A startup called Airvine has developed a wireless backhaul system for indoor environments.

Dave Sumi, VP of marketing at Airvine, explained that many legacy indoor environments are local area networks (LANs) connected via Ethernet cables. So, all the access and backhaul is hard-wired. But Airvine has created its WaveTunnel product line, which can provide wireless backhaul and also boost existing capacity.

The shoebox-sized WaveTunnel module mounts on ceilings and other interior high points. It can fill the broadband gap that exists within many large interior spaces by extending LAN reach or upgrading the performance of existing systems.

Sumi said many existing LANs do not provide all the coverage that’s required or desired. “There are places where you might like to have multi-gig Ethernet,” he said. Until now, “if you need to extend your LAN, you pull cable.”

“Indoor wireless has been access-only since 802.11,” said Sumi. “Nobody’s ever thought about using it for backhaul because it didn’t have the capacity. We’re using the 60 GHz band, which gives us all the capacity we could want.”

The 60 GHz millimeter wave unlicensed spectrum has only been used for line-of-sight signals so far, said Sumi. But the WaveTunnel modules can use beam-steering technology so that signals can turn corners. They are designed with two radios – one coming in and one going out – and the modules can be positioned so that one module shoots the signal to a corner where another module is located, which can then shoot the signal onward at a different angle up to 90 degrees.

The mmWave spectrum also allows for very narrow beams with focused energy, and this “gives us a lot of system gain,” said Sumi. Airvine claims the WaveTunnel system can penetrate most indoor walls.

Asked if Airvine has any competitors doing this, Sumi said it doesn’t, yet, but it expects others to try and copy the concept. 

Rather than concern itself with competitors, Airvine sees its offering as complementary to wired LANs, Wi-Fi systems and also to new private wireless installations. It already has several channel partners, including CommScope’s Ruckus.

He said in private wireless deployments, small cells are being deployed in the most optimal locations from a coverage perspective, and then fiber or Cat 6 is used for backhaul. “We can backhaul all the traffic from small cells on a network of tunnels,” said Sumi. “I’m not aware of anybody doing this type of product.”

“While WaveTunnel is state-of-the-art for new facilities, it is also a great way to complement or retrofit existing networks, whether that LAN backbone is cable or fiber, said Airvine CEO Vivek Ragavan, in a statement.

Airvine

Santa Clara, California-based Airvine was founded in 2018 and has raised nearly $17 million. The company has trialed its technology with global customers and will begin shipping at the end of February to early adopters. It expects volume production capability by the second quarter this year.

Airvine is initially targeting four industry sectors: multi-dwelling residential units (MDUs); hotels; large venues such as convention centers and stadia.

Airvine has developed its own VineSuite software platform, which facilitates network set-up and operation. It has three patents on its technology. The company manufactures WaveTunnel hardware at a facility in Dallas.

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