How Wireless Backhaul technology can solve a wide range of remote connectivity challenges
Unleashing the power of wireless to reach remote locations
Wireless backhaul refers to the technology and infrastructure used to connect remote or hard-to-reach areas to the main network through wireless connections. In this blog we will consider some common use cases for wireless backhaul:
- Simple Bridge: an effective solution for connecting two buildings or locations, where running physical cables is impractical or prohibitively costly.
- Rural Broadband: Wireless backhaul is often used in rural areas where it may be challenging or costly to lay traditional wired networks. It enables the efficient delivery of broadband services to remote communities and locations.
- Public WiFi Networks: These WiFi networks, often found in public spaces such as parks, campuses, and urban areas, require a reliable and efficient backhaul infrastructure to connect access points to the internet.
- CCTV: Wireless backhaul supports video surveillance systems by providing high-bandwidth connectivity for transmitting video feeds from isolated cameras to the central monitoring location.
- Transportation: Wireless backhaul is used in transportation networks to enable real-time communication, telemetry and data transfer. It allows for traffic monitoring, smart traffic signal control, and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication, enhancing overall transportation efficiency and safety.
These are just a few examples of the many potential use cases for wireless backhaul. Its versatility and flexibility make it an essential technology for connecting remote areas, and expanding network coverage, across many applications.
First, let’s look at some of the technologies involved:
Broadly speaking there are three network topologies we can utilise for wireless backhaul, depending on the application:
Point-to-Point (PtP): PtP topology involves establishing a direct wireless link between two specific points, say two buildings. It can work over long distances, several kilometres, and can deliver high bandwidth. This type of link is reliable, secure, and offers low latency, making it suitable for real-time applications.
Point-to-Multipoint (PtMP): PtMP technology is similar but it enables a single base station to communicate with multiple client devices within it’s coverage area simultaneously. The clients can share the same frequency, which makes for a more efficient utilisation of spectrum. PtMP networks can be easily scaled by adding more clients.
Mesh: A mesh topology uses multiple interconnected devices (nodes) to create a wide network coverage area. Each node in the mesh network acts as a router, forwarding data to other nodes until it reaches its destination. It provides redundancy and increased reliability as data can be rerouted through alternative paths if one node fails. They offer scalability, allowing for the addition of new nodes without disrupting the overall network performance. Dynamic routing algorithms optimise data transmission paths and load balancing among nodes.
In the context of wireless backhaul, there are two types of spectrum (radio frequency) allocations: licensed and unlicensed.
Licensed Spectrum refers to specific frequency bands that are assigned to specific operators or organisations by regulatory authorities (Ofcom in the UK). These frequency bands are obtained through a licensing process that involves fees and compliance with regulatory requirements. Licensed spectrum provides exclusive access to a specific frequency range, ensuring interference-free communication within that range.
Unlicensed Spectrum refers to frequency bands that are available for use by anyone without the need for a license. These spectrum bands are typically open and free for public use, allowing for more flexibility and innovation in wireless communication technologies.
Each has its pros and cons but, in summary, the licensed spectrum offers higher reliability and quality but comes with higher costs and regulatory compliance, whereas the unlicensed spectrum provides more flexibility and lower costs but may be subject to interference and lacks quality guarantees.
Line of Sight
Line of sight (LOS) is a critical factor in wireless backhaul deployments, as it refers to the unobstructed path between the transmitting and receiving antennas. In order for wireless signals to propagate effectively, there needs to be a clear line of sight between the two points.
The Fresnel curve, refers to the area around the direct line of sight where signals can diffract and bend around obstacles without significant signal degradation, taking into account the wavelength of the transmitted signal, the distance between the antennas, and the physical characteristics of the obstacles in the path. It helps determine the required clearance above and below the direct line of sight to ensure minimal signal loss and interference.
Maintaining a clear Fresnel zone is crucial for achieving reliable and high-quality wireless backhaul connections. If the Fresnel zone is obstructed by buildings, trees, or other physical objects, it can lead to signal attenuation, multipath interference, and reduced overall performance.
To ensure optimal line of sight and Fresnel zone clearance it’s important to carry out a proper planning survey to assess the surrounding environment, identify potential obstacles, and determine the appropriate height and position for the antennas to maintain a clear line of sight.
Radar Detection and Avoidance
In any outdoor wireless deployment it is important to comply with local regulations and to avoid interference with radar systems and other licensed users, and only use equipment that’s supplied and configured for the correct regulatory domain.
Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) and Adaptive Power Control (APC) should be used to avoid interfering with radar signals. DFS allows the wireless bridge to monitor the frequency bands it operates in and automatically switch to a different frequency if radar activity is detected. APC adjusts the transmission power of the wireless bridge based on the strength of the radar signal, reducing the potential for interference.
Proper antenna placement and beamforming techniques can also help minimise the impact of radar interference. By carefully selecting antenna types, orientations, and heights, it is possible to optimise the wireless bridge's signal reception and transmission patterns while minimising the reception of radar signals. Beamforming technology, which focuses the wireless signal in a specific direction, can further enhance the bridge's ability to reject radar interference and improve overall link performance.
Now we’ve covered of some of the technology considerations let’s have a look at some of those potential use cases in a bit more detail:
A simple point-to-point (PtP) wireless bridge is an effective solution for connecting two locations, where running physical cables would be impractical or prohibitively costly. It allows for multi-gigabit data transmission between the two points without the need for extensive infrastructure changes.
It is a very common scenario, which we encounter frequently. An example might be two buildings that are close but perhaps either side of a railway line or public road so there’s no easy way to run fibre between them. Other perhaps a remote gatehouse or isolated camera post. If you can see the remote point from an existing site and we can mount the wireless equipment high enough to avoid traffic, trees, etc., a wireless link could be a cost-effective option.
Remote ticket machine
Our client, a regional train operating company, had a railway station with two platforms, one conveniently located next to the road with good communication services, the other at the opposite side of the tracks. The train company wanted to install a ticket machine on the far-side platform, but running fibre-optic cables would have been expensive and time-consuming, not to mention administratively complicated, because they would have needed regulatory permission and a suitable window to shut down the railway line. Therefore, a wireless link was a much quicker and more cost-effective solution.
Rural broadband solutions often rely on point-to-multipoint (PtMP) wireless technology to provide internet connectivity to remote areas where traditional wired networks may be challenging or costly to deploy. PtMP wireless technology offers several advantages in delivering broadband services to rural communities, not the least of which is that it can be deployed relatively quickly and with lower installation costs, making it an attractive solution for reaching rural areas with limited resources.
By utilising point-to-multipoint wireless technology, rural areas can empower rural residents, and unlock the economic and educational opportunities that come with reliable internet connectivity.
Rural Business Park
Our client, who owns and manages a large country estate, was to converting a number of outlying buildings into offices and workshops to rent out to rural businesses. But, of course, those business would need Internet connectivity, and it wasn’t cost effective to run fibre to each building. Fortunately, the existing estates office did have good internet connectivity, so we were able to use a PtMP wireless network to extend connectivity from the estate office out to the new rental properties.
Public WiFi Networks
Wireless backhaul plays a crucial role in supporting the connectivity and performance of public Wi-Fi networks. These networks, often found in public spaces such as parks, campuses, and urban areas, require a reliable and efficient backhaul infrastructure to connect access points to the internet.
By leveraging wireless backhaul technology, public Wi-Fi networks can provide reliable, high-speed, and scalable internet connectivity to users in various public spaces. Whether it's in urban areas, transportation hubs, or educational institutions, wireless backhaul ensures that public Wi-Fi networks can meet the growing demand for internet access while delivering a seamless user experience.
This public WiFi project in a small seaside town aimed to cover popular areas such as parks, promenades, and the town centre with seamless internet connectivity aimed primarily at visiting public. A guest WiFi portal would be used to promote local businesses and events. The primary objectives were reliable performance and cost-effectiveness. Given the town's coastal location and the challenges of laying physical cables in the area, wireless backhaul technology, utilising a mesh network topolgy, quickly emerged as the ideal solution for connecting the WiFi access points, strategically placed around the coverage area, back to the central local where the main Internet bearer circuit was located.
Wireless backhaul plays a crucial role in CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television) applications by providing reliable and high-bandwidth connectivity for transmitting video feeds from remote surveillance cameras to the central monitoring location. In CCTV systems, it is essential to have a robust and stable connection to ensure real-time monitoring and recording of video footage.
By utilising wireless backhaul, CCTV systems can be deployed in areas where laying cables is impractical or cost-prohibitive, such as remote locations, large outdoor areas, or temporary installations. Wireless backhaul enables the seamless transmission of high-quality video feeds over long distances without the need for extensive physical infrastructure.
Additionally, the flexibility of wireless backhaul enables easy scalability and adaptability of CCTV systems. It allows for the addition of new cameras or the relocation of cameras without the constraints of physical cables. This makes it easier to expand or modify the surveillance coverage as needed.
Vehicle Compound CCTV
Our client, a vehicle distributor, needed a wireless backhaul solution to support a new CCTV system, which would enhance security and monitoring of their compound used for new vehicle storage. The compound covered a large area, almost 100 acres, making it impractical and cost-prohibitive to lay physical cables. Our team was able to provide reliable and high-bandwidth connectivity for carrying video feeds from the remote surveillance cameras to the central monitoring location. And the fact that it was wireless enabled flexibility in camera placement, allowing for optimal coverage of the entire compound without being constrained by cable routes.
Wireless backhaul is a crucial component in transportation networks as it plays a vital role in enabling real-time communication, telemetry, and data transfer. With its implementation, transportation systems can greatly benefit from enhanced capabilities such as traffic monitoring, smart traffic signal control, and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication. These advancements not only improve overall transportation efficiency but also contribute to a safer and more reliable transportation infrastructure.
By utilising wireless backhaul technology, transportation networks can achieve seamless connectivity and facilitate the exchange of critical information, leading to more effective decision-making and optimised traffic management. Additionally, the integration of wireless backhaul can pave the way for future innovations and advancements in transportation systems, ensuring continuous improvement and adaptability to emerging technologies.
PSV Video Offload
Public service buses have onboard cameras inside and out in case they are involved in an accident or something happens on the bus that needs investigation. Onboard storage is limited so the recordings need to be offloaded regularly to make space for new footage. Our client, a bus operating company, needed a reliable way to offload large video files in the short period the bus was in the station. We were able to come up with a vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) solution using wireless communication. On entering the station the buses automatically establish a wireless connection and start to offload their video footage at multi-gigabit speeds, allowing for rapid turnaround.
In conclusion, we have covered some of the ways wireless backhaul technology can help in solving remote connectivity challenges, and some of the technologies and design considerations involved in ensuring a successful solution. Hopefully we’ve underscored the versatility and flexibility of wireless backhaul in expanding network coverage and enabling connectivity in hard-to-reach areas.
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