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WaveBolt: The wireless way around trees and budget limits

By Cirronet

Broadband is rapidly becoming the standard for accessing and transmitting information over the Internet. It’s no secret, however, that cable operators and traditional telecom carriers have not been aggressive in bringing high-speed Internet access to customers outside of cities and suburbs.

Pundits call it "the digital divide." For broadband access, proximity to urban areas -not income- is the major factor separating the digital "haves" from the "have-nots."
Light population density undermines the business model for providers to offer DSL or cable broadband services to rural customers. In the U.S., for example, where 55 percent of rural phone company switches are more than 70 miles from an Internet backbone network, the average cost of upgrading a phone line to broadband in a remote area can exceed $9,000 USD.

Many regions of the world lack even the basic infrastructure to support dial-up Internet access. Where there’s a will to get online, however, there’s always a way-as demonstrated by the village of Ban Phon Kham, Laos, where citizens have no electricity or telephones. But they have Internet access, thanks to an aid project that rigged up a wireless network composed of stationary bicycles linked to batteries, computers, radio transmitters, antennas, and a single phone line at the hospital. One minute of pedaling earns you five minutes of computer power to check rice and vegetable prices or make cheap Internet phone calls!

Recognizing the social consequences of the digital divide, governments all over the world are seeking ways to extend broadband deployment to the digital have-nots. But there’s no need to wait for government initiatives or subsidies. Private enterprises are using fixed wireless technologies to bring broadband Internet access to remote areas.

Unlike DSL, cable and fiber-optic technologies, fixed wireless avoids the expense of a wired broadband connection to the home. Instead, the Internet backbone connects to a base station radio and antenna, usually on a tower or hilltop, which transmits to the radios and antennas of homes within several miles. Equipment costs for fixed wireless have plummeted. And no longer must there be line of sight between the base station and the customer’s antenna; within a range of about 1.5 kilometers, wireless signals can work around trees or buildings.

All wireless solutions are not created equal
Typical fixed wireless offerings are restricted to line-of-sight or near-LOS operation, requiring a clear, direct signal path between Internet Service Provider (ISP) access points and subscriber antennas. To operate effectively, the path must be devoid of such physical obstructions as buildings and terrain variations that can either block the signal or introduce multi-path interference due to refraction or signal reflection. Even seasonal foliage can be detrimental and limits the viability of the method. The first non-line-of-sight (NLOS) solutions used high power transmission and advanced techniques to overcome LOS shortcomings. This added significant complexity, however, resulting in high equipment and deployment costs unjustifiable for most ISPs.

802.11b, an IEEE standard for wireless local area communication, is touted as a possible solution for wireless broadband. However, 802.11b was originally designed for indoor networks and therefore lacks the range and robustness necessary for effective last-mile communications. 802.11b uses Carrier Sense Multiple Access (CSMA) protocol for system access. Under a CSMA scheme, the subscriber listens until the channel is clear and then transmits. This is fine if little data is being passed on the network. However, if multiple radios try to transmit at the same time, collisions occur; radios must try again to send and receive data.

WaveBolt works wherever
Cirronet, Inc. of Norcross, Georgia, USA has introduced its WaveBolt product line as a license-free, fixed wireless solution for remote areas anywhere in the world. Cirronet’s WaveBolt offering is uniquely simple to deploy and operate profitably, particularly in areas of limited or no wired telephony infrastructure. Applying extensive experience in industrial wireless communications, Cirronet designed WaveBolt to serve ISP needs for a complete, wireless broadband Internet access system that is rugged, cost effective and easily configured.

WaveBolt consists of one or more ISP-installed access points (APs) and multiple user-installed subscriber units (SUs).

Cirronet’s WaveBolt system overcomes both the operational drawbacks of LOS, and the cost and complexity typical of various NLOS solutions. WaveBolt employs Cirronet’s patented frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) technology, honed over more than a decade of successful deployments in industrial and commercial settings. Applying the technology to fixed wireless broadband Internet access enables Cirronet to deliver a solution with an unprecedented combination of affordability, ease of installation and NLOS performance. WaveBolt consists of one or more ISP-installed access points (APs) and multiple user-installed subscriber units (SUs).

WaveBolt’s components
WaveBolt consists of an access point and an access point radio at one or more points of presence of the ISP and subscriber equipment at each subscriber’s location. The system dynamically allocates bandwidth and provides Internet access at rates of over 1 Mbps. Unlike competing wireless solutions, WaveBolt relies on a robust Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) protocol for collision-free performance. The WaveBolt access point is a scalable, co-locatable building block for ISP points of presence (PoPs). It allows the ISP to tailor the system to provide a range of performance levels as well as support different numbers of users in different locations.

Cirronet's WaveBolt delivers high-speed communications to areas underserved by other methods—including dial-up and wired broadband

With the WaveBolt access point placed near the desired coverage area, the surrounding population within about 1.5 km does not have to have direct line-of-sight with the access point. WaveBolt’s LOS range is 8 km in most countries; 3 km in E.U. regulated countries. The user-installable subscriber unit integrates a microwave antenna, radio and modem into a compact, hand-sized device. A 15-meter cable connects it to the subscriber’s computer via a standard USB, RS-232 or Ethernet interface.

Cirronet’s FHSS technology is highly immune to both multi-path and jamming interference. Rapid and random sequencing of the signal over a broad spectrum of frequencies has proven WaveBolt effective in dealing with typical NLOS conditions. WaveBolt also incorporates the company’s patented Media Access Control (MAC) software to further ensure error-free data transmission regardless of signal fade and latency.

Cirronet's WaveBolt delivers high-speed communications to areas underserved by other methods—including dial-up and wired broadband

One radio, 60 subscribers, no collisions
Thanks to WaveBolt’s unsurpassed scalability, an ISP can launch a business on a modest budget and expand as needed with minimal incremental investments. Each WaveBolt access point card can support up to four radios. Unlike competing technologies, WaveBolt avoids data collisions through its use of TDMA modulation, so each radio can support up to 60 simultaneous subscribers.

In short, Cirronet’s WaveBolt solution lowers the cost-of-entry barrier making high-speed, wireless Internet access a profitable business. WaveBolt’s combination of low overall equipment costs and user-installable customer premises equipment (CPE) makes profitability a reality with as few as 50 subscribers. The ISP cost - including subscriber CPE and the amortized cost of the access point - virtually guarantees a rapid return on investment.

Entrepreneurial ISPs around the globe can now offer a desired service at reasonable rates to areas that have previously been limited to dial-up access. With WaveBolt, the ISP can promise high reliability, often when LOS operation isn’t feasible. Best of all, WaveBolt makes this possible with a highly attractive business case based on no licensing costs, low initial capital investment, excellent scalability, and deployment ease.

For more information, please contact: wavebolt@cirronet.com

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