Bridging connectivity gaps
Maturing wireless bridges are poised to challenge costly, slow-to-deploy WANsFollow @infoworld
We had several requirements for our tests. First, the links had to shoot through double-pane, energy-efficient glass, which proved challenging for most of the products. Second, latency and jitter performance had to be robust enough to support VoIP traffic without an additional PBX. Finally, range and security had to be good enough to allow implementation without needing added repeaters or external VPN links for security.
We were pleasantly surprised by this new crop of wireless wheat. Though the products had performance and management differences, none had any trouble handling our testing suite. That, plus the ability to easily integrate with local wired infrastructure, as well as some surprisingly attractive price tags, put wireless-bridging infrastructure much higher on our list of favorite hardware than it once was.
Adtran Tracer 5045 and 6420
Yes, Adtran does more than multiplexers. Indeed, the company sports a large line of networking products that covers the gamut of routing, switching, and wireless-bridge boxes. Adtran’s two products, the Tracer 5045 and the Tracer 6420, were a pleasant surprise, both from a price perspective and considering their ease of use.
The products look alike and use the same style of microwave antenna. The main difference is flexibility: The Tracer 5045 represents an older yet highly reliable form of connectivity, whereas the 6420 represents a newer and more cutting-edge, modular approach.
The 5045 is designed as a 90Mbps bridge with a distance limitation of about 25 miles point-to-point. The 6420 is housed in a similar case but has a modular design, allowing it to use a variety of connectivity cards, including T1, E1, and Ethernet. The 6420 has the same range as the 5045 but an aggregate throughput of 33.6Mbps. This is offset, however, by its modular architecture, which allows you to customize the unit’s capabilities and cost much more readily than you can with the 5045.
It seems the designers of both products assumed that all electronics would be located indoors; neither product is weather-resistant. This affected neither our partially indoor short-haul test nor our entirely outdoor long-haul test. Adtran also assumes you have upward of 30 feet of antenna cable leading to the outside, which means you’ll have decent flexibility in terms of positioning.
The two products use similar management methods. Initially we were put off because the units indicated signal strength with an external multimeter instead of a Web-based management utility. But this approach reduces the cost of the units, and the multimeter console adequately indicated signal strength for both sides once they were linked. Of all the units we looked at, Adtran’s products were easiest to get linked.
Ongoing management is both simple and practical. The system uses VT-100s to display link status, activity, and a table of power settings. These systems also default to two channels to avoid conflict and allow multiple radios to be operational at the same time. Indeed, the Tracers are designed to allow network managers to easily daisy-chain several boxes for truly long hauls, while still managing each of them from a central location.