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How seamless is the metro`s wireless coverage?

Companies claim clear connection

JACKSON — Even though rumors have swirled about wireless problems plaguing the metro area, top techies say there’s a clear channel of communication among providers to bring a seamless wireless product to consumers — without interference from one another.

“As the wireless market builds and becomes a more popular means of Internet connectivity, there will be some overlapping of services,” said David Hardy, president of CyberHighway in Jackson. Established in 1997, the Internet provider of a high-speed wireless network has three broadcast towers in the metropolitan area.

“It is vital for wireless providers to work together to provide quality service to customers and to support the industry as a whole,” he said. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t be right for me to put an antenna next to Air2Lan’s and knock them off. Likewise, it’s not proper for them to do that to us. When Air2Lan first launched their service, we had some frequency overlap. But they were very prompt in communicating with us, reworking frequencies and adjusting equipment to make sure it wasn’t a problem.”

Hardy said it’s rare to have frequency overlaps or common interference.

“But as wireless technology is further developed, big players in the market, like Cisco and Lucent, manufacturers of the leading wireless equipment and technology, are developing equipment to provide more efficient service in the wireless market — and the cost is diminishing,” Hardy said. “CyberHighway has developed their wireless network around Cisco products while Air2Lan has used Lucent and other products.”

Companies like Lucent that develop wireless technology are testing it in a higher frequency range to alleviate the problem of overcrowding, said Cedric Davis, CEO and general manager of Wireless Teknology in Jackson.

“They’re testing it mainly in the five gigahertz frequency range, since the 2.4 gigahertz range is getting overcrowded, and that is helping tremendously,” Davis said.

Davis said Wireless Teknology is on the same frequency “as the guys that do the outdoor point-to-point links in wireless Internet access.”

“Our core business is indoor campus area networks, which allows laptop or desktop PCs to roam like a cordless phone,” Davis said. “We’re all in the same frequency band, but the technology is unlicensed spread spectrum, which operates in the 2.4 gigahertz frequency band. That band is open right now. Yes, it is true that the band is getting crowded and there was a time when there wasn’t traffic up there, meaning that high of a range.”

“When you compare it to phones, pagers and cordless phones, they are in a lower frequency range, like 600 to 900 megahertz. That means, it’s low in a frequency that’s higher. Nothing’s going to interfere with it. But with the different companies becoming wireless and operating in that frequency range, yes, there is a lot of data being transmitted in that frequency range. It is still safe, still OK, and not a lot of interference.”

Jana Ray, spokesperson for Cellular South, said the company has not experienced incidences where other companies’ towers block wireless signals.

“The wireless industry is growing at a tremendous rate,” Ray said. “Simply look around Jackson and you can see that just about everyone is using wireless service these days. With this increased number of wireless subscribers, it’s important for wireless companies to provide the best coverage and clarity possible.”

“At Cellular South, we understand that for wireless users the most important aspect of their service is to be able to use it when and where needed. That’s why Cellular South has made a $30-million commitment to erect 100 additional wireless towers in Mississippi in 2000. This major network expansion will increase our network by 65%, which brings us closer to our goal of seamless coverage across Mississippi including expanded coverage and increased call clarity.”

Yet interference remains an issue, said Forrest Collier, vice president of Unity Communications in Jackson.

“As we get more carriers, it’s something we have to deal with,” Collier said. “As long as the carriers are running quality equipment and abiding by the rules, and putting the necessary filters in place to minimize interference, it’s not an issue. As long as everyone does that, we can co-exist very well.”

Calls to Air2Lan were not returned by press time for this story.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@msbusiness.com or (601) 853-3967.

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