Bridging connectivity gaps
Maturing wireless bridges are poised to challenge costly, slow-to-deploy WANsFollow @infoworld
The OS-Spectra is definitely Orthogon’s state-of-the-art offering. Also operating in the 5.8GHz range, this bridge supports both IP and circuit-switched networks with latency comparable to the other bridging media. In addition, the Spectra handles data rates of as much as 300Mbps and carries improved interference capabilities using dynamic frequency selection and adaptive modulation techniques. All this may sound confusing, but it’s easily configured with a laptop tool. The Spectra also has WiMAX compatibility, which will become increasingly important as a low-cost backup-path technology as its penetration increases during the next few years.
Finally, the fanciest Spectra feature allows it to bend its signal around buildings and other obstacles during long-haul hops. That means the Spectra doesn’t require clear line of sight in order to function.
During our long-haul test, the Spectra managed full bandwidth in one direction, but only half bandwidth on the return trip. With some tweaking to the configuration, however, we easily solved that. The only limitation we found with this feature is that you need to give the waveform a chance to fully form, so don’t try to bend around buildings too close to you.
Our wish list for Orthogon’s products is only two items long. First, the company needs to change its aiming system. These products shared a truly obnoxious aiming system that indicated signal strength by the pitch of the tone transmitted through a set of earphones worn by the hapless technician. The more grating the sound (like a missing-keyboard-error beep extended and then run through a shredder), the better the overall signal.
Second, we’d love to see a lower price. These products took the longest to configure, had the highest overall latency (though still at acceptable levels even for VoIP applications), and they had the highest price.
These wishes aside, Orthogon shows that RF is still very much in the game. Optical may have the edge in speed, but Orthogon keeps RF alive in speed tests and takes RF’s angle, range, and reliability options to a whole new level. For tight urban scenarios or other challenging environments, Orthogon is definitely a solution to consider.
We chose our competitors carefully, making sure to find representatives of all three major wireless-bridging media: RF, microwave (a close RF relative), and optical. After using all three types in the real world of Honolulu last February, we have a far more favorable impression of wireless bridging than we did prior to testing.
First, all these products can be configured by even general IT managers, with the RF products definitely the easiest of the bunch. Second, their prices are well within the realm of mainstream wired infrastructure, and all of them are readily available — easily competing with the average six-week lead time for installing leased WAN lines.
Third, although we were worried about security, the optical products turned out not to pose as high a security risk as we had thought: Their beams are so tight, they’re practically impossible to tap. RF doesn’t share this advantage, but both our RF contenders provide VPN compatibility or optional encryption protocols (typically AES [Advanced Encryption Standard] or 3DES).