About this time last year on this list we discussed last mile broadband solutions, eventually concluding that mass produced terrestrial lasers is a possible long-term solution, at least as a supplemental last link to a fiber backbone.
The October 1999 Scientific American covered the current state of mass broadband rollout. The report discussed cable modems, DSL, LMDS, and LEO Satellite plans such as Teledesic.
They discussed the prohibitive costs of fiber-to-the-neighborhood (hybrid fiber/coax) and fiber-to-the-home.
LMDS is expensive to start up, requiring tens of thousands of dollars for the basestation equipment then thousands for network terminal equipment and antennas at each end-user point.
The LMDS solution can serve as many as 4000 users from a single base station, but the hardware costs prevent small ISP's from entering the market.
One solution that Scientific American didn't discuss is internet 2.4Ghz internet radios which can provide between 1 and 1.676 Mbps between radio routers at ranges from 1 to 30 miles depending on configuration.
On September 2, Nokia acquired Rooftop Wireless of Mountain View, CA for $56 Million, and renamed the company to Nokia Wireless Routers.
The Rooftop design is elegent. Multinode networks configure automatically, and can be extended create multi-hop networks covering great distances. Presently, minimum network configuration consists of two radios, each priced at $1995. Each internet radio has an RJ45 10Base-T Ethernet connector.
With Nokia's purchase of Rooftop, the price of each radio will surely be reduced dramatically as a result of mass production for the lastmile consumer market.
One obstacle that "wireless ISPs" will face is discovery of service territory. Local telephone companies will not disclose their Central Office locations, so it's impossible for an ISP to obtain a map of the territory outside the phone company's DSL service area. Currently, phone companies must perform a loop qualification test on a customer-by-customer basis to determine whether DSL is available to their homes.
How can a third-party competition be introduced when the mass-market service areas remain a mystery to would-be competing ISPs?