Cambium Networks launches wireless broadband platform targeted to emerging markets
There are about 4.6 billion people worldwide who are not connected to broadband, with most of those in emerging markets, according to Atul Bhatnagar, CEO of Cambium Networks, which is trying to address the issue.
Formed when Motorola Solutions combined its Orthogon Systems and Canopy business units, Cambium Networks recently launched ePMP, a cost-effective, point-to-multipoint wireless broadband platform that was created specifically to bring broadband Internet connectivity to underserved populations, particularly emerging markets—defined as any population center of less than 1 million inhabitants that currently does not have any broadband connectivity.
“There are many examples globally where that kind of customer base [exists],” Bhatnagar said.
The ePMP solution operates in the unlicensed 5 GHz band and delivers theoretical data throughputs of 150 Mb/s—though 60 Mb/s is more realistic, according to Sakid Ahmed, Cambium’s senior director of engineering—using 2×2 MIMO-OFDM technologies. Key features include “intelligent bandwidth algorithms” that direct bandwidth where it is needed and GPS synchronization, which fosters greater spectrum efficiency. The platform can support up to 120 subscribers per access point without service degradation due to the synchronization capability, according to the company.
“The GPS synchronization helps minimize the amount of noise in any given area or any given cell, which allows us to optimize spectrum efficiency and utilize spectrum reuse,” said Michelle Pampin, Cambium’s vice president of global marketing. “In areas where spectrum is scarce, you want to be as efficient as possible. It also allows us to add more subscribers to the network, lowering the average cost per user while maintaining quality of service.”
The relatively low cost of each access point also contributes to the lower average cost per user, Pampin said.
“When you’re looking at subscriber modules of $99 per unit—versus hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars—you can see the economics of the solution right away,” she said.
“The affordability is the story,” Bhatnagar said. “How we have enabled this is a significant breakthrough.”
The GPS synchronization is particularly important, because the platform was designed to operate in unlicensed spectrum, Ahmed said.
“Unlicensed spectrum potentially is very crowded with standard Wi-Fi devices and other proprietary solutions,” he said. “One of the key sources of interference is self-interference. When you put up access points outdoors in a Wi-Fi environment, they’re not really synchronized—they use a contention-based algorithm—which means that they’re shooting over each other.
“Our solution has a TDD [time division duplex] frame structure with fixed downlink and uplink cycles, and then it is a TDMA [time division multiple access] system with GPS synchronization—so all of our base stations are operating at the same time, in the same uplink/downlink cycles, and the subscribers are all synchronized. So, we’re eliminating one of the key components of self-interference.”
While Cambium anticipates that 80% of its business for its ePMP platform initially will come from wireless Internet service providers (WISPs), compared with 20% from the enterprise sector, Bhatnagar believes that enterprises offer a considerable amount of future potential.
“Where there is an industrial infrastructure—mining, oil platforms, energy grids, transportation—this type of infrastructure also is needing now a major upgrade to broadband,” he said. “We’re not talking about third-world countries, but rather, developing nations. These are areas that need broadband connectivity … and they’re not going to go to LTE overnight.”
Cambium also sees potential for the platform in the public-safety sector as a backhaul option for video-surveillance systems. A field trial of the platform was successfully executed in Seattle’s Chinatown district, where the existing mesh-network architecture that supported the district’s video-surveillance system had proved unreliable.
“We found exactly what we needed with ePMP,” said Brian Magnuson, CEO of Longview, Wash.-based Cascade Networks—the WISP that handled the installation—in a statement. “Its reliability for high-quality video surveillance is outstanding, enabling us to offer the district peace of mind.”