There is an ever-growing need to provide high speed IP bandwidth in mobile applications. One of the greatest challenges is how to deliver broadband connectivity to moving objects, whether it be passenger or commercial rail, vehicles, watercraft, or unmanned moving objects. Since there is no way to physically cable a moving object, wireless connectivity is the solution.
Wireless mobility can provide IP bandwidth that can be used for video surveillance backhaul, vehicle and sensor monitoring, remote vehicle control, on board Wi-Fi, computer connectivity, Smart devices like phones and tablets, voice communications, vehicle location tracking, transportation management, or public announcement systems.
Different wireless technologies can be used for mobility applications, such as: wireless mesh radios, point to multipoint wireless backhaul, WiMax, LTE, and radios designed for mobility handoff. There are a lot of wireless manufactures that claim to have broadband radio systems that can provide wireless mobility. Using the right radio equipment is important for the needs of the application. Some applications need extremely low latency while others are more concerned with the amount of bandwidth provided.
The main question is what is the mobility application? Many industries, like utilities (water, oil & gas, and electrical), government (city and county), first responder (law enforcement and fire), etc. all have needs for mobility applications beyond two-way radio and cellular connectivity. Is there a need for IP network connectivity back to the organizations data network and need for Internet connectivity? The problem with using cellular LTE is the reoccurring costs and having to manage so many plans. There is also no control over how employees are using the consumed data amounts on the plans. Security is also a huge issue when using public networks versus being able to control a private network that has no other access outside the organization.
In may cases organizations want to have both fixed and mobile applications, like a utility or city that needs to have bandwidth at fixed locations around a geographic area but also want the ability to have bandwidth in their vehicles. There is a huge cost savings by having the ability for employees to be able to be connected to the home office while traveling around a service area rather than having to drive back and forth to get information. This can be getting email in the field, being able to pull work orders, upload video or pictures, get access to site plans, and so on.
Applications that have needs for both fixed and mobility can benefit from using technologies like private LTE or licensed WiMax technologies. These technologies allow for 360-degree coverage capability with a reach upwards of 20 miles around a geographic area. Bandwidth can reach up to 40+Mbps.
There are some great radio systems now that can connect to a private LTE/WiMax network and can also if need be roam onto existing cellular networks as they roam outside a good coverage area. These systems can also provide in-vehicle Wi-Fi providing connectivity to laptops, tablets, and smart phones.
In other cases like transportation such as rail, both passenger and cargo, the use of mobility handoff systems that are fixed can provide a better solution. In this case the coverage area is more linear. Using directional radios allow for better performance and more control of the use of spectrum efficiency. It’s possible to get over 100Mbps with zero packet loss and less than 2ms of latency
The unique technical challenge is providing seamless hand off as a moving object passes wireless backhaul node locations. There needs to be seamless handoff at low latency so that data connectivity isn’t interrupted. This is just like the use of cellular networks that provide connectivity with out drops as you are traveling down the road in a car and talking on the phone. The key elements in a successful wireless mobility solution are proper wireless network design, accurate wireless path engineering, wireless spectrum analysis to determine appropriate frequency utilization, hardware choice and configuration, and most importantly is the quality of wireless installation.