Thriving in Distance and Dust


Structured and Siklu MultiHaul radios deliver large-scale, interference-free point-to-point (P2P) and point-to-multipoint (P2MP) communication for environmentally challenged businesses.

When ingested by horses and cattle, high-quality Alfalfa and Timothy hay provide excellent nutritional benefits. Unfortunately, sensitive Wi-Fi gear doesn’t fare as well on the same diet.

Regardless of the commodity, agribusinesses face unique technology challenges compared to other industries. Distance, pollen and dust are aggravating factors that occur on every agricultural campus – and the network simply must work in spite of them. Faced with that fact, guaranteeing robust and reliable network connectivity on a large, bustling agribusiness campus can be a challenging and expensive undertaking. Often, the technology must be ruggedized and specialized to deal with the relatively harsh environmental conditions associated with farming, ranching and other kinds of agribusiness.

The backstory

One of Structured’s foremost agribusiness clients, a leading exporter of hay and straw, faced exactly this dilemma. Their specific problem? Providing both wired and wireless network connectivity within five large barns and three office buildings, while also providing outdoor Wi-Fi.

Their goal was to offer network connectivity capable of providing internet access for employees, guests, VoIP phones, security cameras, barcode scanners, and IoT devices such as scales and other sensors.

The business first tried to solve the issue with some outdoor access points (APs) serving the network’s Point-to-Point (P2P) and Point-to-Multipoint (P2MP) requirements, but this architecture was slow and unreliable. Due to the half-duplex nature of Wi-Fi, the further away the location, the slower the network. At most, the wireless mesh links provided only about 100-200Mbps throughput. Ideally, a 1Gbps link is required to provide adequate throughput throughout the entire campus. Further, the wireless mesh links were prone to random inconvenient outages that could take hours to fix.

Additionally, the customer also wanted to expand the network beyond the current P2P and P2MP implementation. As is true for most agribusinesses, much of this campus sits in an area with little to no LTE coverage. Expanding the network would provide connectivity where none was previously available.

But with over 400 employees split between eight locations – and the farthest building sitting more than 1,000 feet away — installing fiber or copper cabling was unfeasible and cost-prohibitive, requiring the use of traditional (802.11) P2P and P2MP wireless links.

There had to be a better way.

pivoting

The business considered migrating to a cloud-based environment, which would provide greater visibility and ease of management for the P2P/P2MP and Wi-Fi infrastructure.

However, it soon became clear that migrating management of the P2P/P2MP access points to the cloud would require a significant amount of effort and prolonged downtime to the facility – not an option for a commodity-based business where the product is essential for feeding hungry livestock. With that in mind, the decision was made to upgrade the P2P/P2MP infrastructure to improve performance and reliability, while also reducing the amount of downtime during deployment.

Structured engineers spoke to the customer about deploying a mmWave solution, operating in the 60GHz mmWave spectrum using Siklu MultiHaul radios. The radios would provide P2P and P2MP links between the buildings, avoiding common Wi-Fi interference as it operates outside of the standard 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums.

Siklu’s MultiHaul radios were specifically selected because they can operate as P2MP links or P2P links. These radios also operate at shorter distances compared to the other Siklu radio models, as very long backhaul links were not required at this facility. The radios operate transparently from the switch’s perspective; effectively stretching a cable through the air between the switch ports. As an added benefit, the radios were also less expensive to deploy than the customer’s previous mesh APs.

“The Siklu MultiHaul Radios not only avoid interference of the traditional Wi-Fi P2P/P2MP links, they also offer greater throughput — up to 1Gbps,” said Structured Senior Wireless Engineer Jed Rabe, a lead engineer for this project.

“During testing, we went from a 150Mbps download to 934Mbps download and 855Mbps upload,” he said.

implementation

To get the project started, Structured engineers first conducted an on-site walk through, taking note of:

  • potential radio mounting locations,
  • building heights,
  • pre-existing mounting hardware, and
  • validating that the Siklu links would have direct line of sight.

Next, they created the P2P and P2MP design using the Siklu WiNDE application. This included:

  • placing APs at desired locations on a map,
  • confirming that the links were within acceptable distances of one another, and
  • performing Link Budget Calculations (LBCs) to ensure that the radios would be reliable.
  • The LBCs also included weather predictions as the mmWave spectrum is significantly impacted by inclement weather like rain, snow, or fog, as compared to standard Wi-Fi mesh links.

The design process also included an assessment of other network hardware requirements, including switches, switch ports, and PoE (Power-Over Ethernet) needed to operate the Siklu radios and additional indoor/outdoor wireless APs. Due to the challenging environment, ruggedized equipment with protective network cabinets needed to be used in tandem.

Structured coordinated with the low voltage contractor to ensure that cabling, mounting hardware, and radios were installed in the correct locations, and that the Siklu radios were aimed appropriately to provide a healthy link. After the cabling, network racks, and necessary power were installed, Structured engineers brought the Siklu links up quickly and extended the network to each of the buildings within a few short days. From there, the configuration process for the Siklu radios was straightforward and only needed a few minutes to complete. This process included the initial configuration of the management IP address, applying throughput upgrade licenses, configuring the mesh link SSID and performing firmware upgrades.

Anonymous Siklu Wireless Links Figure 1

Figure 1 (above) is an image of the Siklu wireless links that were implemented. The speed test screen shot in Figure 2 (below) was taken while physically plugged into a switch at the westernmost building of one facility. This connection required crossing two wireless P2P links before hitting the core of the network and out to the internet, as illustrated in Figure 3 (at bottom). This throughput is thanks to multi-duplex functionality of the Siklu MultiHaul radios which can transmit and receive simultaneously.

Anonymous Siklu Speed Test Figure 2
Anonymous Siklu P2P Links Figure 3
Results

Like every other business sector, modern agribusiness thrives on performant, responsive and nimble technology. The perishable, highly variable, and geopolitical nature of commodities combined with demand-driven supply chain realities underpins the entire global agricultural sector. These days, the right tech can make a business while the wrong tech can break it.

The customer currently is enjoying reliable internet access with high throughput across its large, complex campus for employees, guests, VoIP phones, security cameras, barcode scanners, and IoT devices. Employees are more efficient and productive while guests have a better user experience, boosting satisfaction and loyalty. The IT team also benefits from a more stable environment, allowing them to focus less on break-fix troubleshooting and more on projects that advance business interests.

Conclusion

When it comes to ensuring robust and reliable business communication, no matter the geographic or environmental challenges, Structured and Siklu are proven solution providers.

Do you need assistance building an effective and resilient network in a challenging physical environment? Contact your Structured account manager or email info@structured.com today!

About Siklu by Ceragon

Siklu was founded with a goal to develop, build and deliver the best mmWave wireless connectivity radios on the planet, bringing high speed Gigabit connectivity to the world.

Siklu brought to the market affordable gigabit capacity for a variety of applications. The company created the first mass-produced millimeter wave radio, the EtherHaul™ 1200 which is still the most deployed mmWave connectivity solution in the world.

Siklu’s products operate in the virtually interference-free 60GHz-70GHz/80GHz frequency bands. This large swath of available frequency stems from the fact that there is over 24GHz of available spectrum in these bands. Coupled with extremely narrow beams, this yields almost unlimited spectrum.

Siklu’s technology brings scalability, multi-gigabit capacity and reliability to the world of wireless networks, and we are dedicated to delivering great value through fast, easy-to-deploy solutions that deliver flawless, predictable performance.

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