Behind the scenes at Vertel's Sydney lab

Techworld Australia recently had the opportunity to tour the Sydney-based labs of wireless networking provider Vertel with the company's managing director, Andrew Findlay.

  • Techworld Australia recently had the opportunity to tour the Sydney-based labs of wireless networking provider Vertel with the company's managing director, Andrew Findlay.

    Images: Ian Sharp.
  • Vertel's lab lets the company both test products and conduct demonstrations using a live network. These days the company's mainstay is microwave networking. When it was founded in 1973 its focus was on two-way radio.

  • Two of the demonstrations the lab is set up for are for simulating rain fade — the impact of signal loss due to poor weather conditions interfering with microwave signals — and demonstrating 1+1 redundancy.

  • A 1+1 protected link setup uses two outdoor units and two indoor units at a customer's premises, through the units generally share the same antenna to save space on the tower. "You can put them on different antennas to get space diversity," Findlay says. Fail-over occurs almost instantaneously.

  • "Most people when you talk about microwave say 'Look, what about birds and buildings getting in the way,'" Findlay says. "Birds don't affect it; buildings go up very slowly but obviously do affect it if they go up... But by far the biggest [concern] is about rain." When Vertel undertakes network designs it uses the ITU's rain fade tables to take weather into account.

  • In the lab, an attenuator plugged into the live microwave units simulates varying rainfall levels in the path between a customer's premises and a tower. Findlay believes most people overestimate the impact of rainfall on microwave links; in many cases it takes a one-in-100 year rainfall event to degrade a well-designed service.

  • When a customer orders a service from Vertel, the company will be given the end point addresses and design a network using a combination of wireline and wireless services.

    "Depending on what [the customer] wants to achieve in terms of availability, we'll go off and pick the most cost effective and the most technically relevant option," Findlay says.

    For microwave links, Vertel technicians will have to check line-of-sight from the customer premises and also check the rainfall patterns in an area to ensure per link availability of 99.998 per cent.

  • Vertel offers fixed and mobile networking, co-location facilities for wireless infrastructure, and network applications.

    "Our vision for network applications is that we won't own these ourselves," Findlay says. "We're connecting with more and more partners — we want to be the network that enables you to pick and choose who you deal with for your voice, your video and anything cloud."

  • One of the emerging markets that Vertel is interested in is the HotSpot 2.0 standard (Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint) developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance. "This is a new market that we're looking at: HotSpot 2.0, which is data offload," Findlay says. "What it means is that as a carrier and a provider of wireless LAN you can automatically offload traffic — more likely than not data traffic rather than voice traffic — rather than flood your macronetwork with a whole lot more traffic."

  • From the Vertel headquarters in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria, staff can monitor network health.

    "Health, education and community/emergency services have been major areas of focus" for the company, Findlay says.

    "We're looking at areas where we can build infrastructure for an anchor customer and once it's built we can leverage off that infrastructure and pick up users that really did have a high dependency on getting broadband services."

    The NBN process has stimulated a discussion about the possibilities broadband opens up, which has been beneficial for Vertel, Findlay says,

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