2006 Wireless Broadband Technology

Publication Overview

This report introduces managers, investors and technical people to the major wireless broadband technologies IEEE 802.11 (WiFi) and IEEE 802.16 (WiMAX) – and to a number of related technologies. These include short-distance Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband (UWB) and several short distance low-rate systems such as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), ZigBee (IEEE 802.15.4) and Near-Field Communications (NFCIP).

Key sections:-

  • Historical background
  • Principles of operation
  • Technical standards
  • Critical analysis of strengths and weaknesses
  • Competition with other technologies
  • Opportunities for new services
  • Combining technologies
  • Industry consortia, standards bodies, regulators and key vendors
  • Explaining established technologies in detail

Executive Summary

Wireless Broadband traditionally refers to “last-mile” delivery of high speed data, typically for Internet access and private networking, in metropolitan and rural areas, over distances of hundreds of metres to several kilometres. WiMAX in particular has long been promoted as a viable alternative to DSL, including for “Triple Play” voice, video and data services. We critically examine the capabilities of this emerging technology in the context of limited spectrum availability in the frequencies best suited for longer distance propagation.

Another technology with great appeal for delivering broadband services without a cabled infrastructure is the use of “Mesh Networking”, with WiFi or WiMAX. Mesh networking involves dozens or hundreds of nodes, sharing traffic between themselves, dynamically configuring themselves according to traffic patterns, propagation and interference limitations, to form a self-managing backbone network which can be spread, in principle, over large urban and perhaps rural areas. We report on the status of technical standards in this field and discuss the challenges which will need to be overcome in order to deploy robust, standards-based mesh networks.

While Bluetooth is neither long distance or broadband, it is a successful Personal Area Networking technology with several important implications. Firstly, it uses the same frequencies as most WiFi systems, requiring very careful coordination of frequencies and transmit/receive timing with any device, such as a laptop, which is both WiFi and Bluetooth compatible. Secondly, future broadband Bluetooth will use UWB’s radio technology, greatly increasing its data rate and potentially improving its robustness.

UWB is a promising but controversial technology. Initially based on pulse techniques which covered vast ranges of frequencies, including those used for licensed services, UWB has emerged with a sophisticated OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) radio specification which enables it, in principle, to avoid interference from and to other services, including WiMAX. We consider UWB’s promise as in in-building data- and video-centric networking system. We examine challenges such as the potential difficulties of implementing both WiMAX and UWB in the same device, or operating two such devices in close proximity.

The range of technologies discussed in this report spans very low data rate RFID to WiMAX and WiFi with bandwidths of potentially tens of Megabits per second. There are areas of overlap between the functionality of many of these technologies - and some conflicts between them due to their use of the same radio frequency spectrum without interoperability or thorough techniques of sharing the resource properly.

This report details the key technical principles behind each technology, including some currently little known approaches such as 60GHz millimetre wave communications for several hundred metres, with oxygen absorption enabling frequency re-use in nearby links. Some familiarity with basic telecommunications and radio terminology is assumed, but the report is written for non-engineers, or engineers from other fields, who wish to develop a comprehensive overview of Wireless Broadband and related technologies.

We intend that by developing sufficient understanding of radio frequency propagation and of the principles of each technology, readers will be able to understand the key challenges and benefits of each applicable technology in the setting they are considering. The report provides a solid, independent overview of the field, and constitutes a solid basis for further consultation and consideration of the systems provided by particular vendors.

Table of Contents

1.2Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
1.2.2Safety and interference
1.2.4Antennae and propagation
1.2.5Active and passive tags
1.2.6Read-only and read-write tags
1.2.7Technical standards
1.3Near-Field Communications – NFCIP
1.3.3NFC applications
1.4IEEE 802.15 – WPAN
1.4.1WiMedia – 802.15.3
1.4.2802.15.4 and ZigBee
1.5Low power WPAN standards
2.1Technical standard
2.1.1Piconets and scatternets
2.1.2Synchronous and asynchronous links
2.2Bluetooth 1.2
2.2.1Improved interworking with WiFi
2.2.2Enhanced usability and audio quality
2.3Bluetooth 2.0
2.3.1Enhanced Data Rate - EDR
2.4Single chip TRANSCEIVERS
2.6.3Backdoor and bluebug vulnerabilities
2.6.4Re-pairing exploit
2.6.5Prospects for Bluetooth
3.3Pulse techniques
3.3.1FCC regulation
3.3.2Problems with pulse techniques
3.3.3DS-UWB - the UWB-Forum
3.4MB-OFDM - WiMedia Alliance
3.4.1Multi-Band operation
3.4.2Data rates
3.5.1Wireless USB
3.5.2UWB Bluetooth
3.6Prospects for UWB
3.6.1Interference and regulation
4.1IEEE 802.11 - WiFi
4.1.1Historical background
4.1.2Widespread deployment and future
4.1.3Standards and data rates
4.2.2Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)
4.3HiperLAN/2 and HiSWANa
4.4802.11e - Quality of Service (QoS)
4.4.1WiFi Multimedia - WMM
4.4.2Four priority levels
4.4.3WMM Baseline - Enhanced DCF Channel Access (EDCA)
4.4.4HCF Controlled Channel Access (HCCA)
4.4.5Contention Free Bursts
4.4.6Direct Link Protocol (DLP) and piggybacking
4.4.7WMM Scheduled Access
4.4.8WMM Power Save
4.4.9Fast roaming and other enhancements
4.5802.11n - MIMO
4.5.1The Enhanced Wireless Consortium
4.5.2Multipath required for enhanced performance
4.5.3MIMO for long distance links?
4.5.4Reach and diversity
4.5.5Adaptive Antennae Systems
4.6Propagation in and near buildings
4.7Point-to-point links
4.7.1Propagation and Fresnel zone
4.7.2Antennae and cabling
4.8.1Access points and NICs
4.8.2Infrastructure and ad-hoc modes
4.9Centralised or distributed WLAN architecture
4.9.1Traffic routing
4.10WiFi hotspots
4.11Roaming to other services
4.12Last-mile wireless
4.13Voice over IP for Wireless LANs (VoWLANs)
4.13.1DECT as an alternative to VoWLAN
4.13.3WLAN performance
4.13.4WAN considerations
4.13.5VoIP architecture
5.1802.20 mobile wireless
5.1.1Mobile velocity limits
5.1.2ArrayComm’s iBurst WLAN in Sydney
5.1.3Gallium arsenide chips
5.1.4Line of sight and rain fade
5.1.5Spectrum licencing
5.1.6Equipment and services
5.1.7Difficulties with very high frequencies
5.1.8Mobility and Doppler
5.2Millimetre wave communications
5.2.160GHz oxygen ABSORPTION
5.2.2Directional antennae
5.3Mesh Networks
5.3.2Design choices
5.3.3VoIP a challenge
5.3.4Adaptive Antennae Systems (AAS)
5.3.560GHz mesh networks
5.4Research, standards and software
5.5Commercial products
5.6Routing protocols
6.802-16 WIMAX
6.1.1Fixed and mobile standards
6.1.2The WiMAX Forum
6.1.3IP-based network architecture
6.1.4Single Carrier and OFDM
6.1.5OFDM and OFDMA
6.1.6Fractional Frequency Reuse
6.2Media Access Control (MAC)
6.2.1Handoffs between base-stations
6.2.2Multiple antennae techniques
6.2.4Licenced and unlicenced spectrum
6.2.5Quality of Service (QoS)
6.2.6Multicast and broadcast
6.2.7Competing technologies
6.2.8WiMAX’s likely future
Exhibit 1 – Radio Frequency ID frequencies
Exhibit 2 – IEEE 802.11a 5GHz frequency allocations from WRC03
Exhibit 3 – Mobile WiMAX Applications and Quality of Service

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Mobile & Wireless Broadband and Media

Number of pages 103

Status Archived

Last updated 19 Sep 2006
Update History

Analyst: Stephen McNamara

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Paul, May I congratulate you on a very successful and enjoyable afternoon with the Minister. In providing the roundtable discussions between government and industry, it highlighted the strong interest by stakeholders in Broadband and its implementation but it also presented us with other issues and opportunities that we need to address.

Dominic Schipano, CITT

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