Sunday, October 19, 2008

Which Wireless Access Technology Will Support the Future Broadband Requirements of a Rural Community?

Rural broadband requirements are changing. Both residential and businesses are migrating from using asymmetrical applications such as E-Mail and Web to symmetrical applications including Voice Over IP (VoIP) and Video.

There are three wireless access technolgies: 802.11 (WiFi), 802.16e (WiMAX), and Long Term Evolution (LTE). In order to provide the level of service that users will need in the next two to four years, these technologies will have to meet specific requirements including:
  • Support Asymmetrical Applications (E-Mail, Web)
  • Support Symmetrical Applications (VoIP, Video)
  • High Availablity (99.999%)
  • Quality of Service (QoS)
  • Low Monthly Costs
A. 802.11 (WiFI)
The 802.11 (WiFi) standard operates in the unlicensed spectrum band of 900MHz, 2.4GHz, and 5.8Ghz. It specifies the physical and MAC (Media Access Control) layer of wireless communication technology designed to provide high bandwidth wireless data communications between computers in an indoor environment.

The standard defines a single channel between the Access Point (AP) located on the tower, and the customer premises equipment (CPE). The channel is used for both transmit and receive traffic. The original 802.11 standards could not guarantee QoS, because no mechanisms were adopted to give real-time traffic such as voice and video a higher priority access to the channel. The recently adopted 802.11e and WMM (WiFi Multimedia) standards were designed to enable QoS provisioning by using access enhancements such as Enhanced Distributed Control Access (EDCA) and Hybrid Controlled Channel Access (HCCA).

Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) have adopted 802.11 (WiFI) to provide rural broadband access for two reasons:

1. Low Cost of Entry
Many people attribute the success of 802.11 to the low cost and availability of 802.11 wireless interfaces in laptop computers. A WISP can setup a broadband access service a comparatively low cost versus other wireless access technologies.

2. Availability of Unlicensed Spectrum
Industry Canada manages both the licensed and unlicensed spectrum in Canada. Unlicensed spectrum was initially established for indoor voice and data applications. Licensed spectrum is typically auctioned to the highest bidder. Most WISPs use unlicensed spectrum in rural areas.

B. 802.16e (WiMAX)
802.16e (WiMAX) was designed from the bottom up to support both asymmetrical and symmetrical voice and data applications. WiMAX uses licensed spectrum in the 2.3GHz, 2.5Ghz and 3.5Ghz bands. The WiMAX standard includes profiles to provide fixed, nomadic, and mobile services. WiMAX can provide multiple types of services to the same user with different QoS levels. For example, it is possible to install a single WiMAX transceiver in an office building and provide real time telephone services and best effort Internet browsing services on the same WiMAX connection. To do this, WiMAX was designed to mix contention based (competitive access) and contention free (polled access) to provide services which have different quality of service (QoS) levels.

Many companies are starting to mass produce inexpensive WiMAX chips. It is expected that a typical WiMAX interface on a Laptop will cost between $60.00 to $80.00. Intel predicts that cheap WiMAX chips will be embedded in all kinds of devices including parking meters, home energy meters, and vending machines. This mass production of chip sets will eventually drive the cost of using WiMAX to provide rural broadband access.

Rogers Communications and Bell Canada have announced an agreement to jointly build and manage a Canada-wide WiMAX network. Inukshuk Internet Inc. will build and operate the network. Inukshuk will be owned and controlled equally by Rogers and Bell. Both companies have launched WiMAX services: Bell Canada (Sympatico High Speed Unplugged) and Rogers Communicatins (Portable Internet)

C. Long Term Evolution (LTE)
Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the wireless technology that will replace the existing mobility networks. Rogers, Bell, and TELUS have announced plans to migrate to LTE in the near future. LTE is a new paradigm is access incorporating a new modulation technique called OFDM (Orthogonal Frequence Division Multiplexing) and an antenna platform called MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output).

LTE networks will also provide the capacity to support an explosion in demand for connectivity from a new generation of consumer devices designed for new "Mobile" applications. If you are interested Nortel has provided a LTE drive demo at YouTube (

Rural Users Should Have a Choice
In the next three years these three competing technologies will be available to rural users. The rural users should be able to chose the technology based on cost, availability, and their applications. As in urban centers, there will be a mix of users in rural communities. Some may only require basic access, while others may need more bandwidth or a higher level of service, and some users may want the ability to be more mobile.

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion)
All three wireless technologies will coexist in rural communities. Counties and municipalities should not focus solely on a single provider and technology, but provide the venue and opportunity for their community to have access to all three, providing the ability for their constituents to have a choice.

"Having a choice will be an enabler for rural economic development."


Ken Chapman said...

What will be the price points for each service? What are the service reliability issues? Can towers be set up legally, cost-effectively and quickly in this market meltdown economy? What is the timing and user cost of the new services that are coming?

These are all critical issues in guessing which will be VHS and which will be Beta...both to be replaced by DVD and then TIVO and PVR setups and then by waht ever comes next.

Les said...

That’s all fine and well, yet big players such as Telus, Bell etc that have mountains of money and do not let the smaller ISP play fair in their back yard, yet will move into the rural area with monies from sources like deferral funds.
Exactly where then does the competition come in when these power houses push out the smaller ISP who build and built their networks based on personal cash flow.
The large ISP’s do everything in their power to ensure that smaller ISP’s stay small. The reduced size, in many circumstances due to road blocks put in place by the provincial telco (Telus - not naming names), limits the smaller ISP in its ability to generate capital and adopt new technologies.
Really, if the Province wants to foster growth in this sector then it needs to assist the smaller ISP to remove the road blocks put in place by these telco’s and opening economic pathways.
Also of note, while access to the Albera Supernet exists, it does NOT exist in larger communities with a higher density of possible users conveniently called the base network. Funny how the base network exists where Telus highspeed exists removing the ability for smaller ISP’s to access large numbers of subscribers and compete on a level playing field. I seem to remember the Innovation and Science proposal stating fair and equal access in all areas.
What we do not need is large telco’s accessing the area. What we need to do is make it easier for the 100 plus smaller ISP’s to be allowed to grow. Competition in Canada does not move forward by allowing the same 3 companies to operate. We have seen this in our wireless phone market in comparison to the United States.
Cost effective full duplex, QOS and Diffserv enabled wireless equipment exists and is very capable of providing VOIP, video and more. Unused copper is available yet Telus will not provide access to it. In addition major telco’s are putting road blocks in to say resellers do not get access to enhanced services as these services are new and not a part of the original POTS system. The people still paid for these with increase costs and in rural Alberta Telus charges for not only install of the line but a premium based on distance from the CO, a rural fee often charged to new home owners in rural subdivisions for a period of 18 or more months.
My point is this, we as people in rural areas of the province need to stop looking at the next best thing coming from out east because we are tired of fighting with the local telco. We need to stand up and say enough is enough, the technology exists here, the people and companies are here and the telco needs to get out of the way. If it will not the province needs to go to the CRTC and demand it. A provincial wide network was build using the tax payer’s dollar, the promise was highspeed, the promise was provider of last resort (Bell as a matter of fact) it is time for the province to force the removal of the road blocks so the work can get done. In what way is it ok that the province stands aside while Bell builds a 4G network through the province without standing behind the contract to be provider of last resort?
The solution, fine Bell for failure to provide, take that money and provide it to companies as an incentive to service unserviced areas (and I am not referring to Telus they already have an extra 500 million) and finally take the CRTC to task with regards to access to unused copper.

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James Kayden said...

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