Thanks for the discussion and input. I've had some time over the holidays to think this through and focus on our business drivers rather than which technology is the latest. I've realised that picking a vendor with the latest whiz-bang gadget and fastest speed is wrong and I should focus on what enables us to transform our business to accomodate the growth in bandwidth in the future.
Here's what I came up with...
- Provide 100M service now
- Provide 200M (or higher) in future
- Compete with cable operators
Remember, that I'm looking at an urban micropop setup, so short distances, high speed packages to compete with wireline services.
Based on this it was obvious I need a solution that handles 80mhz, or has a path to such a solution. Despite being urban, we have very little noise so 80mhz is feasible. We're unlikely to use beamstearing antennas due to the antenna size and where we are hosting our AP's.
This gave us the following selection criteria:
- Has 80mhz or roadmap to it
- Low CPE cost
- If 80mhz is in the future, must have migration path
Now that last point is golden for our business. If we deploy a non 80mhz product now and have to upgrade in the future, they must both co-exist using the same AP. We CANNOT run two networks side by side as this will consume twice the spectrum, and we would unlikely be able to negotiate mounting space for twice the AP's. So considering the 4 vendors that are in my target CPE price range (Cambium, Mikrotik, Mimosa, Ubiquiti) I concluded that...
- Ubiquiti: Doesn't have 80mhz now in AC product line (although some discussion that it can be enabled by hacking the config via shell). No roadmap that I've seen for wave2, only LTU. Therefore if we deploy AC now, to upgrade to a faster platform we would need to run AC and LTU as two seprate networks. Also, LTU is a new platform, and I suspect it may be another year after released before it becomes stable for prime time. This is a bust.
- Mimosa: Has 80mhz but the solution is quite expensive and our financial models require a much bigger capex investment to get this off the ground. I've also not seen anything from Mimosa that shows a roadmap, so it's unclear that there is anything beyond their first generation of kit (A5's, B series, and C5's). This is a bust.
- Mikrotik: They've had 80mhz for a long while, and wave 2 is just being released now. Although they don't have GPS and their wireless tech is somewhat behind the curve, it can work with some compromises such as horns, short distances, and keeping the users per AP low. Given that their very low cost gives me more than 4 x the profit than other vendors with around half the capex, it may be worth the compromises. This is a maybe, but needs some experimentation.
- Cambium: Only 40mhz available now, but this will deliver our 100M package. Has an upgrade path to 80mhz by swapping the AP and keeping old and new CPE's on one network. Has mature GPS. The wave2 stuff is also new, and you could argue the same point that I did for LTU above, but I have more confidence that Cambium will deliver a good product out the gate and any bugs will stabalise much quicker. 4x4 is also interesting, but unsure how I will yet implement this.
So in conclusion, it seems Cambium is the only one that ticks all boxes, even though it's 11n technology today. In our tests we get ~200M downlink in flexible mode, which isn't as good as ~260M from UBNT & MT, but it's enough for now and that extra 20-30% speed isn't as important as having an upgrade path.
Hope my reasoning makes sense, and I believe it echoes what a few of you have been saying above and on other similar threads.