What is RFConnect? – Q & A with Anova’s Michael Persico

Will Speck
What is RFConnect? – Q & A with Anova’s Michael Persico




Anova Technologies has developed what it sees as the impending standard for ultra-fast and reliable wireless connectivity for the financial services community. Anova’s CEO and founder explains how his company is delivering “fiber through the air” and how this represents a “monumentally disruptive” technology for connecting trading firms worldwide.

What is RFConnect?

RFConnect is a financial connectivity network (FCN) that utilizes cutting-edge wireless technology. At its core, it consists of a long-range, free-space optic laser and a custom-designed millimeter wave (MMW) radio interleaved to deliver the ultimate in low-latency, nearly 100% availability and scalable capacity.

What is the evolution of RFConnect? How did it come about?

Anova Technologies, an engineering and facilities-based service provider, was founded in 2009 on the premise of designing, building and operating low-latency networks for the financial community. In 2010, we commissioned an initiative to investigate the feasibility of deploying wireless point-to-point networks, the primary rationale being that data can travel 50% faster via wireless as opposed to legacy wire line over fiber. In late 2011, the company deployed its first MMW network for the financial industry.

Ultimately, we weren’t satisfied with the reliability of the traditional MMW technology and embarked upon the search to identify a platform to solve for this issue. After much research, a hybrid FSO/millimeter wave technology was selected, and further customized to meet the needs of financial clients.

How does the RFConnect technology change the landscape of exchange connectivity?

Essentially, RFConnect delivers “fiber through the air,” both figuratively and literally. The Achilles heel of wireless has always been the availability of the network. Microwave networks typically hover around the 90% mark in regards to true 24×7 uptime, and millimeter wave can dip to below 80%, depending on the length of the path and its corresponding links. However, our dual-spectrum system solves for these issues, allowing us to build wireless routes that have 99.9% (or better) in terms of uptime, which is akin to fiber’s availability. In fact, many long-haul fiber firms have three 9s as their actual SLA for lit services. And we do all of this without sacrificing the latency of the system-our technology has only nanoseconds of overhead per device.

We see it as a monumentally disruptive technology, one that has a perfect marriage of mutually exclusive attenuation properties. More specifically, the atmospheric conditions that one dislikes, the other is impervious to, and vice versa. And we’re not simply using one system as a failover for the other; they are both transmitting and receiving in simulcast, then picking the best packet in real time from the respective mediums. There simply isn’t anyone else out there that can offer this. The patented technology is born of a decade of research and vast amounts of R&D monies from the government, and then commercially through ourselves and our JV hardware partner.

We believe that RFConnect is on the precipice of becoming the de facto standard for wireless exchange connectivity.

Talk about the availability of the technology versus other wireless technologies?

Well, as I mentioned above, RFConnect truly delivers 99.9%+ availability. We are able to back this up using 165 million points of microclimate data, whereas other vendors use outdated historical data and rain zone maps, with carve-outs for trading hours, to make their availability numbers look better. The simple fact is, given the link distances of all other MMW wireless systems, even a slight bit of precipitation will cause them to go down. Period. And when our system stays up, and keeps customers in the market, keeps them trading, that’s invaluable and really will service to retire MMW-only systems as a technology, because no one wants to be down when their competitors are up. Microwave can tolerate some inclement weather, but its real issue is that it doesn’t scale up past 150Mbs, or 300Mbs if you have a two-channel system. Compare that with the fact we’re at 4Gbs now, with 6Gbs and 8Gbs on the near-term horizon and the holy grail of 10Gbs within a year, and it’s easy to see why we’re so excited about this transformative technology and what it can do for the financial community.

For the past couple years, the entire “arms race” has been focused on latency. However, sophisticated firms are now understanding that availability is a real “1a” in the stacking ranking of important variables. If your network is down in a critical window-an open, a number getting released, a Fed announcement, earnings-it can be fairly catastrophic for firms, in terms of opportunity lost.

Talk about the auto-tracking in regards to tower twist-and-sway.

If you’ve got a wireless network with radios on towers or poles, you’re going to encounter tower twist and sway. It’s a fact of life. It is what it says-the tower twisting and swaying in the wind, and it gets worse the higher up a tower you go. Most systems will go out of alignment, and so you’ll lose signal, with less than a 1° move.

RFConnect has historical roots that go back to auto-tracking fighter jets traveling at Mach 1 speeds to maintain communications. You can imagine the challenge that posed. It’s well beyond a 1° move; those systems were mounted on 360-degree rotating gyroscopes to account for the angular and speed vacillations. Fast forwarding to today, RFConnect utilizes this technology in the form of adaptive gimbals that auto-track and auto-align in real time, giving the network the ability to withstand up to 3° of tower twist and sway, which correlates to keeping our radios aligned in up to 50 mph wind gusts.

Talk about the how and why of the weather station and its data.

There are a lot of naysayers out there. And if this were a standard FSO product, like other off-the-shelf systems available, I’d say they were right. But this is anything but standard. We go further, we’re fully interleaved, we’ve got auto-tracking and we’ve got high capacity. Still, in order to completely prove our viability, we’ve erected a trail link for field testing that customers and prospects can visit and even run tests of their own. We’ve also gone so far as implementing an airport-class weather station that records virtually every atmospheric condition, including visibility. This microclimate data is then correlated with the system’s availability. We also have an MMW-only installed right next to RFConnect, and we’re comparatively tracking its outages against the weather data as well.

Where will RFConnect be deployed?

Globally in all major markets. We are in full-on construction mode New York/New Jersey metro and Chicago metro. We have London coming online in Q1 2014.

What are some of the next level of improvements and features?

The bandwidth increase will be a real boon to the industry, but we’ll also be looking into laser power improvements, which will allow us to go even further and withstand even more and more levels of inclement weather. The sky’s really the limit; we’re only at the infancy of what FSO technology can provide.


Will Speck Sr. Editorial & Content Strategist
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