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Medium-capacity microwave provides economical links.

From a popcorn plant in Illinois to a university in Pittsburgh, medium-capacity digital microwave radio demonstrates its worth.

Systems are overcoming inter-LATA challenges between Missouri and Illinois and providing cost-effective solutions with connectivity from DS1 to DS3.

Inexpensive, alternate means of establishing a communications network are emerging every day. What isn't happening every day is the economical manner in which the organizations solved their connectivity problems using privately owned microwave radios.

Gilster Mary Lee is a major food manufacturer that produces private label foods--Paul Newman's popcorn, for example.

The company's headquarters is in Chester, Illinois and its factories span a 15-mile radius around Chester and across the Mississippi River. The Mississippi, a LATA boundary, separates one of the company's largest manufacturing plants from its headquarters. Don Berry, Gilster Mary Lee's assistant vice president of information systems, faced a dilemma in establishing a cost-effective communications link across not only the River, but across a LATA boundary.

Because the company is growing rapidly, it was imperative that four primary sites be connected with communications facilities that were easily expandable. On the Missouri side of the river, two cities--Perryville and McBride--were linked with Bell T1s. On the Illinois side, Chester and Steelville also are linked via Bell T1 lines.

Gilster Mary Less needed a large amount of bandwidth to connect McBride and Chester because the link would be carrying voice and data communication.

Cost-conscious decision

When Berry looked into options for the communications link he considered leasing a T1 line. But at a cost over $4000 a month, that option was not attractive. As discussion progressed, privately owned microwaved was considered as an alternative to leased facilities.

"We weren't sure if we had line-of-sight from the two facilities," Berry says, "but with the aid of binoculars, from the roof we would see our headquarters five miles away.

"The solution was so simple and straightforward--just put up a couple of antennas, install microwave radios, and we had a communications network for a fraction of the cost of leasing T1 or laying fiber. The system will pay for itself in less than two years," he said.

Critical, growing link

The University of Pittsburgh has more than 75 buildings including an expansive medical complex. The renowned Western Psychiatric Clinic is located on the campus and the university's medical center is known for its human organ transplant expertise.

There are several communications centers for the campus and its vital clinical setting. One is about seven miles from the campus. Voice and data traffic is routed to one data center via a short-haul microwave radio link.

Most of the 75 buildings on campus are on a fiber network. The university has used short-haul microwave to link the sites for about 12 years, says Bruce Leonard, a data communications engineer at Pitt. But because of the university's rapidly growing data communications needs (in part due to the large medical environment), the data center recently began using a DS3 radio, which provides the equivalent of 28 T1 channels or 672 voice channels. The data center is linked to the campus via a line-of-sight radio path to the 38th floor of the 700-foot building called the Cathedral of Learning.

Leonard says the capacity of the radio through the microwave link provides multiple DS1 capabilities and room to grow. A mux expands options of the radio, and voice compression could allow for twice as much voice traffic. The university needs a large amount of bandwidth because of the demands for client-server interaction, file transfer, and terminal traffic.

The microwave radio also was cost effective for the university because the yearly expense of a leased fiber path to the data center was equal to the cost of the radio.

In a five-year lifespan, the radio was clearly the most cost-effective, even with fiber's greater bandwidth.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Microwave Networks; microwave networks at Gilster Mary Lee and the University of Pittsburgh
Author:Lammert, Walt
Publication:Communications News
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Food chain builds backbone network, bridges Ethernet LANs.
Next Article:El Paso upgrades analog network.

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