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The Internet

Wireless Mesh Network Trial in the UK 46

Huw writes "With cable only in selected areas and ADSL only available within three miles of selected telephone exchanges, residents of the South Wales valleys are pretty much stuck with dial up connections to access the internet. BT may have the answer with a wireless solution according to this article from the BBC. Quite how wireless networking will cope with a hilly area like this remains to be seen, but hopefully we'll soon see broadband available for anyone who wants it." The company home page has some more information about their system.
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Wireless Mesh Network Trial in the UK

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  • by jonman_d ( 465049 ) <nemilar AT optonline DOT net> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @08:17AM (#3791633) Homepage Journal
    I haven't had any experiance with wireless at all, so I was hoping that anyone out there who's used this technology could enlighten me.

    I would think (?) that there's got to be some latency with wireless access, but how much is it? Is it as bad as satilite access? Or is it just a little worse than, for instance, a regular cable hookup? (read: can you play quake without getting horrible lag? ;) )

    Moreover, with all the cable companies limiting the use of cable modem service, and (I'd assume, please correct me if I'm wrong) wireless resources must be a lot more limited, are there large restrictions on what you can do with a wireless connection? For instance, running any sort of servers what-so-ever (I know my cable ISP hates it when I simply have ftpd running to transfer files from another machine). Of course, I doubt you'd run a server off a wireless connection, but, like in my case, sometimes you must, if only for a short period of time.

    Anyone who's had experiance, I'd love to have your imput.
    • I have been using an 802.11 from my office to my apartment about 2 city blocks away. (Philadelphia city blocks, probably half a NY city block.)

      The hookup is deliberately crude. I have a pair of off-the-shelf access point using an aftermarket antenna to boost the range. Both antennas are mounted in windows.

      Even through some trees, I get a good signal. The slowest part of the link is the T1 line in the office! I have a few problems on extremely rainy, windy day. All of these problems would be solved by mounting the antennas on the roof. The trees are the limiting factor.

    • I haven't used my wireless to play Quake, but I have no problems with speed and response time. I would expect no particular latency problems, because the total distances involved aren't exaggerated like they are with satellites.
    • Remenber: All EM radation moves at the speed of light (9.8e6m/s). Satellite links are bouncing off of geostationary satellites, which orbit at about 35,000Km (22,000 miles) above the Earth's surface.

      To paraphrase Douglas Adams:
      Space is big, really big. It's mind bogglingly huge. You may thing the walk down to the chemist is a long way, but that's just peanuts to space...

    • Packet communications are NOT limited to consumption and dependent on central services for co-ordination. The internet is designed to be redundant and decentralized so that multiple paths exist and some disaster, like a nuclear war, would not be able to knock communications and computing resources out. Just look at how easy it was to disable ALL other forms of communications in New York on 9/11 - that's the weakness of centralization. That's why media consolidation and centralized control end user internet is so evil and stupid. Packets can go by wire, light or radio, the principles are the same.

      The BBC article, however, makes this new system look very restrictive. They spew on and on about "Interactive TV", and video on demand. They then go on to say , "That technology has so far been used by eclectic hobbyist and community groups to exchange information and videos between computers. ... it threatens to make redundant wireless technologies such as the 802.11b standard." This "ecclectic" bunch would be you and me trying to run away from interactive TV and pay by the minute communications charges. I imagine that BT's "community web" will have the same dependency and restrictions on BT as the current BT. Your "redundant" 802.11b http server will be silenced when it interfeers with Girl Power or some other mass produced shit. USA telcom has made my cynical.

    • Well, I just tried this on my laptop that works over wireless. It's connected to my PC that is on ADSL. The ping time from my PC to www.google.com was about 110ms. The ping time from laptop across the wireless lan, through my PC to www.google.com was actually lower, about 110 ms (not quite sure why!). So in this case it's so small I couldn't measure it. (Actually I got the lowest figure from my laptop, 100ms - go figure).

      For that test, the radio only went a few feet, however the distance over the wireless network doesn't directly affect it- if I'd have done it over a distance of 30km, it adds only about 100 microseconds latency; but with satellite, the issue with satellite packet connections isn't that it's wireless per se, it is that the signal has to go away ~35000km and then come back again... that takes about 1/2 a second or so.

      Moreover, with all the cable companies limiting the use of cable modem service, and (I'd assume, please correct me if I'm wrong) wireless resources must be a lot more limited, are there large restrictions on what you can do with a wireless connection? For instance, running any sort of servers what-so-ever (I know my cable ISP hates it when I simply have ftpd running to transfer files from another machine). Of course, I doubt you'd run a server off a wireless connection, but, like in my case, sometimes you must, if only for a short period of time.

      The biggest issue is that the ISP doesn't usually let you sublet the service. You might be able to bypass that by forming a company and getting everyone who wants to use it to join the company, and then the company pays the bills.

      Apart from any restrictions the ISP puts on you there's no big drama with putting a server on a wireless link- the wireless link usually has about 20 times the bandwidth of an ADSL line. It's quite comparable to ethernet in performance, provided the link is a good one (no interference).

  • Trial customers in the 80-square-kilometre area will receive movies, music videos and entertainment shows on-demand to their living room.

    They didn't mention what everyone will really be using it for: high-speed p0rn.
  • Meshes (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Don't confuse this with the 802.11b networks BT are setting up, this is the fixed wireless in the ~15GHz range I believe. Anyway, I have cable... but the mesh I'd really be interested in is a mobile P2P Mesh [eetimes.com]

  • All forms of wireless connections are much more prone to manipulation and hax0ring than the good old fashioned fiber connections.
    While wireless might be much easier to set up the total cost of ownership might be much higher due to hacking attacks and financial damages caused by the theft of personal information like credit card numbers etc. There are, of course, ways to secure wireless channels but usually administrators which non-academic background and managers without technical skills ignore the problems of open channels and therefore no decent security measures are applied.
    It's also questionable if the existing encryption possibilities are strong enough. For some critical data doesn't become uncritical after a long time, therefore introducing new possibilities for a hacker with some decent equipment and enough time (3-4 months) on his hands.
    I also wonder if the bad weather conditions in Scottland might render the service useless too. After all, in a decent thounderstorm both optical and radiobased wireless links become pretty useless.
  • Hmm, perhaps it's just me, but the word 'Internet' is only used twice in the BBC article, and the idea that this network will be used for net access is passed over fairly quickly.

    The bulk of it seems to be about how "Broadband gives computer users high-speed access to broadcast-quality films, video conferencing and other facilities." And how this network will be used to "receive movies, music videos and entertainment shows on-demand to their living room."

    In fact, the only user testimonial in the article is:

    "We have been watching music videos and flicking through films," tester Andrew Sharpe told BBC News Online from his newly wired Gelliwastad Grove address.

    "Before, I was dialling up using a slow 56 kbps modem, but now I can't notice the difference from a TV picture. It's very impressive."


    All-in-all, this seems more like a North American CableCo switching to wireless delivery in rural areas, as opposed to an ISP. In this article, at least, 'net access is only given a cursory lip-service.
  • Free your mind (Score:2, Interesting)

    I think they will do quite well.

    I've been using wireless for broadband for a few months now. In downtown Philadelphia the local cable company [comcast.com] is not very serious about taking on new customers. We were told that someone would be there to set us up next week for about 4 months. We offered to pick up a box and install it, but they kept giving us the runaround.

    The last time I had DSL the company went out of business a year into my 2 year contract. We also had problems with the local phone company using our DSL wire to string up new phones. (I'll never forget the Covad service guy: "Sir, your DSL line has a dialtone.")

    My 802.11 wireless rig is going through a few trees and doesn't seem to mind. Hills are easy, it's called a rooftop mount.

  • by peterdaly ( 123554 ) <petedaly.ix@netcom@com> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @08:42AM (#3791671)
    Trial customers in the 80-square-kilometre area will receive movies, music videos and entertainment shows on-demand to their living room.

    And just think, Verzion won't even roll out DSL in my area, unless it is to piggyback a more expensive service. (Verizon currently sells us a T1 which enters the building over a DSL line...won't sell us DSL, go figure.)

    Communities have done things like this before, but never a phone company to my knowledge. That is where the news is with this.

    Maybe the US telecom's could learn a lesson from the Brits.

    -Pete
  • by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @08:49AM (#3791685) Homepage
    UK approval of 802.11a was delayed by the fact that military and satellite networks also use spectrum in the 5GHz range.

    Intel's agreement with the UK regulator, the Radiocommunications Agency, sidesteps this problem by limiting users to undisputed parts of the 5GHz spectrum. (A similar agreement will allow users in the Netherlands to buy systems there too.)

    Because of this limitation, UK users will have a maximum of four 802.11a access points in a given area, while the fully licensed product allows users in the US to have up to eight.
  • http://news.zdnet.co.uk/story/0,,t269-s2118153,00. html
  • As I have posted before [slashdot.org], a simliar net is up for testing in Germany. Here's my posting:

    Hi,

    your news reporter from Germany back again ;-)

    Heise had a story about a wireless self organzing net that's up for testing in the city of Ratingen, Germany.

    The main facts: 2,4 GHz like WLAN, max. 1 km distance between the antennas, 44 mbit bandwidth per node - 33 mbit for relaying with the other nodes (normally 3 * 11 mbit) and the rest for the user of the node.

    The links:

    Heise Story in German [heise.de] [heise.de] or google translated [google.com] [google.com].

    Link to the technology provider DIRC [dirc.net] [dirc.net] (click on FAQ to get the main points).

    Bye

    egghat.
  • I would think a hilly area could actually be an advantage; just stick a node on the top of each hill and serve everyone around.

    Somebody's gotta do something, I waited on Adelphia for 6 years before I finally got a cable modem a couple months ago. Now Adelphia is in huge financial trouble, figures...
  • I gave up waiting for ADSL and got ISDN. I am quite happy with it as it is so much better than expected compared to a modem. BT have no plans at all to supply my area with ADSL and when the final have a plan it will take them over a year to actually do anything and my ISDN only requires that I have it for at least a year.

    So I sit here dreaming of ADSL coming one day, somewhere in the future and then read that they are going to test this on the sheep in Wales. What is wrong with the Cotswolds ??? They are hills too !!! and there are more people here that would actually use this.

    How many years will it be before we can have this ???
  • Damn it!! give the technology to us up here in North Wales (the land that time forgot)!
  • Actually the ADSL range from the exchange was increased with the introduction of RADSL which varies the upstream bit rate according to line quality. The limit is now about 5.5km of average copper quality line.
  • Quite how wireless networking will cope with a hilly area like this remains to be seen

    Got the solution. Put the antennas on top of hills.

    Can I have my multi-million dollar consulting fee now please?

  • This makes sense for moderately populated rural areas. In urban areas, there's too much load for the spectrum space available. In isolated areas, there's not enough load to pay for the sites. But if each hilltop serves tens to hundreds of customers, it could work.

    I'm a bit suspicious of "it works great for the beta users". The question is how it will work under load. See the cable modem cap discussion for the issues.

    Siting for gigahertz-range services in hilly terrain is tough. For an awful example, drive Topanga Canyon Road in Malibu, CA. It's a winding road in a narrow canyon, heavily used by film industry types who expect cell phones to work. There are little cell sites on phone poles every few hundred feet.

  • The radiant system uses 28 or 40 ghz point to point radios and they run ATM over that. The main feed to the messh is a 155mb atm link. Each hub has 4 directional antennas so it can talk to 4 other sites. The problems with this is it only goes about 3km (but 1km is more typical) and the hubs were about 7 grand each and I have now idea how much the main feed point would cost.

    There are several compaines working optical mesh networks which I think will work as well if not better because they have much longer range (when the weather is good you can do a 20km hop but when the weather is bad you do a bunch of 1km hops) and are cheaper.

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