FibrePoynt – Cheaper fibre coverage for South Africa
Poynting has developed a proof-of-concept system for connecting homes to fibre backhaul more cost-effectively than trenching in the streets. Speaking at the MyBroadband Mobile Networking conference, Andre Fourie, the chairman of Poynting, said their FibrePoynt system is geared toward those who can’t get FTTH coverage. To solve the problem of the cost of trenching, and the inefficiencies of radial-coverage wireless networks, Poynting developed what Fourie calls a “corridor coverage” system – which covers streets rather than a whole neighbourhood.
“We’ve designed something that is completely unlike a wireless system,” said Fourie. He said that almost all wireless networks provide coverage in a radial fashion, but these have signal fall-off at the edge of a cell.
Fourie said FibrePoynt does not rely on a specific antenna technology, and its innovation lies in the layout of its antennas. Poynting uses dual-beam Wi-Fi access points called JCAPs – Janus Consumer Access Points.
The access point with its antennas is mounted about 4 metres above the ground at an intersection, with its beams pointing down two streets on either side of it. The beam is shaped to provide roughly the same signal strength to all houses. At the end of each segment, the last house gets a directional antenna that generates a 40dB cutoff, making sure that one JCAP will not interfere with the next one.
Each JCAP base station uses about 15 Watts of power, and requires about 1 milliwatt of power through the actual antenna.
Using 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology, FibrePoynt is able to deliver a 300Mbps connection that would be shared by roughly 20 houses. Using its 8×8 MIMO technology, Fourie said they could take the speeds to higher levels. He said they didn’t select Wi-Fi technology because is was unlicensed spectrum, but because it will give the best service with all factors considered.
With Wi-Fi there is 800MHz of bandwidth available, and Fourie said they can exclude all other devices from using that bandwidth. Interference with the Wi-Fi signal is also not a concern, as they use a 20dB antenna in a house – which makes the resulting connection as good as when you are sitting 2.5m from your Wi-Fi access point.
Fourie estimated the total cost of a JCAP, with labour and installation, at around R130,000. This price can be brought down as volumes increase, he said.
To connect a house requires three hours, and costs around R5,000.
He explained that in their cost-benefit analysis – where he used his neighbourhood as a model – it would cost less than half as much to roll out broadband to houses using JCAPs than to trench fibre.