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Microwave links campuses; low-cost system aids high-caliber education. (Wireless).

As the student population increased at its two remote Pennsylvania campuses, Allegany College of Maryland decided to expand classes by implementing compressed video systems and providing a continuous link to each campus. The college was founded in 1961 to provide low-cost, high-quality, higher education for residents at its main campus in Cumberland, MD, and eventually students from Bedford and Somerset, PA, counties.

Through the local telephone companies, college administrators set up an arrangement so that the college had half a T-1 line to each remote campus site, with a full T-1 at the main campus.

"We were dealing with five different phone companies for these two remote locations, plus our own phone company," says John Moore, Allegany's associate dean. "We ended up paying about $4,800 per month for the circuit to provide us with a half a T-1 to each site. Every time a circuit went down, we had to deal with five phone companies. It was a disaster trying to get it all back up and running again."

Because of the high monthly cost and the lack of reliable leased-line connections, Moore began contacting wireless companies for a better solution. With its rural location in Maryland, Allegany had difficulty getting many responses, and finally turned to its local communications company, TWR Communications.

TWR reviewed several different microwave wireless providers, looking for a vendor that would provide Allegany College not only with a wireless system, but one that would provide assistance in setting up the solution. TWR narrowed the selection down to Western Multiplex, Sunnyvale, CA.

"The other vendors weren't willing to help engineer the job and provide the type of technical support they did," says Jeff Hutter, TWR Communications' president. "Their systems provide a heavy-duty, longer-haul solution, and fit the niche we needed to give us better distance."

Once the systems were selected, Allegany College agreed to have TWR install, maintain and manage the new wireless solution, in addition to serving as its Internet service provider.

"In the few months we spent selecting our solution to implementing it, our monthly phone costs had gone up another $1,000 a month. With the new wireless systems in place, we are saving more than 25% a month," states Moore.

For the Allegany College application, TWR is using 16 Western Multiplex LYNX wireless systems with RAD multiplexers at both ends to accommodate the radios, telephone and Ethernet transfer. For its backbone hop to the first mountain site, TWR is using four LYNX radios, with 1.544 Mbps split, and running full T-1 to each campus site.

System features include two high-speed data ports (total 512 kbps), an auxiliary data port (9.6 kbps), an order wire circuit and a craft port with built-in network management.

Since implementation, Allegany College has gone from two phone circuits at each site to four phone circuits running voice, video and data. The new radios provide wire-speed connections that are more reliable than fiber or wire. With significant cost savings compared to leased-line connections, the radios provide Allegany College with a low-cost, fast and easy connection.

"With the new solution in place, we have not had a day of downtime," says Moore. "Before, we used to average one day per month of downtime with the phone companies."

With its new network of wireless systems in place, the college has doubled network speed in each location. It also has a reserve that can carry Internet service from TWR at double the speed the college was getting through the phone company-virtually for free.

"We're getting more phone circuits for the same amount of bandwidth than we were using before. And, the wireless systems are, by far, more reliable," concludes Moore.

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Comment:Microwave links campuses; low-cost system aids high-caliber education. (Wireless).
Publication:Communications News
Geographic Code:1U5MD
Date:May 1, 2002
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