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Australia, Singapore Partner in Mesh Network Project

When I first got interested in RF, ships communicated with the shore using Morse code or radio Teletype (RTTY) for data, and AM or single-sideband (SSB) for voice. Today communications are handled over the Internet and even voice communications are being handled using voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP). This requires high-speed data links, which means higher frequencies and shorter range, unless satellites are used.

NICTA, Australia's Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Research Centre of Excellence has joined with Singapore's Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R) to demonstrate a prototype wireless mesh network for maritime traffic.

In a mesh network, access points are also relay stations. Imagine a line of ships going into a port. The ships near the port can reach high speed wireless data links on land using WiMAX. By using the other ships as a mesh network, ships beyond reach of the land-based access point are still able to get high-speed connectivity through the other ships.

However, when bad weather or distance makes the connection unavailable, a backup is needed. NICTA and I2R will use satellite connectivity to back up the land-based access points.

I2R’s technology aims to deliver a 6 Mbps long-range (20 km) system between ships and ship-to-shore using a mesh network communications system capable of ad hoc multi-hop communications with other vessels and shore command station.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.