Point of view

Philip Bolt, president and CEO of Orthogon Systems sees WiMax as an important last mile access technology but believes that proprietary point-to-point wireless solutions are a better bet for wireless backhaul.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  August 21, 2005

|~|Bolt,-Philip_m.jpg|~||~|Philip Bolt, president and CEO of Orthogon Systems sees WiMax as an important last mile access technology but believes that proprietary point-to-point wireless solutions are a better bet for wireless backhaul.

Network Middle East: Can you tell us what your company specialises in and how long you have been active in the Middle East?

Philip Bolt: Orthogon Systems is a leading provider of carrier grade point-to-point broadband wireless systems, operating in the 5.8GHz band. The company was founded in 2000, we’ve been active in the region for the last two years and we set up our own office in Dubai in the last year.

NME: What kind of business opportunities do you see in the Middle East and how important are they to Orthogon?

PB: I consider the Middle East to be a very important area, internet service providers (ISPs) can use our products for public networks and backhauling and it gives them great flexibility. That said, the majority of sales have been to private networks such as banks, schools, hospitals and in the government and military sectors.
NME: How important is Gitex to Orthogon? Last year you participated with ViewNet, will you have your own stand this year?

PB: We’ve got our own stand this year in the pavilion behind Hall 6 and we will be supporting partners’ stands. We’re already getting good feedback from partners and potential partners who want to come and visit us. We see it as a catalyst for the region, it will be a major event from our point of view.
At Gitex, we’ll focus heavily on our OS Spectra product, we’ll be running a live demo of that. The plan is to do several demos, one internally across the exhibition, which will show the non line of sight capability of OS Spectra. We’d also like to do an external demo but we are still working to get permission. We also plan to make product and partner announcements before or during Gitex.
If enterprises need to connect two buildings on different sites, or across a site, or if an operator needs to backhaul a network, they will need reliable connectivity, which we can offer. Our wireless technology is more reliable in many cases than copper and fibre and our radios work where many other radios do not. A typical CIO wants four 9s availability, an operator wants five 9s. We engineer our links to have five and six 9s availability.

NME: Can you tell me how your technology delivers that reliability?

PB: If you open up our radios you’ll find we have multiple receivers, transmitters and antennas and we use a technique called Multi-beam Space Time Coding. We fire multiple copies of the data between two radios, and can correlate that data so that while an ordinary radio is subject to fading, ours can de-correlate the way these different beams propagate. Therefore, if one fades the other restores the signal.
Fading is particularly bad in this region because of atmospheric conditions, which create ducting (atmospheric interference caused by the proximity of hot and cold air masses). Our systems have multiple antennas so we can spatially separate the antennas. Users have the option of buying kit in a configuration where they can place their own antennas and put physical space between them, which this reduces the effects of ducting.

NME: Is that unique to Orthogon and does it make your solutions more expensive?

PB: It is unique to Orthogon in the point-to-point Ethernet market, but cost-wise we are on a par with many others.

NME: Orthogon is an up and coming company but is far from being a big name. What can you say to potential customers to persuade them that Orthogon is serious about the region?

PB: We’ve already set up an office with highly professional staff, with in-country technical support in Dubai and we’re looking at expanding our presence in the region. We’re also going through a series of regulatory approvals to increase the number of markets we can address. In addition, we’re looking at expansion into Africa and project that we will add two or three more staff in the next six to eight months.

NME: What stage have you reached in terms of building a partner network?

PB: We currently have three distributors looking after our network and a further 35-40 partners, taking into account the Middle East and Africa. We have a fourth distributor in South Africa, which has access into North Africa. We have eight partners in the preferred partner category and one partner very close to platinum status, which is fantastic for us. To get platinum status a partner must fulfill revenue, technical and support criteria.
These partners are very good at supplying technical support, which is key in the region. We’re deploying a unique technology and run training sessions every quarter, while our competitors typically train partners on an annual basis.

NME: Is WiMax gaining traction? Will it be beneficial to companies such as Orthogon that currently provide proprietary wide area wireless solutions?

PB: There is now traction, the first interoperability trials are taking place. We see WiMax as a great opportunity. We have optimised our technology to backhaul WiMax base stations, with our products able to manage WiMax radios. We have designed OS Spectra so that in same bandwidth of three WiMax base stations, we can backhaul 20 WiMax base stations. This means the operator doesn’t have to use spectrum on backhaul, he can use it for last mile access.

NME: But isn’t WiMax being touted as a backhaul technology?

PB: You may find WiMax being used to backhaul Wi-Fi hotspots, but eventually the WiMax itself needs to be backhauled and that’s where we come in. WiMax is primarily a last mile access solution for under-developed areas, although there are propagation issues.

NME: Why is your proprietary solution more suitable for backhaul than WiMax standard products?

PB: We’re significantly ahead of WiMax, we’re a WiMax superset. For example, the WiMax maximum modulation rate is 64 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation). OS Spectra does 256 QAM. This means that you effectively get 50% more data rate with OS Spectra. The denser the modulation mode, the more bits over symbol you can carry. We offer 3-500% more spectral efficiency than WiMax.
In addition, our MIMO technology gives you anti-fade capability, which can be used to combat the deep fading you get with non line of sight solutions or the sort of atmospheric fading you get in the Gulf area due to ducting.

NME: Infonetics Research says the WiMax market was worth US$8.8 million in 2004 and will grow to US$110.4 million in 2005. Is this encouraging?

PB: That report is specifically to do with last mile access. We do not cater to this market unless it is in very high value situations. The market we’re playing into is point-to-point Ethernet bridging. This year that market is worth US$180 million and by 2008 it is forecast to grow to US$800 million. The whole point-to-point market is worth US$3.5 billion dollars. These figures are based on findings from Skylight research.||**||

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