Airband Communications, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, provides an up-to-date twist in the high-speed Internet and VoIP communications arena: wireless access to its network. Airband claims to be the largest fixed-wireless broadband provider for businesses in the United States, offering a comprehensive portfolio of high-speed data, VoIP, and managed solutions, all of which bypass the local telephone company and claim to provide faster provisioning, immediate scalability, and complete redundancy for their customers.
The privately held company was founded in 2000, and currently provides service to more than 3,500 customers in 14 major markets across the United States, including Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Greensboro, Houston, Los Angeles, Orange County California, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, San Antonio, and San Diego.
Airbands suite of services is based on fixed-wireless technology, offering business-class network services designed to meet bandwidth requirements for companies of all sizes, with up to Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) speeds. (Unlike Wi-Fi, fixed wireless technology can provide more bandwidth, across a larger geographic area, with quality of service guarantees.)
Airband delivers its integrated services over a wholly owned last-mile network. Within each market, Airband builds multiple base stations to provide service for its customers. Airband base stations broadcast and receive data through radio "access points" (APs), which are typically located atop tall buildings to ensure maximum range. The signal is received by another radio, called a "subscriber unit" (SU), located at the customers facility. Each base station covers roughly a five-mile radius (approximately 78 square miles), and can serve multiple customers in a point-to-multipoint configuration.
Recently, Airband expanded its VoIP services to include a new suite of bundled voice and data offerings that can address the needs of virtually every small and medium size business in Airband markets. Business customers can choose from a variety of voice/data options including analog line replacement, VoIP trunking services, and hosted Voice over IP (VoIP) service.
The Analog Line Replacement service allows customers with small PBXs or key systems to replace costly business phone lines from traditional telephony providers with lower-cost VoIP services. The service includes a number of popular voice features, including caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, and three-way callingwith the option to add toll-free numbers and analog/fax lines.
VoIP Trunking Services include Primary Rate Interface Replacement, which allows medium-to-large enterprises to reduce their cost by replacing their PRI service with Airbands VoIP Trunking service; and SIP Trunking, which enables customers with existing IP PBXs also to reduce their monthly communications expenses.
The Hosted VoIP Service is a fully managed service that provides customers with the functionality of an enterprise phone system without the responsibilities for system configuration and ongoing management. This service features the Enterprise Assistant call control application, which enables end users to take advantage of the system features from their desktop, including establishing conference calls, updating the find-me functionality, or initiating a call from within a web page or e-mail application. The system includes a number of features that go beyond typical systems, including account and authorization codes, distinctive ringing, intercom paging, selective call acceptance and forwarding, three-way calling, and visual voicemail. The system supports both Cisco IP Phones and Polycom Soundpoint phones, with the availability of complementary services such as fax, toll-free numbers, directory listings, and additional DIDs.
Pricing of the service varies based upon the number of end stations and the Internet bandwidth required, but is claimed to be as much as 20 percent less than similar services, because Airband is able to leverage its own fixed-wireless, last mile network, and not have to rely upon reselling access loops from the LEC or CLEC. As a result, these services are not restricted to increments of T1 bandwidth (1.5 Mbps), meaning that customers can buy just the amount of access bandwidth that they require, and adjust their services in the future based upon current business requirements.
Further information on the Airband voice solutions can be found at www.airband.com. Our next tutorial will continue our review of various service providers hosted voice solutions.
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.