Broadband Wireless Mesh Network connectivity has become one of the essential aspects of smart city infrastructure. Despite abundance of fibre availability in urban environment, providing a wired infrastructure for any digital service is a costly endeavour that requires careful planning and often results in static inflexible structures. It causes significant civil life disruption and costs to deploy solutions rapidly and flexibly. Broadband Wireless Mesh Networks (B-WMNs) aim to overcome these problems by minimising and/or eliminating the need for wired infrastructure, and utilising existing city infrastructures as platforms for their deployment (Egners et al., 2013).
B-WMNs have low installation and maintenance cost and facilitate connection to every possible location in urban or rural environment regardless of the complexity of reach. There are several applications of B-WMNs such as digital home, broadband Internet access, building automation, health and medical systems, emergency and disaster networking (Salah & Salleh, 2013). Public works officials can use B-WMNs to monitor their water and power supplies by installing a wireless mesh network in sewers, water treatment facilities, or generators. Public safety workers can use secure virtual networks to stay in touch. Mesh nodes can also be mounted on streetlights, stoplights, and other moving objects; which creates an opportunity for several devices to be connected to the mesh network in the case of an emergency (BasuMallick, 2022).
B-WMN is an infrastructure that consists of a network of routers wirelessly communicating with each other at gigabit speeds (fibre-like). It consists of radio nodes which need not be cabled to a wired port like the conventional wireless access points (Parvin, 2019). B-WMNs have gained increasing attention as an attractive means to provide widespread connectivity in complement to the access offered by regular Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The mesh topology of B-WMNs provides high flexibility, up to 99.999% reliability and under 2ms of latency, ideal for real time high bandwidth applications, thereby, leading to a physical infrastructure that allows for flexible routing and transport connections (Matos et al., 2011).
B-WMN infrastructure in urban areas (Cilfone et al., 2019)
Problems to be solved
High cost of deployment
GHG emissions from deployment and maintenance
High energy demand
Need for seamless and high-speed 5G connectivity
Lack of access to dense urban areas
Improved broadband access
Enhanced safety and security
Improved service delivery
Improving traffic management
Reducing GHG emissions
Encouraging digital entrepreneurship
Enabling new business opportunities
Improving social integration
Facilitating citizen engagement
Functions help you to understand what the products can do for you and which ones will help you achieve your goals.
Each solution has at least one mandatory function, which is needed to achieve the basic purpose of the solution, and several additional functions, which are features that can be added to provide additional benefits.
Provides access to high-speed connectivity
Provides fibre-like high-speed connectivity wirelessly
Enables digital access and equity
Enables access to every part of the city including hard-to-reach rural areas
Enhances service delivery
Provides enhanced safety and security for citizens, as well as improved emergency services through real-time transmission of data
Reduces GHG emissions
Reduces emissions as a result of enhanced traffic management
Reduces economic losses
Saves cost as a result of improved service delivery and seemless connectivity
Attracts talents and businesses
Improves the liveability of a city which in turn improves the tourism quotient
There are numerous ways in which Broadband Wireless Mesh Networks can be applied. They include the following, and regardless of the application, B-WMNs are a great way to stay secure and connected.
Streetlamps are the densest electrically operated public infrastructure that can be found in urban areas. They provide a platform that can be used to foster innovative city-wide services. Street lamps as a platform (termed SLaaP) can bootstrap smart cities and enrich them with novel services, ensure stakeholder trade-offs (such as data analytics and improved services versus privacy risks) and extend seamlessly to sovereign interests such as emergency preparedness and response, safety, and security (Mühlhäuser et al., 2020). For the Broadband Wireless Mesh Network Solution, street lights can be used as “wireless nodes” in the rollout of wireless system technologies and is considered as one of the most innovative applications for B-WMN node integration.
Streetlamp as a platform (Mühlhäuser et al., 2020). Image modified by BABLE.
Supporting City Context
Already existing Streetlamps
Streetlights as wifi-to-grid connectors and electrical chargers
In Stockholm the smart connected city adds sensors to existing fibre-optic network and connects to an Internet of Things (IOT) open data platform to produce real-time information for traffic emissions reduction and manage all aspects of city life and operations.
Smart Pole Network as a Digital Backbone for a Smart City
This pilot project in Espoo provides high-capacity connectivity in the district of Kera to test an urban smart city network.
Adaptive traffic control systems, which improve the efficiency of traffic flows by reducing average trip times and reducing fuel consumption, are facilitated by broadband wireless mesh networks and their deployment. The utilisation of high- definition cameras that send data to roadside traffic light controllers, as well as a communications infrastructure that connects the intersections and a traffic management centre, allows for this adaptability.
Adaptive traffic control system (Akram, Aniruddha, and Pascal, 2019). Image modified by BABLE.
Supporting City Context
Traffic control systems and traffic lamps
AI based traffic light optimisation in Moscow, Russia
The implementation of a flexible control scheme, based on state of art AI techniques, allows for real time monitoring of traffic and real time control of traffic lights in a chosen district in Moscow. This resulted in a significant reduction of congestions and CO2 emissions.
Open platform for multimodal mobility information and services
This Use Case is to develop an integrated Open Data mobility platform, gathering and providing information from all transport modes, prioritizing the more sustainable ones.
Traffic light priority System in Ludwigsburg
To save valuable time, fire brigade and ambulance service vehicles are given preferential treatment at traffic lights in Ludwigsburg. In the test phase it is being examined whether backlog can be avoided and how faster emergency vehicles reach their destination.
The City of Tequila Gears up for a Smart Future
Culture, heritage, and a unique national drink. The Mexican town of Tequila has already captured the world’s attention. But now it’s about to become famous for a completely different reason: the town is going digital. By 2040, it doesn’t just want to be a smart town, it wants to be a Smart City.
Traffic control system for passenger vehicles
Smart management of traffic signal lights can reduce congestion and make traffic flow more smoothly in cities.
Wireless sensors are believed to be the best way to tackle the healthcare issues since wireless communication allows people to roam anywhere and have ubiquitous access to network resources, documents, and applications (Zhu et al., 2017). Patient surveillance is made simpler and health conditions can be monitored even when nurses are absent. Also, latest technologies such as medical drones can facilitate availability of instant Medicare using networks to provide mission critical communications built over B-WMN.
Advanced Remote Medicare (Zhang et al., 2014). Image modified by BABLE.
Supporting City Context
Communication networks are an indispensable component for smart and grid power systems. B-WMNs enable essential information exchange among electrical devices spread out in the grid. One example of these devices and technologies is the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). The use of wireless networks for AMI enables the collection of meter data in real-time and facilitates the transfer of the readings from one point to another e.g., from homes to a centralised office.
Smart Grid (Zhu et al., 2017). Image modified by BABLE.
Supporting City Context
Technology infrastructure enabling grid development
Micro-grid management system
Microgrid management controller, designed to integrate disparate energy assets throughout single stakeholders to deliver improved energy performance within the areas of cost, CO2, flatten peak and effective use of low carbon generation.
Using sensors, environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, pollution, water level, fire, flora and fauna can be observed and monitored. Broadband Wireless Mesh Networks enable the swift transfer and real-time display of the data gathered by the sensors and nodes (BasuMallick, 2022).
Supporting City Context
Mobile air pollution monitoring on buses
Urban air pollution is hyper-local. Deadly air pollution varies more than 8x within 200 meters, which is however not reflected on current air pollution maps. AirVeraCity provides people actionable air quality information by accurately measuring air pollution from a mobile platform.
Using mobile data to calculate air pollution
With increasing pollution becoming one of the biggest struggles of cities, they have to collect precise air quality data before initiating concrete measures. In this project Telefonica Next uses anonymised mobile network data to calculate air pollution.
Sensor-Based Emission Control System for Port Areas
Project to understand the contribution of Hamburg's port area as a source of air pollution.
Together with AIS and weather information, the identification of individual vessels as pollutant sources is made possible.
Benefits of a Broadband Wireless Mesh Network (BABLE, 2022)
Costs of a Broadband Wireless Mesh Network (BABLE, 2022)
In particular, a smart city can be modelled as a union of many “subnetworks”, each of them dedicated to handle a particular aspect in the overall city monitoring and relying on the use of several communication systems with heterogeneous technologies (Cilfone et al., 2019).
Through a Broadband Wireless Mesh Network every node communicates with every other node, and each node receives data from one node while forwarding data to the next node. Factors to be considered by cities before the deployment of B-WMNs include:
- Urban furniture: The existence of city furniture eases the deployment of B-WMNs e.g., streetlamps and traffic lights.
- Line of sight: Broadband Mesh Network operate on mmWave range (including 60 GHz) requires a line-of-sight transmission medium, meaning that the transmit and receive ends of the link must have mutual visibility to ensure transmission. Trees, buildings, and other obstructions between the transmit and receive ends will reduce reliability or eliminate link connectivity altogether. Thus, advance inter-site line-of-sight planning is essential in any build (Perrin, 2020).
- Climate conditions: They vary from region to region and topographies vary from route to route. Careful site planning should therefore be carried out to understand any existing limitations based on local context.
- Standards and regulations: The standards set by applicable central authorities and regulatory bodies should be reviewed to ensure compliance
Supporting factors for B-WMNs include:
- Ease of deployment: With access to power and poles, site installation and turn-up can be done in less than 30 minutes, compared to months of installation time for running new fibre or other forms of cabled networks.
- Improved data access: Scalable data network enabling WiFi, Private LTE/5G, and Fixed Wireless Access
- Better sensing: Cameras, sensors for health and environment, traffic management, etc.
- Better data transport: Above-ground transport networks
- Near future applications: Autonomous vehicles and drone networks for predictive care
Government initiatives that support the deployment of technologies that enable high-speed connectivity and digital access include:
- The EU Digital Strategy: The European Commission’s strategy for shaping Europe’s digital future. For the next five years, the Commission will focus on three key objectives to ensure that digital solutions help Europe to pursue its own way towards a digital transformation that works for the benefit of people. They include: 1) Developing and deploying technology that works for people 2) A fair and competitive economy - a frictionless single market where companies of all sizes and in any sector can compete on equal terms 3) An open, democratic and sustainable society - a trustworthy environment in which citizens are empowered in how they act and interact, and of the data they provide both online and offline (European Commission).
- Digital Europe Programme: the new EU funding programme focused on bringing digital technology to businesses, citizens, and public administrations. It aims to accelerate the economic recovery and shape the digital transformation of Europe’s society and economy, bringing benefits to everyone, but in particular to small and medium-sized enterprises. Projects in five key capacity areas are supported under this programme: in supercomputing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, advanced digital skills, and ensuring a wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society, including through Digital Innovation Hubs (European Commission).
- Next Generation Internet (NGI) Initiative: A European initiative that aims to shape the future Internet as an interoperable platform ecosystem that embodies the values that Europe holds dear: openness, inclusivity, transparency, privacy, cooperation, and protection of data (European Commission). The NGI will drive the technological revolution and ensure the progressive adoption of advanced concepts and methodologies spanning the domains of artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, interactive technologies and more, while contributing to making the future internet more human-centric.
- The EU Broadband Strategy: The European Commission is supporting EU businesses, project managers and authorities in increasing network coverage to reach the EU’s Gigabit Society goals. Broadband Europe promotes the Commission's strategy on Connectivity for a European Gigabit Society by 2025 as well as the vision set by the Digital Decade for Europe’s digital transformation by 2030 to connect European citizens and businesses with very high-capacity networks, which will enable innovative products, services and applications to all citizens and business across the EU (European Commission).
Stakeholder Map for a B-WMN System (BABLE, 2022)
The Global Smart Cities Market was valued at USD 392.9 billion in 2019 and is predicted to reach USD 1380.21 billion by 2030 with a CAGR of 12.1% from 2020-2030 (NMSC, 2022). Cities and citizens demand better connectivity. WMN as a smart city solution, comprising of a communication network distributed among several wireless mesh nodes, meets this demand. These network technologies offer a significant advantage over traditional wireless networks as they do not need ethernet cables or any form of physical wiring except for the source node. The wireless mesh network is self-configuring, allowing the integration of new mesh nodes automatically without the need for network administration. (Global Market Insights, 2019).
Wireless Mesh Network Market size exceeded USD 2 billion in 2019 and is set to grow at over 15% CAGR between 2020 and 2026. The market growth is attributed to increasing uptake of wireless mesh networks on account of its reliable network capabilities including faster data transmission and easier network deployment (Global Market Insights, 2019).
Market Potential (Global Market Insights, 2019). Image modified by BABLE.
According to Heavy Reading (Perrin, 2020), 60 GHz compares favourably to both fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) and licensed mmWave spectrum options - though the cost of the equipment itself is not the primary factor in either case. For FTTP builds, Ovum estimates that in high-cost labour countries, the costs of building the network can represent 80% or more of the total FTTP network costs. For example, U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data for fibre construction costs per mile range widely from $20,000 to $100,000-plus, depending on whether fibre is aerial, existing ducts, or completely new builds. Still, Heavy Reading believes that most fibre versus mmWave decisions will not be based on cost analysis.
Rather, operators will choose mmWave when fibre is simply not an option or when rapid time to market is a key consideration. As noted earlier, fibre construction projects can run from several months to even years, given permitting and city approval timeframes. Comparing unlicensed 60 GHz to licensed mmWave spectrum bands, equipment cost comparisons are dwarfed by the single largest cost factor in using licensed spectrum – the costs of the licenses themselves. Auctions for 24 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum in the U.S. generated $2.7 billion in revenue, primarily from Tier 1 mobile operators (Perrin, 2020).
The cost structure associated with the deployment of a broadband wireless mesh network is given in the figure below:
Cost Structure for B-WMN Deployment (BABLE, 2022)
Operating Models for B-WMNs (Egners, 2014).
- Directive 2013/752/EU: The main objective of the policy document is to constrain transmission power levels to ensure they do not interfere with other wireless equipment. In the case of the short-range devices operating in the 57 GHz to 66 GHz band, they are restricted to 40 dBm Equivalent Isotropically Radiated Power (EIRP) and 13 dBm/MHz EIRP densities. Fixed outdoor installations are excluded from complying with these restrictions. Furthermore, it will ensure that these short-range devices do not become a serious source of interference for backhaul links in the 57 GHz to 64 GHz band.
- ECC/REC/(09)01: The Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) within the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) provides some recommendations in the use of 57-64 GHz frequency band for point-to-point fixed wireless systems. It also provides Equivalent Isotropically Radiated Power (EIRP) requirements for point-to-point fixed systems operating in this frequency range.
- ETSI EN 302 217-2: Harmonised European standard for fixed radio systems; characteristics and requirements for point-to-point equipment and antennas; digital systems operating in frequency bands 1.3 GHz to 86 GHz; and harmonised standards covering the essential requirements of article 3.2 of Directive 2014/53/EU.
- United Kingdom: In 2010 the UK Office of Communications (OFCOM) approved the unlicensed use of the 57-64 GHz spectrum. Although the spectrum allocation follows the Federal Communications Commission standard (maximum EIRP of +55 dBm), the maximum conducted power of +10 dBm and the +30 dBi minimum antenna gain is modelled after the European ETSI standard.
Data and Standards
- WiGig standard: It is alternatively known as 60 GHz Wi-Fi and refers to a set of 60 GHz wireless network protocols. It includes the IEEE 802.11ad standard and the IEEE 802.11ay standard. The WiGig specification allows devices to communicate without wires at multi-gigabit speeds. It enables high performance wireless data, display and audio applications that supplement the capabilities of previous wireless LAN devices.
- WirelessHD standard: It is also known as UltraGig, and is a proprietary standard owned by Silicon Image (originally SiBeam) for wireless transmission of high-definition video content for consumer electronics products. It is based on a 7 GHz channel in the 60 GHz Extremely High Frequency radio band. It allows either lightly compressed (proprietary wireless link-aware codec) or uncompressed digital transmission of high-definition video and audio and data signals, essentially making it equivalent of a wireless HDMI.
- IEEE 802.15.3c: The first wireless standard from IEEE in the 60 GHz (mm wave) band. It provides three physical layer (PHY) modes for specific market segments, with mandatory data rates exceeding 1Gb/s. During the span of the standard development, new contributions to wireless communication technology were also made, including a new channel model, a codebook-based beamforming scheme, and a low-latency aggregation method.
- ETSI ISG specifications for mm wave transmission (MWT): The European Telecommunications Standards Institute has published several white papers and group specifications and examined the worldwide regulations for the v-band (57 to 66 GHz) and e-band (71 to 86 GHz), technology maturity, applications and use cases of millimetre-wave transmission.