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Understanding the Wireless Backbone

A White Paper by:
Pyxis Broadband

 


Table of Contents

Summary *

Brief History *

Strategic Market Focus *

Backbone Architecture *

Security Concerns and Safeguards *

WISP and ISP Competitive Advantages *

Next Step *

Summary

Pyxis Broadband offers a wholesale alternative to landline fiber via a carrier-grade, wireless backbone operating in a secure, FCC licensed frequency environment.

The ultimate goal of this service is to provide the WISP, ISP and Broadband markets with a primary or secondary communication backbone that provides appropriate bandwidth in a reliable, secure, scaleable and cost effective manner.

Pyxis Broadband (Pyxis) has gone to great lengths to establish a technical and architectural foundation to accomplish these goals. This includes taking the necessary steps to license a private frequency directly from the FCC in which to operate the backbone. This allows the engineering team at Pyxis to establish near interference-free links between towers, increase the broadcasting power to strengths overcoming rain fade, dropout, etc. and ensure a much higher level of transmission security. Operating in this frequency, Pyxis engineers opted to deploy commercial-grade gear capable of 100Mbps full-duplex transmission while simultaneously providing built-in authentication and encryption. Further, Pyxis engineers continue to place towers at only 80% of the nominally accepted range of the antennas, therefore reducing the variables potentially compromising performance, reliability and availability.

Aside from the technical architecture, Pyxis is committed to providing cost effective solutions to wholesale customers only. Pyxis will not compete with its customers by selling direct to their end-consumers as is typically the case with traditional carriers. Pyxis has invested considerably to tie into an extensive network of dark fiber to ensure virtually limitless bandwidth availability, redundancy and to provide a true alternative to common landline providers. Additionally, as the Pyxis backbone grows, additional tie-ins will be established utilizing an entirely separate fiber loop. In this scenario, a near-Chicago Loop entity can tap into the wireless backbone and not touch a landline connection to the Internet for potentially 50 miles, establishing a business-continuity oriented, redundant connection not previously possible.

In combination with the wholesale strategy, Pyxis offers additional benefits to be considered by WISP’s and ISP’s. Specifically, the bandwidth offered by the Pyxis backbone is scaleable. A provider may start with a 6Mbps connection today and upgrade to a 8Mbps connection next month with no additional gear or upfront expenses. Conversely, a provider may wish to dial back its bandwidth for a period of time or in exchange for another solution. In either case, Pyxis has strategically built an infrastructure to allow for ups and downs associated with the wireless market.

Another distinct benefit for a WISP or ISP is co-locating on the same Pyxis towers, thereby reducing overall equipment, labor and maintenance costs. Providers are no longer bound to establishing points of access where and when a landline becomes accessible in relationship to a tower being constructed. Rather, a WISP or ISP can establish a connection literally anywhere within a specified number of miles with line of site access to a Pyxis tower.

All told, Pyxis Broadband represents a unique and cost effective solution with a significant, carrier-grade technical infrastructure to address the needs of the WISP and ISP markets.

 

Brief History

In the past 18 to 36 months, the WISP market in Chicagoland has seen significant adoption and growth. Specifically, as you get further away from the city limits, with the limited availability of DSL or digital cable access, WISP’s offer a price-competitive Internet access solution for businesses and homeowners. Often, the WISP represents the only viable broadband solution next to expensive and latency-affected satellite based offerings.

As the WISP market continues to grow, a common dilemma is encountered by all who opt to wade into the turbulent waters; where should we (or more often, where can we) put towers to service the largest number of customers? Where can the towers be physically located? What access is available at the bottom of the tower? What kind of access do we have to the facilities? Who else has access to the tower? And so on...

It seemed ironic that the WISP’s, whose main offering is to overcome physical and geographical roadblocks, were now bound to the same limitations themselves! What the industry needed is a solution based on the same strategy they already believed in and were advocates of. Why does each tower need to have landline access? Why can’t a WISP tap into a larger, more powerful wireless backbone that, in turn, tapped into the existing Internet infrastructure some place off in a distant and non-obtrusive facility?

A solution started taking shape in recent years and is now a viable solution for consideration by WISP’s and ISP’s operating in the Chicago suburbs.

 

STRATEGIC MARKET FOCUS

The solution soon became know as the Wireless Backbone, or "Fiber in the Sky". A network of communication towers interconnecting at fiber speeds (100Mbps, full-duplex), with coverage in the Chicagoland suburbs, where most WISP’s were targeting their services.

If a backbone were to be built, it needed to be as stable and reliable as other connectivity options. "Five-nines" (99.999% uptime) became the foundational goal and all gear, architectural and service considerations would need to be worthy enough to support this goal. Taken a step further, the strategists at Pyxis agreed they needed more than just reliable "fiber in the sky". They needed to alleviate various issues that currently plagued the WISP’s options. Namely…

  • A WISP, more often than not, ended up competing against their supplier. If a WISP used the local Telco for their T1 access, they continually run up against the local Telco when a business or homeowner compared DSL to wireless Internet access.
  • Once a WISP made the investment in a line, they had very limited options for expansion and no option to throttle back their bandwidth without huge penalties.
  • It is common to associate wireless with varying performance and always with the potential of interference. Every WISP knows what happens to their customers that are "on the edge" when that once-a-year thunderstorm rolls through town.

These three issues became the hallmark of the Pyxis backbone to truly offer not only an alternative to landline providers, but an attractive alternative with benefits above and beyond.

First, Pyxis will only sell to the wholesale market and will not compete with their customers, plain and simple. Pyxis will not compete with its customers by selling direct to their end-consumers as is typically the case with traditional carriers. Second, Pyxis would establish a pricing structure rivaling the best rates available and allow scaleable bandwidth options, up and down. Third, Pyxis would invest in licensing a private frequency directly from the FCC in which to operate their backbone to ensure high-performance, highly-reliable, interference-free connections between towers

 

BACKBONE ARCHITECTURE

The first tower with a touch-point to landlines is located in Naperville. Pyxis has three separate lines running into this facility representing over a Gig of primary, active bandwidth, a second equally fat pipe as a backup and a third DS3 with a completely separate provider as an extra failover. While this facility could represent as much as 10Gbps of primary, active bandwidth, the Pyxis design calls for adding additional touch-points in geographically disperse locations, each providing their own bandwidth and inherent redundancy. Current design considerations call for a ratio of 5:1 of towers to touch-points.

After extensive research and testing, the engineers at Pyxis opted to go with DragonWave, an innovative supplier of next-generation wireless gear, for the antennas, radios and base stations. This gear, when deployed with 48" antennas, is capable of 100Mbps, full-duplex transmissions at the frequency licensed by the FCC at a nominal range of 10 miles. Pyxis engineers have opted to space the towers at just under 8 miles, to ensure a stronger signal more impervious to intermittent interference.

The radios themselves have two independent and unique transmission paths from a frequency and authentication/encryption viewpoint. Extrapolated, these links will represent a ring or partial-mesh configuration where all towers are always communicating in two separate directions. Should a wireless communication link ever fail, traffic simply travels the other direction on the "ring" until it finds a touch-point to a landline.

Each facility has its own base station capable of a wide variety of interfaces to connect with co-located customer gear, thereby reducing the equipment necessary to provide end-customer access. Additionally, Pyxis customers are in the unique position to offer unlicensed frequencies and to resell licensed bandwidth to their customers demanding a higher level of transmission confidentiality, integrity and availability.

 

SECURITY CONCERNS AND SAFEGUARDS

The layered security approach of the Pyxis engineers starts at the towers themselves. Several security safeguards are fundamental characteristics of the gear from DragonWave.

  • The radios operate at a FCC licensed frequency with proprietary synchronization and framing techniques. Any intruder would need the same, carrier-grade gear from DragonWave to capture the data stream.
  • The radios broadcast in a narrow, directional beam requiring a paired antenna to be within 1° of beam center. An intruder would need to place their DragonWave gear in the direct path of the beam to even see the data stream in order to capture it.
  • DragonWave modems, at either end-point, encrypt each transmitted packet using a unique key. Additionally, the data is further masked when the modems fill idle air time with random data patterns.
  • The DragonWave modems employ unique, point-to-point authentication which happens out-of-band so as to not affect the performance of the primary link. This particular authentication means an intruder would not be able to authenticate to a tower if another tower had already authenticated.

The combination of these security safeguards ensures a safe and predictable backbone rivaling the inherent security aspects of landline fiber. However, as with any major backbone, there will be a huge number of unknown users within the same data space. None of these safeguards preclude the advantages of providers or end-customers deploying their own safeguards including traditional firewalls, VPN’s or intrusion detection/prevention systems.

 

WISP and ISP COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES

The architecture and deployment characteristics of the Pyxis backbone represent unique advantages to traditional landline carriers.

  • Scaleable. Pyxis customers enjoy the flexibility of adjusting bandwidth on a monthly basis without the expense of additional gear. This allows WISP’s and ISP’s to add bandwidth incrementally in much smaller steps as their requirements grow. Additionally, Pyxis will allow a customer to reduce their bandwidth at the same interval. In this scenario, a provider can more easily move into a larger pipe without the fear of committing to a huge capital outlay, either one-time or ongoing without the option to scale back should the unexpected occur. To facilitate this process of right-sizing, Pyxis will continually make available bandwidth reports showing each customer their exact monthly bandwidth usage and trends over a designated period.
  • Licensed or Unlicensed. Pyxis has invested considerable time and dollars to license a private frequency from the FCC and will provide the use of frequency to their customers, not only for backbone use, but for private, appropriately sanctioned links as well. This opens a potentially untapped market of providing wireless links that are more reliable, more secure and meet end customers specific requirements.
  • Boundless Deployment. WISP’s and ISP’s now have considerably more options in terms of where they place towers and what areas they can service. Additionally, expansion and territorial growth is limited only to how fast gear can be deployed within line of site of the Pyxis backbone, and not tied to towers that have landline access in predetermined and fixed locations.
  • Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity. The fundamental nature of a wireless backbone represents a unique strategy in terms of backup or alternative communications. There are many scenarios where a natural and/or man-made disturbance will affect landlines, but not typically wireless communications as in construction mishaps or even phone company "issues". Once on the Pyxis backbone, data can travel over these disturbances to find one of, potentially several, touch-points back into the Internet or private network.

 

NEXT STEPS

As an advocate and purveyor of wireless technologies, the Pyxis customer already understands the numerous advantages associated with the various services and offerings in the wireless market. The Pyxis backbone introduces the next generation of advancement to replicate these services more quickly, more cost-effectively and to the advantage of all end customers.

The Pyxis engineers stand ready to work with customers to help:

  • Capitalize on the advantages of the backbone and incorporate these advantages into their service offerings to end customers
  • Design a deployment strategy, both short and long term
  • Examine the most cost effective options in terms of gear, bandwidth and services
  • Further explore and educate on the intricate aspects of the licensed market
  • Discuss various security safeguards, both inherent to the architectural nature of the backbone, and those that may be added by the provider or end customers


Pyxis Broadband offers a wholesale alternative to landline fiber via carrier-grade, wireless backbone operating in a secure, FCC licensed frequency.

Call or write us today at 630- 443- 8201 or [email protected]


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