City-wide Wi-Fi a step closer

2012-10-29 14:00
A company has revealed that universal city-wide wireless internet may be a step closer thanks to a refinement of existing Wi-Fi technology. (Irwin Fedriansyah, AP)

A company has revealed that universal city-wide wireless internet may be a step closer thanks to a refinement of existing Wi-Fi technology. (Irwin Fedriansyah, AP)

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Cape Town - A company has revealed that universal city-wide high speed wireless internet may be a step closer thanks to a refinement of existing Wi-Fi technology.

The demand for data services is set to grow exponentially as more people purchase smartphones, but access and cost is still an inhibitor to growth.

Multisource Telecoms has launched its Altai range of Wi-Fi products that promise a 10km² range for data, potentially making it feasible to roll out a package in urban centres.

"Yes we can to the hotspot, hotel lobby type of scenario using the product, but it really comes into its own in a hot zone or hot park type of environment," Richard Smuts-Steyn, CEO of Multisource told News24.

Data speed has become a hot-button issue in SA and mobile operators Vodacom and MTN recently announced higher speed networks that analysts have welcomed as a 4G experience, though not technically a fourth generation mobile network by its strict definition.

Coverage

Wi-Fi has been touted as a transition to high speed networks, but because of its range, it is typically limited to hotel lobbies, coffee shops and specialist conferences venues.

According to Multisource, the use of the new product facilitated wider coverage.

"It basically makes use of existing technologies, but it's a matter of paying closer attention to the requirements and exactly what's needed to get a consistent; decent coverage," said Ian Braie, chief technology officer of Multisource.

"There's much more attention to the signal processing to the necessary algorithms; there's sectorisation, so it can use three sector or four sector, so already that is a huge advantage because it enables you to have antenna gain, rather than what you get with omni-directional antennas," he added.

The system has been successfully deployed in Central Park in New York and Jamaica. The company said that the delivery was intended to be in wide areas.

"It's very aimed at industrial parks; residential estates, going up," said Smuts-Steyn.

"By three or four sectors, having intelligent CPE [Customer Premise Equipment]; you've got directional antennas, making use of cross-polarisation; having antenna arrays in the CPE; having array antennas at the base station… and really a much better focus on how the system should work," said Braie.

Challenge

The speeds offered are up to 300mbps, but the company said that real world environment resulted in lower speed.

"If you take backhaul in conjunction with your number of subscribers at the end of every base station, that’s going to be a constraint rather than the equipment, but the guys in Beijing and Jamaica are getting a realistic 80mbps at each subscriber which is significant," said Smuts-Steyn.

A significant challenge to the deployment of the technology in SA is the fact that the spectrum is open and there may be interference which would reduce the quality and user experience.

A city deployment in Cape Town or Johannesburg could still be a viable alternative to the offerings from the mobile operators which are also hamstrung from rolling high speed networks because of a lack of spectrum allocation.

"When you go Wi-Fi in this type of scenario, as soon as you go densely in the city, you are going to have some level of interference that will bring it down significantly, but I don't think, even in this kind of environment, you're going to see it drop below 10mbps," said Braie.


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