San Jose, California-based wireless broadband backhaul solutions provider Ubiquiti (News - Alert) Networks recently sat down with RCR Wireless News and discussed its current product lineup. Gary Schulz, the vice president of engineering at Ubiquiti’s Chicago Design Center explained the company’s philosophy and how that translates into Ubiquiti’s offerings focused for emerging markets.
Schulz described Ubiquiti as the world’s largest and most profitable manufacturer or wide-area wireless broadband gear. Schulz praised the company’s founder, Robert Pera, who started Ubiquiti in 2005, for giving the company the push it needed to become successful early on.
“Almost immediately Ubiquiti created a niche for providing very cost-effective solutions focused on next-generation communications and technologies,” Schulz said.
As for what the company’s business looks like now, Schulz said that “Recently, Ubiquiti has moved to proprietary platforms and technology development of greater complexity and higher levels of performance.”
He was asked to describe how Ubiquiti’s new R&D group in Chicago started, and why he was so eager to sign on to the project, and he had this to say, “When Robert spoke to me about this opportunity he made it perfectly clear that there would be no limits and no overhead getting in the way. I was impressed with the lack of fear that typically bars true innovation like budget, resources or even ego. There has been a significant investment in R&D in terms of dollars and expertise so expect to see many follow-up products that will continue to dramatically shift market expectations.”
Additionally, Schulz explained, “We saw this as an opportunity to make a completely new line of products, throwing away the usual thought process that constrains much of the competition into thinking rigidly.”
The company has recently moved into the development of what Schulz calls “disruptive products” such as AirFiber, and RCR Wireless News (News - Alert) asked him to describe the motivation behind this specific product. “The first Airfiber product is a really different approach to solving a big dilemma for operators looking to greatly expand their capacity for tomorrow,” said Schulz.
Schulz described the competition as stale and conservative, and insisted that Ubiquiti is going to keep revolutionizing the wireless industry with some incredibly powerful solutions.
RCR Wireless News asked Schulz to elaborate on what makes AirFiber disruptive, and Schulz had a fairly long and in-depth response. The totality of his answer reads as follows:
“AirFiber is a revolutionary high-speed wireless backhaul product delivering real throughputs at levels dramatically higher than the competition regardless of price. In order to do this, the design team needed to invent a lot of new processes and algorithms that were not available off-the-shelf. AirFiber has been built by Ubiquiti from the ground up to be a very powerful and versatile software-defined platform.
We architected and designed an all-new high performance modem and a sophisticated and versatile radio, while being very cognizant of the costs involved. Difficult design choices needed to be made because the platform needed to be without any bottlenecks — a critical requirement for very high speeds. We settled on a slightly unorthodox approach that took a right angle turn from the industry norms of single-carrier systems. The radio we came up with is state-of-the-art, consisting of two multiplexed transmitters and two multiplexed receivers for unparalleled versatility and performance. The radio platform is capable of supporting full duplex/frequency division duplexing (FDD) operation and a newly developed Ubiquiti proprietary access method called Hybrid Division Duplexing. HDD permits incredibly high levels of performance in terms of throughput and latency while still maximizing spectral efficiency normally associated with TDD systems.
We did away with all the RF losses associated with conventional systems running at [millimeter-wave] frequencies so the link budgets are very robust. We introduced a revolutionary new MAC to control this versatile platform with very high efficiency, so that the performance is nearly transparent to the end user.
Other firsts for this market include a one-piece fully integrated “monocoque” injection molded dual antenna assembly. This single mechanical element integrates the radio housing, connector interface bulkhead, dual high isolation reflector antennas, molded-in AZ-EL mounts and heatsink supports. This single piece involved a lot of engineering effort, but the pay-off is very high performance due to the ability to hold high dimensional tolerances in critical areas, and it’s lightweight with very low cost.
We also elected to take a different direction in the modulation formats used. We elected to develop a high performance OFDM system for several reasons. One reason relates to the overall performance benefits that we can obtain through the use of multiple-input, multiple-output spatial multiplexing. This gives AirFiber a big performance edge because of the high spectral efficiency and inherent tolerance to less than ideal propagation channels in the presence of reflections and multipath.
Our solution is not limited by the processing speed of the CPU so there are essentially no limits to the packet processing rates. Packet handling is all done with dedicated high-speed hardware accelerated processing.
We invented a lot of the algorithms necessary to keep the amplitude and phase tightly controlled because we elected to design what is possibly one of the widest bandwidth zero intermediate frequency radios ever done for mass production. This results in a basically spurious-free radio that has great spectral shape because we generate and decode all the signaling at baseband and then up/down convert all the way to 24 GHz in one single conversion. Unfortunately, there were no commercial parts available to perform a lot of these functions so we needed to find ways to modify circuits intended for other applications.
Despite all the effort to keep performance high and costs under control, we still needed the solution to be robust. In fact, the entire mechanical assembly has been tested to MIL-STD-810G and things like vibration using extended versions of IEC (News - Alert) 60068-2-6 (9 hours). This level of testing is normally reserved for MIL-Spec systems with price tags many times the cost of AirFiber.”
In conclusion, Schulz said, “We will work to make sure we can stay ahead of the demands of the more progressive carriers and traditional WISP’s with solutions that are easily deployed, highly flexible and of course cost-effective. This is what Ubiquiti does best.”
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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli