Facts About Rural High Speed
1. Key concepts
First of all, a key concept to understand is the physical properties of wireless (Radio Frequency) signals. These are unchangeable laws of physics and each technology functions within these boundaries.
#1 Radio Frequency travels in a relatively straight line. It can be reflected off hard objects, but again follows a straight path from the reflected object. Reflected signals have less power than the primary signal which again limits the range.
#2 Radio frequency does not transmit effectively through water. Trees, vegetation, and summer air contain a high percentage of water which absorbs the power of the signal coming through. Higher frequency energy is absorbed more than lower frequency energy.
#3 The higher the frequency the shorter the range and the fewer obstacles it will bend around. This is due to the wavelength of the particular frequency. Typically the higher the frequency the shorter the range and more direct line of sight you need. A lot of trade-offs have to be considered when setting up a wireless application.
#4 The higher the system speed, the more radio spectrum you need. This is a simple concept; you can use a garden hose to fill a water tank and it will take so many minutes. If you want to fill that tank faster you need a bigger line. The other factor is the type of modulation used. A low order of modulation will support a lower data throughput for a longer distance because the low order modulation is easier to decode. A high order of modulation will support a high data throughput for a shorter distance.
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2. How do the different technologies make a particular wireless frequency better for a multi user network?
There are a number of independent factors involved, and this is where the trade offs come in. One of the first considerations is the size of the customer base. For an urban setting with a dense population you would want a small coverage cell. Knowing the capacity of your technology, you would size the cell to not be overloaded by the number of people who would use it. Another reason is that wireless frequencies are hard to get; using a small, higher frequency cell would let you re-use the same frequency, potentially, in another part of the same urban environment.
Rural areas with a thin population are better served with a lower frequency system that has a larger coverage area and better tree penetration. The ability to support a reasonable number of customers is a key factor in the business case.
Another factor in the technology is whether it is full duplex, simultaneously transmitting and receiving on different channels or half duplex (TDD). The half duplex system alternately transmits and receives on one channel. Assuming that each channel supports a 10 Mbps data stream, the full duplex system could move a total of 20 Mbps. The half duplex TDD system has some additional overheads and can only move around 8.5 Mbps. There is additional delay in buffering data. The full duplex system would seem snappier.
The next factor is how well the system manages the flow of data. WiFi is an inefficient protocol that can support only 20 to 30 users per channel. Wimax is a more efficient protocol that can support 50 to 200 users on a channel, depending on their signal level. The WiDox manufacturers claim to support 3000 users but we think that 1000 users on one channel is more realistic for these service levels.
Because of it's ability to use reflected signals, Wimax has some signal processing abilities that serve to increase it's range of service.
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3. What are the pro's and con's of WiMax?
- is designed specifically for wireless networks
-Works well is urban areas because of the ability to use reflected signals
-Has a higher capacity than current wifi networks
-has mobile capabilities (handoff from tower to tower)
-Is typically used in 2.5GHz and higher frequencies that limit coverage and and penetration of foliage
-has concentric 'circles' of coverage, each successive circle has a lower throughput. The farther away from the tower the less speed is available to all the users in that 'circle'
-higher cost due to the need of expensive towers to get the range
-is only half duplex (cannot send and receive at the same time)
-the Wimax protocol is still under development. Preliminary versions are being used
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4. What are the pro's and con's of WIDOX?
-it is full duplex (transmits and receives simultaneously)
-it has a lot higher capacity (more speed) to the end user
-Greater range (more than 50Km line of sight). About 10 times the coverage footprint compared to 3.5 GHz Wimax
-it efficiently manages hundreds of customers with a high quality of service
-can deliver the same speed at 50km as it does at 1km
-is being used at a lower frequency (500mhz-700mhz) with lower free space loss and better tree penetration
-is based on well developed, proven, cable internet technology
-lower capital cost and is scaleable to match the user base
-is fixed station, not a mobile technology
- Can be more susceptible to multipath due to the lower frequency
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5. Claim 1: Our WiMax technology has an "umbrella effect" that extends coverage over trees, hills and into ravines.
WiMax was designed for an urban environment where the signal can bounce off buildings and still maintain a connection with a moving user. Due to the building reflections there would be an "umbrella effect" in these urban canyons but not in open country. There would be many more reflected signals than shown in this drawing.
Rural WiMax would be strictly line of sight. This scale drawing gives you an idea. The tower is 300 feet high, the peak of the house is 15 feet, the shelterbelt tree is just over 70 feet tall. The house is 1000 feet, less than a quarter mile, from the tower.
The trees do not absorb the entire signal so this installation may actually work because it is so close. The signal would be noticeably worse in the summer because the trees would be actively in leaf and would absorb more of the signal. The radio path is still obstructed by the trees and the height of the tower is only marginally significant.
The expensive 300 ft. towers do give better coverage over the trees and extend the range over some curvature of the earth.
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6. Claim 2: Our 4G WiMax technology will provide the best broadband experience.
The first shipments of true 4G technology equipment are scheduled for 2012.
The top Wimax service package is our base residential speed. Our faster, full duplex system will provide the better broadband service. Better for surfing, for gaming, for digital video, and for our digital phone service.
Many technology professionals disagree about the applicability of WiMax for the rural broadband application. The biggest reason is the relatively small coverage area and thin rural population. The payback is too long.
Look at these sites: http://www.machlink.ca/Brochure2010.pdf
Look at these sites: http://www.c-cor.com.au/file/24982
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7. Claim 3: We are the only internet providers with interference free licensed frequencies.
The three Telcos and at least 3 other ISPs operating in this area have had licensed frequencies for broadband for a few years.
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8. Claim 4: We give unlimited* traffic
From our experience, a truly unlimited service is an unmanaged service with higher costs and poor quality of service. The tower capacity can be exceeded. It would not be unusual to have 3 computers in a home downloading a different video at the same time.
There is a limited amount of spectrum available for rural broadband. To ensure a reasonable usage experience for everyone on a system, the service must be managed. Viruses, Trojans and bandwidth hogs like Netflix would make the system unusable. We've seen it happen.
We often get annoyed at the way some businesses mislead people with their advertising. A true unlimited rural connection of 3 Mbps should cost between $500 and $700 per month. You are being misled if anyone offers an "unlimited" service for significantly less. *Check the fine print.
Some providers offer a certain throughput but will say that they are happy if you are getting only 40% of that throughput. Other providers have an unlimited package, but if you exceed a certain amount, they limit your throughput for a period of time. What is unlimited about that?
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9. Claim 5: Towers are money-makers
An Alberta county recently contracted a study on the feasibility of setting up wireless infrastructure. They found that it was not feasible for a county to deploy large towers and get a return on their investment. We've included a graph from that study which shows the projected revenue shortfall of different systems. We have more graphs and details from that study if it is of interest to you. A good question is "Where will that shortfall come from?"
Renting space on the towers to other users would help to offset the tower costs provided the additional capacity was designed in to the tower. Most of the towers are installed near other towers, so that option may be limited.
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10. Why aren't you working with the Gas Co-Ops and the REA? Surely it would cost less to install new technologies on top of existing infrastructure and to expand from existing infrastructure than to start over?
We did approach those utilities and suggest that we work together. At that time, the stated reason for building a wireless network was to support utility meter reading. We also offered to support meter reading trials on our existing network. They didn't really want to talk to us. They had their own agenda.
You are correct on the costs. We were recently awarded a grant from Broadband Canada for a project to put new technology on 4 sites. Towers were required at 2 of those sites. The total project estimate was about $270 thousand. The local utilities spent more than that on start up activities without building anything. Their project, as we understand it, will run into millions.
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"Truth in advertising" may matter but it seems to be standard practise among wireless providers to knowingly exaggerate the capability of their services. Some call their '3G enhanced' networks '4G', knowing that true 4G gear is a year away. It sounds better in their advertising. Challenge their claims and they respond with 'technobabble'. Harewaves may have a cute rabbit as a logo but in practise we are a 'no bull' organization. This is our effort to present balanced information to help you see through the hype and make the best decision for your high speed internet needs.
While others could only hype a service that didn't exist yet, Harewaves was busy, investing in this area by improving the coverage and technology to meet your expectations. Harewaves first WiDox site went into service about 20 months ago. Two additional WiDox sites are providing what we believe is the fastest, most reliable internet service in the area. No bull! Harewaves continues to invest prudently in our area with the firm intention to continue to be the best value, best support, best technology provider. History shows that a 'build it and they will come' approach to wireless networks usually ends badly.
In addition to deploying the best available technology for rural broadband service Harewaves is introducing two additional innovations, $99 installations with a 3 yr contract and 'unlimited late night' service.
At Harewaves, we are always looking ahead so that the systems will be in place to meet the areas needs. The limitations of wireless networks dictate that we look at other technologies to deliver the service that the area needs. We believe that the right solution to support our community is a hybrid wired and wireless approach. A community strategy is required to be able to implement this type of network. A community organization is required to develop and promote this future. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in working in a non-profit group with the goal of sustainable broadband in our community. Put 'Broadband Futures' in the subject line.
Thank you for supporting our efforts in the past and ask for your continued support. We accept the responsibility to continue to be the best value service provider.
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