this proposed business. Ian Fitzgerald designed the proposed fiber layout for the Truckee Donner Public Utility District’s broadband system. He holds a bachelors degree and master of science degree with distinction in the information technology field, and is currently president of a large international IT user-group organization.