The changing WISP RF landscape

Recently, there have been some discussions on Facebook about waining support for 2.4GHZ .  KP Performance recently published a Future of 5GHZ and beyond blog post. So why all this focus on 5GHZ and why are people forgetting about 2.4?

To answer this question, we need to update our thinking on the trends in networks, not just wireless networks.  Customers are demanding more and more speed. Network backbones and delivery nodes have to be updated to keep up with this demand. For anything but 802.11 wifi,2.4GHZ can’t keep up with the bandwidth needs.

One of the significant limitations of many 2.4 radios is they use frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) and/or direct-sequence spread spectrum (DSSS) modulation. Due to 2.4GHZ being older, the chipsets have evolved around these modulation methods because of age.  When you compare 2.4GHZ to 5GHZ radios running OFDM, you start to see a significant difference.  In a nutshell, OFDM allows for higher throughput. If you want to read all about the differences in the protocols here ya go: http://www.answers.com/Q/Difference_between_ofdm_dsss_fhss

Secondly, is the amount of spectrum available.  More spectrum means more channels to use, which translates into a high chance of mitigating interference. This interference can be self-induced or from external sources. To use an analogy, the more rooms a building has, the more simultaneous conversations can happen without noise in 2.4GHZ we only have 3 non-overlapping channels at 20mhz. Remember the part about more and more customers wanting more bandwidth? In the wireless world, one of the ways to increase capacity on your APs is to increase the channel width. Once you increase 2.4 to 30 or 40 MHz, you do not have much room to deal with noise because your available channels have shrunk.

One of the biggest arguments in support of using 2.4GHZ for a WISP environment is the physics.  Lower frequencies penetrate trees and foliage better. As with anything, there is a tradeoff.  As the signal is absorbed, so is the available “air time” for transmission of data.  As the signal travels through stuff, the radios on both sides have to reduce their modulation rates to deal with the loss of signal.  Lower modulation rates mean lower throughput for customers.  This might be fine for customers who have no other choice.  This thinking is not a long term play.

With LTE especially, the traditional thinking is being uprooted.  Multiple streams to the customer as well as various paths for the signal due to antenna stacking are allowing radios to penetrate this same foliage just as well as a 2.4 signal, but delivering more bandwidth. These systems are becoming more and more carrier class.  As the internet evolves and becomes more and more critical, ISPs are having to step up their services.  The FCC  says the definition of broadband is at least 25 meg download. A 2.4 radio just can’t keep up in a WISP environment.  I am seeing 10 meg becoming the minimum customers want. Can you get by with smaller packages? Yes, but how long can you maintain that as the customer demand grows?

So what is the answer? Cell sizes are shrinking.  This is helping 2.4 hold on.  The less expensive radios can be deployed to less dense areas and still provide decent speeds to customers.  This same trend allows 5GHZ cells to be deployed as well. With less things to go through, 5GHZ can perform in modern networks at higher modulation rates.  Antenna manufacturers are also spending R&D to get the most out of their 5GHZ antennas. More money in the pipeline means stronger products. My clients are typically deploying 3.65 and 5GHZ on their towers.  LTE is changing RF WISP design and taking the place of 2.4 and 900.

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Form 477 and Mapping

Recently the FCC has put out a press release about updating the national broadband map. If you are a WISP and wondering why you aren’t on there ask your self this question: Have you been filing your form 477? If not, then that is why.  If you are an ISP you are required to file form 477.

So, where do you begin? The above link will get you started.  If you are confused by census tracts, blocks, 15 digit codes for, and the sheer amount of formatting you need to know you have come to the right place. Also, for you facebook users I will share a link to the WISPAMERICA 2018 session in Birmingham about what forms to fill out.

Option number one is your WISP billing platform may already support doing something with form 477.  Many of the billing platforms geared toward the WISP industry already support form 477 exporting.  Check with your vendor or have a conversation with one at an event such as the upcoming WISPAMERICA.

Second is an online service such as www.towercoverage.com.  While many folks know towercoverage for their RF propagation maps, they can also turn data you can use for form 477. Here are some searches from the towercoverage.com wiki to get you started on their 477 support.  If you are going to WispAmerica check them out in booth 600.

Lastly, but not least, we have firms such as wirelessmapping.com. Not only can they help you generate maps and data, but they can help you turn your data into marketing as well.   They are also able to make sure you are filing your paperwork properly and in the correct format. In my local area, I see companies that do not have a coverage listed on the national broadband map.  I can only assume this is an honest mistake due to an error in a census block mistake or improper coding.

If you don’t file your Form 477, not only are you doing yourself an injustice but not letting the government know you are there, but you are skirting the law as well.  If the government does not know you are providing broadband to an area, they may let your competitor overbuild on taxpayer money.  You are missing out on opportunities as well as potential fines.

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Open Source Box Design

One of the biggest challenges WISPs and anyone deploying wireless gear is power and distribution.  I have put together a checklist for purchasing items to make a standard box MTIN would deploy. This is not designed to be a how-to, but rather a “What to buy” guide.

Link to the PDF (7Meg Download)

Throughout this documents I make notes based upon experience. As with anything, these are not hard rules. They are meant to be guidelines to follow. Please adapt to your uses. For example, if you don’t have any non-cambium radios you don’t need the POE injectors found on page 5.

If you find this document useful please feel free to send your thoughts, beer money, or other admiration. Links to http://www.mtin.net/blog are always appreciated, as well as twitter ( @j2sw ) or facebook follows (http://www.facebook.com/mtinnet )are always appreciated.   If you reproduce any parts of this Open Source document please give credit to the original source.

IMG_0563

Box in deployment. Fiber has not been dressed so don’t worry it gets better protected.

IMG_0967

Basic no frills box with 2 PacketFlux gigabit injectors

IMG_0936

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News from the WEB – ISP Edition

http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/NewWave-Latest-ISP-to-Promise-1-Gbps-Speeds-130228
Add NewWave Communications
 to the growing list of ISPs large and small that are promising to soon offer 1 Gbps speeds — albeit to a tiny portion of their overall subscribers. The company has announced that they’re planning to offer 1 Gbps to a handful of rural markets starting next year

http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/California-Governor-Signs-Cell-Phone-Kill-Switch-Law-130207
California this week became the first state in the country to pass a law requiring that cell phones include so-called “kill switch” functionality to deter theft, enabled by default

http://venturebeat.com/2014/08/26/intel-reveals-worlds-smallest-wireless-modem-for-the-internet-of-things/
Intel is revealing what it calls the world’s smallest standalone wireless modem for connecting the Internet of things, or everyday things that are connected to the web like coffee machines that you can turn on with a mobile app.

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News of the Day

AT&T & Netflix sign deal for faster service to AT&T customers
http://mashable.com/2014/07/29/netflix-att-peering-deal/

Comcast Fiber to the Home News
http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/Comcast-Expanding-Small-Fiber-to-the-Home-Deployments-129850

CVALINK to deploy TVWS
http://www.wispa.org/news/2014/07/24/cvalink-broadband-partnered-to-deploy-ars2-tvws-in-rural-areas-of-louisa-county-va

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