The South Georgia Regional Information Technology Authority (SGRITA) has deployed a wireless native Ethernet backhaul solution to provide a broadband network throughout five rural counties in southern Georgia that eventually will be utilized by public-safety agencies.

SGRITA is using a solution from backhaul solution provider DragonWave. It has completed Phase I of the network, using the vendor's Horizon Compact radios on 25 towers. The system now covers 2000 square miles, providing 190 Mbps of capacity to the counties of Baker, Calhoun, Early, Miller and Mitchell.

A large Ethernet ring — 300 miles in circumference — was installed with microwave links extending coverage beyond that. That type of network has the potential to cover some 3000 to 4000 square miles in the long run, said Alan Solheim, vice president of product management with DragonWave.

"SGRITA wanted to bring broadband services into several school districts in Georgia that were being served by leased T-1 lines," said Solheim. "This is down the alley of what the new broadband stimulus package is all about."

As part of President Obama's stimulus package, $7.2 billion has been allocated for broadband deployments in underserved areas.

SGRITA is now able to provide high-speed internet service to area industry, government offices, schools, public-safety professionals and other interests. The network is designed to attract industry to the region as well. Applications include VOIP, content filtering and distance learning. In the future, SGRITA can add a mobile WiMAX network or multipoint service on top of the existing network, Solheim said.

SGRITA obtained grants from the E-rate portion of the federal universal-service fund and also used its own investment to embark on the project. The goal is to add public-safety agencies to the user group from a backhaul or broadband-access perspective.

"We believe in wireless solutions for rural broadband deployments," said SGRITA Director Lee Conner. "Before deploying this network, our schools were in the bottom 8% in terms of access capability in comparison to the rest of the country. We're now in the top 1% in the world in terms of speed and level of access."