Building a virtual data ring-road
Alex Scroxton of ComputerWeekly reports that Sheffield Council in the United Kingdom is rolling out a “new and highly advanced” city Wi-Fi network that uses cutting-edge millimeter-wave technology. Millimeter-wave refers to the band of spectrum between 30 gigahertz (GHz) and 300 GHz.
“While [millimeter-wave technology] has a very short range and its wavelengths are easily disrupted by atmospheric conditions, rain or buildings, it allows for extremely high data rates,” he explains.
As Scroxton notes, the Wi-Fi is being installed by Idaq Networks, Ruckus Networks, and Siklu. More specifically, the new network will help create a smart, digitized city and address the “perennial problems” of digital exclusion in one of the UK’s largest post-industrial urban areas.
“Idaq, Ruckus, and Siklu have essentially made a virtual data ring-road around Sheffield to transmit data at ultrafast speed along lines of sight between taller buildings connected to full-fiber backhaul,” he writes. “Using Siklu’s radios, the signals are then delivered down to street level using shorter buildings and street furniture, where residents, visitors, and machines or IoT sensors can access it through a Ruckus access point (AP)… [The] ‘fiber-through-the-air’ [deployment] has been clocked at 20Gbps, with up to 24,000 simultaneous users.”
As Scroxton points out, Ruckus’ mesh networking technology, which offers additional backup capabilities, is also playing a major role in the deployment.
“[If] any of the radio units [are] disrupted for some reason, its APs can connect to one another to maintain connectivity,” he adds.
Smart mesh networking: Taking a closer look
A smart mesh network is a multi-hop wireless network wherein participant nodes cooperate to transmit packets into the main network, otherwise known as backhaul over the air instead of via a wire. In a Ruckus wireless mesh network, the “mesh nodes” (that is, the Ruckus wireless APs forming the network), create a network wherein APs connect to other APs until they reach a “root node” which is connected to the main backbone. Clients (for example, laptops, tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices) connect to the mesh nodes and use the backbone to communicate with one another and nodes on the Internet. Think of a fire bucket brigade in which a line of people hand a bucket of water from one person to another until the water reaches the fire. Data is transmitted from one AP or mesh node to another, otherwise known as a “hop”.
Smart Mesh networking offers a number of advantages:
- Smart Mesh networks are self-healing: If any one of the nodes fails, the nodes automatically re-route data.
- Smart Mesh networks are self-organizing: When a new node appears, it becomes assimilated into the mesh network.
In a Ruckus wireless Smart Mesh network, all traffic going through the mesh links is encrypted, with a passphrase shared between mesh nodes to securely pass traffic.
How does wireless mesh networking work?