Wireless communication has changed dramatically since the late 1800s when the first wireless communication began via the photophone and radio transmissions. Significant progress has been made over the past decade in improving the breadth and quality of cellular coverage yet challenges still remain with using such communication in rural areas to support ITS devices. Satellite service can be an alternative with greater potential coverage but also greater cost than cellular communication. Radio communication is yet another alternative but with limitations such as line of sight.
In addition to not having a clear understanding of which communication to use with ITS devices in rural areas, ENTERPRISE members expressed concerns about high costs and low reliability. These issues can be even more challenging during disaster situations when information needs to be exchanged across rural areas and traditional networks may be unavailable.
The ENTERPRISE FY2014 Work Plan included a project “Demonstrate and Evaluate Rural Communications to Support Rural ITS” that outlined an initiative to identify, demonstrate, and evaluate one or more emerging communication technologies that could be used by transportation agencies to communicate
with ITS devices in rural areas. Per direction from the ENTERPRISE Board, the project was separated into two phases in order to properly assess issues and potential solutions before coordinating a deployment and evaluation.
- Phase 1: Gather information about issues and potential solutions for communications to ITS devices in rural areas and develop a scope of work for Phase 2.
- Phase 2: Conduct the agreed upon scope developed in Phase 1, such as coordinating a demonstration of rural communications mechanisms and conducting an evaluation.
Phase 1, documented in this project, first gathered information about issues and potential solutions for communications to ITS devices in rural areas. A literature scan was conducted to determine whether adequate published literature exists to support transportation agencies in their selection of wireless communication for ITS devices, particularly in rural areas. This scan of published resources did not yield a substantive set of resources that could provide adequate guidance for understanding which communication to use with ITS devices in rural areas. Therefore, interviews were conducted with personnel from selected ENTERPRISE member agencies to gather information about challenges, as well as solutions implemented, for rural communications. The interviews yielded valuable information about a number of rural communications options and solutions, key issues, including potential options for the Phase 2 scope of work. At the April 2015 in-person ENTERPRISE Board meeting, three options for the Phase 2 demonstration/evaluation were identified. A survey of ENTERPRISE board members was then conducted to rate the options and to guide the Board’s decision. The Phase 2 scope of work reflects priorities determined by the ENTERPRISE Board to be accomplished during the remainder of the “Demonstrate and Evaluate Rural Communications to Support Rural ITS” project.