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3/11/2005
02:48 PM
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Dartmouth College Goes Wireless

Dartmouth will deploy GigaBeam's WiFiber, a point-to-point fiber-link wireless system that uses high radio frequencies.

Faced with a telecommunications infrastructure that's unable to support its sprawling campus in rural New Hampshire, Dartmouth College is investing in wireless technology that will allow it to expand its main campus network to off-site buildings.

Dartmouth will use GigaBeam Corp.'s WiFiber, a point-to-point fiber-link wireless system that uses high radio frequency of 71 to 76 GHz and 81 to 86 GHz, both of which were recently authorized by the FCC. These frequencies support the transmission of data at the speed of 1 Gbps. By comparison, a typical DSL line operates at approximately 1 Mbps.

The Ivy League college will install two WiFiber links this April to support the expansion. The initial link will provide high-speed access to its off-site Mary Hitchcock Hospital facilities from Dartmouth's IP-based, 1 Gbit campus network. Eventually, WiFiber will allow Dartmouth to extend its IP-based network that supports voice, video, and data to remote areas outside the main campus. "In order to run the converged services over IP, as well as high-speed cluster computing, you need large bandwidth, which is always a problem in rural areas," says Robert Johnson, director of telecommunications and network services at Dartmouth. "Our users would not and should not have to deal with diminished services just because they are off the main campus."

Dartmouth will be using WiFiber to create high-speed networks in addition to VPNs on campus, and to enable access between buildings and extend the main campus network off-site.

During the selection process, Dartmouth also evaluated using dial-up telephone-company circuits, which require modems and support download and upload speeds of up to 56 Kbps over phone lines. But the college went with WiFiber because "we had not found anything that would deliver that kind of price and performance," Johnson says.

The cost of the wireless project wasn't disclosed. Many organizations have avoided such implementations because of the cost, but GigaBeam hopes to change that. The company's goal, says CEO Louis Slaughter, is eventually to offer a system that will only cost a few dollars a month per megabit.

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