Network Speed and Reliability in Transportation with WAN Bonding

Steve Mazur Steve Mazur, Business Development Director, Government
August 15, 2023

Public transportation — the foundation of thriving cities around the world — has faced unusual adversity in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altered the use of transit systems, and, in most locations, ridership has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels as work-from-home policies slash the number of commuters. That’s leading transit authorities to renew their focus on passenger satisfaction and loyalty. How can network speed and resilience help?

For many transit systems — from buses and light rail to paratransit and heavy rail — connectivity is taking center stage in those initiatives. Robust Wi-Fi has become a must-have for passengers who want to be productive during their commutes. Simultaneously, operators also want to tap that same connection for additional uses such as fare collection, security video, passenger counts, computer-aided dispatch/automated vehicle location, and vehicle diagnostics. Altogether, that requires increasing levels of network speed, reliability, scalability, and manageability. That’s where WAN bonding enters the picture.

Bus fare collection

With WAN bonding, we combine two or more separate WAN connections (ideally from a diverse set of carriers) into a single virtual/logical connection. This WAN bonding strategy provides a host of benefits:

  • Improves network performance — By combining multiple WAN connections, WAN bonding dramatically increases network speed and bandwidth.
  • Increases reliability — With WAN bonding, if one WAN connection falters, other connections automatically receive a higher data traffic load, creating a more reliable network and fewer unplanned outages.
  • Reduces costs — A WAN bonding architecture means you can take advantage of multiple ISPs, which can result in cost savings. By using multiple providers, organizations can negotiate better pricing and find a provider that offers the best value for their specific needs.

A Closer Look at WAN Bonding

Digi WAN Bonding infographicWAN bonding involves three key functions:

  • Bonding multiple connections — To start, we combine multiple WAN connections into a single, virtual connection. This requires WAN bonding software, which manages the bonding process and ensures traffic is distributed across all available connections.
  • Traffic routing and  network optimization — Next, the software routes network traffic across its different connections, running higher traffic loads over the higher performing connections. This helps ensure network performance is optimized for reduced latency and maximum bandwidth.
  • Failover and redundancy — WAN bonding also provides failover protection. If one WAN connection falters, higher performing connections automatically carry more network traffic, providing a seamless network connection. This ensures the network remains operational and minimizes the potential for periods of low throughput or outages.

Implementing WAN Bonding

WAN bonding requires the right equipment and software. First, you need an Internet device, such as Digi’s TX cellular routers, which are purpose-built for transportation use cases.

You will also need a way to integrate WAN Bonding technology. Digi has done this integration for you, with Digi WAN Bonding — a value-added service available as an add-on to your Digi Remote Manager® (Digi RM) premium subscription. Digi RM is a complete monitoring and management platform that enables network managers to fully monitor and orchestrate their distributed Digi devices.

Digi can also work with you to design your network topology and ensure WAN bonding can be effectively implemented. Whether you work with Digi Professional Services, or you use your own implementation team, the next step is to determine the number of WAN connections required, the location of the WAN bonding server, and the routing of traffic between the different connections. Next, configure and set up the WAN bonding software. This involves specifying different WAN connections, configuring routing and performance settings, and setting up failover protection.

Use Cases: WAN Bonding Improves the Mass Transit Experience

WAN bonding enables transportation authorities to offer and use Internet speeds that greatly exceed any single connection for the myriad connected devices and data-intensive applications on today’s modern trains and buses.

  • Passenger Wi-Fi — Passengers expect reliable Internet connectivity on public transit systems, and its availability on buses and commuter railways is a make-or-break deal for many riders. WAN bonding provides the redundant connectivity that translates into greater network speed and reliability. This helps passengers remain productive during travel.
  • Security video — If a security incident arises, the train or bus operator can quickly transmit live video of the incident. This improves the speed of first responders and increases passenger safety.
  • Fare collection — Transit authorities can efficiently process transactions in real time. This improves the auditability of fare collections and provides greater convenience to passengers by supporting numerous payment options.
  • CAD/AVL — A WAN bonding architecture enables dispatch managers to reliably pinpoint vehicle locations and track their route/schedule progress in real time. With this information, managers can adjust vehicles and routes (e.g., switching a local to an express) to minimize unexpected delays.
  • Passenger counts — This metric can be particularly important for riders concerned about passenger density (particularly those with health issues). This data also feeds federal formulas for distributing funds.
  • Vehicle maintenance — A bus or train can “self-report” any maintenance issues that arise in-transit. This helps repair teams to order the right replacement parts sooner, schedule repairs faster, and minimize vehicle downtime.
  • Digital signage — Whether it’s updated advertisements or real-time information updates, a redundant, WAN-bonded Internet connection with multiple cell connections translates into faster and more reliable throughput on the road.

Passengers using Wi-Fi

Tying It Together: Digi WAN Bonding

Digi WAN Bonding provides resilient connectivity and maximum performance across multiple connections in an easy-to-implement solution. Developed by a Digi technology partner, Bondix Intelligence, the Digi WAN Bonding software ensures reliable voice, video, and data transmission connectivity for both mobile and stationary deployments. Digi WAN Bonding enables customers with Digi RM running DAL OS on their Digi devices to centrally set up, deploy and manage the bonding together of multiple WAN connections.

This WAN aggregation supports dramatically increased throughput speeds, WAN smoothing, packet redundancy and seamless failover for always-on Internet connectivity. The key features include:

  • Hot failover — Digi’s bonded tunnel interface stays up across all WAN links with no packet loss or failover wait time.
  • WAN aggregation — You can combine multiple WAN links for increased network speed and bandwidth for one or multiple devices, up to a maximum bandwidth of 1 Gbps.
  • WAN smoothing — Digi WAN Bonding reduces latency and jitter by sending data through multiple channels simultaneously to eliminate packet loss and maintain connection resiliency.
  • WAN prioritization — Digi automatically senses or manually sets the best active WAN link and balances traffic accordingly.
  • Packet duplication — By replicating packets on multiple WAN links, Digi ensures delivery of critical data.
  • Simple integration — Digi WAN Bonding is easy to deploy on a range of routers in a variety of environments at fixed or mobile locations via Digi Remote Manager.
  • Increased throughput — Digi WAN Bonding offers 100 Mbps, 200 Mbps and 1 Gbps max throughput subscription options.

With WAN bonding, your transit organization can combine multiple WAN connections into a single, virtual connection. Digi WAN Bonding harnesses these capabilities to improve network performance, reliability, and redundancy. With advances in technology and the increasing demand for reliable and secure network connections, the future of WAN bonding looks promising. Organizations that are looking to improve their network performance and reliability should consider implementing WAN bonding as part of their overall network strategy.

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