Picocela deploys large mesh Wi-Fi hotzone in Fukuoka, Japan

Kyushu University and PicoCELA Inc., both based in Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture, have developed and put into use technology to build a wide-area wireless LAN at a dramatically reduced cost. The newly developed wireless multihop backhaul connects multiple wireless LAN access points to make them work with one another as a single radio network, cutting back on installation costs by reducing wiring for Internet connection. Wireless access points were installed in the commercial complex Canal City Hakata, resulting in the successful operation of one of the world’s largest indoor wireless multihop backhauls (with a relay of up to 11 access points).

Background

PicoCELA was set up for the purpose of commercializing the fruits of the MIMO-MESH Project led by Professor Hiroshi Furukawa of the Faculty of Information Science and Electrical Engineering, the Graduate School, Kyushu University. The project is part of the “Silicon Sea Belt Fukuoka Project” promoted by the Fukuoka prefectural government to build an East Asian belt of advanced semiconductor R&D sites. It is funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (under the Knowledge Cluster Creation Project Phase 2 program) and the Fukuoka Industry, Science and Technology Foundation (Fukuoka IST).

The new wide-area wireless LAN was built as one of government-commissioned undertakings to do demonstration experiments in three area:

  • technology for building a wireless broadband area with ease and at low cost;
  • technology for a high-precision position-tracking system; and
  • servicesusing the position-tracking system.

The experiment contract was given to Fukuoka IST by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications under the
ministry’s ICT advanced demonstration experiment program. PicoCELA will seek to promote further technological development of the next generation of mobile networks through the wide-area wireless LAN operation and to help revitalize the content market, which is expected to play a major role in the future mobile communications market, through the test use of various future applications software.

Related websites
– Open4G:
http://open4g.jp/Top
– MIMO-MESH Project:
http://mimo-mesh.com/en/index.html
– Kyushu University:
https://portal.isee.kyushu-u.ac.jp/front-page-en
– Fukuoka Knowledge Cluster Initiative II:
http://www2.lab-ist.jp/english/
– Fukuoka IST:
http://www.ist.or.jp/english/index.html
– Canal City Hakata:
http://www.canalcity.co.jp/eg/index.html

Q&A with Prof. Hiroshi Furukawa, Department of Intelligent Systems, Kyushu University

What inspired you to develop this technology?

I wanted to create a 4th generation mobile communication system. Please visit the website which outlines my idea of Open 4G: http://www.open4g.jp/Top

Due to physical Tx power limitation of transceiver, communication range of each base station has to decrease as transmission speed increases. Under the situation, we must place many base stations to extend coverage area, which increases deployment cost of broadband mobile communication systems. On the other hand, mobile operators face declining ARPU every year due to cutthroat competition but demand for bandwidth is increasing because more people are using iPhones and other smartphones.

Our technology can solve many of the problems faced by mobile operators. With our technology, WiFi is appropriate as an access network because the standard has been widely spread into terminal devices. WiFi is the only wireless standard that can peacefully coexist with cellular systems. In fact, as you may know, Softbank mobile (a carrier who offers iPhone in Japan) announced last November that all their new handsets will have a built-in WiFi.

Our technology can be summarized as follows.

1. Easy setup of multicell WiFi. You don’t need any special knowledge about radio technology and radio propagation physics. Of course, complex network configurations are unnecessary. Just place units not requiring Internet cabling, push reroute button of one of them (this process is to trigger optimization of backhaul network), then wide range WiFi gets ready to go. Such an easy setup feature can cut the cost of network deployment.

2. Multihop relay of more than 10 hops. Capability of large number of hops is very important in this kind of product because the feature widen use cases.

3. Full usage of open technologies. All components inside PCWL-0100 are commonly used in PCs. This feature can reduce rollout span and cost for manufacturing process. Our competence is based on protocols that can be implemented by software.

Where do you see PicoCELA in 12 months?

What we have to do in the next few months is to sell the products. In this time period, we have to broaden our experience in the real market and continue tweaking the technology to fit our customers’ needs. So far, we have received no serious complaints! Then we want to go a next stage: build a sales team. To do this, we have to raise additional funding.

Who will be your main customers?

– Communication carriers handling wire and wireless services
– Hotspot operators
– ISPs
– cableTV companies
– building owners
– shopping centers
– enterprise IT departments
– municipalities including libraries, fire stations, police departments, etc.
– railway companies (not only stations but also inside trains).