When you use Wi-Fi in your house you can download content at a fast speed. If you move into your backyard or down the street, your signal gets weaker until you eventually lose all connection. On Ramp Wireless Inc. (San Diego, Calif., U.S.A.), a provider of networking and location tracking equipment, developed a technology using the same frequency as Wi-Fi, but instead of using a high power at a short distance, this technology can send small bits of machine-to-machine (M2M) application data a distance of over 40 miles.
“In wireless there are certain tradeoffs you make. In Wi-Fi the tradeoff is access a shorter range for a higher speed. It’s very centered around providing a high data rate on the downlink,” said Jonas Olsen, vice president of strategic marketing at On Ramp. “Our system flips that around to some extent.”
Ultra Link Processing uses a small portion of the 2.4-gigahertz band, the same band used by Wi-Fi, to send low-powered data to utility centers miles away, according to Olsen.
“We only use 1 megahertz of the almost 100 megahertz of spectrum available,” said Olsen. “We can move around within the band, so whenever we deploy our systems we will always do a survey of the site and say where it the worst interference and we will go somewhere else.”
The large amount of space in the spectrum, as well as other algorithms, makes these signals resistant to interference, according to Olsen. In fact, these signals have 40 miles line-of-sight range, and can travel up to 10 miles in underground locations, according to On Ramp.
“You can use it to penetrate trees, walls to get into your home, or a metal cover to an underground water meter,” said Olsen.
M2M applications don’t require a large amount of data to be transferred, but only a trickle of data. According to Olsen, a typical smart meter will only send 5 kilobytes of data per day.
Most data being delivered from an M2M application, such as a smart meter, travels through what are called mesh networks. These networks require data to be sent from house to house until it reaches a receiver. Once at the receiver, data is collected from other mesh networks and is then sent to a gateway, which sends it through cellular link to the data center.
These mesh networks use radios that have very short ranges, between 100 and 200 yards, so it travels using meters at neighboring homes to reach the nearest receiver.
Ultra Link Processing no long requires the data to travel through someone else’s meter, but uses Star Topology, which means that there is a direct link from every smart meter to an access point. According to On Ramp, each access point can support up to 64,000 endpoints.
“In a suburban environment we will have 4 and 6 miles of coverage to reliably get down to every smart meter that is there,” said Olsen. “That’s enough to cover thousands of meters. So you get a large concentration of meters on a single access point.”
Today, On Ramp is rolling out an Ultra Link Processing network for electrical distribution in San Diego. This network covers 4,000 square miles of area, and only requires 35 access points, according to Olsen.
“This means that it is not only relatively cheap to roll out the network, it is also cheap to maintain and operate,” said Olsen. “This network with 35 access points provides enough capacity to support tens of thousands of devices.”