Extending the telecommunication core through Information Technology

IT meets with Telecom at the place of computing power. The heavy use of computers by modern day telecommunication systems and the gradual decline in the use of core telecom protocols, has brought about the term IT and Telecom.

Telecommunication is about moving information from a transmitter to a receiver. This is achieved, through the use of active and passive devices such as modulators, demodulators, radio units,  coaxial cable, structured cable, fibre optic cable and the wireless spectrum. The propagation of this information is done through electrical pulses, traveling at varying frequencies. The core rating for each channel, being the carrier frequency, which it uses for signal modulation and transmission.

These devices, however, do not constitute computing infrastructure. They exist solely as part of the telecommunication network.

The place where IT begins to become useful for telecoms, is at the network level. Where IP addresses can be used for identifying devices and equipment. Recent versions of wireless protocols, that previously utilised only the application, presentation, session and transport layers, now use the network layer as well. Examples are 3G mobile telephony, WiFi, thread and bluetooth version 4.2, which directly connects to the internet, using the IPV6 protocol : 6LowPAN. This is a good example of IT coming into the telecom space. 

Telecommunication systems, do not only transport information they also process them through conversion from one form to another. An example is coding in digital systems for error correction and bandwidth optimisation. Also digital to analog conversion, which precedes connection to the wireless interface, through an antenna. Along with processing by repeater stations which use a final destination address to forward a signal. 

As a result of these data processing aspects, which are typical for modern digital communication systems, the extensive use of computers is required. Making computers an integral part, in a telecommunication network, for use in signal transportation and processing. 

Phanerus Technologies exercises both IT and Telecom rights, in the development and deployment of its products and service.  Producing continued innovation with improved end user experience, using these two approaches, for each communication technology that is brings to the playing field.

With Telecommunication as the end, and IT (Information Technology) as the means, to achieving that end; the customer can gain a panoramic spectacle of the nature of our business.  

Building newer services based on existing wireless protocols

Wireless protocols vary depending on connectivity choice and product specification, Phanerus builds its technologies using up to 11 of these protocols. These communication technologies are WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z-Wave, 6LowPan, Thread, Cellular, NFC, Sigfox, Neul, LoRaWAN and 2G/3G/4G cellular. Factors such as application power and battery life, security, data requirements and service range determine the choice of one technology over the other or the use of a combination of them. These applications include sensing and monitoring, asset control and tracking with measurement and automation.

WiFi 

Given the high use of WiFi within home environments and for Local Area Networks, diverse infrastructure already exists for WiFi in most sites. It’s already existent use for fast data transfer with high band width, makes it a good candidate for a protocol in application development. The main draw back with Wifi is its high power consumption making it only useful on residential and commercial sites but not for remote site applications. It however offers throughput  up to hundreds of megabits per second at 2.4GHz to 5GHz frequencies with a range of 50m, a maximum data rate of 600Mbps. This depending on channel frequency and number of antennas.   The IEEE 802.11n standard is most common. 

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a popular communication technology for short range purposes. It is great for wearable products which need a wireless protocol to function through a mobile device. A more recent adaptation of the protocol is Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE), which is optimised for better power consumption. Bluetooth is suitable for small chunks of data transfer and wouldn’t be useful in a design that requires file exchange.

The smarter Bluetooth applications have the basic-data-rates, with a low energy core configuration, for its RF transceiver, base band signal and protocols. The latest versions are from 4.0 upwards, version 4.2 using a 6LoWPAN connectivity to directly access the internet. Giving bluetooth 4.2 applications, IP connectivity with a management interface through existing IP infrastructure. It operates at the ISM frequency of 2.4GHz and has a range of 50-150 m with data rates of 1 Mbps.

Zigbee

Zigbee is based on the IEEE802.15.4 standard, which operates at 2.4GHz with a range of 100m and low data-rates. Popular ZigBee profiles, based on this standard, are ZigBee Pro and ZigBee Remote Control (RF4CE).

ZigBee Remote Control is useful for applications requiring high security, robustness, good scalability in term of node count, great for wireless control and sensing applications. The most recent version is 3.0, it has a range of 10 – 100m, data rates of 250kbps at the 2.4GHz.

Z-wave

Z-wave is a simple communication protocol operating at frequencies below 1 GHz and a range of 30m. It is good for low latency interchange of data at a rate 100kbit/s. It best for sites that are residential and finds use in sensing and control applications. It doesn’t suffer interference from the 2.4GHz protocols, such as ZigBee, Bluetooth and WiFi. It is ideal for scalable networks of up to 232 devices and has a faster development time. However, the only manufacturer for the chip is Sigma Designs making it more difficult to source than the others.

6LowPAN

6LowPan is a network protocol with capabilities such as header compression and encapsulation. It is not locked into any frequency bands or physical layers but can function through WiFi, Ethernet or any communication technology, at less than a 1GHz frequency. It is typically not an application protocol technology and has the IPv6 stack as its key attribute; permitting up to 5 x 10^28 networking addresses. This makes it useful as a transport protocol for complex control systems requiring low-power.

It is based on the RFC6282 standard and operates in variable frequency, range or data rates.

Thread

Thread was designed as networking protocol to complement WiFi. It is built on the IEEE802.15.4 standard, which covers wireless air-interface protocols and is based on the 6LowPAN technology, which uses the IPv6 for networking. It is useful for home automation applications but a lot different from ZigBee and Bluetooth. 

Thread’s design makes it function on existing wireless silicon chips, based on the IEEE802.15.4 standard. These are mostly manufactured by Freescale and Silicon Labs. Using just a software install, users with existing IEEE802.15.4 devices, can run thread . Thread provides a tough and secure IP-based solution for IoT applications and it is able to handle up to 250 nodes, with authentication and encryption features. It operates at the 2.4GHz (ISM) frequency without any fixed range or data rates.     

NFC

NFC stands for Near Field Communication, its a protocol that makes it possible for electronic device based applications to interact. This is good for smartphone payments, which requires that the consumer device be only brought in close proximity with the POS(Point of Sale) system. A distance of 4 cm is typical for NFC payment transactions, digital content access and electronic device connectivity.

NFC is built according to the ISO/IEC 18000-3 standard, works at a frequency of 13.56MHz(ISM) and reaches a 10cm range, with data rates of 100-420kbps.

Sigfox

This protocol ranges between WiFi and cellular, when it comes to distance. ItS very usefully, when WiFi’s range is too small and cellular is on the costly side, with high power consumption(5000 microwatts). It utilizes the ISM bands and does a two way transmission using a narrow channel within the spectrum. It is designed to handle speeds of 10 to 1000 bits per second using a technology called Ultra Narrow Band(UNB). It consumes only 50 microwatts and using a 2.5Ah battery it delivers a stand-by time of 20 years.

Sigfox currently rolled out in many major cities, it is scalable and can link millions of battery operated devices within a large area. It finds applications in environmental sensors, street lighting, patient monitoring and smart meters. The Sigfox chips are similar to those from EZRadioPro wireless transceivers from Silicon Labs, having extremely-low power consumption, very good wireless performance with long distant range.

Its based on the Sigfox standard, operates in the 900MHz frequency band reaching up to 30-50km in rural environments and 3-10km in urban environments with a 10-1000bps data rate.

Neul

This protocol functions using the white space radio spectrum, to access part of the high quality UHF spectrum to deliver a low-cost, low power, high coverage and high scalability wireless network. This is possible because of the change form analogue to digital TV. It is also called Weightless and it competes against LTE WAN solutions, CDMA, 3G and GPRS favourably. Its data rate gets up to 100kbps and device power consumption can serve up to 10 to 15 years in the field.

Its standard is Neul, its frequencies are 470-790MHz (white space) and 900MHz (ISM) and it gets up to a 10km range with a data rate of up to 100kbps.

LoRaWAN

This protocol was built for wide area network (WAN) applications and is a lot like Neul and Sigfox with regard to range and power optimization. It is great for industrial, smart city, M2M and IoT applications, with a support for millions of devices.

Its standard is LoRaWAN, its is not locked into any frequency, it range is 2-5km in urban areas and 15km in suburban environments with a data rate of 3-50kbps.

Cellular

This is useful for applications that are deployed at sites long distances away from their base of operation. It is basically GSM/3G/4G cellular communication, with the capability of delivering high amounts of data, especially using 4G. It is great for sensor based projects that deliver their data over the internet. A good example are the semi conductor development kits from SparqEE, which comprise shields and connecting boards that work with the arduino platform and Raspberry Pi.

They comprise GSM/GPRS/EDGE(2G), UMTS/HSPA(3G), LTE(4G) standards, functioning in the 900/1800/1900/2100MHz frequency bands respectively. They have a maximum range of 35km for GSM and 200km for HSPA with datarates of 35-170kbps for GPRS, 120-384kbps for EDGE, 38kbps-2Mbps for UMTS, 600kbps-10Mbps for HSPA and 3-10Mbps for LTE.