Kahuna-Fi recently had an opportunity to test a pre-production version of Airvine's new WaveTunnel indoor backhaul solution. Airvine has come up with indoor backhaul solution using 60GHz. With the idea that they will revolutionize the way networks are installed moving forward. As in disrupting the entire low voltage cable infrastructure. You might ask like I did, wait a minute, 60 GHz indoors, how? And why?
I was skeptical. As we know, 60GHz can be blocked by a few leaves, rain, or even a column of air (O2 absorption). How is it going to punch through walls? Well, the engineers at Airvine have been working on that very problem. The answer appears to be lots of tiny antennas, beamforming, and turning transmit power up to 11.
The disadvantages of the 60GHz frequency are many, very high free space path loss (FSPL) due to O2 absorption allowing for limited distance links, rain fade, line of sight, etc., are not as pronounced indoors as they are outside. Distances will be shorter inside, no foliage, no rain, and no co/same channel interference from outside. With the extremely narrow bandwidth created by the analog beamforming antenna arrays (1-5 degrees), an indoor installation can expect to be able to use the full spectrum (V-band 57-71 GHz) even in very dense applications.
"The V-band can deliver an enormous amount of network capacity for in-building backbone applications. Orders of magnitude more than is possible in the sub-6 GHz band and it is more than a match for fiber". -Steve Hratko Airvine
Here is a quick tech rundown.Each unit has four antenna arrays comprised of 256 tiny patch antennas. These antennas will form a 1x1 TX-RX link with its neighbor. The radios will be installed in either a hub and spoke or ring topology. The ring option was not available at the time of testing. Each WaveTunnel will have four GigE switch ports, a single web interface will manage the entire system.
I won't get into speeds and feeds here. Stay tuned for a more technical blog soon. I measured up to 1 Gbps across three WaveTunnel units passing through three 3db (measured using 5 GHz test equipment) sheetrock walls. (Ok, a little speed & feed info) Keep in mind my test equipment was only capable of 1GBps, so I wasn't able to come close to Airvine's claim of up to 40 Gbps throughput. (future release speed)
I believe there is a place for Airvine right now in warehouses, manufacturing, disaster relief, large public venues (LPV), and dynamic public events that require a quick setup / high throughput solution. And as the tech develops with regard to material penetration, other verticals will quickly open up. I am not sure the low voltage cable industry has to pack up shop just yet, but they should be paying attention.