Today's LAN/WAN Manufacturers and Vendors
The last couple of years have seen a small shakeout in the list of "Who's Who" in the
LAN/WAN hardware world. This short article list the key players, as we see them. We also highlight
how to get in touch with most of these vendors. The following paragraphs provide a little more
information on the two 900 Mhz and two 2.4 GHz products that we have chosen to highlight in this
CYLINK's claim to fame has been that it provides "last mile" connectivity for fractional
T1 data links. They provide a high end, fairly expensive, solution for many of the tougher LAN/WAN
requirements. The "AirLink" series of radios from CYLINK are solid, proven designs that
can include NBS data encryption within the radio, as well as other advanced features to ease network
management and monitoring.
GAMBATTE! started out supplying a MIDI digital music interfaced 900 Mhz SS radio to rock bands
and other entertainment groups. They are now offering their SS technology to industrial users
with their Wireless Industrial Data Link (WIDL) products. A low data rate design (9600 Baud)
that is designed for medium range applications, the GAMBATTE! radios are reported to be solid
performers. While a bit pricey for the data rate, these units have proven to be reliable performers.
The WESTERN MULTIPLEX Lynx SS T1 Digital Microwave Radio was designed to be a low cost,
unlicensed alternative to higher frequency short haul licensed microwave digital radios.
This full duplex design is ideal for squirting T1 signals around back roads and in rural
areas. Simple installations with small dishes yield rather low cost solutions for typical
TELCO-like point to point microwave data links.
Many of WESTERN's customers are using Lynx's in LAN/WAN applications, as well. These high
end units, while a bit expensive, provide solid performance and reliable operation. The
radios use direct sequence QPSK modulation and operate in the 2.4000 to 2.4835 GHz ISM band.
MICROWAVE DATA SYSTEMS (CALIFORNIA MICROWAVE)
The Radio Link 128 from MICROWAVE DATA SYSTEMS is the newest 2.4 GHz offering from the old
California Microwave line of frequency hoppers. This full duplex radio is designed for a
variety of LAN/MAN/WAN applications and uses a proprietary digital CPFSK (Continuous
Phase Frequency Shift Keyed) modulation/demodulation format. Past radios in this series
were a bit pricey, but, we understand this unit will be aimed at a wider market segment.
While we have not seen a data sheet yet, we have heard that PULSE is about to release its
1 MBit per second CPFSK, frequency hopping radio to the LAN/WAN marketplace. Call them to
find out more.
At something over nine years old, PROXIM is the longest surviving manufacturer of SS LAN/WAN
radios. Their latest offering is a 1.6 MBit per second design that hops over 16 channels at
2.4 GHz (did they read the FCC rules lately?). They claim to have shipped more than 60,000
radios to date . They have versions in PCMCIA cards, OEM single card versions and are one
of the low priced leaders in this field. After spending some $16 M of private financing,
PROXIM recently went public and now seems to have sufficient resources to introduce several
new products per year.
NCR -- SOLECTEK
The NCR/AT&T Wave Lan has been around for some time now. It is a 2 MBit persecond ISA plug-in
board for the PC with a 0.25 Watt 915 Mhz Direct Sequence SS radio onboard. SOLECTEK is the
largest and most successful of several VAR-Resellers of the WaveLan. SOLECTEK calls their
board the AirLan. We use a couple of AirLan boards at RF/SS for day to day LAN activities
as well as a workhorse driver for the generation of test SS signals at 915 Mhz.
These units are very reasonably priced for the data rate performance that you get. While
their diagnostic software is not really very great, the networking software is Novell
Netware compatible and pretty capable. I think these units are good buys.
METRICOM's first units were 900 Mhz, 1200 baud frequency hoppers that they primarily sold
to power and utility companies. They went public last year and came out with a 9600 Baud
unit. As far as I know they are still primarily selling 900 Mhz units. They have been very
successful at selling units to the utilities industries with something over 100,000 units out there.
METRICOM recently floated a second stock offering and appears to be going after products at
2.4 GHz and higher data rates. They have some good engineers on board and are a very capable
company. Their hardware is reasonably priced and when they announce something, they can usually
ship it. Call them to find out what they are up to.
Having helped with the design of the first GRE SS radios, a few years ago, I have a soft
spot in my heart for their products. They are currently offering the GINA 5000 and 6000
direct sequence SS 915 Mhz radios. They will soon release a new design at 2.4 Ghz.
A complete product reivew on the GINA radios appears elsewhere in this issue -- go look
at it! For more information call Ms. Sandy Havens at 415-591-1400.
There are something like 102 manufacturers of SS radios out there right now. Not all of
them make LAN/WAN radios. Not all of them have FCC certification yet on their hardware.
Not all of them have real hardware. Not all of them even have a design yet. If you include
SS cordless telephone, wireless barcode readers and other SS wireless products in the count,
you could probably come up with something like 200 manufacturers of SS hardware.
However, the key words here are: Caveat Emptor! I'm deadly serious, watch out-- buyer
beware is the watchword in this arena. Of these few hundred manufactures there are probably
more than 50 good ones. But what about the rest? They probably have great plans and good
ideas. Do they have the resources, the technical capability and the tenacity to make
commercially viable products?
In just the last two years of publication of SSS, we have seen something like 60 or
more SS hardware vendors come and go. Now that PCS (personal communications Systems)
are almost here, ther will be a even bigger shakeort in the trenchs of SS hardware
manufacturers. It's bound to happen--it's inevitable. I think that buying SS equipment
from anyone but a proven vendor is sheer folly and a waste of money!
Sure you may have special requirements, special needs or a limited budget. But with
the variety of proven equipment available today, you should be able to get almost
exactly what you need from one or more of the companies listed above.
If you can't, maybe you should consider a custom design. RF/SS (the consulting and new
product development company that publishes this magazine) can help in this area-- as
can several other custom hardware developers who advertise in this magazine. Remember
that a new custom design is not a cheap undertaking, however. Even companies that have
several past SS designs under their belt (like RF/SS) can incur a significant amount of
engineering cost to design to your custom requirements.
What about off-the-shelf modular designs for OEMs, like Motorola or Repco UHF narrow
band FM radios, you ask? Well several manufacturers have tried this approach and it
never went over well. In a word, modular = custom! Good luck and enjoy the world of SS!
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