Can Public Internet Access Use LTE as a Backhaul?


We’ve spilled a good amount of ink in these pages talking about how mobile networks can be employed for special, mission-critical use cases like OTT TV delivery and public safety. But does it make sense to use LTE for back-hauling public WiFi?

There's an increasing amount of territory, particularly in cities, where free WiFi access is provided to residents and visitors. While each instance may have it's own designated purpose, one thing is certain, they're there to provide UEs with a WiFi Access Point to connect to the Internet. Small business owners basically have two options for gaining internet access and those are ADSL or a mobile network. While ADSL is fixed at less than a 1Mbps uplink capacity, mobile network capacity may vary a great deal. It's no surprise then that your average well-occupied coffee shop provides a pretty iffy Internet connection. You get what you pay for.

Last spring, Cloudstreet was approached by strategic partner to look at this challenge and develop a blueprint for improving it. In this case we were looking at a large cafeteria with a couple of hundred intermittent users. They had in the past used ADSL but the capacity was not deemed adequate.

When we began looking at the location, the picture became quite alot worse than we had imagined.  The building was covered by an LTE network with a cell capacity of 50/25 Mbps along with super well-insulating, high efficiency windows (no surprise, it's Finland!) that impose additional attenuation and degradation to the signal. Using Cloudstreet DPC™ uplink profile we were able to provide considerably better than a ADSL connection and more than double the WiFi capacity the space had been providing. Why is that?

Using a specialized high performance antenna developed expressly to address areas with high interference and signals. The antenna is made by Finnish communication systems developer, Promarine Oy, and it is already in use in business- and community-critical environments by government authorities and professionals around the world. The system requires only one box, without requiring antennas outside of the windows. Achieving much better modulation and code schemes than with regular devices we were able to increase cell through put significantly. Using Cloudstreet's profiled connections also reduced capacity variation and thus the need for packet retransmission.

Concluding analysis of our pilot demonstrated that using profiled LTE connections with high gain and interference-tolerant antennae makes sense for WiFi back-hauling, and particularly in places like this busy cafeteria where there are hundreds of users in the cell.