Millimeter-wave frequencies have long represented untapped bandwidth. The cost of producing the components needed for transmitters and receivers, of course, has traditionally been one of the chief barriers to using millimeter waves for widespread communications systems. But Giga-Beam Corp. (Herndon, VA) has managed to assemble cost-effective millimeter-wave solutions with unique system architectures for those bands with the potential of providing OC-192-level performance at 10 Gb/s for "last mile" communications links.

Founded in 2004 by Lou Slaughter (formerly of Loea Communications Corp.) and Doug Lockie (founder of Endgate/Endwave Corp.), GigaBeam (www.gigabeam.com) boasts an impressive lineup of engineering staff and consultants, including noted synthesizer designer Scott Wetenkamp. Slaughter serves as chairman and CEO while Lockie is president and CTO. Lockie, long a visionary on the commercial use of millimeter-wave technology, has served on the FCC Spectrum Application Panel and is presently co-chair of the Wireless Communication Association's (www.wcai.com) "Above 60 GHz Spectrum Initiative."

In recognizing the available bandwidth at these higher frequencies, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not long ago authorized the use of the 71-to-76-GHz, 81-to-86-GHz, and 91-to-96-GHz frequency bands for wireless point-to-point commercial communications use. Of course, one of the limiting factors to the use of particular millimeter-wave bands is water absorption through the atmosphere, which can disrupt operation during conditions of rainfall or high humidity (as those with satellite-television service can attest). But Giga-Beam's WiFiber technology currently provides reliable point-to-point two-way communications at data rates to 2.7 Gb/s with 99.999 percent weather availability for links of one mile or longer.

The WiFiber products, which have been installed at Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH), Skytility (Portland, OR), and the Trump International Hotel (New York, NY), employ 12-in. flat-panel antennas and 24-in.-diameter parabolic antennas (see figure). As with fiber-optic links, they can support almost every communications protocol, and feature rock-solid security by means of multiple encryption levels.

Although most of GigaBeam's systems are installed for commercial users, the firm recently announced a more than $550,000 order for WiFiber wireless fiber links from EPS Network Solutions (www.epscorp.com), a systems integration partner, to support a program EPS is managing for the US Department of Defense (DoD).

The firm's WiFiber G-1.25 product series provides full-duplex communications at 1 Gb/s (about 1000 DSL connections), with the new WiFiber G-2.7 series to offer 2.7 Gb/s service. This latter product line will support a wide range of protocols, including Gigabit Ethernet, OC-48/STM-16 at 2.488 Gb/s, SMPTE 292M at 1.485 Gb/s, and Fibre Channel at both 1 and 2 Gb/s. Most recently, the company received European certification of its WiFiber systems, meeting the requirements of the European Commission's Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment (R&TTE) Directive. The certification entitles Giga-Beam to affix the CE-Mark to its WiFiber products and sell across 25 European Union (EU) countries and 4 European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. The firm had previously installed links in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy.