Sunday, October 13, 2002

University of Hawaii

New high-speed link
aids UH research

By Helen Altonn

University of Hawaii marine scientists working in Coconut Island laboratories are saving a lot of travel time and hassle with a new high-speed communications link.

The 2.7-mile wireless virtual-fiber link, recently installed by Loea Communications Corp., goes from the island in Kaneohe Bay to Windward Community College for high-speed connections to the Manoa campus.

It is 100 times faster than current microwave communications, according to the company.

"You could download a whole movie in less than 10 seconds," said Lou Slaughter, Loea official.

He said the technology was developed by Loea's parent company, Trex Enterprises Corp., which has offices on Maui and Kauai.

UH is the first place to use the technology, which the company expects to be "very much in demand, not only in Hawaii but on the mainland and, in time, internationally," Slaughter said.

Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology director Jo-Ann Leong said that with the new capability, Coconut Island's "research activities will be more productive, as our scientists will not have to travel back to the main campus to access and work with their databases."

One of the first to benefit was researcher Eric Hochberg, who downloaded a 300-megabyte file for a presentation he was to give the day that the link was installed.

Without the connection, he said, he would have had to make a round trip to the Manoa campus to download the file.

"I was able to save hours of wasted travel time," he said.

The world-renowned marine research institute has relied up to now on a low-capacity microwave link to Oahu that had intermittent interference problems, and limited availability and bandwidth, the officials said.

The new technology uses low-power, narrow beams originally developed for military thermal imaging to operate at very high frequency. They are about one-tenth the cost of fiber and almost 100 percent reliable, Loea Communications said.

C. Barry Raleigh, dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology, said: "We can see applications for this technology in distance learning. There is also the potential for linking many of the main campus buildings to extend our local area network at gigabyte speeds."

The fiberless link enables faculty, staff and students on Coconut Island to use high-speed connections from WCC to Manoa at 1.25 gigabytes per second, providing data capacity equal to 650 T1 (dedicated high-speed line) or 1,000 digital line (DSL) broadband connections.

A DSL provides access to the Internet over a telephone network.

The university currently is using less than 3 percent of the potential speed.

Trex originally developed the technology for security applications. It enables planes and helicopters to see through thick fog.

The link and related technology were developed under contract to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and Office of Naval Research.

Bruce McDonald, Loea vice president of Hawaii operations, said, "It is only fitting that the university be the first to benefit" from the technology.

Slaughter said it would have cost UH $500,000 to install a fiber link and it would have taken more than six months to lay the fiber. Loea's link was installed in half a day.

The cost would have been about $65,000, but was federally funded as part of a research project to demonstrate the technology, Slaughter said.

Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology

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