Earlier this year, I wroteabout the Intel® Rural Connectivity Platform (Intel® RCP) research project. There has been a lot of interest in this technology and I am happy to provide an update from platform manager Joyce Kuo.
Question: Joyce, can you give us some background on why the RCP was developed?
Answer: Intel is getting a lot of requests from rural areas from mature countries and especially from emerging countries. An entry-level affordable broadband solution is requested. While more and more advanced broadband and wireless solution are emerging, there are areas with rugged geography, power limitation and limited population to enable the latest connectivity solution. Intel is eager to use existing technology with innovative design to bring an alternative solution to those countries.
Q: How did Intel researchers solve this problem?
A: Intel took a different approach for Intel’s RCP by replacing the MAC layer’s CSMA with a unique TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) mechanism. This allows RCP to break the distance barrier of CSMA (achieving much greater distances) and also allows for channel access to be controlled more effectively, reducing collisions and maximizing the use of the wireless channel. Think of this as a highly organized phone conversation, where the two people on the call know exactly when they need to speak and for how long.
Q: What was the other technical issue?
A: The other challenge was to improve point to point reliability at the MAC layer. Most wireless solutions utilize a stop and wait link layer acknowledgement scheme to acknowledge valid reception of data. Another simple analogy here is that when you send a letter or email to someone, you request confirmation and stop doing anything until you get a response. Not the most effective approach. In a wireless system, this stop and wait approach becomes increasingly problematic as distance and signal propagation time increase. To resolve this, RCP utilizes a combined bulk acknowledgement and sliding window scheme that maximizes both performance and reliability.
Q: What is the ultimate goal of this project?
A: Connecting the next 1 billion users!
Intel’s Emerging Markets Platform Group has an overarching agenda to develop products that are robust, reliable and specifically tailored to Emerging Markets. Intel RCP is being designed as a low cost wireless point to point solution for Emerging Markets. Special emphasis has been placed on creating a platform that is simple to setup, easy to maintain, sturdy, robust and with IP67 weather proofing.
Q: What features will the RCP have?
A: Some of the features that Intel’s RCP will include in different RCP products lines are:
- Intel IXP platform
- 100Mbps Ethernet / PoE
- WiFi transmission power from 6.5dBM to 23dBM.
- Built in 23dBi antenna
- Capability to add an external antenna.
- CSMA for short range point to multipoint.
- TDMA for long range point to point
- IEEE 802.11b/g/a
- 900Mhz, 2.4Ghz, 5.8Ghz
- Multihop relaying capability
- Local hotspot coverage.
- Solar power support
- FCC, CE regulatory
Q:When can we expect to see the RCP out in the market?
A: Intel is working with Z-COM, a wireless Original Design Manufacturer (ODM), for Intel (r) RCP-Basic and Intel (r) RCP-PRO product lines to commercialize the Intel (r) Rural Connectivity Platform (RCP) concept. RCP-Basic sample and mass production will be ready by the end of this year. The platform can be ordered through the Z-COM website.