A joint venture is underway to deliver “last mile”-or in this case last 20 miles-digital wireless connections for wireline phones in regions worldwide where phone service is costly, inadequate or nonexistent.
Together, Granger Telecom, Loral Communications Systems and Unisys Corp. plan to implement wireless local loop systems using narrowband Code Division Multiple Access spread spectrum technology-initially developed by Unisys for military use-in areas of the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Trials are underway in Asia, Africa and Latin America, noted Unisys.
“There are currently only 500 million telephones in a world of over 5 billion people, with over 50 million more people waiting for service each year,” said Raymond Verth, chief executive officerof Granger Telecom.
Half of the adults in the world have never made a phone call, said Shaun Carlson, Unisys’ vice president of business development. “For every one percent rise in the number of phones, there’s a direct correlation of three percent growth in [a country’s] per capita national income,” Carlson added.
Responding to the ardent need for basic communications, the consortium plans to provide a wireless local loop solution they contend offers cost advantages, innovation and quality of system design that tops both traditional landline and cellular services.
Traditional landline service can be expensive to implement and take a long time to install, especially in sparsely populated, remote or rugged areas. According to Unisys, a length of copper wireline installed between the phone network and a subscriber’s home costs between $1,200 and $1,500. At the other extreme, cellular can be expensive for users. Unisys said spread spectrum wireless local loop technology is more secure and less inclined to interference than cellular and has greater capacity for simultaneous signal transmission.
The consortium also said its system is easier and less expensive to maintain than most landline networks and, because it is digital, can be upgraded to support more advanced wireless services including Integrated Services Digital Network.
Through their digital wireless local loop system, the companies promise they can deliver both voice and data services at up to 64 kilobytes-per-second to residences located up to 18-and-a-half miles from the wired telephone network.
The venture wouldn’t specify the cost to implement its system, noting it will vary by location.
To install the wireless local loop, a radio base unit is attached to the wireline phone network, centrally positioned among subscriber sites. Via a radio signal, the unit transmits communications from wireline or wireless networks to a small interface device located on the outside wall of each subscriber household. From this home unit, phone wires are run into the house, connecting users to the telephone network. Spread spectrum technology “takes digital communications signals and scatters them in a seemingly random pattern across a wide electromagnetic spectrum using very low-power signals,” explained Unisys.
Unisys, based in Blue Bell, Pa., and Salt Lake City-based Loral, a division of Loral Corp., collectively will carry out design, engineering and manufacturing efforts of the radio transmission and receiver boxes and jointly own the resulting technology and products.
Granger Telecom, headquartered in Weybridge, Surrey, U.K., will market and support the venture’s wireless products. According to a Unisys spokesman, Granger will contract with individual telephone companies to install the system and train the company on system operation and maintenance.