According to Network World, Intel recently demonstrated an 802.11 radio link with a data rate of approximately 6 Mbps and a range exceeding 60 miles. Intel facilitated this rural connectivity platform (RCP) with off-the-shelf hardware and modified the underlying 802.11 media-access-control layer to boost the signal’s efficiency. This involved the addition of a method known as time division multiple access that is currently used in GSM cellular networks and splits the channel into time slots and puts the sending and receiving radios in sync, effectively eliminating waiting for acknowledgments and resending of data.

The time division multiple access technique extends the range by minimizing the wireless overhead and opens up more bandwidth for data transmission. The RCP units can function as endpoints that bookend each link or as relay stations to affect signal hopping.

The RCP software uses an operating system based on the SnapGear embedded Linux distribution. Pilot RCP deployments have been established in India, Vietnam, Panama and South Africa. RCP, which Intel Research and Intel’s emerging markets platform group have been working on for around two years, is one of several efforts to extend the Internet into rural regions, especially in developing na-tions, through the employment of low-cost, low-power Wi-Fi radios.

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