Last mile

Last mile

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The "last mile" or "last kilometer" is the final leg of delivering connectivity from a communications provider to a customer. The phrase is therefore often used by the telecommunication
Telecommunication
Telecommunication is the transmission of information over significant distances to communicate. In earlier times, telecommunications involved the use of visual signals, such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, and optical heliographs, or audio messages via coded...

s and cable television
Cable television
Cable television is a system of providing television programs to consumers via radio frequency signals transmitted to televisions through coaxial cables or digital light pulses through fixed optical fibers located on the subscriber's property, much like the over-the-air method used in traditional...

 industries. The actual distance of this leg may be considerably more than a mile
Mile
A mile is a unit of length, most commonly 5,280 feet . The mile of 5,280 feet is sometimes called the statute mile or land mile to distinguish it from the nautical mile...

, especially in rural areas. It is typically seen as an expensive challenge because "fanning out" wires and cables is a considerable physical undertaking. Because the last mile of a network to the user is also the first mile from the user to the world in regards to sending data (such as uploading), the term "first mile" is sometimes used.

To solve the problem of providing enhanced services over the last mile, some firms have been mixing networks for decades. One example is Fixed Wireless Access
Wireless local loop
Wireless local loop , is a term for the use of a wireless communications link as the "last mile / first mile" connection for delivering plain old telephone service and/or broadband Internet to telecommunications customers....

, where a wireless network is used instead of wires to connect a stationary terminal
Terminal (telecommunication)
In the context of telecommunications, a terminal is a device which is capable of communicating over a line. Examples of terminals are telephones, fax machines, and network devices - printers and workstations....

 to the wireline network. Various solutions are being developed which are seen as an alternative to the "last mile" of standard incumbent local exchange carrier
Incumbent local exchange carrier
An ILEC, short for incumbent local exchange carrier, is a local telephone company in the United States that was in existence at the time of the breakup of AT&T into the Regional Bell Operating Companies , also known as the "Baby Bells." The ILEC is the former Bell System or Independent Telephone...

s: these include WiMAX
WiMAX
WiMAX is a communication technology for wirelessly delivering high-speed Internet service to large geographical areas. The 2005 WiMAX revision provided bit rates up to 40 Mbit/s with the 2011 update up to 1 Gbit/s for fixed stations...

 and BPL (Broadband over Power Line) applications.

Business "last mile"


Connectivity from the local telephone exchanges to the customer premises is also called the "last mile". In many countries this is often an ISDN30 connection, delivered through either a copper or fibre cable. This ISDN30 can carry 30 simultaneous telephone calls and many direct dial telephone numbers, (DDI's).

When leaving the telephone exchange, the ISDN30 cable can be buried in the ground, usually in ducting, at very little depth. This makes any business telephone lines vulnerable to being dug up during streetworks, liable to flooding during heavy storms and general wear and tear due to natural elements. Loss, therefore, of the "last mile" will cause the failure to deliver any calls to the business affected. Business continuity planning
Business continuity planning
Business continuity planning “identifies [an] organization's exposure to internal and external threats and synthesizes hard and soft assets to provide effective prevention and recovery for the organization, whilst maintaining competitive advantage and value system integrity”. It is also called...

 often provides for this type of technical failure.

Any business with ISDN30 type of connectivity should provide for this failure within its business continuity planning. There are many ways to achieve this, as documented CPNI
Customer Proprietary Network Information
Customer proprietary network information is the data collected by telecommunications companies about a consumer's telephone calls. It includes the time, date, duration and destination number of each call, the type of network a consumer subscribes to, and any other information that appears on the...

:
  1. Dual Parenting is where the telephone carrier provides the same numbers from two different telephone exchanges. If the cable is damaged from one telephone exchange to the customer premises most of the calls can be delivered from the surviving route to the customer.
  2. Diverse Routing is where the carrier can provide more than one route to bring the ISDN 30’s from the exchange, or exchanges, (as in dual parenting), but they may share underground ducting and cabinets.
  3. Separacy is where the carrier can provide more than one route to bring the ISDN 30’s from the exchange, or exchanges, (as in dual parenting), but they may not share underground ducting and cabinets, and therefore should be absolutely separate from the telephone exchange to the customer premises.
  4. Exchange-based solutions is where a specialist company working in association with the carriers offers an enhancement the to ability to divert ISDN30’s upon failure to any other number or group of numbers. Carrier diversions are usually limited to all of the ISDN30 DDI numbers being delivered to 1 single number.
  5. Non-exchange based diversion services is where a specialist company working in association with BT offers an enhancement to the ability to divert ISDN30’s upon failure to any other number or group of numbers. Carrier diversions are usually limited to all of the ISDN30 DDI numbers being delivered to 1 single number. In the UK Teamphone offers this service in association with BT. By not being in the exchanges, the Teamphone version offers an all or nothing diversion service if required and but does not offer voice recording of calls.
  6. Ported number services is where customers numbers can be ported to a specialist company where the numbers are pointed to the ISDN30 DDI numbers during business as usual and delivered to alternative numbers during a business continuity need. These are generally carrier independent and there are a number of companies offering such solutions in the UK.
  7. Hosted numbers is where the carriers or specialist companies can host the customers numbers within their own or the carriers networks and deliver calls over an IP network to the customers sites. When a diversion service is required, the calls can be pointed to alternative numbers.
  8. Inbound numbers, (08 type services) is where the carriers or specialist companies can offer 08/05/03 prefixed numbers to deliver to the ISDN30 DDI numbers and can point them to alternative numbers in the event of a diversion requirement. Both carriers and specialist companies offer this type of service in the UK

Existing delivery system problems


The increasing worldwide demand for rapid, low-latency
Latency (engineering)
Latency is a measure of time delay experienced in a system, the precise definition of which depends on the system and the time being measured. Latencies may have different meaning in different contexts.-Packet-switched networks:...

 and high-volume communication of information
Information
Information in its most restricted technical sense is a message or collection of messages that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or it is the meaning that can be interpreted from such a message or collection of messages. Information can be recorded or transmitted. It can be recorded as...

 to homes and businesses has made economical information distribution and delivery increasingly important. As demand has escalated, particularly fueled by the widespread adoption of the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

, the need for economical high-speed access by end-users located at millions of locations has ballooned as well. As requirements have changed, existing systems and networks which were initially pressed into service for this purpose have proven to be inadequate. To date, although a number of approaches have been tried and used, no single clear solution to this problem has emerged. This problem has been termed "The Last Mile Problem".

As expressed by Shannon's equation
Shannon–Hartley theorem
In information theory, the Shannon–Hartley theorem tells the maximum rate at which information can be transmitted over a communications channel of a specified bandwidth in the presence of noise. It is an application of the noisy channel coding theorem to the archetypal case of a continuous-time...

 for channel information capacity
Channel capacity
In electrical engineering, computer science and information theory, channel capacity is the tightest upper bound on the amount of information that can be reliably transmitted over a communications channel...

, the omnipresence of noise
Noise
In common use, the word noise means any unwanted sound. In both analog and digital electronics, noise is random unwanted perturbation to a wanted signal; it is called noise as a generalisation of the acoustic noise heard when listening to a weak radio transmission with significant electrical noise...

 in information systems sets a minimum signal-to-noise ratio
Signal-to-noise ratio
Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. It is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power. A ratio higher than 1:1 indicates more signal than noise...

 (shortened as S/N) requirement in a channel, even when adequate spectral bandwidth is available. Since the integral of the rate of information transfer with respect to time is information quantity, this requirement leads to a corresponding minimum energy per bit. The problem of sending any given amount of information across a channel can therefore be viewed in terms of sending sufficient Information-Carrying Energy (ICE). For this reason the concept of an ICE "pipe" or "conduit" is relevant and useful for examining existing systems.

The distribution of information to a great number of widely separated end-users can be compared to the distribution of many other resources. Some familiar analogies are:
  • blood distribution to a large number of cell
    Cell (biology)
    The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life. The Alberts text discusses how the "cellular building blocks" move to shape developing embryos....

    s over a system of veins, arteries and capillaries
  • water distribution by a drip irrigation
    Drip irrigation
    Drip irrigation, also known as trickle irrigation or microirrigation or localized irrigation , is an irrigation method which saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either onto the soil surface or directly onto the root zone, through a network of valves,...

     system to individual plants, including river
    River
    A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

    s, aqueducts, water mains etc.
  • Nourishment to a plants leaves through root
    Root
    In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

    s, trunk
    Trunk (botany)
    In botany, trunk refers to the main wooden axis of a tree that supports the branches and is supported by and directly attached to the roots. The trunk is covered by the bark, which is an important diagnostic feature in tree identification, and which often differs markedly from the bottom of the...

     and branches


All of these have in common conduits which carry a relatively small amount of a resource a short distance to a very large number of physically separated endpoints. Also common are conduits supporting more voluminous flow which combine and carry the many individual portions over much greater distances. The shorter, lower-volume conduits which individually serve only one or a small fraction of the endpoints, may have far greater combined length than the larger capacity ones. These common attributes are shown to the right.

The high-capacity conduits in these systems tend to also have in common the ability to efficiently transfer the resource over a long distance. Only a small fraction of the resource being transferred is either wasted, lost, or misdirected. The same cannot necessarily be said of the lower-capacity conduits. One reason for this has to do with the efficiency of scale. These conduits which are located closer to the endpoint, or end-user, do not individually have as many users supporting them. Even though they are smaller, each has the overhead of an "installation;" obtaining and maintaining a suitable path over which the resource can flow. The funding and resources supporting these smaller conduits tend to come from the immediate locale. This can have the advantage of a "small-government model." That is, the management and resources for these conduits is provided by local entities and therefore can be optimized to achieve the best solutions in the immediate environment and also to make best use of local resources. However, the lower operating efficiencies and relatively greater installation expenses, compared with the transfer capacities, can cause these smaller conduits, as a whole, to be the most expensive and difficult part of the complete distribution system.

These characteristics have been displayed in the birth, growth, and funding of the Internet. The earliest inter-computer communication tended to be accomplished with direct wireline connections between individual computers. These grew into clusters of small Local Area Network
Local area network
A local area network is a computer network that interconnects computers in a limited area such as a home, school, computer laboratory, or office building...

s (LANs). The TCP/IP suite of protocols
Internet protocol suite
The Internet protocol suite is the set of communications protocols used for the Internet and other similar networks. It is commonly known as TCP/IP from its most important protocols: Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol , which were the first networking protocols defined in this...

 was born out of the need to connect several of these LANs together, particularly as related to common projects among the defense department
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

, industry and some academic institutions. ARPANET
ARPANET
The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network , was the world's first operational packet switching network and the core network of a set that came to compose the global Internet...

 came into being to further these interests. In addition to providing a way for multiple computers and users to share a common inter-LAN connection, the TCP/IP protocols provided a standardized way for dissimilar computers and operating systems to exchange information over this inter-network. The funding and support for the connections among LANs could be spread over one or even several LANs. As each new LAN, or subnet, was added, the new subnet's constituents enjoyed access to the greater network. At the same time the new subnet made a contribution of access to any network or networks with which it was already networked. Thus the growth became a mutually inclusive or "win-win" event.

In general, economy of scale makes an increase in capacity of a conduit less expensive as the capacity is increased. There is an overhead associated with the creation of any conduit. This overhead is not repeated as capacity is increased within the potential of the technology being utilized. As the Internet has grown in size, by some estimates doubling in number of users every eighteen months, economy of scale has resulted in increasingly large information conduits providing the longest distance and highest capacity backbone connections. In recent years, the capacity of fiber-optic communication
Fiber-optic communication
Fiber-optic communication is a method of transmitting information from one place to another by sending pulses of light through an optical fiber. The light forms an electromagnetic carrier wave that is modulated to carry information...

, aided by a supporting industry, has resulted in an expansion of raw capacity, so much so that in the United States a large amount of installed fiber infrastructure is not being used because it is currently excess capacity "dark fiber
Dark fiber
A dark fiber or unlit fiber is an unused Optical fiber, available for use in fiber-optic communication.The term dark fiber was originally used when referring to the potential network capacity of telecommunication infrastructure, but now also refers to the increasingly common practice of leasing...

".

This excess backbone capacity exists in spite of the trend of increasing per-user data rates and overall quantity of data. Initially, only the inter-LAN connections were high speed. End-users used existing telephone lines and modems which were capable of data rates of only a few hundred bit/s
Bit rate
In telecommunications and computing, bit rate is the number of bits that are conveyed or processed per unit of time....

. Now almost all end users enjoy access at 100 or more times those early rates. Notwithstanding this great increase in user traffic, the high-capacity backbones have kept pace, and information capacity and rate limitations almost always occur near the user. The economy of scale along with the fundamental capability of fiber technology have kept the high-capacity conduits adequate but have not solved the appetite of the home users. The last mile problem is one of economically serving an increasing mass of end-users with a solution to their information needs.

Economical information transfer


Before considering the characteristics of existing last-mile information delivery mechanisms, it is important to further examine what makes information conduits effective. As the Shannon-Hartley theorem shows, it is a combination of bandwidth and signal-to-noise ratio
Signal-to-noise ratio
Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. It is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power. A ratio higher than 1:1 indicates more signal than noise...

 which determines the maximum information rate of a channel. The product of the average information rate and time yields total information transfer. In the presence of noise, this corresponds to some amount of transferred information-carrying energy. Therefore the economics of information transfer may be viewed in terms of the economics of the transfer of ICE.

Effective last-mile conduits must:
  1. Deliver signal power, S — (must have adequate signal power capacity).
  2. Low loss (low occurrence of conversion to unusable energy forms).
  3. Support wide transmission bandwidth.
  4. Deliver high signal-to-noise ratio
    Signal-to-noise ratio
    Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. It is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power. A ratio higher than 1:1 indicates more signal than noise...

     (SNR) — low unwanted-signal (Noise
    Noise
    In common use, the word noise means any unwanted sound. In both analog and digital electronics, noise is random unwanted perturbation to a wanted signal; it is called noise as a generalisation of the acoustic noise heard when listening to a weak radio transmission with significant electrical noise...

    ) power, N.
  5. Provide nomadic
    Roaming
    In wireless telecommunications, roaming is a general term referring to the extension of connectivity service in a location that is different from the home location where the service was registered. Roaming ensures that the wireless device is kept connected to the network, without losing the...

     connectivity.


In addition to these factors, a good solution to the last-mile problem must provide each user:
  1. High availability
    Availability
    In telecommunications and reliability theory, the term availability has the following meanings:* The degree to which a system, subsystem, or equipment is in a specified operable and committable state at the start of a mission, when the mission is called for at an unknown, i.e., a random, time...

     and reliability
    Reliability engineering
    Reliability engineering is an engineering field, that deals with the study, evaluation, and life-cycle management of reliability: the ability of a system or component to perform its required functions under stated conditions for a specified period of time. It is often measured as a probability of...

    .
  2. Low latency
    Latency (engineering)
    Latency is a measure of time delay experienced in a system, the precise definition of which depends on the system and the time being measured. Latencies may have different meaning in different contexts.-Packet-switched networks:...

    , latency must be small compared with required interaction times.
  3. High per-user capacity.
    1. A conduit which is shared among multiple end-users must provide a correspondingly higher capacity in order to properly support each individual user. This must be true for information transfer in each direction.
    2. Affordability, suitable capacity must be financially viable.

Wired systems (including optical fiber)


Wired systems provide guided conduits for Information-Carrying Energy (ICE). They all have some degree of shielding which limits the susceptibility to external noise sources. These transmission lines have losses which are proportional to length. Without the addition of periodic amplification, there is some maximum length beyond which all of these systems fail to deliver adequate S/N to support information flow. Dielectric optical fiber systems support heavier flow, at higher cost.

Local area networks (LAN)


Traditional wired local area network
Local area network
A local area network is a computer network that interconnects computers in a limited area such as a home, school, computer laboratory, or office building...

ing systems require copper coaxial cable or twisted pair to be run between or among two or more of the nodes in the network. Common systems operate at 100 Mbit/s and newer ones also support 1000 Mbit/s or more. While length may be limited by collision detection
Collision detection
Collision detection typically refers to the computational problem of detecting the intersection of two or more objects. While the topic is most often associated with its use in video games and other physical simulations, it also has applications in robotics...

 and avoidance requirements, signal loss and reflections over these lines also set a maximum distance. The decrease in information capacity made available to an individual user is roughly proportional to the number of users sharing a LAN.

Telephone


In the late 20th century, improvements in the use of existing copper telephone lines increased their capabilities if maximum line length is controlled. With support for higher transmission bandwidth and improved modulation, these digital subscriber line
Digital Subscriber Line
Digital subscriber line is a family of technologies that provides digital data transmission over the wires of a local telephone network. DSL originally stood for digital subscriber loop. In telecommunications marketing, the term DSL is widely understood to mean Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line ,...

 schemes have increased capability 20-50 times as compared to the previous voiceband
Voiceband
In electronics, voiceband means the typical human hearing frequency range that is from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. In telephony, it means the frequency range normally transmitted by a telephone line, generally about 200–3600 Hz. Frequency-division multiplexing in telephony normally uses...

 systems. These methods are not based on altering the fundamental physical properties and limitations of the medium which, apart from the introduction of twisted pair
Twisted pair
Twisted pair cabling is a type of wiring in which two conductors are twisted together for the purposes of canceling out electromagnetic interference from external sources; for instance, electromagnetic radiation from unshielded twisted pair cables, and crosstalk between neighboring pairs...

s, are no different today than when the first telephone exchange was opened in 1877 by the Bell Telephone Company. The history and long life of copper-based communications infrastructure is both a testament to our ability to derive new value from simple concepts through technological innovation – and a warning that copper communications infrastructure is beginning to offer diminishing returns
Diminishing returns
In economics, diminishing returns is the decrease in the marginal output of a production process as the amount of a single factor of production is increased, while the amounts of all other factors of production stay constant.The law of diminishing returns In economics, diminishing returns (also...

 on continued investment.

CATV


Community Antenna Television Systems, also known as Cable Television
Cable television
Cable television is a system of providing television programs to consumers via radio frequency signals transmitted to televisions through coaxial cables or digital light pulses through fixed optical fibers located on the subscriber's property, much like the over-the-air method used in traditional...

 or simply "cable", have been expanded to provide bidirectional communication over existing physical cables. However, they are by nature shared systems and the spectrum available for reverse information flow and achievable S/N
Signal-to-noise ratio
Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. It is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power. A ratio higher than 1:1 indicates more signal than noise...

 are limited. As was done for the initial unidirectional (TV) communication, cable loss is mitigated through the use of periodic amplifiers within the system. These factors set an upper limit on per-user information capacity, particularly when many users share a common section of cable or access network
Access network
An access network is that part of a telecommunications network which connects subscribers to their immediate service provider. It is contrasted with the core network, which connects local providers to each other...

.

Optical fiber


Fiber offers high information capacity and after the turn of the 21st century became the deployed medium of choice given its scalability in the face of increasing bandwidth requirements of modern applications.

In 2004, according to Richard Lynch, EVP and CTO of telecom giant Verizon, they saw the world moving toward vastly higher bandwidth applications as consumers loved everything broadband had to offer, and eagerly devoured as much as they could get, including two-way, user-generated content. Copper and coaxial networks wouldn’t – in fact, couldn’t – satisfy these demands, which precipitated Verizon's aggressive move into Fiber-to-the-home via FiOS
Fíos
Fíos is one of 17 parishes in Parres, a municipality within the province and autonomous community of Asturias, in northern Spain....

.

Fiber is a future-proof technology that meets the needs of today's users, but unlike other copper-based and wireless last-mile mediums, also has the capacity for years to come, by upgrading the end-point optics and electronics, without changing the fiber infrastructure. The fiber itself is installed on existing pole or conduit infrastructure and most of the cost is in labor, providing good regional economic stimulus in the deployment phase and providing a critical foundation for future regional commerce.

Whereas fixed copper lines have been subject to theft due to the value of copper, optical fibers aren't worth anything as they cannot be converted into something else, whereas copper can be melted.

Wireless delivery systems


Mobile CDN
Mobile CDN
A mobile content delivery network or mobile content distribution network is a system of computers networked together across the Internet that cooperate transparently that are designed and located to specifically deliver content to end users on any type of wireless or mobile network...

 coined the term the 'mobile mile' to categorize the last mile connection when a wireless systems is used to reach the customer. In contrast to wired delivery systems, wireless systems use unguided waves to transmit ICE. They all tend to be unshielded and have a greater degree of susceptibility to unwanted signal and noise sources. Because these waves are not guided but diverge, in free space these systems have attenuation
Attenuation
In physics, attenuation is the gradual loss in intensity of any kind of flux through a medium. For instance, sunlight is attenuated by dark glasses, X-rays are attenuated by lead, and light and sound are attenuated by water.In electrical engineering and telecommunications, attenuation affects the...

 following an inverse-square law
Inverse-square law
In physics, an inverse-square law is any physical law stating that a specified physical quantity or strength is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source of that physical quantity....

, inversely proportional to distance squared. Losses thus increase more slowly with increasing length than for wired systems whose loss increases exponentially. In a free space environment, beyond some length, the losses in a wireless system are less than those in a wired system. In practice, the presence of atmosphere, and especially obstructions caused by terrain, buildings and foliage can greatly increase the loss above the free space value. Reflection, refraction and diffraction of these waves can also alter their transmission characteristics and require specialized systems to accommodate the accompanying distortions.

Wireless systems have an advantage over wired systems in last mile applications in not requiring lines to be installed. However, they also have a disadvantage that their unguided nature makes them more susceptible to unwanted noise and signals. Spectral reuse can therefore be limited.

Lightwaves and free-space optics


Visible and infrared light waves are much shorter than radio frequency waves. Their use to transmit data is referred to as free-space optical communication
Free-space optical communication
Free-space optical communication is an optical communication technology that uses light propagating in free space to transmit data for telecommunications or computer networking."Free space" means air, outer space, vacuum, or something similar...

. Being short, light waves can be focused or collimated with a small lens/antenna and to a much higher degree than radio waves. Thus, a greater portion of the transmitted signal can be recovered by a receiving device. Also because of the high frequency, a high data transfer rate may be available. However, in practical last mile environments, obstructions and de-steering of these beams, and absorption by elements of the atmosphere including fog and rain, particularly over longer paths, can greatly restrict their use for last-mile wireless communications. Longer (redder) waves suffer less obstruction but may carry lesser data rates. See RONJA
RONJA
RONJA is a Free Space Optics device originating in the Czech Republic. It transmits data wirelessly using beams of light. Ronja can be used to create a 10 Mbit/s full duplex Ethernet point-to-point link....

.

Radio waves


Radio frequencies (RF), from low frequencies through the microwave region, have wavelengths much longer than visible light. Although this means that it is not possible to focus the beams nearly as tightly as for light, it also means that the aperture or "capture area" of even the simplest, omni-directional antenna is greatly larger than that of a lens in any feasible optical system. This characteristic results in greatly increased attenuation
Attenuation
In physics, attenuation is the gradual loss in intensity of any kind of flux through a medium. For instance, sunlight is attenuated by dark glasses, X-rays are attenuated by lead, and light and sound are attenuated by water.In electrical engineering and telecommunications, attenuation affects the...

 or "path loss" for systems that are not highly directional. In actuality, the term path loss
Path loss
Path loss is the reduction in power density of an electromagnetic wave as it propagates through space. Path loss is a major component in the analysis and design of the link budget of a telecommunication system....

 is something of a misnomer because no energy is actually lost on a free-space path. Rather, it is merely not received by the receiving antenna. The apparent reduction in transmission, as frequency is increased, is actually an artifact of the change in the aperture of a given type of antenna.

Relative to the last-mile problem, these longer wavelengths have an advantage over light waves when omni-directional or sectored transmissions are considered. The larger aperture of radio antennas results in much greater signal levels for a given path length and therefore higher information capacity. On the other hand, the lower carrier frequencies are not able to support the high information bandwidths which are required by Shannon's equation, when the practical limits of S/N have been reached.

For the above reasons, wireless radio systems have the advantage of being optimal for lower-information-capacity broadcast communications delivered over longer paths. For high-information capacity, highly-directive point-to-point over short ranges, wireless light-wave systems are most useful.

One-way (broadcast) radio and television communications


Historically, most high-information-capacity broadcast has used lower frequencies, generally no higher than the UHF television region, with television itself being a prime example. Terrestrial television has generally been limited to the region above 50 MHz where sufficient information bandwidth is available, and below 1000 MHz, due to problems associated with increased path loss as mentioned above.

Two-way wireless communications


Two-way communication systems have primarily been limited to lower-information-capacity applications, such as audio, facsimile. or radioteletype
Radioteletype
Radioteletype is a telecommunications system consisting originally of two or more electromechanical teleprinters in different locations, later superseded by personal computers running software to emulate teleprinters, connected by radio rather than a wired link.The term radioteletype is used to...

. For the most part, higher-capacity systems, such as two-way video communications or terrestrial microwave telephone and data trunks, have been limited and confined to UHF or microwave and to point-point paths. Higher capacity systems such as third-generation, 3G, cellular telephone systems require a large infrastructure of more closely spaced cell sites in order to maintain communications within typical environments, where path losses are much greater than in free space and which also require omni-directional access by the users.

Satellite communications


For information delivery to end-users, satellite systems, by nature, have relatively long path lengths, even for low earth-orbiting satellites. They are also very expensive to deploy and therefore each satellite must serve many users. Additionally, the very long paths of geostationary satellites cause information latency that makes many real-time applications unusable. As a solution to the last-mile problem, satellite systems have application and sharing limitations. The ICE which they transmit must be spread over a relatively large geographical area. This causes the received signal to be relatively small, unless very large or directional terrestrial antennas are used. A parallel problem exists when a satellite is receiving. In that case, the satellite system must have a very great information capacity in order to accommodate a multitude of sharing users and each user must have large antenna size, with attendant directivity and pointing requirements, in order to obtain even modest information-rate transfer. These requirements render high-information-capacity, bi-directional information systems uneconomical. This is a reason that the Iridium satellite system was not more successful.

Broadcast versus point-to-point


For both terrestrial and satellite systems, economical, high-capacity, last-mile communications requires point-to-point transmission systems. Except for extremely small geographic areas, broadcast systems are only able to deliver large amounts of S/N at low frequencies where there is not sufficient spectrum to support the large information capacity needed by a large number of users. Although complete "flooding" of a region can be accomplished, such systems have the fundamental characteristic that most of the radiated ICE never reaches a user and is wasted. As information requirements increase, broadcast "wireless mesh" systems (also sometimes referred to as microcell
Microcell
A microcell is a cell in a mobile phone network served by a low power cellular base station , covering a limited area such as a mall, a hotel, or a transportation hub. A microcell is usually larger than a picocell, though the distinction is not always clear...

s or nano-cells) which are small enough to provide adequate information distribution to and from a relatively small number of local users, require a prohibitively large number of broadcast locations or "points of presence" along with a large amount of excess capacity to make up for the wasted energy.

Intermediate system


Recently a new type of information transport which is midway between wired and wireless systems has been discovered. Called E-Line, it uses a single central conductor but no outer conductor or shield. The energy is transported in a plane wave which, unlike radio, does not diverge while like radio, has no outer guiding structure. This system exhibits a combination of the attributes of wired and wireless systems and can support high information capacity utilizing existing power lines over a broad range of frequencies from RF
Radio frequency
Radio frequency is a rate of oscillation in the range of about 3 kHz to 300 GHz, which corresponds to the frequency of radio waves, and the alternating currents which carry radio signals...

 through microwave
Microwave
Microwaves, a subset of radio waves, have wavelengths ranging from as long as one meter to as short as one millimeter, or equivalently, with frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz. This broad definition includes both UHF and EHF , and various sources use different boundaries...

. See BPL (Broadband over Power Line).

Line aggregation ("bonding")


Aggregation
Link aggregation
Link aggregation or trunking or link bundling or Ethernet/network/NIC bonding or NIC teaming are computer networking umbrella terms to describe various methods of combining multiple network connections in parallel to increase throughput beyond what a single connection could sustain, and to provide...

 is a method of "bonding" multiple lines to achieve a faster, more reliable connection. Some companies believe that ADSL aggregation (or "bonding") is the solution to the UK's last mile problem.

See also

  • Access network
    Access network
    An access network is that part of a telecommunications network which connects subscribers to their immediate service provider. It is contrasted with the core network, which connects local providers to each other...

  • Backhaul (telecommunications)
    Backhaul (telecommunications)
    In a hierarchical telecommunications network the backhaul portion of the network comprises the intermediate links between the core network, or backbone, of the network and the small subnetworks at the "edge" of the entire hierarchical network...

  • Ethernet in the First Mile
    Ethernet in the First Mile
    Ethernet in the first mile refers to using one of the Ethernet family of computer network protocols between a telecommunications company and a customer's premise. From the customer's point of view it is their "first" mile, although from the access networks' point of view it is known as the "last...

  • Fibre to the x
  • Local loop
    Local loop
    In telephony, the local loop is the physical link or circuit that connects from the demarcation point of the customer premises to the edge of the carrier or telecommunications service provider's network...

  • Middle mile
    Middle mile
    In the broadband Internet industry, the "middle mile" is the segment of a telecommunications network linking a network operator's core network to the local network plant, typically situated in the incumbent telco's central office, that provides access to the local loop, or in the case of cable...

  • WiMAX
    WiMAX
    WiMAX is a communication technology for wirelessly delivering high-speed Internet service to large geographical areas. The 2005 WiMAX revision provided bit rates up to 40 Mbit/s with the 2011 update up to 1 Gbit/s for fixed stations...

  • Wireless local loop
    Wireless local loop
    Wireless local loop , is a term for the use of a wireless communications link as the "last mile / first mile" connection for delivering plain old telephone service and/or broadband Internet to telecommunications customers....