Connecting Rural Norway:
Direct Connect Slashes Network Backbone Costs with Exalt
With a mission to become a leading provider of wireless Internet and IP telephony services in rural Norway, Direct Connect AS must rein in costs as it grows its subscriber base. Thanks to a wireless network backbone built on Exalt microwave backhaul systems, this provider is meeting its challenges by replacing fiber links with reliable, cost-effective Exalt microwave infrastructure.
"With the fjords, the mountains, and often bad weather, it is more cost efficient to use microwave rather than fiber," says Inge Harald Olsen, CTO of Direct Connect. "And instead of leasing fiber from a competitor, we are building our own wireless network."
Making the Right Match
To decide which microwave backhaul systems to use in building its network, Direct Connect used a specific list of criteria to evaluate available options. First, the systems had to be cost-effective to buy and operate, and reliable enough to withstand the snow, ice, rain, and wind common in Norway's mountains and fjords. Second, the systems needed to be scalable so Direct Connect could add capacity over time without replacing or adding new equipment. Finally, the systems needed to be available in indoor, outdoor, and split-mount configurations so Direct Connect could match the systems to the varied geographies it serves.
"Of all the vendors we investigated," says Olsen, "we liked Exalt the best because Exalt has a full range of highly reliable systems to meet each of our capacity and distance needs, and Exalt offers a far lower cost of ownership."
Direct Connect is deploying a broad array of Exalt systems using licensed frequencies, including all-outdoor ExtendAir systems in the 13 and 18 GHz frequencies, all-outdoor ExploreAir systems in the 23 GHz frequency, and EX split-mount systems using the 7 GHz frequency band. The company chose the Exalt EX split-mount systems to meet the stringent requirements of a military base in its network, and the all-outdoor ExploreAir and ExtendAir systems to support all other locations. The Exalt systems are configured to carry from 80 to 800 megabits per second (Mbps) of Ethernet traffic over distances ranging from 7 to 49 kilometers (approximately 4 to 30 miles).
An ROI that Means Business
Exalt microwave backhaul systems deliver large cost saving to Direct Connect. As an example, for a link between the cities of Bergen and Voss, Direct Connect is using three Exalt microwave systems to connect a node serving 320 subscribers, and by doing so is replacing a leased fiber connection costing nearly 240,000 Norwegian Kroner (NOK) per year (approximately US$43,000). The deployment will pay for itself within one year through the savings on lease line costs. Another Exalt microwave link in the northern part of Norway is replacing a fiber run that costs 17,400 NOK per month (approximately US$3,000) and will return the cost of its deployment within six months.
Exalt also helps Direct Connect keep its costs low through pay-as-you-grow capacity upgrades on all of its systems. By purchasing software license keys, Direct Connect can upgrade the capacity of any Exalt microwave link without replacing equipment. In addition, Exalt's unique field-replaceable diplexers helps DirectConnect keep sparing costs low. Direct Connect can stock just one radio in each frequency and change the radio's sub-band within minutes to meet a specific application by replacing an inexpensive external diplexer. This capability reduces sparing costs up to 90 percent.
"The low sparing costs were particularly attractive to us because we need to keep our costs low," says Olsen.
Based on its early success with Exalt systems, Direct Connect is hoping to offer direct microwave connections to industries that want fatter pipes in the areas it serves. "We can build on our experience with Exalt to expand our business further, and we know that Exalt will have the systems we need for the job," says Olsen.