Thursday, 04 November 2010 14:13

CSIRO delivers great breakthrough in wireless


Australia's national science and research organisation, the CSIRO, has not only helped revolutionise today's Wi-Fi through ownership of a key part of modern IEEE 802.11 protocols, but now stands ready to bring forth a wireless revolution to rural and regional areas of up to 1000 people, with potentially synchronous speeds of 12Mbps - and who knows how much faster and to how many more people in the future!

Even if technologies such as fibre are 'future proof', the evolution of competing networking technologies continues, with the CSIRO's wireless breakthrough an excellent example.

UPDATE: Stuart Corner, iTWire's telecommunications editor, has just written an article entitled "CSIRO looks to deliver 50Mbps to the 'wireless four percent' of NBN customers" which goes into more detail in an interview with the CSIRO's Dr Ian Oppermann, which as it turns out answers some of my general questions on how the technology will develop in the future. Should you want to know more you'll definitely want to read it!

My story continues below.

Already well entrenched in the wireless industry, especially through ownership of a key part of the 802.11 standard, the CSIRO is the first to announce a new type of wireless network that is much more efficient, and which works over soon-to-be-decommissioned analogue TV spectrum.

There has been much talk over the years about wireless technologies that would do this, given the spectrum's ability to transmit over long distances and easily penetrate buildings, so it's great to see progress having been made, and by our own CSIRO at that!

The system has currently been specifically designed for rural and regional users who will be beyond the footprint of Australia's likely decade-long 'National Broadband Network' project which will see 1Gbps-capable fibre rolled out to 93% of the population.

Given that the CSIRO says the technology 'could' be available to the intended, isolated customers within only two years, who knows how much more efficient and advanced the CSIRO's technology will become, or how other companies might extend the CSIRO's discoveries into new and far more efficient mobile networks in the future?

This is especially so because the technology is being designed to allow multiple users to upload data at the same time, "without reducing their individual systems' data transfer rate of 12 Mbps."

The CSIRO's Dr Ian Oppermann said: 'Someone who doesn't live near the fibre network could get to it using our new wireless system. They'd be able to upload a clip to YouTube in real-time and their data rate wouldn't change even if five of their neighbours also started uploading videos.

More on why this is a great breakthrough from Dr Oppermann on page two, please read on!

'But the really impressive part is the spectral efficiency our team has achieved. Even with just half of our system completed, CSIRO is already helping define the future of wireless technology', continued Dr Oppermann. 

Better still, as the technology uses existing analogue TV spectrum, is that the CSIRO hopes it will simply be able to use existing analogue TV infrastructure to deliver the wireless signal, which will be picked up by each user's existing TV antenna - and a new set-top box to send and receive data, again from the antenna back to the main transmission tower.

Dr Oppermann was quoted by the ABC, saying: 'We're really trying to address townships that have less than 1000 homes, those specifically which are targeted to not get fibre so going beyond where the fibre will be laid out.

'And to do it as efficiently as possible, build as few towers as possible and hopefully even just re-use the existing infrastructure from the analogue broadcast TV systems."

For now, the technology isn't destined for high density areas. Dr Oppermann was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald saying: ''We have designed something specifically for remote and rural areas. If you move to a metropolitan or dense area you do not get the line of sight.''

Australia's Federal Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, welcomed the effort, while Australia's NBN Co, the company created by Government to build the national broadband network, expressed interest and would look again in the future, presumably after more development has occurred, which is natural given the technology is, after all, being designed specifically for those outside the fibre footprint.

Still, the system might not be designed for metropolitan or dense areas now, but what's the bet that it delivers even more breakthroughs that see this as a potential future ultra-high speed replacement or transformative addition to technologies beyond LTE to 'real' 4G and even 5G technologies?

Unless we succumb to environmental catastrophe, nuclear war or world-government dystopia first, faster and better wireless technologies are certainly in our future, as will be entirely new ways to connect and to also better use existing infrastructure, be it copper, fibre or in the CSIRO's case, existing spectrum.

For more from Dr Ian Oppermann in an article entitled "CSIRO looks to deliver 50Mbps to the 'wireless four percent' of NBN customers" by iTWire's telecommunications editor, Stuart Corner, and more from Dr Oppermann on the future of the CSIRO's new wireless technology, please read on here.



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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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