Anthem?s Wide Area Network

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For months now, the hottest trend in computing devices for builders has been small, hand-held computing devices. But at least one builder is rediscovering the principal advantage of using laptop computers: a greater ability to handle bandwidth.

September 13, 2000

 

A robust wireless network enables field techs at Anthem Arizona to send work orders and access documents in real time.

 

The laptop strikes back.

For months now, the hottest trend in computing devices for builders has been small, hand-held computing devices. But at least one builder is rediscovering the principal advantage of using laptop computers: a greater ability to handle bandwidth.

At Del Webb’s active adult community, Anthem Arizona, customer service reps have been armed with laptops that are continuously connected to the community’s central server and the Internet via a newly installed, high speed wireless network. Fifteen field reps are now able to work in real time, updating cases and issuing work orders to painters, carpenters etc. without the need to later synchronize with the system.

"This dramatically improves our entire-day-to-day operations. Our technicians can immediately complete entire transactions electronically, without having to go back to the office," says Anthem’s director of customer care Byron Jones. Customer service reps can now send and receive e-mail, process orders, obtain important documents or research product specifications while they are in the field.

Up and running since May, the system relies on a network of three antennas that relay powerful radio signals within a five mile radius of the community’s administration building. At 11 megabits per second, the signal is powerful enough to exactly mirror the experience of working on a PC directly wired to a central server. And, says Jones who experimented with cellular modems before settling on the radio frequency system, there are no service interruptions as a result of a "bad cell."

Marketed as the Waveland system, the equipment was supplied and installed by Lucent Technologies’ Voice and Data Strategies. The building-mounted, omnidirectional antennas and amplifiers are 3 ft. tall and cost about $2000 each, says Jones, not including the cost of fitting each service vehicle with a smaller antenna and laptop mounting station.

Jones says response time to homeowner calls has been greatly reduced and many residents are using the community intranet to request service via e-mail. These requests often get relayed directly to technicians in the field.

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