A new standard for 60GHz Wi-Fi goes beyond 802.11ad wireless speed & range
A new standard for high speed multi-gigabit WiFi is emerging. Though products based on the IEEE 802.11ad (WiGig) standard have really only begun rolling out, an effort to deliver an enhancement called IEEE 802.11ay that promises to deliver faster and longer range Wi-Fi networks is gaining steam.
The up-coming 802.11ay is as an enhancement of 802.11ad in the unlicensed 60 GHz millimeter wave band of spectrum, and should be a natural upgrade. The upgrade will offer significant speed and range improvements.
802.11ay is a type of WLAN in the IEEE 802.11 set of WLANs. It will have a frequency of 60 GHz, a transmission rate of 20–40 Gbit/s and an extended transmission distance of 300–500 meters. It has also been noted that it is likely to have mechanisms for channel bonding and MU-MIMO technologies. It is expected to be released in 2017. 802.11ay will not be a new type of WLAN in the IEEE 802.11 set, but will simply be an improvement on 802.11ad.
Where 802.11ad uses a maximum of 2.16 GHz bandwidth, 802.11ay bonds four of those channels together for a maximum bandwidth of 8.64 GHz. MIMO is also added with a maximum of 4 streams. The link-rate per stream is 44Gbit/s, with four streams this goes up to 176Gbit/s. Higher order modulation is also added, probably up to 256-QAM. 802.11ay applications could include replacement for Ethernet and other cables within offices or homes, and provide backhaul connectivity outside for service providers.
What is the difference between ad and ay?
The 802.11ad standard was published in 2012 and the technology gives devices access to the unlicensed and relatively unclogged 60 GHz millimeter wave spectrum band for multimedia streaming, VR headset connectivity, computer-to-monitor wireless links and other apps that don’t require more than say 30 or 40 feet of unimpeded space. It has been adopted by chipmakers as well as vendors of routers, access points and other devices. The Wi-Fi Alliance runs a WiGig certification program for vendors, and the early 11ad gear on the market most commonly supports data transfer rates of 4.6Gbps – way faster than 802.11n and 11ac, but more limited in range and unable to penetrate solid objects.
The backwards compatible 802.11ay amendment to 802.11ad is designed to boost speeds several-fold. That initially would amount to a transmission rate of 20 to 30Gbps and a range of 33 to 100 feet with 11ay-to-11ay device setups, but once channel bonding, MIMO and other capabilities are exploited, you could be getting closer to 200Gbps and reaching distances approaching 1,000 feet, according to industry players.
11ay, as the specs are being developed, “is really allowing for a wider range of products than you’d get with ad, which has one set of data rates that everyone supports… ay has a lot more parameters to play with in channel bonding, MIMO and features at the MAC level to allow a far greater range of performance and products” according to one chipset vendor.
Other up-coming Fast WiFi standards: 802.11ax
Users should not confuse 802.11ay with 802.11ax, which will work in the 2.5 and 5 GHz bands. The lower frequency bands for 11ax will penetrate walls. 11ay will not.
What will 802.11ay be used for?
It remains to be seen how soon the high speeds of 11ay will really be needed for internal uses, as 802.11ac — including Wave 2 products — are already pretty robust. But experts say that if 11ad doesn’t quite do it for you given its distance limitations, “11ay will finally be the technology that would let you snip that Ethernet cord – you no longer have to run Ethernet cables to everyone’s desk… there’s enough wireless bandwidth in ay.”
Many are enthusiastic about 802.1ay’s potential as a fixed point-to-point or point-to-multipoint outdoor backhaul technology, especially in light of scaled back fiber rollout plans by providers like Google and Verizon in the face of extraordinary costs associated with such implementations. “I’m more bullish on using ad & ay for backhaul (instead of mesh) in the case of campus & city networks — provided that it has a useful range” according to one industry expert
But it’s possible that 802.11ay could find a role in internal mesh and backbone networks as well as for other uses such as providing connectivity to VR headsets, supporting server backups and handling cloud applications that require low latency. “I believe that eventually, there will be enterprise applications for this – but it’s probably a few years into the future, given that we will have 802.11ax fairly soon & because there’s still a lot of 5 GHz band available for that (and ac).
When will 802.11ay become reality?
The 802.11ay task group had its initial meeting in 2015 and the spec only hit the Draft 0.1 stage in January. Though it is expected to reach Draft 1.0 by July 2017, according to the IEEE task group. If that mark is hit, expect pre-standard 11ay products to start rolling out within a year of that time.
Who is behind 802.11ay?
The IEEE task force leading the 11ay work includes representatives from major equipment and chipsets vendors. The group states its goal as this: “Task Group ay is expected to develop an amendment that defines standardized modifications to both the IEEE 802.11 physical layers (PHY) and the IEEE 802,11 medium access control layer (MAC) that enables at least one mode of operation capable of supporting a maximum throughput of at least 20 gigabits per second (measured at the MAC data service access point), while maintaining or improving the power efficiency per station. This amendment also defines operations for license-exempt bands above 45 GHz while ensuring backward compatibility and coexistence with legacy directional multi-gigabit stations (defined by IEEE 802.11ad-2012 amendment) operating in the same band.”
The new standard 802.11ax for Wi-Fi goes beyond 802.11ac wireless
A new standard for high speed multi-gigabit WiFi is emerging. Current WiFi products use chips based on the IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11 and IEEE 802.11ac standard have really only begun rolling out, an effort to deliver an enhancement called IEEE 802.11ax that promises to deliver faster and longer range Wi-Fi networks.
The up-coming 802.11ax is as an enhancement of 802.11ac in the unlicensed 2.4 and 5GHz bands of spectrum, and should be a natural upgrade. The upgrade will offer significant speed and range improvements.
IEEE 802.11 ax is a type of WLAN in the IEEE 802.11 set of types of WLANs. It is designed to improve overall spectral efficiency especially in dense deployment scenarios. It is still in a very early stage of development, but is predicted to have a top speed of around 10 Gb/s, it works in 2.4 and/or 5 GHz, in addition to MIMO and MU-MIMO it introduces OFDMA technique to improve spectral efficiency and also higher order 1024 QAM modulation support for better throughputs. Though the nominal data rate is just 37% higher comparing with 802.11ac, the new amendment will allow achieving 4X increase of user throughput thanks to more efficient spectrum usage. It is due to be publicly released in 2019.
Modulation and coding schemes for single spatial stream
Data rate (in Mb/s)
20 MHz channels
40 MHz channels
80 MHz channels
160 MHz channels
1600 ns GI
800 ns GI
1600 ns GI
800 ns GI
1600 ns GI
800 ns GI
1600 ns GI
800 ns GI
The 802.11ax amendment will bring several key improvements over 802.11ac. 802.11ax addresses frequency bands between 1 GHz and 6 GHz. Therefore, unlike 802.11ac, 802.11ax will also operate in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz band. To meet the goal of supporting dense 802.11 deployments the following features have been approved.
Other up-coming Fast WiFi standards: 802.11ay
Users should not confuse 802.11ax with 802.11ay, which will work in the 60GHz bands. The lower frequency bands 1-6GHz for 11ax will penetrate walls. 11ay will not.
What will 802.11ax be used for?
802.11ax is an upgrade for existing 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n and 802.11ac networks, Many are enthusiastic about 802.1ax’s potential as a fixed point-to-point or point-to-multipoint outdoor backhaul technology, especially in light of scaled back fiber rollout plans by providers like Google and Verizon in the face of extraordinary costs associated with such implementations. Therefore 11ax will find applications outdoors as well as indoors.
Who is behind 802.11ax?
The IEEE task force leading the 11ax work includes representatives from major equipment and chipsets vendors.
In 2012 and 2013, IEEE 802.11 received various submissions in its Standing Committee (SC) Wireless Next Generation (WNG) looking at issues of IEEE 802.11ac and potential solutions for future WLANs. Immediately after the publication of IEEE 802.11ac in March 2013, the IEEE 802.11 Working Group (WG) established Study Group (SG) High Efficiency WLAN (HEW)
5G radio access technology will be a key component of the Networked Society. It will address high traffic growth and increasing demand for high-bandwidth connectivity. It will also support massive numbers of connected devices and meet the real-time, high-reliability communication needs of mission-critical applications. 5G will provide wireless connectivity for a wide range of new applications and use cases, including wearables, smart homes, traffic safety/control, critical infrastructure, industry processes and very-high-speed media delivery. As a result, it will also accelerate the development of the Internet of Things. ITU Members including key industry players, industry forums, national and regional standards development organizations, regulators, network operators, equipment manufacturers as well as academia and research institutions together with Member States, gathered as the working group responsible for IMT systems, and completed a cycle of studies on the key performance requirements of 5G technologies for IMT-2020.
The Aim of 5G
The overall aim of 5G is to provide ubiquitous connectivity for any kind of device and any kind of application that may benefit from being connected. 5G networks will not be based on one specific radio-access technology. Rather, 5G is a portfolio of access and connectivity solutions addressing the demands and requirements of mobile communication beyond 2020.
The specification of 5G will include the development of a new flexible air interface, NX, which will be directed to extreme mobile broadband deployments. NX will also target high-bandwidth and high-traffic-usage scenarios, as well as new scenarios that involve mission-critical and realtime communications with extreme requirements in terms of latency and reliability.
In parallel, the development of Narrow-Band IoT (NB-IoT) in 3GPP is expected to support massive machine connectivity in wide area applications. NB-IoT will most likely be deployed in bands below 2GHz and will provide high capacity and deep coverage for enormous numbers of connected devices.
Ensuring interoperability with past generations of mobile communications has been a key principle of the ICT industry since the development of GSM and later wireless technologies within the 3GPP family of standards.
4G to 5G Evolution
In a similar manner, LTE will evolve in a way that recognizes its role in providing excellent coverage for mobile users, and 5G networks will incorporate LTE access (based on Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM)) along with new air interfaces in a transparent manner toward both the service layer and users. Around 2020, much of the available wireless coverage will continue to be provided by LTE, and it is important that operators with deployed 4G networks have the opportunity to transition some – or all – of their spectrum to newer wireless access technologies.
For operators with limited spectrum resources, the possibility of introducing 5G capabilities in an interoperable way – thereby allowing legacy devices to continue to be served on a compatible carrier – is highly beneficial and, in some cases, even vital. At the same time, the evolution of LTE to a point where it is a full member of the 5G family of air interfaces is essential, especially since initial deployment of new air interfaces may not operate in the same bands. The 5G network will enable dual-connectivity between LTE operating within bands below 6GHz and the NX air interface in bands within the range 6GHz to100GHz. NX should also allow for user-plane aggregation, i.e. joint delivery of data via LTE and NX component carriers. This paper explains the key requirements and capabilities of 5G, along with its technology components and spectrum needs.
In order to enable connectivity for a very wide range of applications with new characteristics and requirements, the capabilities of 5G wireless access must extend far beyond those of previous generations of mobile communication. These capabilities will include massive system capacity, very high data rates everywhere, very low latency, ultra-high reliability and availability, very low device cost and energy consumption, and energy-efficient networks.
MASSIVE SYSTEM CAPACITY
Traffic demands for mobile-communication systems are predicted to increase dramatically. To support this traffic in an affordable way, 5G networks must deliver data with much lower cost per bit compared with the networks of today. Furthermore, the increase in data consumption will result in an increased energy footprint from networks. 5G must therefore consume significantly lower energy per delivered bit than current cellular networks. The exponential increase in connected devices, such as the deployment of billions of wirelessly connected sensors, actuators and similar devices for massive machine connectivity, will place demands on the network to support new paradigms in device and connectivity management that do not compromise security. Each device will generate or consume very small amounts of data, to the extent that they will individually, or even jointly, have limited impact on the overall traffic volume. However, the sheer number of connected devices seriously challenges the ability of the network to provision signaling and manage connections.
VERY HIGH DATA RATES EVERYWHERE
Every generation of mobile communication has been associated with higher data rates compared with the previous generation. In the past, much of the focus has been on the peak data rate that can be supported by a wireless-access technology under ideal conditions. However, a more important capability is the data rate that can actually be provided under real-life conditions in different scenarios.
5G should support data rates exceeding 10Gbps in specific scenarios such as indoor and dense outdoor environments.
Data rates of several 100Mbps should generally be achievable in urban and suburban environments.
Data rates of at least 10Mbps should be accessible almost everywhere, including sparsely populated rural areas in both developed and developing countries.
VERY LOW LATENCY
Very low latency will be driven by the need to support new applications. Some envisioned 5G use cases, such as traffic safety and control of critical infrastructure and industry processes, may require much lower latency compared with what is possible with the mobile-communication systems of today. To support such latency-critical applications, 5G should allow for an application end-to-end latency of 1ms or less, although application-level framing requirements and codec limitations for media may lead to higher latencies in practice. Many services will distribute computational capacity and storage close to the air interface. This will create new capabilities for real-time communication and will allow ultra-high service reliability in a variety of scenarios, ranging from entertainment to industrial process control.
ULTRA-HIGH RELIABILITY AND AVAILABILITY
In addition to very low latency, 5G should also enable connectivity with ultra-high reliability and ultra-high availability. For critical services, such as control of critical infrastructure and traffic safety, connectivity with certain characteristics, such as a specific maximum latency, should not merely be ‘typically available.’ Rather, loss of connectivity and deviation from quality of service requirements must be extremely rare. For example, some industrial applications might need to guarantee successful packet delivery within 1 ms with a probability higher than 99.9999 percent.
VERY LOW DEVICE COST AND ENERGY CONSUMPTION
Low-cost, low-energy mobile devices have been a key market requirement since the early days of mobile communication. However, to enable the vision of billions of wirelessly connected sensors, actuators and similar devices, a further step has to be taken in terms of device cost and energy consumption. It should be possible for 5G devices to be available at very low cost and with a battery life of several years without recharging.
While device energy consumption has always been prioritized, energy efficiency on the network side has recently emerged as an additional KPI, for three main reasons:
Energy efficiency is an important component in reducing operational cost, as well as a driver for better dimensioned nodes, leading to lower total cost of ownership.
Energy efficiency enables off-grid network deployments that rely on medium-sized solar panels as power supplies, thereby enabling wireless connectivity to reach even the most remote areas.
Energy efficiency is essential to realizing operators’ ambition of providing wireless access in a sustainable and more resource-efficient way.
The importance of these factors will increase further in the 5G era, and energy efficiency will therefore be an important requirement in the design of 5G wireless access.
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Two questions: “Do I need Gigabit LTE?” and “Will mobile networks support these new speeds?” The short answer to both is a resounding “Yes.”
Do I need Gigabit LTE?
There’s a common misconception that we need to address right away. Some people think that extreme speeds are only realized in ideal lab conditions, so they’re not relevant in the real world. Their argument is that current LTE devices and networks already support peak speeds of 300 Mbps or 600 Mbps, but actual speeds are lower. It follows, then, that there’s already “enough headroom” in the networks and thus the faster speeds are irrelevant.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Here’s the thing. Gigabit LTE — and every other LTE innovation we’ve helped commercialize in the past few years — directly contributes to improving the real-world speeds that you’ll experience.
Gigabit LTE provides more consistent Internet speeds as compared to previous generations of LTE. In an extensive network simulation conducted by Qualcomm Technologies, we placed LTE devices of varying capabilities from Cat 4 to Cat 16 (the Gigabit LTE category) in the same network. The average throughput achieved by a GB LTE device was comfortably above 100 Mbps. Depending on traffic type, the average throughput could be much higher. That’s compared to around 65 Mbps for Cat 6 devices, the current baseline for many LTE devices and networks.
And these simulation results bear out in the real world. At the Sydney event, one analyst who tried the first Gigabit LTE device, reached 360 Mbps in a speed test. A real device on a live network in the middle of a very crowded tourist area — that’s the power of Gigabit LTE.
The constituent technologies that make Gigabit LTE possible — carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO, and 256-QAM — are engineered to allow the network to allocate many more network resources to your device simultaneously than you would get with an older LTE device. Or, alternatively, allocate fewer resources to you without diminishing the speed.
There’s an additional benefit as well. A Gigabit LTE device has four antennas in order to support 4×4 MIMO, giving it a hidden edge. In good signal conditions, you can get four streams of data that increase your speed, as compared to two streams with conventional LTE. In weak signal conditions, the additional antennas act like additional “ears” that are designed to help your Gigabit LTE device lock on to the signal from the tower, which can yield up to 70 percent faster speeds. Think about how slow LTE speeds can get in weak signal conditions. Wouldn’t this speed bump help quite a bit? A real-world study of this on T-Mobile’s network – using the Samsung Galaxy S7, which is capable of 4×4 MIMO – confirms this.
Additionally, with Gigabit LTE devices, you should be able to finish your downloads much faster, with fewer resources from the network. This can improve the capacity of the network and allow it to serve other users sooner. Not only do you enjoy faster speeds, but other people connected to the same cell tower get faster speeds as well, even if they don’t have a Gigabit LTE device.
So yes, you do need Gigabit LTE. It can improve your average, real-world speeds, give you better speeds in weak signal conditions, and allow other people to enjoy faster speeds too.
Will mobile networks support these new speeds?
Here, again, the answer is “Yes.”
Fifteen mobile operators in 11 countries intend to launch or trial Gigabit LTE in 2017. They include: T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T in the U.S.; EE, T-Mobile Germany, Vodafone, and Telefonica in Europe; and NTT DoCoMo, SoftBank, KDDI, and SingTel in Asia.
And, of course, Telstra’s Gigabit LTE network is already live. We expect many more to come online over the next few years. It’s important to remember that many people are hanging on to their devices for longer. So even if on day one your network doesn’t support GB LTE, there’s a good chance it may over the lifetime of your phone.
2017 will be the year of Gigabit LTE. And with the right device, power users can enjoy next-gen experiences sooner than we expected.
CableFree 10Gbps MMW links have been installed for Safe City applications
Using the latest 10Gbps Millimeter Wave wireless technology, the links connect Safe City customer sites with a full 10Gbps (10Gig-E) full duplex capacity, with no compression or slow-down.
CableFree has pioneered high speed 10 Gigabit Millimeter Wave (MMW) technology to connect sites where fibre optics are unavailable, too slow to provision, too expensive or at risk of damage. In busy cities, fibre optics is usually installed in ducts underground which are prone to disruption when digging or building works take place.
This client had already installed fibre optics for major CCTV backbones around the city. However, 3rd party building works disrupted the ducts severing the fibres, causing major outage in the network and loss of CCTV coverage – putting citizens at risk.
CableFree 10Gbps Millimeter Wave links offer an ideal alternative to fragile fibre optics: the radio units are installed on sites owned by the customer, bringing the full network under user control and management. The units are typically mounted on building rooftops well away from street-level disruption, which are easy to access, secure and defend. MMW wireless links can be installed in hours, not weeks, and at a tiny fraction of the cost of trenches and ducts for fibre optics.
Reliable operating distances of 5-8km depending on climatic region are ideal for city-scale networks. A full range of planning tools allows users to predict performance prior to purchase or installation. The E-band (70-80GHz) frequencies are available in many countries with “light license” and are uncongested, with narrow “pencil beams” allowing dense re-use of the spectrum with no interference between links or users. The narrow beams make such link are inherently secure, with proprietary signals and encoding.
For long links, the Adaptive Coding and Modulation feature enables the MMW link to dynamically adjust modulation in high rainfall conditions to ensure link uptime, capacity and range are maximised. For shorter links and long links in low rainfall regions, the links retain 10Gbps at all times.
10Gbps MMW links are a movable asset: if the network requirements change, or different sites require connecting, the links can be moved to the new sites immediately, retaining all the investment in infrastructure. For Special Events and Disaster Recovery, temporary links can be deployed using generator or alternative “off grid” (Solar + Battery) power if no AC power is available on sites. The units can be mounted on tripods or stationary vehicles as required for rapid deployment.
For mobile operators, advanced features such as IEEE 1588v2, SyncE and management are included which make CableFree MMW ideal for RAN backhaul for 4G & 5G networks. CableFree 10Gbps MMW is upgradable to 20Gbps and 40Gbps with “stacking” giving the very highest throughput in the wireless industry, comparable to fibre optic backbone networks.
For more information please visit the CableFree website or contact our expert team:
Comparison between 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, and 256 QAM types of Quadrature Amplitude Modulation
Gigabit Wireless Networks commonly use QAM modulation to achieve high data rate transmission. So what is QAM?
Introducing Quadrature Amplitude Modulation
QAM, Quadrature amplitude modulation is widely used in many digital data radio communications and data communications applications. A variety of forms of QAM are available and some of the more common forms include 16 , 32 , 64 , 128 and 256 QAM. Here the figures refer to the number of points on the constellation, i.e. the number of distinct states that can exist.
The various flavours of QAM may be used when data-rates beyond those offered by 8-PSK are required by a radio communications system. This is because QAM achieves a greater distance between adjacent points in the I-Q plane by distributing the points more evenly. And in this way the points on the constellation are more distinct and data errors are reduced. While it is possible to transmit more bits per symbol, if the energy of the constellation is to remain the same, the points on the constellation must be closer together and the transmission becomes more susceptible to noise. This results in a higher bit error rate than for the lower order QAM variants. In this way there is a balance between obtaining the higher data rates and maintaining an acceptable bit error rate for any radio communications system.
QAM is in many radio communications and data delivery applications. However some specific variants of QAM are used in some specific applications and standards.
For domestic broadcast applications for example, 64 and 256 QAM are often used in digital cable television and cable modem applications. In the UK, 16 and 64 QAM are currently used for digital terrestrial television using DVB – Digital Video Broadcasting. In the US, 64 and 256 QAM are the mandated modulation schemes for digital cable as standardised by the SCTE in the standard ANSI/SCTE 07 2000.
In addition to this, variants of QAM are also used for many wireless and cellular technology applications.
The constellation diagrams show the different positions for the states within different forms of QAM, quadrature amplitude modulation. As the order of the modulation increases, so does the number of points on the QAM constellation diagram.
The diagrams below show constellation diagrams for a variety of formats of modulation:
Bits per symbol
The advantage of using QAM is that it is a higher order form of modulation and as a result it is able to carry more bits of information per symbol. By selecting a higher order format, the data rate of a link can be increased.
The table below gives a summary of the bit rates of different forms of QAM and PSK.
BITS PER SYMBOL
1 x bit rate
1/2 bit rate
1/3 bit rate
1/4 bit rate
1/5 bit rate
1/6 bit rate
QAM noise margin
While higher order modulation rates are able to offer much faster data rates and higher levels of spectral efficiency for the radio communications system, this comes at a price. The higher order modulation schemes are considerably less resilient to noise and interference.
As a result of this, many radio communications systems now use dynamic adaptive modulation techniques. They sense the channel conditions and adapt the modulation scheme to obtain the highest data rate for the given conditions. As signal to noise ratios decrease errors will increase along with re-sends of the data, thereby slowing throughput. By reverting to a lower order modulation scheme the link can be made more reliable with fewer data errors and re-sends.
Gigabit Wireless Metro Networks: CableFree MMW links deployed in the UAE
CableFree has deployed Gigabit Wireless MMW links for Public Safety networks in the UAE with regional partner CDN (Computer Data Networks). For this project a number of 1Gbps MMW links have been implemented to upgrade and extend existing network infrastructure for Safe City applications.
CableFree Millimeter Wave (MMW) links offer up to 10Gbps Full Duplex capacity and are proven to operate well in the harsh climate and conditions in regions such as the UAE, including recent record summer temperatures. CableFree worked closely with CDN to ensure high uptime and availability are ensured throughout the network.
CableFree MMW is a proven and robust high speed technology for Line of Sight links. High frequency microwave signals between 60 and 90GHz have “pencil beam” properties that avoid any interference and enable dense deployment in busy urban areas.
Applications for Millimeter Wave include 4G/LTE Mobile Backhaul, Safe Cities, Government, Corporate CCTV and ISP backbones.
Distances up to 5-15km can be deployed reliably: CableFree provide a full range of planning tools to enable customers to plan for high availability even in high rainfall regions.
CableFree MMW links are ideal for implementing wireless networks in many regions and can upgrade existing congested unlicensed and licensed microwave links, and extend the reach of fibre optic cabling. The links are rapid to deploy within hours and can provide permanent, temporary or disaster-recovery scenarios, including resilient backup to fragile fibre optic cables and leased lines.
For more information on Millimeter Wave and Wireless Metro Networks please contact the CableFree team: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fiber Cuts – The Real Cost – How to solve using Gigabit Wireless
Often you can’t avoid fiber cuts: they happen on public land or under public streets, outside your control. The vast majority of corporate LAN connections, cable, Internet and LTE backhaul, is done over fiber optic cable. In one report CNN stated that about 99 percent of all international communications occur over undersea cabling. Alan Mauldin, research director at U.S.-based research firm Telegeography, noted that while some major cabling projects can come with high price tags, fiber optics is considered more robust and more cost-effective than common wireless alternatives like satellite.
But while fiber optic cabling is traditionally seen as the safer option, that may be a misconception. When installed correctly, fiber optics is the “perfect” media, transmitting Gigabits of data without interruption. However, any disruption to the fragile fiber causes data outages which take days or weeks to locate and repair. According to data from the Federal Communications Commission. about a quarter of all network outages that happened between 1993 and 2001 were from cables being cut. Regardless of how the fiber cut occurred, such outages can be particularly damaging.
How easy is it to repair a fiber cut?
Fiber is not a “self healing” media: skilled teams with specialist fiber-splicing and terminating equipment are required to repair a broken fiber connection. Most data communication engineers do not have this equipment or training on using them. fiber repair is a specialist business and getting trained people and splicing equipment to site costs time and money. Factoring the anticipated cost of a fiber repair into a budget for “downtime” and “unproductivity” for corporates – and missing SLA’s for uptime for Service Providers – is a serious issue, including business continuity planning. For rural areas, access to sites can be limited, with some locations limited by poor weather, and for islands sometimes only with infrequent access by sea or air.
By vandalism – This type of fiber cut outage has been worryingly common of late. According to CNN, there have been 11 separate incidents involving the cutting of fiber optic cable in the Bay Area since July 2015. The FBI noted that there have been more than 12 in the region since January, and that it’s been hard to stop in part because there is so much critical cabling in the area and because cables are typically clearly marked, The Wall Street Journal reported. Authorities noted that these incidents show no sign of slowing down either, as they don’t have a clear suspect(s) or motive at this time. The Journal also noted that some instances of fiber optic-related downtime are not due to vandalism, but rather someone trying to steal metal.
By accident – This is perhaps one of the most common causes of fiber cuts, but nevertheless they are just as damaging. In one example a 75-year-old woman in the country of Georgia was digging in a field when she accidentally severed a fiber optic cable, in an article in The Guardian. As a result of the mishap, close to 90 percent of Armenia and parts of Azerbaijan and Georgia were completely without Internet for five plus hours.
By force of nature – Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and other major natural disasters all have the potential to cut or entirely destroy fiber optic cabling. Other seemingly more benign forces of nature can also cripple connectivity, as Level 3 reported that 28 percent of all damages it sustained to its infrastructure in 2010 were caused by squirrels.
Calculating the impact of a fiber outage
In some of these fiber cut outage incidents, the fallout can be relatively minor. A cut that occurs in the middle of the night on a redundant line can be easy enough to deal with, with service providers sometimes able to reroute traffic in the interim. Unfortunately however, such incidents often lead to much bigger problems for end users. For example, a cut fiber optic cable in northern Arizona in April caused many thousands of people and businesses to go about 15 hours with telephone and Internet service. This meant many shops had to either close or resort to manual tracking, and that personal Internet usage grinded to a halt, The Associated Press reported. More importantly, 911 emergency communications were disrupted in the incident.
It’s not just a hassle for end users, as cut fiber can severely impact public health when emergency services like police departments, fire stations and EMTs can’t take and receive calls. Plus, such incidents are very costly for service providers, forced to repair expensive infrastructure. They can also lead to canceled service, as customers become irate at service providers for failing to provide reliable connectivity at all times.
What’s a solution to fiber cut outages?
One easy way to avoid the problems related to cut fiber is to not have fiber at all and instead pursue a wireless dark fiber alternative. For example, after a cable snafu caused residents of Washington state’s San Juan Islands to go without telephone, Internet and cell service for 10 days in 2013, CenturyLink installed a wireless mobile backhaul option there, according to The AP.
By opting for a solution like a Gigabit WirelessMicrowave, MMW, Free Space Optics or MIMO OFDM Radio, service providers gain a wireless alternative to cabling that is just as robust and fast as fiber. With the Gigabit Wireless link in place, cut fiber optic cabling is less disruptive to end users and ISPs.
Where do I found out more information on solving fiber Cut Issues?
FSO (Free Space Optics, Laser, Optical Wireless) Guide
Free Space Optics (FSO) communications, also called Optical Wireless (OW) or Infrared Laser, refers to the transmission of modulated visible or infrared (IR) beams through the atmosphere to obtain optical communications. Like fibre, Free Space Optics (FSO) uses lasers to transmit data, but instead of enclosing the data stream in a glass fibre, it is transmitted through the air. Free Space Optics (FSO) works on the same basic principle as Infrared television remote controls, wireless keyboards or IRDA ports on laptops or cellular phones.
History of Free Space Optics (FSO)
The engineering maturity of Free Space Optics (FSO) is often underestimated, due to a misunderstanding of how long Free Space Optics (FSO) systems have been under development. Historically, Free Space Optics (FSO) or optical wireless communications was first demonstrated by Alexander Graham Bell in the late nineteenth century (prior to his demonstration of the telephone!). Bell’s Free Space Optics (FSO) experiment converted voice sounds into telephone signals and transmitted them between receivers through free air space along a beam of light for a distance of some 600 feet. Calling his experimental device the “photophone,” Bell considered this optical technology – and not the telephone – his pre-eminent invention because it did not require wires for transmission.
Although Bell’s photophone never became a commercial reality, it demonstrated the basic principle of optical communications. Essentially all of the engineering of today’s Free Space Optics (FSO) or free space optical communications systems was done over the past 40 years or so, mostly for defense applications. By addressing the principal engineering challenges of Free Space Optics (FSO), this aerospace/defence activity established a strong foundation upon which today’s commercial laser-based Free Space Optics (FSO) systems are based.
How Free Space Optics (FSO) Works
Free Space Optics (FSO) transmits invisible, eye-safe light beams from one “telescope” to another using low power infrared lasers in the terahertz spectrum. The beams of light in Free Space Optics (FSO) systems are transmitted by laser light focused on highly sensitive photon detector receivers. These receivers are telescopic lenses able to collect the photon stream and transmit digital data containing a mix of Internet messages, video images, radio signals or computer files. Commercially available systems offer capacities in the range of 100 Mbps to 2.5 Gbps, and demonstration systems report data rates as high as 160 Gbps.
Free Space Optics (FSO) systems can function over distances of several kilometres. As long as there is a clear line of sight between the source and the destination, and enough transmitter power, Free Space Optics (FSO) communication is possible.
FSO: Wireless Links at the Speed of Light
Unlike radio and microwave systems, Free Space Optics (FSO) is an optical technology and no spectrum licensing or frequency coordination with other users is required, interference from or to other systems or equipment is not a concern, and the point-to-point laser signal is extremely difficult to intercept, and therefore secure. Data rates comparable to optical fibre transmission can be carried by Free Space Optics (FSO) systems with very low error rates, while the extremely narrow laser beam widths ensure that there is almost no practical limit to the number of separate Free Space Optics (FSO) links that can be installed in a given location.
How Free Space Optics (FSO) benefits you
FSO is free from licensing and regulation which translates into ease, speed and low cost of deployment. Since Free Space Optics (FSO) transceivers can transmit and receive through windows, it is possible to mount Free Space Optics (FSO) systems inside buildings, reducing the need to compete for roof space, simplifying wiring and cabling, and permitting Free Space Optics (FSO) equipment to operate in a very favourable environment. The only essential requirement for Free Space Optics (FSO) or optical wireless transmission is line of sight between the two ends of the link.
For Metro Area Network (MAN) providers the last mile or even feet can be the most daunting. Free Space Optics (FSO) networks can close this gap and allow new customers access to high-speed MAN’s. Providers also can take advantage of the reduced risk of installing an Free Space Optics (FSO) network which can later be redeployed.
The Market. Why FSO? Breaking the Bandwidth Bottleneck
Why FSO? The global telecommunications network has seen massive expansion over the last few years. First came the tremendous growth of the optical fiber long-haul, wide-area network (WAN), followed by a more recent emphasis on metropolitan area networks (MANs). Meanwhile, local area networks (LANs) and gigabit Ethernet ports are being deployed with a comparable growth rate. In order for this tremendous network capacity to be exploited, and for the users to be able to utilize the broad array of new services becoming available, network designers must provide a flexible and cost-effective means for the users to access the telecommunications network. Presently, however, most local loop network connections are limited to 1.5 Mbps (a T1 line). As a consequence, there is a strong need for a high-bandwidth bridge (the “last mile” or “first mile”) between the LANs and the MANs or WANs.
A recent New York Times article reported that more than 100 million miles of optical fibre was laid around the world in the last two years, as carriers reacted to the Internet phenomenon and end users’ insatiable demand for bandwidth. The sheer scale of connecting whole communities, cities and regions to that fiber optic cable or “backbone” is something not many players understood well. Despite the huge investment in trenching and optical cable, most of the fibre remains unlit, 80 to 90% of office, commercial and industrial buildings are not connected to fibre, and transport prices are dropping dramatically.
Free Space Optics (FSO) systems represent one of the most promising approaches for addressing the emerging broadband access market and its “last mile” bottleneck. Free Space Optics (FSO) systems offer many features, principal among them being low start-up and operational costs, rapid deployment, and high fiber-like bandwidths due to the optical nature of the technology.
Broadband Bandwidth Alternatives
Access technologies in general use today include telco-provisioned copper wire, wireless Internet access, broadband RF/microwave, coaxial cable and direct optical fiber connections (fiber to the building; fiber to the home). Telco/PTT telephone networks are still trapped in the old Time Division Multiplex (TDM) based network infrastructure that rations bandwidth to the customer in increments of 1.5 Mbps (T-1) or 2.024 Mbps (E-1). DSL penetration rates have been throttled by slow deployment and the pricing strategies of the PTTs. Cable modem access has had more success in residential markets, but suffers from security and capacity problems, and is generally conditional on the user subscribing to a package of cable TV channels. Wireless Internet access is still slow, and the tiny screen renders it of little appeal for web browsing.
Broadband RF/microwave systems have severe limitations and are losing favor. The radio spectrum is a scarce and expensive licensed commodity, sold or leased to the highest bidder, or on a first-come first-served basis, and all too often, simply unavailable due to congestion. As building owners have realized the value of their roof space, the price of roof rights has risen sharply. Furthermore, radio equipment is not inexpensive, the maximum data rates achievable with RF systems are low compared to optical fiber, and communications channels are insecure and subject to interference from and to other systems (a major constraint on the use of radio systems).
Free Space Optics (FSO) Advantages
Free space optical (FSO) systems offers a flexible networking solution that delivers on the promise of broadband. Only free space optics or Free Space Optics (FSO) provides the essential combination of qualities required to bring the traffic to the optical fiber backbone – virtually unlimited bandwidth, low cost, ease and speed of deployment. Freedom from licensing and regulation translates into ease, speed and low cost of deployment. Since Free Space Optics (FSO) optical wireless transceivers can transmit and receive through windows, it is possible to mount Free Space Optics (FSO) systems inside buildings, reducing the need to compete for roof space, simplifying wiring and cabling, and permitting the equipment to operate in a very favorable environment. The only essential for Free Space Optics (FSO) is line of sight between the two ends of the link.
Security and Free Space Optics (FSO)
The common perception of wireless is that it offers less security than wireline connections. In fact, Free Space Optics (FSO) is far more secure than RF or other wireless-based transmission technologies for several reasons:
Free Space Optics (FSO) laser beams cannot be detected with spectrum analyzers or RF meters
Free Space Optics (FSO) laser transmissions are optical and travel along a line of sight path that cannot be intercepted easily. It requires a matching Free Space Optics (FSO) transceiver carefully aligned to complete the transmission. Interception is very difficult and extremely unlikely
The laser beams generated by Free Space Optics (FSO) systems are narrow and invisible, making them harder to find and even harder to intercept and crack
Data can be transmitted over an encrypted connection adding to the degree of security available in Free Space Optics (FSO) network transmissions.
Free Space Optics (FSO) Challenges
The advantages of free space optical wireless or Free Space Optics (FSO) do not come without some cost. When light is transmitted through optical fiber, transmission integrity is quite predictable – barring unforseen events such as backhoes or animal interference. When light is transmitted through the air, as with Free Space Optics (FSO) optical wireless systems, it must contend with a a complex and not always quantifiable subject – the atmosphere.
Attenuation, Fog and Free Space Optics (FSO)
Fog substantially attenuates visible radiation, and it has a similar affect on the near-infrared wavelengths that are employed in Free Space Optics (FSO) systems. Note that the effect of fog on Free Space Optics (FSO) optical wireless radiation is entirely analogous to the attenuation – and fades – suffered by RF wireless systems due to rainfall. Similar to the case of rain attenuation with RF wireless, fog attenuation is not a “show-stopper” for Free Space Optics (FSO) optical wireless, because the optical link can be engineered such that, for a large fraction of the time, an acceptable power will be received even in the presence of heavy fog. Free Space Optics (FSO) optical wireless-based communication systems can be enhanced to yield even greater availabilities.
Free Space Optics (FSO) and Physical Obstructions
Free Space Optics (FSO) products which have widely spaced redundant transmitters and large receive optics will all but eliminate interference concerns from objects such as birds. On a typical day, an object covering 98% of the receive aperture and all but 1 transmitter; will not cause an Free Space Optics (FSO) link to drop out. Thus birds are unlikely to have any impact on Free Space Optics (FSO) transmission.
Free Space Optics (FSO) Pointing Stability – Building Sway, Tower Movement
Only wide-beamwidth fixed pointed Free Space Optics (FSO) systems are capable of handling the vast majority of movement found in deployments on buildings. Narrow beam systems are unreliable, requiring manual re-alignment on a regular basis, due to building movement. ‘Wide beam’ means more than 5milliradians. Narrow systems (1-2mRad) are not reliable without a tracking system
The combination of effective beam divergence and a well matched receive Field-of-View (FOV) provide for an extremely robust fixed pointed Free Space Optics (FSO) system suitable for most deployments. Fixed-pointed Free Space Optics (FSO) systems are generally preferred over actively-tracked Free Space Optics (FSO) systems due to their lower cost.
Free Space Optics (FSO) and Scintillation
Performance of many Free Space Optics (FSO) optical wireless systems is adversely affected by scintillation on bright sunny days; the effects of which are typically reflected in BER statistics. Some optical wireless products have a unique combination of large aperture receiver, widely spaced transmitters, finely tuned receive filtering, and automatic gain control characteristics. In addition, certain optical wireless systems also apply a clock recovery phase-lock-loop time constant that all but eliminate the affects of atmospheric scintillation and jitter transference.
Solar Interference and Free Space Optics (FSO)
Solar interference in Free Space Optics (FSO) free space optical systems can be combated in two ways. Optical narrowband filter proceeding the receive detector used to filter all but the wavelength actually used for intersystem communications. To handle off-axis solar energy, sophisticated spatial filters have been implemented in CableFree systems, allowing them to operate unaffected by solar interference that is more than 1 degree off-axis.
Free Space Optics (FSO) Reliability
Employing an adaptive laser power (Automatic Transmit Power Control or ATPC) scheme to dynamically adjust the laser power in response to weather conditions will improve the reliability of Free Space Optics (FSO) optical wireless systems. In clear weather the transmit power is greatly reduced, enhancing the laser lifetime by operating the laser at very low-stress conditions. In severe weather, the laser power is increased as needed to maintain the optical link – then decreased again as the weather clears. A TEC controller that maintains the temperature of the laser transmitter diodes in the optimum region will maximize reliability and lifetime, consistent with power output allowing the FSO optical wireless system to operate more efficiently and reliably at higher power levels.
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What is OFDM? (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing)
OFDM: Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing, is a form of signal modulation that divides a high data rate modulating stream placing them onto many slowly modulated narrowband close-spaced subcarriers, and in this way is less sensitive to frequency selective fading.
Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing or OFDM is a modulation format that is being used for many of the latest wireless and telecommunications standards.
OFDM has been adopted in the Wi-Fi arena where the standards like 802.11a, 802.11n, 802.11ac and more. It has also been chosen for the cellular telecommunications standard LTE / LTE-A, and in addition to this it has been adopted by other standards such as WiMAX and many more.
Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing has also been adopted for a number of broadcast standards from DAB Digital Radio to the Digital Video Broadcast standards, DVB. It has also been adopted for other broadcast systems as well including Digital Radio Mondiale used for the long medium and short wave bands.
Although OFDM, orthogonal frequency division multiplexing is more complicated than earlier forms of signal format, it provides some distinct advantages in terms of data transmission, especially where high data rates are needed along with relatively wide bandwidths.
What is OFDM? – The concept
OFDM is a form of multicarrier modulation. An OFDM signal consists of a number of closely spaced modulated carriers. When modulation of any form – voice, data, etc. is applied to a carrier, then sidebands spread out either side. It is necessary for a receiver to be able to receive the whole signal to be able to successfully demodulate the data. As a result when signals are transmitted close to one another they must be spaced so that the receiver can separate them using a filter and there must be a guard band between them. This is not the case with OFDM. Although the sidebands from each carrier overlap, they can still be received without the interference that might be expected because they are orthogonal to each another. This is achieved by having the carrier spacing equal to the reciprocal of the symbol period.
Traditional view of receiving signals carrying modulation
To see how OFDM works, it is necessary to look at the receiver. This acts as a bank of demodulators, translating each carrier down to DC. The resulting signal is integrated over the symbol period to regenerate the data from that carrier. The same demodulator also demodulates the other carriers. As the carrier spacing equal to the reciprocal of the symbol period means that they will have a whole number of cycles in the symbol period and their contribution will sum to zero – in other words there is no interference contribution.
One requirement of the OFDM transmitting and receiving systems is that they must be linear. Any non-linearity will cause interference between the carriers as a result of inter-modulation distortion. This will introduce unwanted signals that would cause interference and impair the orthogonality of the transmission.
In terms of the equipment to be used the high peak to average ratio of multi-carrier systems such as OFDM requires the RF final amplifier on the output of the transmitter to be able to handle the peaks whilst the average power is much lower and this leads to inefficiency. In some systems the peaks are limited. Although this introduces distortion that results in a higher level of data errors, the system can rely on the error correction to remove them.
Data on OFDM
The data to be transmitted on an OFDM signal is spread across the carriers of the signal, each carrier taking part of the payload. This reduces the data rate taken by each carrier. The lower data rate has the advantage that interference from reflections is much less critical. This is achieved by adding a guard band time or guard interval into the system. This ensures that the data is only sampled when the signal is stable and no new delayed signals arrive that would alter the timing and phase of the signal.
The distribution of the data across a large number of carriers in the OFDM signal has some further advantages. Nulls caused by multi-path effects or interference on a given frequency only affect a small number of the carriers, the remaining ones being received correctly. By using error-coding techniques, which does mean adding further data to the transmitted signal, it enables many or all of the corrupted data to be reconstructed within the receiver. This can be done because the error correction code is transmitted in a different part of the signal.
OFDM advantages & disadvantages
OFDM has been used in many high data rate wireless systems because of the many advantages it provides.
Immunity to selective fading: One of the main advantages of OFDM is that is more resistant to frequency selective fading than single carrier systems because it divides the overall channel into multiple narrowband signals that are affected individually as flat fading sub-channels.
Resilience to interference: Interference appearing on a channel may be bandwidth limited and in this way will not affect all the sub-channels. This means that not all the data is lost.
Spectrum efficiency: Using close-spaced overlapping sub-carriers, a significant OFDM advantage is that it makes efficient use of the available spectrum.
Resilient to ISI: Another advantage of OFDM is that it is very resilient to inter-symbol and inter-frame interference. This results from the low data rate on each of the sub-channels.
Resilient to narrow-band effects: Using adequate channel coding and interleaving it is possible to recover symbols lost due to the frequency selectivity of the channel and narrow band interference. Not all the data is lost.
Simpler channel equalisation: One of the issues with CDMA systems was the complexity of the channel equalisation which had to be applied across the whole channel. An advantage of OFDM is that using multiple sub-channels, the channel equalization becomes much simpler.
Whilst OFDM has been widely used, there are still a few disadvantages to its use which need to be addressed when considering its use.
High peak to average power ratio: An OFDM signal has a noise like amplitude variation and has a relatively high large dynamic range, or peak to average power ratio. This impacts the RF amplifier efficiency as the amplifiers need to be linear and accommodate the large amplitude variations and these factors mean the amplifier cannot operate with a high efficiency level.
Sensitive to carrier offset and drift: Another disadvantage of OFDM is that is sensitive to carrier frequency offset and drift. Single carrier systems are less sensitive.
There are several other variants of OFDM for which the initials are seen in the technical literature. These follow the basic format for OFDM, but have additional attributes or variations:
COFDM: Coded Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing. A form of OFDM where error correction coding is incorporated into the signal.
Flash OFDM: This is a variant of OFDM that was developed by Flarion and it is a fast hopped form of OFDM. It uses multiple tones and fast hopping to spread signals over a given spectrum band.
OFDMA: Orthogonal frequency division multiple access. A scheme used to provide a multiple access capability for applications such as cellular telecommunications when using OFDM technologies.
VOFDM: Vector OFDM. This form of OFDM uses the concept of MIMO technology. It is being developed by CISCO Systems. MIMO stands for Multiple Input Multiple output and it uses multiple antennas to transmit and receive the signals so that multi-path effects can be utilised to enhance the signal reception and improve the transmission speeds that can be supported.
WOFDM: Wideband OFDM. The concept of this form of OFDM is that it uses a degree of spacing between the channels that is large enough that any frequency errors between transmitter and receiver do not affect the performance. It is particularly applicable to Wi-Fi systems.
Each of these forms of OFDM utilise the same basic concept of using close spaced orthogonal carriers each carrying low data rate signals. During the demodulation phase the data is then combined to provide the complete signal.
OFDM, orthogonal frequency division multiplexing has gained a significant presence in the wireless market place. The combination of high data capacity, high spectral efficiency, and its resilience to interference as a result of multi-path effects means that it is ideal for the high data applications that have become a major factor in today’s communications scene.
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