Intel RCP Router  (Source: Intel)
RCP platform can send data up to 60 miles at 6.5 Mbps

Internet connectivity is taken for granted by those who live in cites with well-established infrastructures for cable and telephone networks. However, in many rural areas of the U.S. and in developing countries, Internet access either doesn’t exist or is only available as dial up that lacks the bandwidth needed for modern applications.

Intel announced plans today for a platform that will allow WiFi in remote locations as far as 60 miles away at broadband speeds of up to 6.5 megabits per second. The platform is called the rural connectivity platform (RCP). Intel sees RCP as a method of connecting poor villages and towns to the Internet in developing countries.

A senior platform manager at Intel named Jeff Galinovsky told Technology Review, "You can't lay cable. It's difficult, expensive, and someone is going to pull it up out of the ground to sell it."

There are other ways to wire remote locations for Internet service, such as satellite but those are expensive according to Galinovsky. Intel’s RCP system consists of a processor, radios, specialized software and an antenna. The system isn’t complex and will have a target price of $500. Two systems will be required for each set up so the total cost to wire a location will be $1,000.

The system is good for up to 60 miles, but Intel says that it believes most will be used set up to transmit less than 30 miles. The reason the system can’t transmit data over 60 miles is that the signal runs into problems with the curvature of the Earth. Once the long distance RCP system is set up, the signal is distributed to individual systems using wire or wireless routers.

One important aspect of the Intel RCP system is its low power requirements. Each station for the system requires only five to six watts to operate two or three radios in a link. That amount of power required can be harvested from solar energy.

The key aspect that allows for the long transmission distance of the RCP system required a rewrite of the communication rules used by WiFi routers. Typical routers used to wire homes and offices send out data and wait for an acknowledgement from the receiving system that the data arrived. If the acknowledgement isn’t received in a timely manner the common wireless router send the data again assuming it was lost. The Intel RCP system does away with the need for acknowledgements and frees up more bandwidth for sending data.

Intel is better known for its processors and chipsets like the Intel Centrino 2 platform due at this summer. In a way, providing a system of enabling remote and rural areas to access the Internet could result in an increased demand for processors, which would be good for Intel on more than one level.

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