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The Dawning Of The Age Of WiMax

In April 28, a Verizon outage in midtown Manhattan shut down Mimeo .com Inc.'s Internet connection for six hours. CIO Scott Manner was left scrambling to figure out how the digital printing and shipping company's 60 employees could continue to work without their main connection to customers and the outside world.

The experience made Manner begin the search for a backup plan to the two T1 lines that were lost the day of the outage. He remembered an earlier sales pitch about "pre-WiMax" from TowerStream Corp.

Fast forward several months, and Mimeo is supplementing its T1-based Internet connections with a 3-Mbps nearly WiMax service beamed wirelessly from a base station atop the Empire State Building, right through one of Mimeo's Park Avenue office windows. "We need to make sure we have business continuity," Manner says. TowerStream says its New York City service reaches out to northern New Jersey, about 13 miles, and provides speeds of between 1.5 Mbps and 5 Mbps.

After lost its Internet connection for six hours, CIO Scott Manner decided he needed a backup plan.

After lost its Internet connection for six hours, CIO Scott Manner decided he needed a backup plan.

It's not exactly WiMax, but it's a step closer. Vendors have been promising a next-generation wireless service called WiMax that eventually will deliver data speeds of 70 Mbps or more over distances of more than 30 miles, but it could be years before that service emerges. Services such as TowerStream's are the earliest incarnations, offering greater distances, and in some cases faster speeds, than today's commonly used Wi-Fi. That technology is a piggyback Internet connection that relies on hot-spots, while WiMax is a direct, long-distance Internet connection.

As the fledgling technologies that will make up true WiMax start to emerge, they're being used for T1 replacement and backup in metropolitan areas and for Internet connectivity in places were broadband service isn't available.

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