November 13, 2015
If you pay much attention to the mobile backhaul space, you may have noticed a big press launch this week by Ericsson and Cisco for a new partnership between the two tech giants. Both vendors will partner in the mobile backhaul space reselling each other’s solutions.
Analysts inside and outside the backhaul space have been hot to lodge their points of view on this combination. But as in William Shakespeare’s overused quote about “the sound and the fury” it might signify nothing. OK, that’s a bit of an overstatement, but there’s less here than meets the eye.
Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good ‘story’
Let’s take a look at the facts, as commonly understood in the industry. While Cisco is the 800 lb. gorilla in the IP networking room, when it comes to cell site routers it’s less than a 90 lb. weakling for microwave backhaul. Truly, Ericsson ranks high among microwave backhaul vendors, but its IP routers are not top-shelf offerings and leave much to be desired. You may think, well that was the point of the announcement: for Cisco and Ericsson to bolster each other’s relative portfolio failings by teaming up.
However, just as two wrongs do not make a right, a duo of less-than-optimal products cannot have the makings of a No. 1 contender. The shortcomings of both vendors’ kit are still present. Customers do gain the advantage of having one throat to choke, but they will just be choking the same throat twice as often.
Tried-and-tired method of microwave and IP
The underlying tried-and-tired method of using a different microwave radio and IP router in conjunction to solve Layer 3 issues in microwave backhaul still remains: individual devices living separate operational lives. Like a divorced couple staying in the same house, they may talk to each other when they must, but they don’t really like to. So, too, do microwave radios and IP routers have the ability to communicate, but they’re not designed to interact and honestly they’re not very good at it.
Which brings us to the inspiration for the integrated microwave router—the CTR 8000 platform from Aviat Networks. As we’ve made the case before, CTR 8000 microwave routers have been engineered from the ground up to function natively in both the microwave and IP communications worlds. The two technologies function seamlessly within one device. And existing as one piece of gear, a microwave router is easier to deploy and manage in the mobile backhaul network than a pair of randomly cobbled together radio and networking boxes.
In addition, with Aviat’s coded-for-microwave-networking software, ProVision, the leading network management system, admins at Network Operation Centers (NOCs) have full monitoring and management capability. They can see with minimal latency just how effectively microwave and IP activities are being carried out by CTR.
To find out more about the family of CTR 8000 microwave routers, we invite you to see our video that explains the benefits in crystalline detail.
August 18, 2015
The microwave radio business: a small community in a niche market where everybody tends to know each other. However, if your involvement in the microwave backhaul space goes back any length of time, no doubt you recognize the outside influence that industry analyst firms play within the industry. The analysts at Heavy Reading, Sky Light Research, Infonetics and a handful of others play a prominent role in shaping opinions about microwave radio solutions providers as well as the solutions themselves.
Reports from these analyst research firms remain very important even in a tight-knit place like microwave backhaul. They can make or break the business environment for microwave vendors for months—or years—at a time. For example, Infonetics issued its latest “Microwave Strategies and Vendor Leadership” survey results at the end of June. In this survey, 23 operators—from incumbent to competitive to pure mobile—laid bare their perceptions of not only the dedicated microwave specialist solution providers but also the telecom generalists who dabble in wireless backhaul infrastructure as an afterthought.
What emerged captivates the collective commercial consciousness.
Representing 33 percent of all capital telecom expenditures made worldwide in 2014, the 23 operators polled by Infonetics revealed just what microwave-oriented issues interest them ranked in order from most important to least significant. For 2015, the top five considerations in microwave equipment for the operators in descending order are:
Among all the microwave specialists, Aviat placed first in product reliability, service and support and management solutions. Aviat also placed first in four other categories.
These other categories that also made the list somewhat lower down in Infonetics’ survey have much importance for operators but had their presence muted due to survey methodology, perhaps. For example, solution breadth and technology innovation did not make the top five but without them the operators’ very strong desires for sophisticated and robust microwave solution features such as cross polarization (83 percent rated very important) and high system gain (78 percent rated very important) could not reach fulfillment.
Infonetics did not survey how operators perceive solution providers on specific product features, but objectively Aviat leads not just the microwave only providers but all microwave providers with its extra high power Eclipse IRU 600 EHP +39 dBm radio and across the board support for XPIC (i.e., cross-polarization interference cancellation) on a number of products.
Full disclosure: Aviat also rated número uno for solution breadth and technology innovation among all microwave specialists.
Overall, Aviat Networks was rated No. 1 by Infonetics’ operator survey respondents.
August 7, 2014
As one of the most anticipated network technologies, Voice over LTE (VoLTE) has been discussed by operators for years. The expectation was that deployments would start in 2013, but roll-outs in North America were delayed.
Operators have faced a series of issues that include poor voice quality and long call establishment times. Once these problems are solved, it is expected that VoLTE will allow operators to provide voice and data services using an integrated packet network. As the problems described show, the implementation of VoLTE presents challenges for the entire LTE ecosystem including microwave backhaul.
We have produced a white paper to describe some of the VoLTE requirements that must be met in order to overcome these technical challenges, which must encompass a flexible microwave backhaul as a key factor for a successful transition to all-packet voice and video VoLTE networks. A brief introduction to VoLTE is presented and then different VoLTE backhaul requirements are described with possible solutions.
Click here to download a white paper on this subject titled “VoLTE and the IP/MPLS Cell Site Evolution”.
July 11, 2013
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.
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July 3, 2013
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.
April 26, 2013
Competitive licensing of fixed microwave backhaul bandwidth is a bad idea. And it should not go any further. The reasons why are laid bare in a new article in IEEE Spectrum by former electrical engineer and current telecom law firm partner Mitchell Lazarus. In general, he argues against federal spectrum auctions for microwave frequencies, and in particular for fixed microwave links. Undoubtedly, readers are familiar with the large cash bounties governments around the world have netted from competitive bidding on cellular bandwidth—first 3G and now 4G. An inference can be drawn from Lazarus’ article that some governments (i.e., the United States, the United Kingdom) had in mind a similar, if perhaps smaller, revenue enhancement through competitive auctions of microwave channels.
The problem lies in the fallacious thinking that operating fixed point-to-point wireless backhaul bandwidth is comparable to that of mobile spectrum. Whereas mobile spectrum license holders can expect to mostly—if not fully—use the frequencies for which they have paid top dollar, the same has not historically been true of license holders of microwave backhaul bandwidth. In most cases, mobile license holders have a virtual monopoly for their frequencies on a national, or at least regional, basis. Their base stations send and receive cellular phone signals omnidirectionally. They expect throughput from any and all places. So they have paid a premium to make sure no competitors are on their wavelengths causing interference.
On the other hand, U.S. holders of microwave backhaul licenses have specific destinations in mind for the operation of their point-to-point wireless networks. They only need to communicate between proverbial Points A and B. And, historically, they have only sought licenses to operate in their particular bandwidth on a particular route. They had no need to occupy all of their licensed frequency everywhere. That would be a waste. They just have to make sure they have a clear signal for the transmission paths they plan to use. To do that, before licensing, they would collaborate with other microwave users in the vicinity and a frequency-coordination firm to establish an interference-free path plan. Any conceivable network issues would usually be resolved at this stage prior to seeking a license from the Federal Communications Commission. Essentially, the FCC is just a glorified scorekeeper for fixed microwave services, passively maintaining its transmitter location license database.
But starting in 1998, with dollar signs in their eyes, governmental spectrum auctioneers started to sell off microwave frequencies in block licenses. The need for fixed microwave wireless services then was growing and has only grown fiercer with each additional iPhone and iPad that has been activated. However, access device throughput demand on one side of a base station does not necessarily fully translate all the way to the backhaul. Lazarus points out the example of now defunct FiberTower and its failure to make block microwave licenses work economically. After buying national block microwave backhaul licenses at 24 and 39 GHz, Lazarus notes, the firm resold the frequencies to Sprint and a county 911 emergency network operator. But those were the only customers. Lacking a robust enough utilization of its licensed backhaul frequencies, FiberTower had several hundred of its licenses revoked by the FCC and was forced into bankruptcy November 2012.
Subsequent auctions have attracted far fewer bidders and generated much less income for the Treasury Department. Much bandwidth has lain fallow as a result. And infrastructure buildout has stagnated.
Regulators should return the microwave backhaul licensing process to that of letting wireless transmission engineers cooperate informally among themselves, with the help of frequency-coordination firms, to arrive at fixed point-to-point wireless plans in the public interest. These are then submitted only for maintenance by the FCC or other regulators for traditionally nominal license fees—currently $470 per transmitter site for 10 years in the U.S., per Lazarus.
Forget the quixotic quest for chimerical hard currency. The commonweal demands it. You should demand it of the regulators—you can still give input regarding this scheme in some jurisdictions where it is under consideration. Clearly, the most efficient use of spectrum is to make it openly available to all because it means that every scrap of commercially useful spectrum is picked clean. We welcome your comments pro or con.
November 16, 2012
One of the great things about the microwave radio market today is the diversity of products available to network operators. But like many situations where there is a glut of options, it tends to put more stress on making the right choice.
An operator looking at products in the microwave radio sector will notice that there are three general categories of product to choose from: all-indoor, split-mount and all-outdoor, and within each, they are myriad different flavors.
All-outdoor radios are the most recent addition to the microwave radio party, and for the sake of easy reference, I’ll refer to them as ODRs (outdoor radios). These self-contained systems incorporate the traffic interfaces, switching/multiplexing elements, radio modem and radio transceiver—all packaged in a weatherproof outdoor housing. By contrast, an outdoor unit (ODU) used in split-mount systems only contains the radio transceiver, which connects to a radio modem embedded in an indoor unit (IDU). In a split-mount radio system, the IDU also provides the traffic interfaces and switching/multiplexing elements.
The rationale for ODRs is straightforward—networks are getting denser, new sites are getting smaller and established sites more densely populated. Space for equipment such as IDUs is at a premium and costs of upgrading sites with bigger equipment shelters is often not viable or possible due to site constraints. As a result, more network devices are being repackaged for deployment outdoors on supporting structures such as towers, walls or masts. Advances in electronics have made microwave radios viable for all-outdoor treatment, so ODRs came into being.
They did so to a fanfare of claims that pointed to fantastic gains in terms of operator TCO (total cost of ownership). No doubt, an ODR can deliver cost benefits, but it is important to fully scope and quantify those benefits, because although ODRs represent simplification in terms of product architecture, most networks have remained stubbornly complex. In practical terms, this means for each type of site in the network an operator needs to closely examine the gains an ODR might generate vs. a split-mount radio, for example. Our experience is that ODRs provide the most operator benefits at sites where:
Once operators consider sites with requirements beyond this scope—usually the majority—then ODRs (somewhat ironically) start to generate complexity and cost. This becomes manifest in the form of multiple Ethernet cable runs, multiple power cable runs, multiple PoE injectors, multiple lightning protection devices and, in some cases, the need for a separate outdoor Ethernet switch.
Even at modestly complex sites, the overhead costs ODRs can generate mean that a split-mount radio will often be a more effective option and deliver better TCO, assuming space can be found. On that note it is worth highlighting that IDUs already deployed at such sites are often modular and can be scaled without consuming any additional rack space, and the most advanced fixed (i.e., non-modular) IDUs only consume a half-rack unit of space.
On the surface, the case for ODRs can seem compelling but before jumping in, I would encourage operators to carefully examine how marketing claims translate into meaningful (real) TCO gains.
I am convinced ODRs represent a new and potentially very useful product category for microwave radio, but they are not a panacea; our experience (at Aviat Networks) is that optimum TCO is based on a mix of split-mount and all-outdoor radios (i.e., one “size” does not fit all).
So there you have it, in the right environment, an ODR can offer a winning formula but in other situations, it may not work so well. An old saying comes to mind: Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in a fruit salad.
Next time, we will examine ODRs in more detail, how they differ and how to choose the best option for your network.
Product Marketing Manager
October 23, 2012
There is real concern from operators that utility, streetlight and traffic poles are not designed to meet the minimum twist and sway standards for deploying microwave solutions for small cell backhaul. Our research suggests that not all poles are created equal, however. Under certain circumstances these structures can be an option for deploying microwave backhaul for small cells.
Twist and sway requirements for towers and poles that support microwave backhaul hops are more stringent than for other RF equipment. This is especially true for deployments in frequency bands above 18 GHz where the antenna beamwidth is narrower than below 18 GHz. Standards such as the TIA-222-G set a minimum twist and sway that a structure should be able to endure for hosting a microwave installation. This creates concerns for operators interested in deploying microwave for small cell backhaul on structures including utility, streetlight and traffic poles that are not designed to meet this standard. Although the use of a sturdy structure is always recommended a close look at utility, streetlight and traffic poles suggests that under certain circumstances these structures can be an option for deploying microwave backhaul for small cell.
The installation of any equipment on existing poles—including small cell and backhaul radios and antennas—will necessarily change the weight and wind loading characteristics of the deployment pole. This will require a structural analysis to verify if the existing pole still meets the standards or the commercial criteria set by the pole manufacturer. For more information on Aviat’s analysis of pole sway for small cell backhaul see our PDF.
Marketing Engineering Specialist
September 28, 2012
Carrier Ethernet (CE) transport networks are growing in both scale and complexity, requiring both vendors and operators to deliver solutions to sustain their growth. To help address this, Aviat Networks recently participated in the European Advanced Networking Testing Center’s (EANTC) annual multi-vendor interoperability testing event to validate several aspects of scaling CE networks, among other things.
Increasing CE network sizes increase the complexity of management—especially from a services perspective—when CE services span multiple network domains. The ability to partition management domains and effectively manage alarms that accurately identify and propagate notification of network faults, dramatically speeds up the fault isolation and resolution process across large networks. Utilizing and effectively implementing “Hierarchical Service OAM” in growing CE networks is valuable to overcoming this challenge and was a key area of the recent interoperability testing.
Another critical aspect of growth is dealing with multi-technology—not just multi-vendor—interoperability. As CE networks scale, there is an increasing mix of Ethernet switching, MPLS and, most recently, MPLS-TP internetworking emerging. One potentially complex area that was also tested was validating the operation and survivability of intersecting Ethernet and MPLS-TP rings in a multi-homed topology. The “ERPSv2 and VPLS Interworking” test validated that standards-based G.8032 Ethernet protected rings and MPLS-TP VPLS rings can interoperate, or more significantly “co-operate,” to allow complex multi-technology networks to deliver reliable end-to-end services.
To learn about these aspects of scaling and dealing with complex CE networks check out the EANTC white paper for more details.
Sr. Product and Solutions Marketing Manager
July 13, 2012
Public safety agencies will soon experience a dramatic improvement in communications capabilities enabled by advances in technology. New broadband multimedia applications will give first responders and commanders alike far better situational awareness, thereby improving both the effectiveness and safety of all personnel charged with protecting the public.
The specific technology, now mandated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for all new emergency communications networks, is Long Term Evolution, or LTE—a fourth-generation (4G) broadband solution. The FCC has also allocated licensed spectrum to ensure the best possible performance in these new networks. These FCC rulings support the goal of achieving an interoperable nationwide network for public safety agencies.
The FCC chose LTE based on its proven ability to support voice, video and data communications at remarkably high data rates that were previously only possible with wired links. Although there will be some differences in a nationwide public safety network involving capacity and coexistence with Land-Mobile Radio communications, lessons learned from LTE’s deployment in large-scale commercial mobile operator networks will help ensure agencies are able to achieve the FCC’s goal cost-effectively.
July 4, 2012
Traffic disconnect is unacceptable for most microwave systems, especially for homeland security and utilities. But Aviat Networks Principal Engineer Dick Laine says that it is economically unviable to have a microwave radio system that provides absolutely 100 percent uptime to accommodate every possible traffic downtime scenario. He adds that towers, waveguides and all other hardware and infrastructure would have to be completely bulletproof. This is true of every telecommunication system.
However, with protection schemes and diversity arrangements in today’s wireless communication solutions, microwave transmission can get very close to mitigating against long-term traffic outages (i.e., > 10 CSES, consecutive severely errored seconds) and short-term traffic outages (i.e., < 10 CSES).
In pursuit of the 100 percent uptime goal, Dick goes over many of the strategies available in the newest video in the Radio Head Technology Series, for which there is complimentary registration. For example, there are many approaches to protection, including Hot Standby and Space Diversity. In particular, Dick points out Frequency Diversity has advantages over many protection schemes, but few outside the federal government are able to obtain the necessary waivers in order to use it. Hybrid Diversity uses both Space Diversity and Frequency Diversity to create a very strong protection solution. A case study outlining Hybrid Diversity is available.
Other concepts Dick covers in this fifth edition of Radio Heads includes error performance objectives, bit error rate, data throughput, errorless switching, equipment degradation, antenna misalignment, self-healing ring architecture and something called the “Chicken Little” alarm.
June 20, 2012
Ever wonder which antenna polarization is more susceptible to rain outage? Vertical? Horizontal? Which should you use for very long hops?
What would you do besides add extra fade margin to mitigate rain outage? Design a shorter path or use a lower frequency band?
Aviat Networks’ microwave radio guru, Principal Engineer Dick Laine, tackles these tricky questions and others in the latest episode of our Radio Head Technology Series of videos.
Dick also talks about rain outage—as calculated by ITU using a simple scientific calculator, or computer programs (Starlink) that use the Crane model. He goes through an ITU-R availability calculation in one example, noting specifically about rain attenuation calculation above and below 30 degrees latitude. Dick then proceeds into a deep dive on calculating outage when you know the fade margin, followed by a discussion on the Crane rain attenuation model.
Aviat Networks invites our readers to register to be added to our Radio Heads distribution list to get notified of new Radio Head Technology Series releases and links to replays.