Wireless Standards

Wireless Standards

Wireless technology is becoming increasingly popular for a wide variety of applications. After evaluating the technology, most users are convinced of its reliability, satisfied with its performance and are ready to use it for large-scale applications and complex wireless networks. Black Box’s wireless technologies are excellent for distances up to 16 kilometers catering for low to high bandwidth requirements on radio systems. You can even have our own professional engineers install them! With radio systems, Black Box will even check the entire site for possible radio interference from either internal or external sources. We take both present and future obstructions into account to make sure your wireless system is up and running for years.

Wireless technology is ideal for many applications including temporary networks and links, listed buildings, joining sites that are separated by public roads and anywhere where it is difficult or even impossible to lay cable.

Radio Technology
There are many types of radio used in network communications for all kinds of applications from low bandwidth serial data, Voice, wireless LAN and even high bandwidth long range back haul links up to a gigabit and beyond.

Over the years the methods used to transmit and encrypt this data have rapidly developed, transmission distances increasing and bandwidths ever growing to meet the constant demand from today’s bandwidth hungry applications and security requirements to protect your network.

So here follows some standards and terms that you may see when looking into radio equipment, whatever your application may be.

IEEE 802.11ac
IEEE 802.11ac is a wireless networking standard in the 802.11 family (which is marketed under the brand name Wi-Fi), developed in the IEEE Standards Association process, providing high-throughput wireless local area networks (WLANs) on the 5 GHz band. The standard was developed from 2011 through 2013 and approved in January 2014. According to a study, devices with the 802.11ac specification are expected to be common by 2015 with an estimated one billion spread around the world.
This specification has expected multi-radio WLAN throughput of at least 1 gigabit per second and a single radio throughput of at least 500 megabits per second (500 Mbit/s). This is accomplished by extending the air interface concepts embraced by 802.11n: wider RF bandwidth (up to 160 MHz), more MIMO spatial streams (up to eight), downlink multi-user MIMO (up to four clients), and high-density modulation (up to 256-QAM)

Operating in the 5-GHz band, 802.11a devices support a maximum theoretical data rate of 54 Mbps but are more likely to achieve a throughput somewhere between 20 Mbps to 25 Mbps in normal traffic conditions. In a typical office environment, their maximum range is 50 metres at the lowest speed, but at a higher speed, the range is less than 25 metres. 802.11a devices can have four, eight or more channels, depending on the country.

Operating in the 2.4-GHz band, 802.11b devices support a maximum theoretical data rate of 11 Mbps with average throughput falling in the 4- to 6-Mbps range. In the typical office environment, their maximum range is 75 metres at the lowest speed, but at higher speed, their range is about 30 metres. They use only three non-overlapping channels, so devices such as Bluetooth, 2.4-GHz cordless phones and even microwave ovens can cause interference—and lower performance— for 802.11b networks.

802.11e provides Quality of Service (QoS) support for LAN applications, which will be critical for delay-sensitive applications such as Voice over Wireless IP (VoWIP). The standard will provide classes of service with managed levels of QoS for data, voice and video applications.

Now fully ratified, 802.11g offers backward compatibility with 802.11b. 802.11g operates in the 2.4-GHz band but can deliver data rates: 6 to 54 Mbps. Similar to 802.11b, it will still have up to three non-overlapping channels. 802.11g makes use of Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM) modulation, just like 802.11a does. But, to increase backward compatibility with 11b, it can support Complementary Code Keying (CCK) modulation and, as an option for faster link rates, it allows Packet Binary Convolutional Coding (PBCC) modulation.

This is a supplementary standard for the MAC layer to comply with European regulations for 5-GHz WLANs. European radio regulations for the 5-GHz band require products to have transmission power control (TPC) and dynamic frequency selection (DFS). TPC limits the transmitted power to the minimum needed to reach the furthest user. DFS selects the radio channel at the access point to minimise interference with other systems, particularly radar. Pan-European approval of 802.11h was ratified in 2003.

This supplemental draft standard is intended to improve WLAN security. It describes the encrypted transmission of data between systems of 802.11a and 802.11b WLANs. It defines new encryption key protocols including the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

IEEE 802.11n is an amendment to IEEE 802.11-2007 as amended by IEEE 802.11k-2008, IEEE 802.11r-2008, IEEE 802.11y-2008, and IEEE 802.11w-2009, and builds on previous 802.11 standards by adding multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) and 40 MHz channels to the PHY (physical layer), and frame aggregation to the MAC layer.

MIMO is a technology which uses multiple antennas to coherently resolve more information than possible using a single antenna. One way it provides this is through Spatial Division Multiplexing (SDM). SDM spatially multiplexes multiple independent data streams, transferred simultaneously within one spectral channel of bandwidth. MIMO SDM can significantly increase data throughput as the number of resolved spatial data streams is increased. Each spatial stream requires a discrete antenna at both the transmitter and the receiver. In addition, MIMO technology requires a separate radio frequency chain and analog-to-digital converter for each MIMO antenna which translates to higher implementation costs compared to non-MIMO systems.

Channels operating at 40 MHz are another feature incorporated into 802.11n which doubles the channel width from 20 MHz in previous 802.11 PHYs to transmit data. This allows for a doubling of the PHY data rate over a single 20 MHz channel. It can be enabled in the 5 GHz mode, or within the 2.4 GHz if there is knowledge that it will not interfere with any other 802.11 or non-802.11 (such as Bluetooth) system using those same frequencies.

Coupling MIMO architecture with wider bandwidth channels offers increased physical transfer rate over 802.11a (5 GHz) and 802.11g (2.4 GHz).

This IEEE working group addresses the standard for Wireless Personal Access Network (WPANs). It currently has four active workgroups:

  • 802.15.1 is tasked with delivering the standard for low-speed, low-cost WPANs and is based on the Bluetooth specification.
  • The 802.15.2 task group is developing the recommended practices on how 802.11 WLANs and 802.15 WPANs can co-exist in the 2.4-GHz band. It is mainly working on the interference problem between Bluetooth and 802.11.
  • The 802.15.3 task group is delivering a standard for higher speed WPANs from 10 Mbps to 55 Mbps at distances less than 10 metres.
  • The 802.15.4 task group is preparing a standard for simple, low-cost, low-speed WPANs. Data ranges from 2 kbps to 200 kbps and uses DSSS modulation in the 2.4-GHz and 915-MHz ranges.

Broadband Wireless Access is becoming popular as a means of meeting the ever-increasing demands for broadband Internet access within the business environment. Its rapid deployment and its ability to communicate voice, data and video services make it a very flexible tool. IEEE 802.16 is designed to standardise the interface for wireless metropolitan area networks. Published on 8 April 2002, 802.16 addresses the first-mile/last-mile link in Wireless MANs, and focuses on efficient use of bandwidth between 2 and 66 GHz. The 2- to 11-GHz bandwidth uses PMP and also optional Mesh topologies, and defines a MAC layer that supports multiple physical layer specifications for the frequency used.

The 10-to 66-GHz bandwidth supports varying levels of traffic at many of the licensed frequencies including 10.5, 25, 26, 31, 38 and 39 GHz for bidirectional communication. It also enables interoperability of devices, so products from different vendors will function together correctly, enabling carriers to use lower-cost equipment. The amendments of the draft will support both licensed and unlicensed bands.

Power sharing a cable with data is not a new concept. Telegraphy and traditional telephone lines have shared copper for a long time. But Power over Ethernet (PoE) has only recently been introduced. The power used is within Safety Extra-Low Voltage (SELV) levels and is put onto the copper by using an injector or a multiport power-injecting hub. If the remote device is fully PoE compliant, then no further device is required. If the remote device is not PoE compliant, then a device called a picker or a tap must be used to separate the power from the data.

There are two types of PoE: In-Band-Powering uses the same pairs as the data, i.e. Pins 1 and 2, and Pins 3 and 6 as pairs. Out-of-Band-Powering uses the pins that Ethernet does not, i.e. Pins 4 and 5, and Pins 7 and 8 as pairs. It is generally used for powering such devices as IP telephones and WLAN access points.

Some manufacturers refer to their products as 802.11af. There is no current IEEE standard under the reference 802.11af. The only current is 802.3af.

WiFi is a term used to describe 802.11a/b/g/n products in general. The WiFi Alliance is an organisation that focuses on the interoperability of products and has more than 200 members supporting more than 1500 products worldwide. All these manufacturers prove that their products fully support 802.11b and will interoperate with all other WiFi certified products.

Developed by Nokia, Ericsson, Intel and Toshiba, Bluetooth is a wireless technology that specifies how mobile phone, computers and PDAs should talk to each other with computers, and with office or home phones. Bluetooth has replaced cable or infrared connections for such devices. A typical application is a mobile phone to a Bluetooth headset.

Wired Equivalent Protection (WEP)
WEP was originally designed as a “wired equivalent protection” to unwanted wireless network access, but since it’s official release in 1997 security flaws became apparent as loop holes were found that comprise the encryption method to eavesdrop the network traffic, allowing someone with now readily available software to “crack” the encryption key within minutes and gain access to the network.

This led to the standard becoming superseded by “WiFi Protected Access” (WPA) and (WPA2) in 2004.

WiFi Protected Access (WPA) Enterprise/Personal
WPA is a data encryption method designed by the WiFi alliance for 802.11 wireless LANs. WPA is an industry-supported, pre-standard version of 802.11i using the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), which fixes the problems of WEP, including using much larger and dynamic keys greatly reducing the chance of a brute force attack.

(WPA2) Enterprise/Personal
This certification was also released in 2004 as an enhancement over WPA with added CCMP encryption which is based on the military grade AES encryption and to date the most secure method available to the enterprise and even public user at the moment.

Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP)
The Temporal Key Integrity Protocol, pronounced tee-kip, is part of the IEEE 802.11i encryption standard using the RC4 (Rivest Cipher 4) algorithm for wireless LANs. TKIP is the next generation of WEP, the Wired Equivalency Protocol, which is used to secure 802.11 wireless LANs. TKIP provides per-packet key mixing, a message integrity check and re-keying mechanism, thus fixing the flaws of WEP.

ZigBee has been designed as a standard for low-speed communications. It operates at data rates of 250 kbps and 20 kbps. It has been designed to be used in a star topology, but also peer to peer is possible. It can support up to 255 devices per network and uses CSMA-CA channel access to communicate. It can also have an optional guaranteed time slot. The protocol supports full handshaking for transfer reliability.One new advantage over previous technologies is that it uses low power (battery life is multimonth to nearly infinite).

It has dual PHY (2.4 GHz and 868/915 MHz) and an extremely low duty cycle (<0.1%). It has been designed to operate at a typical range of 10 metres nominal but will operate between 1 and 100 metres, depending on settings. It can be used in the home appliance market (TVs, videos, DVD products, etc.), personal healthcare products, PC peripherals, industrial and commercial.

MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output)
MIMO radios used in 802.11n, 4G, 3G, WiMAX and HSPA+ have multiple antennas at the transmitter and receiver to greatly increase throughput and efficiency by utilizing multiple radio bands at the same time.

There are many variations of MIMO which are adapted to their particular application ie home/office use in routers/access points, mobile applications with 4G and 3G, long range bridges and even near/non line of sight links.

Gigabit MMW RF bridges (Millimeter wave 80Ghz band)
Multi Kilometer gigabit wireless is available via a few methods, the 80Ghz band being one of which that has very narrow beam width meaning high density link propagation is possible with high data throughput and very high reliability boasting impressive availability figures in comparison to other radio bands/technologies.

Proposed for 2010 but still under development a new WiFi standard for Peer-to-Peer connections between devices for high speed file transfer, media streaming, WiFi Camera’s, AdHoc internet connection sharing and all without the need for a WiFi network as we know it or physical infrastructure as such.

This will require at least one or more of the devices to be WiFi-Direct enabled which will act like a soft AP or mini AP for the rest of the WiFi devices or WiFi-Direct devices to connect to.

Some say that it may be the beginning of Bluetooth becoming phased out for this new much faster and longer range standard which is backwards compatible with all WiFi certified mobile devices, access points and routers enabling them all to communicate with very minimal setup (almost automatic) and no physical network setup.