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Revolutionary Wi-Fi system promises connectivity in remote areas
Mon, 11th Mar 2024

A groundbreaking Wi-Fi system, designed to facilitate extensive connectivity in remote areas and disaster-struck zones, has been produced through the combined efforts of the Connectivity Innovation Network (CIN) (sponsored by the NSW Telco Authority), the University of Sydney, UTS, and technology partners Pivotel Satellite, NBN, OneWeb, and Real Access. Designed for easy deployment in emergency situations or unconnected areas, the large-area Wi-Fi (LAWi-Fi) system represents a significant stride in communication technology.

Particular attention was given to the challenges encountered by existing Wi-Fi solutions, which are chiefly suited for indoor, close-range applications but are typically expensive and impractical for large-scale deployment. Using novel LAWi-Fi protocols and multi-beam high-gain antennas, the team, led by Professor Yonghui Li from the University of Sydney and Associate Professor Peiyuan Qin from UTS, addressed these issues.

Professor Li hailed the project as "a major breakthrough in enabling rapid deployment of Wi-Fi systems in crisis situations and remote areas that do not have any internet connections". He went on to emphasise how their innovative Wi-Fi protocol stack and antenna design have "significantly extended the reach and performance of Wi-Fi networks, offering a cost-effective solution for large-area deployment".

The project reached a significant milestone at a showcase held at Wattamolla Beach, Royal National Park. Here, the centralised Wi-Fi protocol demonstrated compatibility with commercial chipsets, Wi-Fi 6, along with older versions, ensuring maximum accessibility for users. Aiming to support up to 100 users with a 10Mbps data rate within a 2x2km region, the system displayed promise for quick deployment and proficient operation outdoors.

Pivotel Satellite provides the system's backhaul, including LEOsat constellations such as OneWeb and Starlink, along with NBN Co's Sky Muster. LTE network integration is a potential future development. This system's signature is the innovative Wi-Fi protocol, which negates the 'hidden node problem', boosting long-range performance and data rates. Additionally, UTS-designed high-gain antennas contribute wide beamwidth and dual-polarisation for steady data rates irrespective of orientation.

Expressing confidence in the future of this technology, Associate Professor Qin affirmed, "By addressing the hidden node problem and improving long-range performance and data rates, the project sets a new standard for crisis connectivity”. Furthermore, he stated, “We believe that this technology has the potential to significantly transform disaster response and enhance connectivity in remote areas. Through collaboration and innovation, we can make a positive impact on society."

The large-area Wi-Fi system developed in this project has a promising breadth of practical applications. Fields as diverse as agriculture, remote education, large warehouses, underground mines, industrial settings, and emergency services stand to harness this technology to bolster connectivity across widespread areas, providing a valuable tool in crisis management and beyond.