TowerStream's Business Threshold

Towerstream Corp. (Nasdaq: TWER) is offering what it claims is a first in the world of broadband wireless -- a "T1 last mile" service with "five nines" reliability.

The five-nines metric has long been the benchmark availability figure for which the public landline telephone network is renowned. The term is used in wired networking to signify ultra-reliable products that will have no more than five minutes downtime a year.

It's not a measurement you see being bandied about much by wireless vendors or operators, and with good reason. WiMax, WiFi, and cellular networks are all shared media that are subject to environmental disturbances to which wired networking products are largely immune.

Jeff Thompson, CEO at TowerStream, says that TowerStream can now make the claim because it can sync the feeds between two separate pre-WiMax base stations to a customer building using an OSPF (open shortest path first) routing algorithm.

The company has been offering wireless T1-like services for several years. Thompson, however, claims that the five-nines availability is big news.

"There's a huge jump when you go from four nines to five nines," he says. "For instance, it provides much more reliability for VOIP services."

TowerStream may be one of the first wireless broadband vendors to offer five nines, but some users have been building reliability into their broadband systems all by themselves.

"It's kind of unique and you have to put it together yourself," admits Jeff Blank, supervisor of networking for the Allegany County Board of Supervisors, who is running a private broadband network in rural Maryland.

"It's kind of important for us... We have redundant radios and redundant pathways," says Blank. He explains that the network is backhauling a lot of public safety data, so failure is not really an option.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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