CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published Monday, October 2, 2000

Wireless DSL

Securing reliable, high-speed Internet access has been hit and miss during the last year for residential and small business users in the Stockton area. Geography has been the primary barrier to obtaining either AT&T Cable or PacBell DSL services, since users must live within limited service boundaries in order to qualify for a high-speed hookup. For those fortunate enough to live or work in the high-speed zones, customer satisfaction is low and reports of trouble abound, especially among PacBell DSL subscribers.

Fear not, speed seekers, for another option looms near on the horizon. On November 1, InReach Internet, in partnership with Broadlink Communications of Santa Rosa, will roll out wireless DSL services for the Stockton area. The five towers delivering DSL service will cover homes and businesses in the Stockton community, with plans to cover Lodi, Tracy and Modesto over the next six months.

Wireless DSL promises to deliver more reliable and dependable high-speed connections than its cable and DSL competition. The advantage over cable is a more consistent throughput and no sharing of bandwidth among customers. Because the service is wireless, there is no need to use PacBell lines and suffer along with their growing pains--a clear advantage over regular DSL.

The actual wireless installation is fairly simple, but does require that a receiver be installed on the roof or other location within the tower line of sight. The receiver is an unobtrusive flat box, 12 by 12 inches that sits on a 6-inch stand. Connected in proximity to the receiver is a weatherproof box containing the router that brings the signal to your computer via a small wire, no larger than your exterior phone connections.

Once inside your home or business, the wire splits in two, with one branch going to an AC outlet and the other to an ethernet jack in the computer. The computer must have a network card installed, as is common for all high-speed connections. If you add a hub to this equipment configuration, you could add 50 or more additional computers to a single wireless hookup.

The actual bandwidth achieved by wireless users is anywhere between 384Kbs and 1.5Mbs with most reports ranging on the higher end. Proximity to the tower matters less with wireless than with regular DSL connections. Early wireless subscribers in the pre-release phase have been enjoying surf speeds of 1.5Mbs up to five miles away from the tower. That's nearly 25 times faster than standard 56.6 dialup connections. Users located nearer to the actual tower locations tout a whopping speed of nearly 4Mb, which is unreal for residential users.

InReach and Broadlink currently have three towers up and running, with the remaining two towers due for completion by November 1. The cost of wireless DSL service is comparable to regular DSL service, depending on the ISP. InReach will sell its residential wireless product for $49 monthly and $198 installation fee. There is no equipment charge, since the company will retain ownership of the installed equipment.

As for their regular DSL service, InReach has no plans to abandon these customers. According to Special Projects Manager David Diskin, however, "We would much rather sell wireless DSL in the Stockton area because it's so much easier to install, manage, and troubleshoot. It's far better than having to go through PacBell".

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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