Multihop Wireless Networks with Advanced Antenna Systems : An Alternative for Rural Communication

Abstract: Providing access to telecommunication services in rural areas is of paramount importance for the development of any country. Since the cost is the main inhibiting factor, any technical solution for access in sparsely populated rural areas has to be reliable, efficient, and deployable at low-cost. This thesis studies the utilization of Multihop Wireless Networks (MWN) as an appealing alternative for rural communication. MWN are designed with a self-configuring capability and can adapt to the addition or removal of network radio units (nodes). This makes them simple to install, allowing unskilled users to set up the network quickly. To increase the performance and cost-efficiency, this thesis focuses on the use of Advanced Antenna Systems (AAS) in rural access networks. AAS promise to increase the overall capacity in MWN, improving the link quality while suppressing or reducing the multiple access interference. To effectively exploit the capabilities of AAS, a proper design of Medium Access Control (MAC) protocols is needed. Hence, the results of system level studies into MAC protocols and AAS are presented in this thesis. Two different MAC protocols are examined: Spatial Time Division Multiple Access (STDMA) and Carrier Sense Multiple Access Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA) with handshaking. The effects of utilizing advanced antennas on the end-to-end network throughput and packet delay are analyzed with routing, power control and adaptive transmission data rate control separately and in combination. Many of the STDMA-related research questions addressed in this thesis are posed as nonlinear optimization problems that are solved by the technique called "column generation" to create the transmission schedule using AAS. However, as finding the optimal solution is computationally expensive, we also introduce low-complexity algorithms that, while simpler, yield reasonable results close to the optimal solution. Although STDMA has been found to be very efficient and fair, one potential drawback is that it may adapt slower than a distributed approach like CSMA/CA to network changes produced e.g. by traffic variations and time-variant channel conditions. In CSMA/CA, nodes make their own decisions based on partial network information and the handshaking procedure allows the use of AAS at the transmitter and the receiver. How to effectively use AAS in CSMA/CA with handshaking is addressed in this thesis. Different beam selection policies using switched beam antenna systems are investigated. Finally, we demonstrate how the proposed techniques can be applied in a rural access scenario in Nicaragua. The result of a user-deployed MWN for Internet access shows that the supported aggregated end-to-end rate is higher than an Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) connection.