85 Microwave Operators tell us their Biggest Backhaul Challenge

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England: Campion Hills communications mast with microwave antennae. Photo credit: David Stowell [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The general mobile industry sentiment has typically been that the capacity bottleneck is the biggest challenge in backhaul. Thus, the focus has been on adding more capacity to address the surge of 3G and now 4G traffic. So you might think that this concern would rank first, particularly among microwave-centric operators, who are often looking to maximize their network throughput. We recently commissioned the experts at Heavy Reading to do a custom survey to get some quantifiable data to clarify this key question and a few others.

85 mobile operators were selected and surveyed globally, including a good cross-section from both developed and emerging markets. The respondents were screened to ensure that they all had a stake in microwave-specific backhaul: 93 percent had deployed microwave and the rest had plans to deploy it. In fact, 45 percent were categorized as heavy microwave users—those where more than 50 percent of their cell sites were served by microwave backhaul.

So we asked this select group, which consisted of mostly planners, engineers and strategy leaders, “What is the biggest challenge your company faces regarding the future development and deployment of microwave backhaul?” 

The results were interesting in that “total cost of ownership” actually eclipsed “increasing capacity” as their biggest challenge, as shown in the pie chart of survey responses below. Continue reading

Come Fly with Me: Aviat Microwave Over-the-Air at U.S. Landmarks

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The Golden Gate Bridge South Tower shows the Aviat microwave radio installation directly in between the suspension cables. Photo credit: davidyuweb / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Frank Sinatra, “Old Blue Eyes,” would have been the perfect pitchman for Aviat Networks. From Los Angeles to Chicago to New York, Sinatra’s many hit songs were inspired by the big cities of America. Since the time Sinatra began his illustrious singing career, Aviat Networks (formerly Harris Microwave Communications Division) has been setting the bar high for superior performance, wireless microwave communication across the United States, from sea to shining sea.

With big cities come big landmarks. You know that enormous “HOLLYWOOD” sign on Mt. Lee in Los Angeles? Aviat is there.

And how about the panoramic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco? Yes, Aviat is there, too. Aviat Networks is “Designed, Built and Supported in the USA,” as well as proudly deployed among the most prominent and historic locales in America.

Closeup of Aviat-microwave atop the Golden Gate Bridge.

Close-up of Aviat microwave atop the Golden Gate Bridge.

You can find Aviat microwave on the side of beautiful Niagara Falls, as well as scraping the sky on the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in Chicago—that “toddling town.”

Right through the heart of “New York, New York,” Aviat radios are installed within the electric ambiance of Times Square and atop the soaring Empire State Building.

Even outside the urban corridors of America, Aviat is there. For example, Aviat equipment is deployed at the Hoover Dam in the Black Canyon along the Colorado River.

Aviat microwave radio at Hoover Dam in the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

Aviat microwave radio at Hoover Dam near Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

You may say “so what?” Well, the beauty of it all is that while you’re taking in everything the USA has to offer in its rich collection of historic landmarks, you’ve never noticed the technology that helped shape modern telecommunications networks is operating reliably, flawlessly right at your side.

Aviat Networks continues to take flight in new locations across the globe, and we are doing it the American way!

Louis Scialabba
Manager, Solutions Marketing
Aviat Networks

LTE Backhaul: The View from Africa

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Telecom Tower, Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo credit: Marc_Smith / Foter / CC BY

LTE has been moving more and more to the forefront in mobile cellular networks around the world. Africa, and particularly the Republic of South Africa, is the latest hotbed of LTE rollouts, with the leading country operators of Vodacom, MTN and Cell C coming online since late in 2012. In conjunction with these LTE access rollouts, our technical marketing manager in the region, Mr. Siphiwe Nelwamondo, has been authoring a series of columns on enabling LTE in a leading regional technology media Internet site, ITWeb Africa.

Naturally, his focus has been on backhaul. In the first installment of his series, Mr. Nelwamondo looked closely at the backhaul requirements of LTE. Chief among these requirements are speed, Quality of Service (QoS) and capacity. He concluded that it is too early to close the book on the requisite parameters for supporting LTE backhaul. Part two of the features, he examined the basis on which microwave provides the technical underpinnings for LTE backhaul—especially as related to capacity. More spectrum, better spectral efficiency and more effective throughput were Mr. Nelwamondo’s subpoints to increasing capacity.

Having more spectrum for microwave backhaul is always nice, but it’s a finite resource and other RF-based equipment from satellites to garage door openers is in competition for it. Bettering spectral efficiency may be accomplished by traditional methods such as ACM and might be increased through unproven-in-microwave techniques like MIMO. Throughput improvement has wide claims from the plausible low single digit percentage increases to the more speculative of upping capacity by nearly half-again. Data compression and suppression are discussed. The truth is LTE, while data-intensive, probably will not require drastic measures for backhaul capacity until at least the next stage of LTE-Advanced.

If indeed capacity increases are necessary in the LTE backhaul, number three and the most current piece of Mr. Nelwamondo’s contains additional information. Nothing is better than having something bigger than normal or having many of the standard model. As the analogy applies to LTE microwave backhaul, bigger or wider channels will increase capacity, of course. A larger hose sprays more water. Or if you have two or three or more hoses pumping in parallel that will also support comparatively more water volume. The same is true of multiple microwave channels.

However, the most truly and cost effective capacity hiking approach is proper network planning. Mr. Nelwamondo points out that in Africa—more than some places—mobile operators are involved in transitioning from TDM planning to IP planning. While TDM planning was dependent on finding the peak traffic requirement per link, IP planning allows the flexibility to anticipate a normalized rate of traffic with contingencies to “borrow” capacity from elsewhere in a backhaul ring network that is not currently being utilized. Along with several other IP-related features, this makes determining the capacity a lot more of a gray area. Some operators solve this by simply “over-dimensioning” by providing too much bandwidth for the actual data throughput needed, but most cannot afford to do this.

The fourth and final entry in Mr. Nelwamondo’s series will appear soon on other LTE backhaul considerations of which you may not have thought. Sign up below to be notified when it is available. [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

If Microwave Didn’t Exist for Small Cells, We’d Have to Invent It!

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Microwave backhaul is being reassessed as a strategy for small cell LTE traffic aggregation on business campuses. Photo credit: cbmd / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Small cells get all the press! As LTE rolls out in networks on every continent except Antarctica, small cells are grabbing headlines in technology trades and geek fan-boy blogs across the Internet. They’ll be needed sooner or later to provide LTE access in all those places around corners of buildings on business campuses, in urban parks surrounded by concrete canyons and other inaccessible locations. But little or only passing thought is paid to the ways in which small cell traffic will be aggregated back to the main network.

However, in a new FierceWireless ebook, microwave backhaul is pointed out as one of the critical strategies to provide throughput for all the small cell traffic to come. Microwave was here before small cell. And it’s such a good fit for small cell, if it had not already existed, we’d have to invent it now! Our director of product marketing, Stuart Little, tells FierceWireless that microwave meets the capacity needs of LTE backhaul. And Fierce adds modern microwave technology is changing the perceptions of its use for small cell backhaul.

Neither sleet nor rain nor changing K factors at night will stop microwave from small cell service. Specifically, Little tells Fierce that rain has little to no effect on microwave at the lower frequencies, and where it does have some effect in the higher bands, different technical techniques can help mitigate it. To find out more about small cell microwave backhaul, we recommend any of the Aviat blogs and related articles below. Or just read the FierceWireless ebook.