Fields of Application

A typical scenario for WiBACK

One or multiple edge nodes connecting to a fixed and reliable network infrastructure are available. These can be provided by a commercial service provider or they can be interfaces to the existing network of an operator.

Located far from these edge nodes, multiple locations require high-quality connections to a voice or data network / the Internet. What "far" means depends on the local situation. In particular, the challenge cannot be easily solved by a simple point-to-point radio-link or by digging cables into the ground.

WiBACK provides the technology to connect infrastructure edge nodes to (many) user access points.

Key features

Key features that make Fraunhofer’s WiBACK unique are the combination of

  • a wireless network that can span huge distances (several 100 km);
  • provisioning of carrier-grade (guaranteed) service qualities for voice and data traffic;
  • low capital expenditure (CAPEX) due to the use of commercial off-the-shelf hardware (typically IEEE 802.11 mass-market components);
  • low operational cost (OPEX) due to auto-configuration and self-management capabilities, as well as low energy consumption
  • the possibility to run most nodes in the network on solar energy due to their energy efficient hardware and software, and the integrated solar charger.

Bunda, Tanzania

Bunda, a rural municipality in Tanzania wanted to connect the rural areas in order to provide health, education, government and agricultural information services. A small local team is operating the self-configuring WiBACK network, which has been installed jointly from Fraunhofer and DIT (Dar es Salaam Institut of Technology).

Use Cases

Examples for this deployment include temporary wireless networks for large events, fast network deployment in disaster areas, broadband Internet services for rural areas, and wireless wide-area infrastructures in emerging regions.

Rural Connect

Most rural areas throughout the world experience bad connectivity to the Internet. Companies suffer from inferior competitiveness and the populations from digital exclusion. One of the reasons is the lack of technology to enable an appropriate business case for high-bandwidth service-provisioning in many deployment scenarios.

WiBACK is the result of several years of research and development at Fraunhofer FOKUS. It was motivated by the intention to provide carrier-grade service qualities for voice and data transmission over a large area with low-cost wireless technology. From a technological point of view, the WiBACK core can be positioned between point-to-point radio links and fibre-optic backbone networks. In its deployment, WiBACK is supplemented by access technologies such as Wi-Fi, GSM, and UMTS.

Due to its flexibility WiBACK allows quickly setting up networks to provide capacity where it is actually needed. Since it is plug'n'play it can not only operated by professional ISPs but also by the users themselves, e.g. municipalities, companies or other institutions.

WiBACK is not an alternative to a mobile operator network. It provides a transport infrastructure and complements existing technology, rather than replacing it. While WiBACK supports different types of access technologies (including GSM) at the user front-end, it expects an IP-based network at the back-end. Typical mobile-operator services such as roaming or hand-over need to be implemented on-top of WiBACK.

Establishing new networks requires usually a high effort to configure the involved hardware properly. Once the network is running also high effort is required to maintain its functionality at a high level of reliability. This holds in particular true if wireless technologies are used since their reliability is usually lower compared to wired networks, leading to high operational expenditure (OPEX). WiBACK is addressing this problem by being highly self-managed so that specialist staff is not longer required.

Disaster Communication

The Earthquake in Japan which triggered a tsunami, typhoon in the Philippines, hurricane Katrina or the flood 2011 in Thailand, all of those are only a few examples  for  huge catastrophes in the last decade which presents disaster relief forces, governments and aid agencies with tremendous challenges. One major problem emergency services on the side are usually facing is the lack of reliable communication infrastructure. Existing terrestrial infrastructure, such as mobile base stations, optical fibers and so on or often destroyed or not functional, for instance due to the lack of power. However, reliable communication is extremely  important to coordinate forces on ground and it also gives the affected local people the chance to communicate with relatives and friends. 

With WiBACK a communication network can be set up quickly, which does not require specially trained people to operate it. It provides carrier-grade services and allows for traffic prioritization, e.g. guaranteed services for police and fire departments. Due to it's low energy profile it can be easily powered autonomously 24/7 by solar energy so that it does not rely on an available energy grid. 

WiBACK is not an alternative to a mobile operator network. It provides a transport infrastructure and complements existing technology, rather than replacing it. While WiBACK supports different types of access technologies (including GSM) at the user front-end, it expects an IP-based network at the back-end. Typical mobile-operator services such as roaming or hand-over need to be implemented on-top of WiBACK.

Establishing new networks requires usually a high effort to configure the involved hardware properly. Once the network is running also high effort is required to maintain its functionality at a high level of reliability. This holds in particular true if wireless technologies are used since their reliability is usually lower compared to wired networks, leading to high operational expenditure (OPEX). WiBACK is addressing this problem by being highly self-managed so that specialist staff is not longer required.

5G Backhaul

Emerging 5G networks will highly rely on small cells and ultra dense deployments in order to provide the capacity required by the users and novel application and services. This leads to situations where cells are deployed at very unconventional locations which cannot always get reached by optical fibers. Moreover, current wireless solutions are often not providing the required flexibility to connect those cells. Wiback offers an alternative allowing operators to utilize different licensed and unlicensed frequency bands while still providing high capacity, reliable wireless connections.

Generic Service Platform

Many service provider in particular in the rural and remote areas share the problem that no (broadband) connection is available upon which they can rely in order o offer their services to the end users. To overcome this problem service provider can deploy their own broadband network. However, deploying and operating typical network infrastructure, such as a LTE network or an optical fiber is too costly. WiBACK offers an alternative that allows service provider, such as eHealth, eGoverment, eCommerce or eLearning providers, to operate their own network with very limited effort. Since WiBACK is inherently self-managing and can operate in unlicensed spectrum it is very cost-effective making it worthwhile to operate it as a dedicated network for a specific services.

Surveillance

One of the WiBACK deployment scenarios is surveillance such as border control. One or multiple cameras, speakers and microphones can be directly connected to the WiBACK node, and controlled via the WiBACK network. Multiple WiBACK nodes can be deployed to control a very large area (several hundred km), and WiBACK backhaul links can be used to implement redundant connectivity to one or more control centres.