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technology background

Airlan is deploying a broadband wireless network that can satisfy the under-served demand for last mile broadband access and deliver enhanced IP-based services to regional areas of Australia. Airlan's broadband service delivers fast, downstream and upstream speeds and is ideally suited for residential, small and medium sized businesses to take advantage of e-business opportunities and finally overcome data connectivity limitations of dialup.

Uniquely, Airlan is deploying a combination of unlicensed (2.4/5.8 GHz) and licensed band radio technology. Typically, wireless licensed-band links are used for back-haul connecting base stations together, to ensure maximum up-time and unlicensed band point-to-multipoint technology is used to connect customers to the bases stations.
Since Airlan has not incurred the high costs of purchasing large amounts of spectrum, Airlan is a price leader and can share its cost savings with regional customers.Maximum flexibility and speed in deploying the network. Equipment locations and installation schedules can easily respond to market demands.
Proven, reliable wireless equipment exists and Airlan has selected the most advanced technology available today.Major manufacturers are developing improved products in anticipation of widespread deployment of wireless broadband systems. As reliable, lower cost and better performing equipment becomes available, Airlan will continue its ongoing evaluation and determine when and if it should be implemented. For example, WIMAX 802.16 standard wireless IP products are being developed that do not require line-of-sight and take advantage of multi-path propagation. This allows some business and residential locations that may be blocked by trees and other obstacles to be serviced by instant broadband Internet access.
Airlan's network design is highly scalable. This means that fixed broadband service can start in part of a market and additional coverage added seamlessly (unlike a mobile service, such as a cellular or PCS network that requires full coverage of each mobile market from the day one). Benefits of a scalable network are: lower initial capital costs, lower initial operating costs, lower promotional costs and focused sales effort, and faster and lower cost to implement and hence lower access cost to regional customers.

The basic network design (see network diagram) consists of the following three key components:
Base stations; Customer premises equipment (CPE); and Airlan Regional Network Operation Centres
Base stations are located on building rooftops, mountain top communications towers, and other strategic locations, and use wireless access units with sectorised directional antennas to provide the wireless access hub connection. Each unit typically allows a 12km range. Up to 250 subscriber units can eventually be deployed per sector, with user throughput of 256k/64k bps (initially and scalable to 11Mbps with the deployment of future technologies like WiMAX), total sector bandwidth is dynamically allocated among users, upstream or downstream.

Airlan's service is designed for users that require a high rate of sustained connectivity (typically 256k to 1.5 Mbps) but occasionally burst to even higher speeds (up to 1.5 - 5 Mbps) for heavier traffic loads. Each customer premises equipment (CPE) is a sealed 180cm x 110cm unit (see below) located at the end-users premises, for example, on the roof, with line-of-sight to a base station within 12km. In addition to housing the antenna, the CPE also contains the customer-end gateway router, so no additional equipment is required. The customer interface is a standard RJ45 CAT5 Ethernet connection and ready to be connected to the customers LAN via directly or to a firewall, there is also an option for in-house wireless connectivity.

Airlan field technicians will install the CPE at the customer's location typically in a couple of hours using non-penetrating tripods, or an existing structure. Indoor window mounting is also possible. The CAT5 cable plugs directly into a customer Ethernet LAN or PC, and can service from 1 to over 200 individual hosts or servers. Repeaters can also be used to extend the 4.5km range limit for critical locations.

Airlan wireless base stations are interconnected using high-speed wireless back-haul links (either DS-3 or OC-3 connections) back to Airlan's Regional Network Operation Centre. At the Data Centre, Airlan maintains peering and transit with multiple national backbones. The Regional Network Operation Center is also home to AirLan's servers which provide web hosting, billing services, DNS, mail and other services. Each Airlan Regional Network Operation Centre is a state-of-the-art facility with around the clock security, UPS and generator power backup, and environmental controls (for temperature and humidity).

Airlan also maintains 24/7 network monitoring and provisioning for functions including: bandwidth allocation, monitoring and controlling of network elements, monitoring traffic patterns to detect network over/under-utilisation, traffic re-routing, troubleshooting and repairs, billing, customer resource management and other administrative tasks.

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