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12/23/2002 - Northwest Microwave Bridges Boundaries

Five years ago, when the Terabyte Triangle economic development initiative was conceived, the optical fiber under the streets in downtown Spokane was all-important. Today, wireless communications have grown to share an important portion of digital, high-speed communications. Wireless has become a major player in both long haul and last-mile communications. Although wireless may not have the seemingly unlimited bandwidth of fiber, it makes up for it in lower cost, easier access, and potentially equal reliability.

For the past eight years, from its point-of-presence (POP) in the Paulsen building, Northwest Microwave has been a long-haul operator with POPs and repeaters connecting Eastern Washington from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene, Pullman, Lewiston, Walla Walla, Yakima, Seattle, and beyond. NWMI is now looking at ways to connect Spokane to Cheney and Coeur d’Alene to Sandpoint. Northwest Microwave’s home office is in Yakima.

Microwave transmissions can go economically where major carriers can’t operate, and they can cross local area transport access (LATA) boundaries. LATA is a legal restriction that prevents local exchange carriers from reaching outside their assigned zone. Businesses with offices in several Inland Northwest cities, ISPs, and some cellular phone carriers use Northwest Microwave to simplify red tape and heightened cost caused by LATAs --- for example the Washington/Idaho boarder that separates businesses with offices in both Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. Demand for this shortcut was so great that Northwest Microwave’s Spokane to Coeur d’Alene wireless capacity was filled in ten months, according to Tom Mustain, NWMI network manager. In order to continue to provide robust service and to meet the demand, Northwest Microwave purchased fiber from Avista to serve the overflow traffic.

Northwest Microwave’s backbone uses 6GHZ, 125Mb digital radios. The repeaters use a variety of transports including: 18GHz 45Mb, 11GHz 90Mb, 6GHz 90 Mb to 135Mb, and OC-12 fiber sonnet rings. Their service includes DS-1 and DS-3 private lines with data rates of 1.544 Mb/sec on the DS-1 and 45 Mb/sec on the DS-3. In some areas, Northwest Microwave is able to provide OC3 - 12 connections. Service is all-digital and can transmit voice, data, and video to provide LAN and WAN interconnectivity that is ATM compatible. Microwave is deployed on licensed frequencies so that there is no interference.

When using microwaves for long haul, the end user must provide a feed at both ends to connect to the microwave system. This feed, called a local loop or last mile, is usually provided by a LEC such as Qwest or Verizon, or a CLEC such as Time Warner, XO, etc. When a company chooses Northwest Microwave, NWMI does all the work --- they have the alliances in place to provision the local loop. When you order your microwave service, NWMI contacts a local loop provider; the job is done electronically, and all connections are up and running quickly. NWMI does all the trouble shooting on the connections and circuits involved, but only bills for the microwave portion of the service. The LEC bills the other portion.

Northwest Microwave promises quality, connections on time, and that it will work at 99.98% reliability, according to Jonnie Woods, Account Executive for NWMI. For more information, call Jonnie Woods at Office: (509) 327-2253, Mobile: (509) 710-3485; (800) 800-5347 or e-mail

Billie Moreland
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