Intel (r) Rural Connectivity Platform becomes a reality

I have followed this project over the past few years as it has moved from an exploratory project in the Intel Research lab, to testing in such remote places as Vietnam, India, South Africa, Panama and…Berkeley.

The demo that was presented at the Berkeley Lab open house had two antenna transmitting video via WIFI connection. One of the antenna was on top of the Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) at the UC Berkeley campus which is about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away from the lab in downtown Berkeley.

But what is the real world application of this project?

One of the research projects connected rural villages in India with the Aravind Eye clinic to provide medical eye exams via the wireless antenna relay system. In Panama, it is bringing the interent to a remote village in the rain forest.

The technology behind this research was developed by personnel in the Intel Research Berkeley lab. The Intel (r) RCP is a low cost, low power and low touch solution designed to bring connectivity to remote areas.

The technology behind the project is a wireless long distance back haul solution that operates on non licensed spectrums to provide the perfect product for emerging markets. Applying a TDMA modification to the MAC layer of standard 802.11, Intel (r) RCP is able to achieve connection distances of up to 100 km unobstructed line-of-sight. Additionally, the relay and fork modes of operation allow for more complex topologies. So even if there are mountains or rough terrain, the connection between the base station and the rural end point can be maintained.

This is an excellent example of how long range research can find a solution to a real world problem.

Editor’s Note (02/23/2009): Intel’s Emerging Markets Platform Group is currently partnering with Z-Com, an OEM design manufacturer (ODM) to build RCP. For more info, check out the latest blog

72 Responses to Intel (r) Rural Connectivity Platform becomes a reality

  1. Caryl says:

    Great progress on getting Internet service to remote areas. Not only will this help commerce and medical services to rural locations, but I can see how RCP will be a benefit to humanitarian organizations around the world.

  2. Kerry says:

    I live in a semi-rural area in Northern Illinois, much of it without broadband. Will Intel be marketing RCP/broadband to foreign countries while much of the USA goes without broadband? Is Berkeley the only test location in the USA? What can be done to avoid this disparity? How can I help?

  3. I need this!
    I help with a childrens home way up in the mountains in Northern Thailand. There is a single phone line into the village and mobiles only just work. So no internet access really.
    I know of a number of other homes and communities here in Northern Thailand that could really benefit from this!
    Can’t wait!
    Well done!
    Adrian

  4. Ike Nwagbo says:

    Great to read this.
    Besides the TDMA mod of the MAC layer, is this any different from the prevailing WiFi-GridAntenna – P-T-P configuration? We achieve near distance with these.
    Can I purchase a pair for testing? My deployment will be in West Africa.
    Please reply, ASAP. Thank you for the effort.

  5. Bekhongdeokinh says:

    I am quite curious about the MAC layer that you have tweaked? Could you provide some references for this?

  6. Our county (Windham County, Vermont) displays all of the characteristics of a Less Developed Country, especially when it comes to communications technology. Any chance of redirecting part of the INTEL effort towards OUR part of the emerging world??? We would embrace it with open arms.
    Norman Solomon
    Windmill Hill Farm
    Brookline, Vermont

  7. Ivan says:

    I agree with comments already made about the lack of high speed internet service to our own rural areas in the US. Here in Central Illiois, there are many areas underserved or served at great expense to the user via wireless. Lets see what Intel can to do alleviate this problem. Will this equipment be available in the US at the low price touted? If so, when??

  8. Hector Angel says:

    I think this kind of technology, having competitive prices, can help to develop communities in Mexico where no servives are available and carriers do not drope services. I am exited and for sure we’ll be working with this great technology.

  9. Roddy Erickson says:

    We’re strongly interested in using this in our rural US location. (Prospects for anything more than dialup are very poor.)
    Are there regulatory issues with using RCP in the US, or is it plain 802.11bg from an FCC standpoint?
    Will Intel offer RCP for sale domestically?
    Given the amount of interest in this forum for rural-US applications, I wonder if someone can point us to discussion of the legal aspects of creating neighborhood WiFi service to share expenses.

  10. It’s great to see developments that help promote WiFi – a 60 mile link is very good.RCP may be groundbreaking especially if it can ensure low latencies over long distances. The link in itslef however, is not groundbreaking – last year some Italians got a 188 mile link working between Sardinia and the mainland… :)

  11. Aloisio Morais says:

    Gostei desta noticia e acho muito importante para a inclusão digital das localidades remotas com um custo que pode ser amortizado em pouquíssimo tempo.

  12. Marco Duarte says:

    habra la posibilidad de poder estar informado de los avances de este proyecto, por motivos de necesidad de poder subsanar los problemas que tengo en estos momentos en localidades rurales de la comuna de la serena, cuarta región, chile. y si en algun momento existe de poder desarrollar un proyecto piloto en la comuna, esperando respuesta se despide Marco Duarte

  13. I would love to beta test this in my WI-FI system that covers several thousand sq miles, to see if can perduce the throughtput and lower the latency from the ap to backhaul.. my current config uses 5ghz to backhaul and inter-connect the network and as many 2.4 AP’s that will fit per location.. http://www.dockpoint.com/wireless.html
    I have tested many products and they all seem to function the same just changeing some of the bells and whistles no real addressing the real issues of bandwith vs clients and how many the bridge will support..what is the point of building a product that can only support 35 clients I am looking to upfit my network so I can achieve 10,000 clients and the hopes of WiMax products seem to be elusive..Motorola’s Canopy Equipment.. the expense vs the clients achieviable again more bells and whistles and no real achievement..
    Tranzeo or Delbirant do the same at 1/3 the cost… lets see if they are really looking for a US real world test in NC… look me up.
    Michael Bavaro

  14. Mark Stowe says:

    The shocking neglect by govt and private enterprise has left more than just rural areas in the US without high speed internet. Just outside city limits of Gainesville FL large areas are unserved by DSL or even cable. Dense forest limits southern views and most satellite options. Can RCP penetrate dense foliage? Will there be a 900 MHz option which would have a much better chance?

  15. Jordan says:

    The amount of apparent interest from users in the US is simply because there are more people from the US reading this site (and hence commenting on it). In reality, the demand for Rural Connectivity is much greater outside of the US – that is the “Cash Cow” for intel.
    Also, while this is certainly interesting, the technology is not new. TDMA-based WIFI has been around for a few years now – this is just the first time it has been commercialized. I do have a question though:
    I don’t see any indication of a GPS chip for time-syncing the two radios (necessary for TDMA communication). I hope your system doesn’t rely on the radio link itself to time sync…

  16. jher says:

    What Brett Glass is missing here is this isn’t about transmitting wifi over great distances in the conventional method. Intel is using a modification to the underlying protocol (MAC) layer. That’s the genius of this.

  17. Mike French says:

    It all looks great. It sounds great but. This is another Intel commercial. Can you buy it today? Intel where’s the Beef? Is this a real & forsale product, at prices people can afford in the 3rd world? Then tell us more. If it is another built to have fun in the R&D lab so what. I need cheap solutions today.

  18. David Josephson says:

    It’s good to see Intel publicly getting behind the WiLDNet idea, given their investment in WiMax, but as Brett Glass mentioned, this doesn’t appear to be anything new. Other companies and nonprofits (Karlnet started as a university project) have patched the MAC layer of generic 802.11 devices to achieve the same sort of thing. The Berkeley lab actually doing the work is making much less extravagant claims for this technology than Intel is.
    Spectrum utilization, propagation conditions and old fashioned information theory (Shannon-Hartley, Nyquist et al) remain the big problem in wireless internet. The best that can be hoped for in software is to eliminate some of the channel bandwidth that’s wasted on the protocol. The simplest protocol that will solve the channel arbitration problem at hand will be the most efficient. For point-to-point links (as envisioned for RCP aka WiLDNet) that’s much easier than for multi-user links.
    There is actually some hard information on this idea, at http://tier.cs.berkeley.edu/docs/wireless/wild_multihop.pdf
    .. hopefully Intel will take the high road and support an easy-to-access open source distribution of the work done at Berkeley.

  19. Is anyone from the RCP group at Intel actually reading this blog, or is it just a PR ploy? I do not see any answers to the key question that reappears: “Will Intel have this technology available in the US and if so, when and at what cost? How can one get information from Intel on the system including INTEL’s marketing plans for the US?

  20. Robert AOUAD says:

    How can we acquire a sample of the equipment for testing?
    ISOCEL is a WISP covering now the capital city of Benin and the suburbs but our goal is to extend the network nationwide to at least 10 rural cities. Your product interested us.
    Is it an INTEL product?
    Thank you for your kind reply.

  21. Brett Glass says:

    There isn’t any particular genius to modifying the MAC layer of 802.11b. Existing equipment already does this simply by stretching the ACK timing and remains fully compatible with existing 802.11b equipment (something which Intel’s equipment probably does not). And as was mentioned above, Karlnet did its own additions to the MAC layer, involving polling, in the mid-1990s. It will also be interesting to see how well Intel’s equipment stands up to noise. A 60 mile link is pushing close to the limits of Shannon’s Law when the spectrum is quiet; it’s darned near impossible when there’s noise from ordinary consumer gear in the air. And you can’t overcome that via changing the protocol; the laws of physics step in. Unless, of course, you are also violating the FCC regs — which is commonly done in demonstrations such as this one.

  22. Jeffery Galinovsky says:

    Hey guys, sorry for the delayed response. I have been travelling the past week in China, and only now had the chance to read your comments. We are very excited about your interest in this project.
    While RCP uses novel technology to achieve the long distance link, from a standards perspective, the link runs on the standard 802.11a/b/g spectrums (2.4 GHz and 5.x GHz). The TDMA modification applies to the MAC layer for the protocol. The throughput depends on a lot of variables: power of the radios, gain of the directional antennae, and line-of-sight conditions. The theoretical maximum for the long distance link is the maximum bandwidth in the appropriate 802.11 standard and we can achieve this bandwidth over this distance due to the TDMA modifications
    We have currently partnered with an OEM design manufacturer (ODM) to build RCP and bring it out to market sometime in Q3 of 2008. Intel will not be selling RCP as Intel is not a system company – this ODM will be manufacturing and selling RCP. Our target price is sub-$500 for a single unit – or sub-$1000 for a point to point pair. We have targeted RCP for emerging markets because the group at Intel that is driving this product is the Emerging Markets Platform Group. We are currently working to utilize RCP to help bring connectivity solutions to our Intel-powered Classmate PC deployments. We are definitely open to mature market deployments, and we will not restrict any sales opportunities as we see the benefit in both Emerging and Mature markets.
    Hopefully this helps answer some your questions.
    Jeffery Galinovsky,
    Senior Platform Manager for Intel(R) RCP

  23. I would love to test this equipment in our lab for use in our rural territories of the United States. As an Engineer for a rural telecommunications company we have reviewed many options to bring higher throughput broadband systems to our customers that are way beyond the reach of DSL or are too spread out to keep costs in line with revenue. This appears to be a fantastic technology with great potential.

  24. Peter Tower says:

    I live and work in India and we are trying to get communications access to the poor mountain villagers of Uttaranchal. Setting up regional clinics with communications is the ideal.
    I know that the amount of power radiated by the WIFI signal is higher than that allowed by regulations in the US, I guess that is why it is being rolled out in other countries?
    Where and when can I buy some nodes? I am quite familiar with Motorola Canopy and the cost vs bandwidth is prohibitive for a bare bones NGO like ours.

  25. Mr. Toad says:

    Based on what the Slashdot article said this iso-synchronous transfer ie. wireless Firewire !!!
    I think at $500 a box its too expensive for India, Golf courses and farms in the USA is the Application.

  26. Mike Hammett says:

    What does RCP do that wireless operators haven’t been doing for 10 – 15 years? What does it do that Intel’s latest wireless effort WiMax doesn’t do? As usual in the communications space, Intel is doing another “me too”.

  27. Diem says:

    It is good news for everyone but the fact Is it really good solid connect for 100km or 60 mile away. No joke for the distance, He mention that the system has used in Vietnam but so far I am Vietnamese but I did not heard any or used about the product. or I am not update? Well anyway hope Intel success with this so it could be in US Market soon, in the video they did not presentation very clear and detail, you don’t seen any data when connection has been so i think they are still has issued with the distance…

  28. Gus Carvajal says:

    Mr. Galinovsky,
    Please respond to comments made by Mr. Glass and Mr. Josephson, which seem to pose a very serious concern about how “novel” Intel’s solution actually is. I also would like some more detail about what the pricing includes. Even I can purchase long-range radio and routing equipment for less than $500.00 US and make it work, however there is no way I would be able to include the antennas and other peripherals at that price. Does the Intel solution include these items also or not? Is this solution a complete package and if not what is Intel going to suggest or even work with for the rest of the solution (i.e. Pacific Wireless Antennas)? Having that been said, I still do respect the steps Intel is taking toward the rural markets and the poorer countries of the world. It’s good to see the big guys finnaly looking out for the little people.

  29. Cheryl says:

    First of all, thanks so much to everyone for their interest and feedback! Check out the 2 pdfs I just added to the original blog. They are the preliminary product brief for the RCP and the overview poster that was presented at the Berkeley lab open house. The product brief outlines the system configuration. Hope this helps clear up some of the questions.

  30. Chuck says:

    On March 19 Mark Stowe asked “Can RCP penetrate dense foliage?” If so, how far? These two questions are important for parts of Maryland

  31. Richard Roy says:

    On Mar 25, Cheryl said that the product brief and overview poster had been added to the original blog. Seems those URLs can’t be found (404 errors). Any idea where they might have gone?

  32. Layne Holt says:

    EtherLinx showed this technology to Craig Barrett at Vortex in 2002.”Parked in front of the conference hotel, the founders were able to show Intel’s chief executive, Craig R. Barrett, that their technology was capable of offering Internet access to the entire hotel as well as to the homes on a ridge behind the conference center.”
    We have been doing 50+ mile WiFi links since the late 90s

  33. Helder Bunga says:

    oi pessoal estão de parabens pelo feito!
    eu vivo em Angola e tenho difilculdades em ligar-me a outra parte da empresa que esta a 27Km, quero comprar já!!! preciso disto.
    se alguem souber como posso comprar agrdecia!
    Helder Bunga

  34. Arno says:

    This looks like a potentially perfect complement to NokiaSiemensNetworks ‘Village Connection’ solution: nokiasiemensnetworks.com/no/IndustryThemes/new_growth_markets/village_connection.htm?languagecode=zh
    Maybe worthwhile to get in touch, if not yet done ?

  35. engy says:

    Hello, I would like to know if it is possible to buy the Intel RCP for Africa contries, and how to buy it?
    Thanks.

  36. Jon says:

    What happened to the WiLD Net moniker? it seems to have been the more popular term, or rather is the one that Wikipedia (and myself) had known this system as.

  37. Mike says:

    Where can I go to place an advance order? Many people in outlying areas in my rural home county in Florida have no way to get high-speed Internet at home, and this sounds like a potential solution that I could provide in partnership with local ISPs.

  38. Javier Jileta says:

    It seems great. In México City we have several applications that could work in order for us to offer free public internet. With whom may I speak so that we could deploy this technology? Please email me back ASAP

  39. animesh says:

    While reading the above steps i am quite relieved because the steps will really prove helpful for those people who are living in rural areas through internet in that areas it will help them to be in contact with the whole world.
    ————————————-

  40. pol says:

    je suis a la recherche du rcp intel savoir comment faire pour me procuré de ce produit ou le comandé merci de me repondre svp

  41. ROB says:

    I am trying to find this equipment for pricing and purchase but have been getting nowhere fast! Can’t find out anything from intel and ingrammicro will not talk to you unless you have an act.# ! Does anyone have part numbers or such to purchase the rcp equipment?
    thanks
    rob

  42. Jean Bernard says:

    This is great. I am totally new to global communication but very anxious to what lies ahead with the possibilities. I am trying to find out how this technology will make it easier for an emerging market in great needs of basic communication. I have a customer base of 300,000 in rural areas without internet access and would welcome the opportunity to use this aplication and make a difference in so many ways (Cell / internet/ VOIP…)Ideas anyone?

  43. FLIGOS THEODOROS says:

    i have read about your system and i am interesting about it. Could you please post infos where can i find in Greece to have it.
    looking forwward to hear from you soon.

  44. James Yu says:

    I am not familiar with wi-fi but I thought that it is low power with limited coverage area. But the RCP talks about 60 miles. Does the wi-fi standards allow wide area coverage?

  45. DJIBO Boubacar Issoufou says:

    Bonjour
    Puis avoir plus d’info sur le concept RCP et à quand une normalisation. sera t’il 802.11????

  46. Doogi says:

    Why you don’t want to see bigger. If an anten wifi could have 100km area, I would put it in the middle of a city. Everybody would buy pocket PC and use skype to communicate. Doesn’t look to work like this yet. Just see one direction on the video. But I wish one day I will be abble to go anywhere one internet and talk with everybody for a write price. Love dreaming.
    Sorry my English is not that good.

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    This mountain is 100 kilometer away from our studio
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    In this network we also want tie up a second studio to the main studio.
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    Please quote on your solutions, we need to know the price.
    Thank you for your kind cooperation in this project
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    Antoon Sang Ajang
    Please visit our multi format live stream at: http://www.radiozon.com

  48. Cheryl Miller says:

    Dear Sir,
    I received your comment on the Rural Connectivity Platform blog. You may not have noticed the follow up blog which gave more information on the product (http://blogs.intel.com/research/2008/11/rcp_goes_commercial.php ). As the 2nd blog indicates, Intel does not sell the RCP platform. We have an agreement with a vendor Z-Com (http://www.zcom.com.tw/program1/default.asp ) for the manufacturing and distribution of this product. Please contact Z-Com directly for further information and to purchase equipment.
    Thank you for your interest.

  49. shishir says:

    It sounds great!We are involved in Telesafe motherhood project in the rural and very remote area of Nepal in Rolpa district.This is the technology what we want.
    shishir