Terabeam Corp.

Terabeam Corp.

Category: Wireless

URL: www.terabeam.com

Location: Kirkland, Wash.

Founded: 1997

Technology: Fiberless optics, which beam the same light used in fiber optic cables through the air - straight through office windows

Key customers: Overlake Hospital Medical Center, Fisher Communications (TV and radio stations)

How It Works: Terabeam's Free Space Optical Technology uses lasers operating at 1,550 nanometers, far above visible light, eliminating the possibility of eye damage caused by other lasers. It uses computer-controlled steering mirrors to ensure tight beams. Its range is about 800 feet to three miles depending on the weather. The company offers two models: Elliptica, which has a throughput of 155M bit/sec., and Magna, which has throughput of 1G bit/sec.

Tip: Free space optical communications systems don't have the security holes found in wireless bridges, but users should be aware that they work best in locations with little rain or fog, which can cut throughput or completely block a signal.

Running a high-end hotel in a technology hub such as Seattle requires giving road warriors more than just a room. Visitors to nearby Microsoft Corp. and other high-tech companies such as RealNetworks Inc. expect high-bandwidth Internet connections.

Satisfying the wideband thirst of a guest population that varies from day to day in a hotel with more than 400 rooms is a challenge, but one that the Elliott Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Seattle has met with a flexible bandwidth service from Terabeam, says the hotel's general manager, Doug Sears.

If Sears anticipates greater than normal demand for high-bandwidth connection to guest rooms or the hotel's auditorium - which has each of its 160 seats equipped with an Ethernet jack - all he has to do is order up more bandwidth from Terabeam. Terabeam, which manufactures free-space optical systems and also serves as a local carrier in Seattle, has mounted a dish on the hotel's roof, which uses free space optical telecommunications technology to hook into the hub of a major telecommunications carrier about 800 feet from the hotel.

Lou Gellos, a Terabeam spokesman, declines to identify the carrier, but did say the arrangement allows Terabeam to boost the Elliot Grand's capacity at a flick of a switch from 5 to 100 megabits. That's important, Sears says, when a large number of guests check in expecting high-speed connections at the same time, such as during a RealNetworks conference earlier this year.

Gellos says Terabeam's free space optic technology (fiber without the wires) makes tying a hotel into a high-speed hub easy, since it doesn't require digging up the street. Installing a dish on the roof does the job.

What's in store

While free space optic technology has emerged as an alternative to unlicensed wireless radio systems, Bettina Tratz-Ryan, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., views it as a niche technology. "That's because range is limited and rain or fog can cause degradation in performance," she says. However, despite Seattle's notorious weather, Doug Sears, manager of the Elliott Grand Hyatt, says he hasn't experienced any outages.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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