Wireless Mesh Performance Optimization with ADANT Smart Antenna

Adant Smart Antenna strongly improves capacity of home gatewas and mesh networks

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Introduction

At the beginning of the WiFi era, home WLAN was primarily used to connect a small number, often single desktop PCs to the internet. Nowadays home networks need to support and interconnect a large number of portable devices, like laptops, tablets, streaming devices and phones, as well as a collection of assorted IoT devices typically mounted in fixed locations throughout the house like smart appliances, light bulbs and thermostats. The demand of wireless connectivity is no longer limited to a few fixed places in the house but needs to be reasonably satisfied in the whole house. Furthermore, coverage needs vary from time to time as people moves around the house and does different things with their interconnected computing devices. Because of these changing needs, consumer networking companies quickly realized that a single wireless Access Point, no matter how powerful, wouldn’t be sufficient and turned to wireless mesh to deliver a better Wi-Fi experience into the home.

Home mesh networks 101

In a home mesh network, two or three interconnected “nodes” (wireless network devices that can both function as AP or bridges) are placed in different locations to eventually reach even the far edges of the home, and are dynamically controlled by software that re-directs the bandwidth where is most needed. While mesh seems a great idea as it allows to deliver from time to time WiFi connectivity where it‘s actually needed in the whole home environment, its performance is strongly dependent on the placement of the nodes which needs to take into account several factors, including distance between nodes, relative orientation and home “blockages” (parts of walls, furniture or appliances that either block, reflect or absorb electromagnetic waves). In fact, nodes use a radio link, called the “backhaul” link to connect with each other and move bandwidth across the house. The backhaul link represents a bottleneck and its strength is obviously very critical to the entire mesh network’s performance. As the 3D wireless coverage of individual nodes is very far from being omnidirectional in real life home environments, placing a mesh node in a low-connectivity (i.e. behind and EM blockage) or wireless blind spot will cause the entire network performance to quickly degrade.

Another key factor is interference, i.e. the presence of other radios in same or adjacent frequency bands of the backhaul link (typically 2.4GHz or 5GHz) which may randomly, significantly degrade its performance.

ADANT SMARTlow-cost smart antenna for mesh networks and access gateways.

Adant antenna is a simple, easy to integrate smart antenna hardware that can be manufactured and sold at a cost that is very close to that of printed antennas (<50c with cables).

Yet, when combined with Adant’s patented software drivers the performance improvement in terms of capacity enhancement are significant as shown in the following table:

“Elevation (multi floor)” means access gateway and the clients connected to it are placed on  different floors, and “Azimuth (same floor)” refers to the case where the access gateway and clients are placed on the same floor.

Performance in terms of interference mitigation are even more significant. In presence of strong interference Adant’s smart antenna system can provide good throughput where other systems fail to provide connection or perform very bad. See for example below test results that compare throughput achievable with an access gateway equipped with Adant SMART antenna with respect to the same access gateway equipped with standard internal antennas when rotating the access gateway with respect to the source of interference.

Adant smart antenna’s capability of automatically finding the combination of multiple radiation patterns that always achieve and maintain the best radio strength between two nodes is strongly enhanced and assumes an even more critical importance when it is used on both ends of the connection, like for example on the backhaul link of a wireless mesh network.

Smart Mesh Network Capacity Measurement Results

Adant SMART antenna offers an ideal isotropic radio coverage from each of the mesh nodes. This translates into the best possible throughput for the backhaul link, independently on how the nodes are placed in the environment. The smart antenna system automatically selects the combination of radiation patterns to be used on each of the mesh nodes for optimal backhaul link performance
Results below show the throughput measured between two mesh nodes when using Adant SMART antenna with respect to the same mesh nodes equipped with standard internal antennas when rotating one of the two mesh nodes. It is important to observe that throughput is kept substantially constant independently from the relative orientation of the two mesh nodes, unlike what happens with standard antenna systems, thus achieving an overall 50% average mesh network capacity improvement.

Conclusions

Retail networking companies and telecom providers have turned to wireless mesh networks to support the increasing consumers’ and subscribers’ request to have whole home coverage as well as flexible bandwidth allocation which dynamically adapts to the varying connectivity needs of mobile users and IoT devices. The most critical requirement of mesh devices is robustness of the backhauling link, even more important than its maximum speed and bandwidth, because when the backhauling link weakens the entire mesh network performance rapidly degrades. Adant SMARTlow-cost smart antenna system radically simplifies the problem of optimizing and tuning placement of meshed devices by automatically finding the optimal RF pattern to interconnect them to each other while at the same time strongly reducing the impact of interference on the backhauling link. This is evident from the measurement results reported in this article, clearly demonstrating that Adant SMART is the smartest choice in terms of price/performance for mesh gateways and consumer devices.

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