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Cable Operators

MediaCell Offers Wireless Drop

12/19/2004 7:00 PM Eastern

MediaCell is pitching cable operators a last-100-feet wireless high-speed Internet technology that would give MSOs entry into the WiFi services arena.

Instead of a traditional wireline drop with a cable modem inside the residence, the MediaCell technology is a “wireless drop system,” with four antennas that can provide 10-megabit speeds over 150 meters or more, depending on the topography.

About the size of a traditional amplifier, the standard system can be mounted inside a curbside cabinet or strand-mounted to a pole.

The MediaCell system projects an 802.11g wireless signal, providing cable modem users with wireless access to their broadband connections via any mobile broadband device. Consumers could access their high-speed Internet connection from anywhere in or around their homes without being tied to their PCs or laptops.

“The consumer can roam within their entire property,” said MediaCell’s CEO, Anthony DiPaolo.

To pick up the signal, the subscriber plugs a WiFi card into a USB port on a PC connected to a cable modem. An authorization screen will open where the user can log on to the wireless network. The company uses standard layered encryption for security.

If an operator placed enough wireless drop systems in a service area, consumers could stay broadband-connected when going to the corner grocery store, said MediaCell’s founder, Don Bishop.

Perhaps a more immediate market is the U.S. multiple dwelling unit (MDU) market inside cable franchises. Operators could deploy a small number of wireless drop systems units to provide high-speed service to hundreds of MDUs without costly wireline upgrades.

The service has been tested by a European cable operator that is battling a strong DSL competitor, DiPaolo said. In that test, the cable operator deployed 100 wireless drop systems that covered much of a 20-square-mile area, reaching 85% of all available households. The reach “exceeded our expectations,” DiPaolo said

DiPaolo sees several advantages for the technology. It can replace the wireline drop to the home, he said, especially if those drops are in need of repair. “The cable drop may not be up to standards,” he added.

The wireless drop also could be a cheaper connectivity alternative for data/phone service than replacing a bad wireline drop. DiPaolo said each wireless drop system costs between $1,000 and $1,500, and can serve between four and 20 homes, depending on the topography.

Broadband operators can use the DOCSIS signaling protocol as a traffic standard to the drop, he said, and then it is 802.11g to the home. “It’s provisioned just like a cable modem,” DiPaolo explained

September