Michigan Tech campus selects BridgeWave Gigabit wireless system as fiber alternative

Oct. 21, 2011
BridgeWave's Gigabit wireless Ethernet bridges eliminate network disruptions the campus had struggled with previously, connecting disparate campus buildings across a shipping canal.

BridgeWave Communications announced that Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) is utilizing BridgeWave's 80 GHz millimeter wave backhaul systems to connect several disparate campus buildings across the Portage shipping canal, which crosses the campus. BridgeWave says its Gigabit wireless Ethernet bridges work to eliminate the network disruptions the campus had struggled with previously, while providing an affordable alternative to fiber.

According to BridgeWave, as the university continued to expand, the IT department experienced challenges maintaining connectivity to several remote locations. While adequate during their initial deployments, the unlicensed microwave links in question were becoming prone to interference issues, yielding unacceptable levels of performance as demands on the network increased. Shane Godmere, a senior telecommunications engineer at Michigan Tech, said that he explored solutions that would eliminate the interference issues and offer ample bandwidth for the various applications being transported across the networks, including large files of research data and a 24-hour data stream from surveillance cameras scattered across the campus.

"My team researched several alternatives, including laying fiber, but BridgeWave's links were the best solution for us," said Godmere. "BridgeWave's product was far superior to any of its competitors and offered fiber-equivalent support for a fraction of the cost."

Michigan Tech deployed combinations of the BridgeWave AR80-AES, AR80X and FE80U systems, each taking less than two days to implement. Despite inclement weather during Michigan's notoriously snowy winters, the links continued to provide high availability and maintained connectivity to the campus network. The 80 GHz links also eliminated the need to trench under the nearby shipping canal, which saved the campus time and money as the deployment would have taken 24 months with initial cost estimates just under a million dollars. It was also more economical than what commercial providers could have offered.

An added benefit to the use of full-rate Gigabit connections across facilities was the consolidation of servers on campus. Previously, distributed servers were needed to provide instant access to data due to the bandwidth constraints and interference levels of the unlicensed solutions. With Gigabit connectivity on the network, these bottlenecks have been removed and remote users have the same network experience as local users.

"BridgeWave's gigabit Ethernet radios have solved our connectivity needs for sites that were difficult and costly to service with fiber," said Godmere. "Their products have provided us with carrier-grade connectivity, high availability and worked well within our budget. My team is thrilled with the time we've gotten back that was once wasted troubleshooting."

The GigE wireless bridges deployed have a highly secure, narrow antenna beam width, which is useful when transferring sensitive information across the campus network. BridgeWave says that its AdaptRate (AR) radios also include Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), the strongest data encryption available. Michigan Tech's PCI-DSS in-scope compliance is much easier to attain with these characteristics.

Godmere noted, "BridgeWave's links have given my team peace of mind that our network won't go down or experience radio frequency (RF) interference. We've been able to organize campus IT departments into larger units and, now, services are running out of two main datacenters instead of multiple ones scattered across the campus."

"Our high capacity wireless solutions provide fiber-equivalent network connectivity without the infrastructure costs," concludes Amir Makleff, president and CEO of BridgeWave Communications. "As bandwidth demands increase, university IT departments are faced with balancing the network needs with enabling greater productivity and efficiency for staff and students. 80 GHz links are an excellent alternative to fiber and support Michigan Tech's network requirements."

BridgeWave is exhibiting at the EDUCAUSE 2011 event in Philadelphia, PA, Oct. 18 -- 21, 2011, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Booth #2121. For additional information about BridgeWave's offerings, visit: http://www.bridgewave.com/solutions/education.cfm.

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