The African telecommunication quandary…
Deploy wireless Narrowband networks – low speed inexpensive wireless networks that can be deployed very quickly to cover vast geographical areas because of minimal terrain restrictions. It is Arrow Network Systems’ major business objective to provide wireless Narrowband solutions throughout Africa by partnering with an experienced equipment maker and network provider, and also obtain license to manufacture the technology in Ghana to further reduce cost to African users. Locally assemble and deploy both narrowband and broadband radios in Africa.
1. Deploy Racom’s Narrowband technology, the Morse radio, across Africa for low speed (up to 22kbps) and low cost networks for IP and
async/sync serial corporate wide area networks, Auto Teller Machine networks, point-of-sale systems, debit and credit card
applications, fleet tracking, remote sensor data collection, bulk oil/gas pipeline monitoring systems and general telemetry
2. Use the Morse technology to provide large scale, free Internet access in under-served communities.
3. Make Racom’s expertise in building Narrowband wide area networks available to Africa.
4. Locate a manufacturing plant in Ghana’s free trade zone for Racom’s modems to further reduce equipment cost.
5. Deploy high speed wireless links (in excess of 100mbps) for clients that require and can afford broadband links.
In conjunction with Racom, we have deployed Ghana’s biggest point-of-sale wide area network using Morse Narrowband for the Department of National Lotteries (through TSS, UK Ltd and Simnet, Ghana Ltd) . We have deployed networks for two major banks in Ghana, and have also deployed networks for five banks in Nigeria in partnership with our Nigerian partner, Bitcom Systems (VDT), to provide on-line banking and 24-hour ATM access for remote locations. Given the large geographical expanse, these companies would have had to use VSAT technology, which is much more expensive and less reliable than Morse Narrowband.
1.1 The key strengths of the Morse® Technology
1. Morse provides inherent backup using a meshed topology which translates to high network availability and resilience, 99% uptime
and 100% error-free transmission.
2. Morse provides coverage over wide geographical areas that are difficult or expensive to cater for using other technologies.
3. Morse provides in-built security mechanisms to protect user data from interception.
4. Morse uses dispersed intelligence and so avoids the use of expensive central switches.
5. Morse provides support for mobile data networks as a standard.
6. Using 32-bit addressing, a Morse network can support up to 4billion terminals on a network.
7. Morse uses an in-built battery backup that can operate up to 24hours without regular electricity.
8. Morse supports a wide range of transmission speeds that start from as low as 9.6kbps to over 100mbps over broadband radios.
9. Morse requires minimal line of sight for operation, thus eliminating the installation of tall masts and towers.
10. Morse is relatively inexpensive to deploy and maintain.
1.2 Detailed Description of the Morse® Radio Technology
Arrow builds nation-wide wide area networks with performance guarantees using both wireless Narrowband and Broadband technologies. Frequencies employed for narrowband applications are in the VHF and UHF bands, while microwave frequencies are used for broadband applications with high speed provisions. Narrowband data rates range between 9.6kbps and 200kbps, while broadband rates go up to 108mbps using IEEE 802.11 a/b/g standards. Areas of application include networks for corporate branch offices, general payment systems (including Auto Teller Machines, point-of-sale systems, debit and credit card systems), fleet tracking, remote sensor data gathering, oil and gas pipeline monitoring and low cost Internet access for under-served communities.
The main technology used is a packet switched-based technology named Morse®, developed by Racom s.r.o. of the Czech Republic. Morse® is a proven technology with more than a decade in product development and deployment history. It has widespread usage in over 50 countries, including Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, Poland, Slovak Republic, China, Norway, the UAE, Nigeria and Ghana. The technology provides both fixed and mobile data networks. Three standard async/sync serial ports are provided at each remote site on the network as well as an IP (Internet Protocol) port. The serial ports are expandable in multiples of 30 (or part thereof) using terminal servers.
The technology connects every terminal on the network to the central site via a dedicated ‘always-open’ connection. Existing country infrastructure, if found usable, is utilised to provide backbone links, otherwise, Arrow creates its own independent national infrastructure.
With the use of 32-bit addressing, a Morse network is scalable from less than 10 to over a million terminal connections, providing synchronous/asynchronous serial connections and Ethernet IP connection at each location. Secure connections, 100% error-free transmission, and 99.9% Equipment Reliability are among the excellent features of the Morse® technology. One key feature of the Morse® network is that it is built as a self-healing meshed network, with each node on the network enabled with alternate transmission paths to provide inherent high network resilience.
Morse® is installed with backup batteries that enable the radios to operate up to twenty-four (24) hours without regular electricity. The network is centrally managed from anywhere on the network with RANEC, Racom’s GIS (geographical information system) and GUI-based management software that provides diagnostic tools for remote monitoring and maintenance.
The Morse® wireless wide area network technology, developed by Racom s.r.o. of the Czech Republic has been in development and deployment for more than a decade for stationary and mobile data networks. They are primarily used to connect remote workstation terminals, point-of-sale terminals, debit/credit card systems, remote measurement, automatic control, telemetry and security systems and distributed collection points (bills, tax, custom checkpoints, etc). It is a wireless technology primarily deployed over licensed UHF/VHF frequencies to provide long range, secure and reliable digital telecommunication using packet switching. Synchronous/asynchronous serial and IP (Internet Protocol) protocols are supported by the Morse® technology. Terminal connectivity options available on the network are Ethernet IP, RS232, RS485 and RS422. Each radio unit can connect up to 3 terminals in a single location. Terminal servers are used to provide connectivity in multiples of 30 terminals at a single location, if required.
The network is based on licensed frequency. This assures users of a reliable link that will not be susceptible to the problems of unlicensed frequency radio equipment. Frequency ranges are both VHF and UHF: 146-180; 200-230; 335-390 and 400-493 MHz.
Broadband radio versions operate in ISM bands (2.4 and 5.8GHz) and 10-14GHz.
The Morse® wireless solution, due to its use of long range UHF and non-line-of-sight transmission technology, can easily and quickly be deployed, even in areas where terrain prohibits the installation of traditional phone lines. Arrow is therefore able to deploy networks in the shortest possible time. This speed of deployment always translates to cost savings to clients if they do not have to wait for traditional phone lines in areas where they do not exist or require much more capital to build.
The Morse® technology transmitting on UHF/VHF frequencies has minimal line of sight concerns. With the ability to transmit around major obstructions, installation of the Morse® system requires no tall masts. Short poles have been found sufficient in most cases, while in some installations internal antennae are adequate.
- SELF-HEALING CONFIGURATION (MESH TOPOLOGY)
The Morse® system is deployed in a mesh topology with dispersed intelligence that allows every site on the network to transmit in multiple directions, eliminating the need for expensive central switching equipment. This feature makes the network self-healing, in that, if there is a problem in transmitting data in one direction, an alternate direction may be used to ensure that data packets are delivered. This multiple-direction transmission configuration enhances the reliability of the network.
- BATTERY BACKUP
Each radio installation on the network is equipped with up to 24-hour battery life (at full charge) to ensure that the network survives major electrical power outage. Optional solutions range up to 72hours backup time.
The Morse® system, primarily due to its minimal line of sight requirements, dispersed intelligence and multiple-direction transmission, is highly effective when used in mobile data applications. This means remote terminals and point-of-sale terminals may be installed in moving vehicles, or may be relocated easily from their usual locations by the user. This facility also makes the Morse® technology ideal for fleet movement tracking and Police mobile security units.
Network security is of prime importance on the Morse® network. Standard methods like encryption/decryption are used to ensure security on the network. An additional unique and effective proprietary security feature implemented in the Morse® technology is the use of multiple transmission paths. This feature takes advantage of the dispersed intelligence and multiple-direction transmission feature to transmit data packets in multiple directions to avoid interception. This feature is user configurable and allows the user to specify different transmission paths for the transmit and receive packets for each or specific terminals on the network. A proprietary three-layer modulation scheme used in transmission also enhances security and network resilience.
Morse® implements a special Radio Link Protocol (RLP) using, among others, 32-bit CRC for error detection in the data section of every packet to ensure that every data transfer is accomplished with zero error.
With modulation rate exceeding 21 kbit per sec for the narrowband radios, theoretical RF channel throughput is 2 kBytes per sec. In practical terms this is found much faster than the regular telephone leased line and hence adequate for the remote terminal, point-of-sale and telemetry systems the narrowband network is designed for. Typical narrowband transaction turn-around time is less than 5 sec irrespective of where a terminal is located on the network in the country. It must however be noted that in times of a total network failure threat, Morse® intelligently reduces turn-around time to up to 9 sec to ensure that packets are definitely delivered, thus optimising the network for high availability to take precedence over packet delivery speed.
The Morse® network is highly scalable in terms of the number of user terminals supported. It can be set up for less than 10 terminals, as well as for hundreds of thousands. The network is designed in a way that allows additional channels to be added ‘on the fly’ to accommodate additional terminals introduced by the client without degrading the performance of existing terminals. Using 32-bit addressing at every node on the network, its theoretical capacity is estimated as 4 billion user terminals.
The Morse® network has the unique advantage of targeted deployment to ensure that areas desired by clients have 100% coverage without 'dark-spots' or 'no coverage areas'. Network deployment is flexible enough to follow client needs to ensure that every installed terminal has connectivity at all times.
MORSE® TECHNOLOGY – AREAS OF APPLICATION
1. It is based on licensed wireless frequency so your network is protected from unlicensed amateur transmissions and users.
2. Using Narrowband wireless technology, a Morse® network can be deployed rapidly, per client needs, in any part of the country.
Coverage area is therefore thorough in the targeted areas of installation with no 'no coverage areas'.
3. Morse® provides inherent backup using a meshed topology which translates to high network availability and resilience, 99% uptime
and 100% error-free transmission.
4. Morse® provides coverage over wide geographical areas that are difficult or expensive to cater for using other technologies.
5. Morse® provides in-built security mechanisms to protect user data from interception.
6. Morse® uses dispersed intelligence and so avoids the use of expensive central switches.
7. Morse® provides support for mobile data networks as a standard. You can therefore have mobile ATMs and point-of-sale payment
8. Using 32-bit addressing, a Morse® network can support up to 4billion terminals on a network.
9. Morse® uses in-built battery backup that can operate up to 24hours without regular electricity.
10. Morse® provides three serial ports as well as an Ethernet IP port at each location.
11. Morse® Narrowband requires minimal line of sight for operation, thus eliminating the need for masts.
12. With a bandwidth range of 22kbps – 108mbps over the product ranges, you can upscale your bandwidth demand over time. (High
bandwidth radios require line of sight though).
13. Supports on-line banking, ATMs, point-of-sale terminals, remote data processing and gathering, etc
Network Design for A hypothetical Bank In Zambia
Objective: The specific objective for this design is to create a nation-wide network with 99.9% reliability and availability and provide 19.2kpbs data
rate to support on-line banking and 24-hour ATM access .
Note: Link speeds may be increased up to 200kbps on Narrowband Radios and up to 100mbps on Broadband Radios.
The overall design concept creates a network that can have each branch terminal and ATM connected to the central Host system at the Data Center (or Disaster Recovery Site) over a dedicated wireless link as if the links were created with copper leased lines. It enables the Bank to offer on-line banking at all remote branches, as well as on-line and 24-hour Auto Teller Machine access for its customers throughout the country. The advantage of using wireless technology to create the dedicated links is that we can easily create alternate transmission paths to the same terminal or Data Center to maximize the resilience of the network.
The overall network design as presented in Figure 1 shows how traffic in each city or town shall be aggregated in a sub base station in the city or town. This shall then be transmitted to the central Host at the Data Center (or Disaster Recovery Site).
Into every sub-base station in each town or city are the multiple sub-connections within the town or city. These could be other Branches, ATMs or hundreds of small packet point-of-sale terminals for credit/debit card applications. (The sub-connections within each city are not shown on the diagram in Figure 1). The sub-connections within each city connect to one another, and the sub-base stations in the cities and towns also connect to one another. The network so created therefore has meshed connections, which then create alternate transmission paths for each node on the network. Additionally, each location has its own processing capabilities. The network therefore has dispersed intelligence that enables it to become self-healing, i.e. whenever any portion of the network has connection problems, the overall network is able to recover by isolating the problem spots and using only good spots while waiting for maintenance. The combined intelligence of the network sometimes decides to reduce throughput of the network under such circumstance to ensure maximum availability.
Figure 2 shows the detailed connection between the Morse radio and a terminal at each site. Each terminal can be connected to the radio via IP over Ethernet or synchronous/asynchronous serial connection (using RS232, RS422 or RS485).
Note that (as shown in Figures 1 and 2), each Bank location can have as many terminals as desired to be connected either through Ethernet connections or through multiple serial port terminal servers to be provided by Arrow. If the serial port terminal server is used, each server can connect upto 30 (thirty) serial terminals. These servers can be cascaded to provide additional ports in multiples of 30. Using 32-bit addressing in each radio on the network, the theoretical number of nodes on the network is 4 (four) billion.
Overall system schematic shows the aggregation of Bank Branches and ATMs in each city or town into a sub base station. These are then connected to the Data Center’s Central Host computer via Ethernet IP. [Note that upon implementation every network point of presence, i.e. every city or town shown in the diagram, will have a transmission base station that can host hundreds of 9.6kbps connections. This facility can be used to create a huge point-of-sale network for credit/debit card applications, with presence in practically every corner of the country – in most African countries with very low penetration of telephone lines, this is an excellent solution for the deployment of point-of-sale terminals as well as low cost Internet access links in every part of the country at very competitive costs.
Figure 2 – Typical Bank Location and Mobile/Temporary Branch or ATM Site
Note: Link speeds may be increased up to 200kbps on Narrowband Radios and up to 100mbps on Broadband Radios.
This figure shows the actual connection established at each Bank site on the network. Each Morse MR25 radio can link upto 3 terminals at each location. If more than 3 terminals are to be connected at a location, this can be achieved either through the use of Ethernet connections or a serial terminal server (the MCM Router) provided by Arrow may be used to connect upto 30 terminals per server. Several servers can be cascaded to increase the terminals or serial ports in multiples of 30. Note that mobile or temporary remote Branch or ATM installations can easily be accommodated in a Morse network due to its dispersed intelligence and multiple-direction transmission. Each radio unit has one Ethernet port for IP connections, and three V.24 ports which may be configured for RS232, RS422 or RS485. The Morse MR25 comes standard with batteries that can operate for upto 24 hours without regular electricity.