August 5, 2011
Last year in August, Aviat Networks presented its argument for why fiber optics technology isn’t everything where backhaul of wireless networks is concerned. If anything, this point has only been reinforced by analyses and anecdotal stories showing that fiber can be overkill for the mobile backhaul requirements of LTE wireless. Plus, there is the simple truth that fiber cannot be deployed to every cell site due to financial and topological issues. That’s why microwave technology remains the world’s first choice for backhauling wireless networks. So let’s look at last year’s FierceWireless webinar slide presentation and refresh our memories.
These slides present the findings of an Ovum survey of North America’s largest backhaul players to understand their strategies regarding media types used to supply cell-site backhaul.
Ovum found that demand for wireless backhaul equipment in North America will continue to grow as mobile operators upgrade their networks to support higher-speed LTE networking technologies. The most common backhaul strategy for mobile operators in the region comprises leasing services over fiber combined with owning and operating microwave-based facilities. Microwave has a distinct advantage vis-a-vis leased services over the long-term due to the opex associated with leasing.
If you would like to see more, you may register for the on-demand replay of the full webinar. It will also present the latest trends and advancements in microwave transmission technology that support the evolution of mobile backhaul networks to all-IP.
July 29, 2011
The cloud is an all-encompassing thing that’s actually been around for a while (e.g. distributed computing, Network Attached Storage). Most of it exists today in the enterprise but is being pushed to the Internet and rebranded “The Cloud.” This affects three wireless networking segments: consumers (e.g., you, me, mom, dad), Internet providers (e.g., mobile operators, ILECs, CLECs) and wireless solutions vendors (e.g., Symmetricom, Aviat Networks).
For consumers, it represents the ability to store information—pictures, music, movies—virtually and access them wherever we go from devices of our choice. No longer do we have to worry about backing up smartphones, tablets or laptops. The downside is that this magic is going on in the background all while your data caps are being reached. So, watch out….
On the mobile operator side, this will represent a substantial increase in bandwidth used. In addition, bandwidth usage starts to become more symmetrical as more uplink bandwidth is utilized while uploading to the cloud. This also means more frequency consumption on the RAN-side as subscribers stay “on” more often. Operators need to figure how to get users off the air interface as quickly as possible. This calls for greater throughput and potentially much lower latency. Trickling data to end users compounds the air interface problem. For the most part, subscribers won’t realize what’s happening and data caps are more likely to be reached. This translates into either more revenue and/or dissatisfied customers. Clearly, operators must monetize transport more effectively and at the same time provide more bandwidth.
Lastly, for wireless solutions vendors this translates into increased sales of wireless equipment to ease the sharp increase in bandwidth consumption. This also translates into more intelligent and robust network designs (e.g., physical and logical meshes, fine-grained QoS controls) as subscribers rely more on network access for day-to-day activities. As for the cloud in general and the overall effect:
Therefore, the amount of bandwidth consumption will rise dramatically this September when Apple releases iOS 5 and iCloud. Android has already driven much bandwidth demand, but it’s not nearly as “sexy” as what Apple is releasing for its 220 million users—or alternately total iOS devices: iPod touch, iPad, iPhone). It’s more than just bandwidth—it’s quality, reliable bandwidth where QoS and Adaptive Modulation will play significant roles—of this, I’m certain.
At a recent TNMO event they were talking about LTE-Advanced and leveraging the cloud for virtual hard drives. Imagine, no physical hard drive in your computer. Laptops are connected via 4G wireless/5G LTE wireless to a cloud-based hard drive, equating to lots and lots of bandwidth plus stringent latency requirements….
Director of Product and Solutions Marketing, Aviat Networks
July 27, 2011
Managing a wireless network is essential. Radios, routers and third-party add-ons control vast amounts of valuable user data. Any wireless network downtime damages the user’s business and the operator’s long-term reputation. Thus, operators need a powerful but easy-to-use element management system (EMS) to monitor and administer all the disparate elements in their wireless communication networks.
Also, operators should be able to manage complete networks from a user-friendly interface, which must provide all the necessary information for fast network management system decision-making. And this system must be capable of complete standalone operation or being integrated into an operational support system using NorthBound Interfaces (NBIs).
Other additional functionality in the form of event management and notifications capability is also necessary in an EMS for wireless networks. An EMS should inform wireless operators about network events and device failures and let them to diagnose problems and apply network updates remotely. This reduces the time between a fault occurring and the fault being repaired. It may even allow a repair to be completed before a wireless link fails completely. For day-to-day management, operators need an EMS that can:
Fortunately, such a carrier-class EMS solution does exist. Aviat Networks develops its ProVision EMS based on customer demand and continues to upgrade it as per user requests and requirements. For customers, implementing ProVision is vastly more efficient than developing an in-house EMS, saving time, resources and money. Aviat Networks EMS solutions are the most cost-effective way to manage wireless solutions. Aviat Networks works closely with customers to make sure that ProVision is user-friendly. The goal is that ProVision EMS allows operators to manage their networks proactively—rather than reactively—and with reduced network operating costs.
Look for future blog posts on must-have EMS data features and stats on operators using carrier-class EMS.
Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Aviat Networks
July 22, 2011
Microwaves are as old as the beginning of the universe. Well, they’ve been around for at least 13.7 billion years—very close to the total time since the Big Bang, some 14 billion years ago. However, we don’t want to go that far back in covering the history of microwave communications.
Having just observed the 155th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla, arguably the most important inventor involved in radio and wireless communications, this is a good time to take a broader view of the wireless industry. If you have been in the wireless transmission field for some time, you are probably familiar with Dick Laine, Aviat Networks‘ principal engineer. He has taught a wireless transmission course for many years—for Aviat Networks and its predecessor companies.
The embedded presentation below comes from one of those courses. In a technological field filled with such well-educated scientists and engineers from some of the finest universities and colleges, it’s hard to believe that microwave solutions and radio itself started in so much controversy by men who were in many cases self-taught. Dick’s presentation goes over all of this in a bit more detail. Hopefully, it’s enough to whet your appetite to find out more. If you like the presentation, consider hearing it live or another lecture series on wireless transmission engineering at one of our open enrollment training courses.
July 1, 2011
In response to the recent FCC docket 10-153, many stakeholders proposed relaxing antennas requirements so as to allow the use of smaller antennas in certain circumstances. This is an increasingly important issue as tower rental costs can be as high as 62 percent of the total cost of ownership for a microwave solutions link. As these costs are directly related to antenna size, reducing antenna size leads to a significant reduction in the cost of ownership for microwave equipment links.
The Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition (FWCC), of which Aviat Networks is a major contributor, proposed a possible compromise that would leave Category A standards unchanged while relaxing Category B standards. The latter are less demanding than Category A, and after some further easing, might allow significantly smaller antennas. The rules should permit the use of these smaller antennas where congestion is not a problem, and require upgrades to better antennas where necessary.
A further detailed proposal from Comsearch proposed a new antenna category known as B2, which would lead to a reduction in antenna size of up to 50 percent in some frequency bands. This would be a significant cost saving for link operators.
At the present time, the industry is waiting for the FCC to deliberate on the responses to its 10-153 docket, including those on reducing antenna size.
See the briefing paper below for more information.
Regulatory Manager, Aviat Networks
June 10, 2011
TDD, or Time Division Duplex, where a single radio channel is used to send and receive data, has been a common technique employed in unlicensed microwave transmission bands, such as 2.4 and 5.8GHz. The advantage of TDD is a simplified and lower cost design, often based upon 802.11 standards. In contrast, FDD, or Frequency Division Duplex, where data is transmitted in one frequency channel and received in another (separated by anywhere from less than 100 to more than 1,000 MHz) has been the staple of licensed frequency bands between 2 and 38 GHz worldwide.
Now, a number of the CEPT recommendations for the new point to point bands over 40GHz contain provisions for TDD operation. TDD is accommodated either as an alternative band plan or a mixed TDD/FDD band plan, in addition to the more common FDD band plan. However, CEPT recommendations are only just that—recommendations. How these bands will be implemented in each country will be determined by the individual national regulatory authority.
Recently, we asked a number of European national regulators about if and how they would introduce TDD operation in these new bands. The general response was that they were not opposed to the introduction of TDD in principle, and that such operation would have to be worked into existing or revised band plans. One complication raised was that spectrum would have to be reserved for guard bands between TDD and FDD segments within the same band. Regulators usually try to avoid having to waste valuable spectrum in this way. Also, once a band plan is established and the spectrum allocated to users, efforts to introduce TDD operation at a later date is extremely difficult.
Some regulators have already issued new national band plans at 42GHz and above, and to date none of these allow for TDD operation. Furthermore, for countries that have allocated new bands through spectrum auction, there we see the usual FDD style symmetric band approach.
Despite the appeal of TDD operation from a cost perspective, early indications are that although provision for TDD operation is being made in these higher bands, practical complications and concerns over maximizing the use of new bands may prevent its widespread introduction.
What are your thoughts on using TDD more in national band plans? Leave a comment, if you’d please.
Regulatory Manager, Aviat Networks
May 11, 2011
Even though microwave communications have some built-in security-like features such as scrambling, narrow beamwidth, proprietary airframe, coding and other factors, it is not very hard for them to be broken by those with the proper expertise. Some vendors even openly offer digital microwave interception systems for “legitimate” monitoring. This and the growing sophistication and willingness of those attempting to break into wireless networks makes a high level of security for microwave more important than ever.
Historically, security and encryption measures were primarily employed by government or defense agencies or by the financial industry to protect sensitive information. But in today’s connected world the issue of network security can apply to any type of communications network, whether it is fixed, mobile or private.
Is Microwave Ready?
In general, microwave packet radio security is a concern. However, there are different aspects of microwave radio protection that must be considered. The information payload of microwave communications is the most obvious part. For operators that participate in the public switched telephone network (PSTN), the main issue is the security of the communications traffic they are carrying. That would involve both voice and data traffic.
Both popular and scholarly publications have been rife with stories of how easy it has become to tap into mobile calls. For example, the GSM code has been ineffective arguably since a hack was announced in August 2009. With GSM encryption broken, degraded or bypassed, mobile phone calls and text messages can be monitored and diverted by snooping parties. This can happen even before they get to the basestation. The BBC recently demonstrated GSM hacking in an online video.
Once calls and messages are in the mobile backhaul network, in many cases, no encryption is applied at all—not even the broken GSM code. In the past, hackers would have had to buy or by some other means obtain radio equipment identical to that they wanted to take over illegally. This was not an obstacle for those intent on industrial or governmental espionage, but it put it beyond the means of the run-of-the-mill hacker who has become familiar since the mid-1990s. Even if the hacking was not beyond the average hacker’s technical capabilities, it was beyond his economic capabilities. Now commercially available microwave monitoring equipment can be employed to pick out communications channels, to listen and record all conversation and ambient noises for up to 72 hours. One research firm also demonstrated how cell towers can be spoofed to intercept communications.
Another aspect of microwave security encompasses how secure is the management of the network. Even if the payload of a microwave backhaul network is secure, the management may not be, allowing hackers or others with malevolent motives to drop or kill traffic. Unsecure management channels can allow them to create mismatched frequency settings between radio pairs, reconfigure circuitry or reroute payload traffic to another radio if a cross-connect is present. For example, there was an instance where unauthorized users took control of a motorized antenna and repeatedly sent instructions for the motor to adjust the position of the antenna, eventually draining the batteries for the entire site, rendering it “dead.” However, with the shift to the all IP/Ethernet network of the future, hackers are finding ways to wreak havoc on backhaul networks from their desktop PCs, smartphones and other powerful mobile computing devices.
Access control of the microwave network is also a cause for concern. It is critical that only authorized personnel are allowed to log onto the administration of a microwave backhaul network. Like many computer-based systems, microwave radios are set up with some basic logon access procedures. Oftentimes, the logon screen will not look very dissimilar from the typical Windows or Macintosh workstation. There will be a dialog box for a username and a password. However, unlike the typical desktop computer, a microwave radio’s graphical user interface is not logged onto that much. Therefore, as per human nature, their usernames and passwords become all too predictable. “Root” and “admin” and “123456” and “password” were very popular as usernames and passwords, respectively, according to one security study. A “mechanized” or “dictionary” attack can randomly generate username-and-password combinations and succeed in unlawfully logging onto a radio on this premise: that the logon will be subject to people being creatures of habit. Thus, there must be a way for microwave network administration to enforce a hard-to-guess username/password security policy.
Another aspect to access control is the issue of the level of control. It is also essential to control what each legitimate user is allowed to perform once logged in—to prevent voluntary and involuntary damaging actions. Not only must users be limited to their area of responsibility and knowledge and avoid involuntary commands that could damage the network but also reserve critical activity for designated key personnel (e.g., cryptography officers).
Would my Radio Network be Secure?
Given the security issues around microwave payload, management and access control, many questions have been raised. Would my microwave radio network be safe from intrusion? What would be the impact of breached calls or text messages? There could always be potential for a Greece type of incident. More importantly, the proactive questions to ask about microwave network security include:
We’ll examine these questions more in future posts. Or see our white paper.
March 30, 2011
Based on microwave Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) model posted earlier, the most significant contributor to total cost is ongoing OPEX.
We see an increasing trend of operators making decisions on backhaul solution based mostly (sometimes solely) on price (or initial CAPEX). While initial CAPEX is important, if the goal is lowest cost, this can be problematic approach as initial CAPEX it is not the most significant contributor to total cost. Ongoing OPEX is key.
Perhaps a better approach would be to focus on features most impacting lowering total costs. For instance, adaptive coding and modulation can lower antenna sizes – which can reasonably reduce 10 year TCO by as much as $48,000 (which is 2-3x more than initial CAPEX). Deploying ring architectures with high layer (L2/L3 or packet-based) failure recovery techniques can enable lower per hop reliability and smaller antennas – further lowering costs.
Product Marketing, Aviat Networks
March 16, 2011
When choosing the right backhaul technology, total cost of a microwave system is a critical, often overlooked, consideration. TCO is not widely understood today. Lack of understanding of microwave TCO can lead to poor decisions about choice in backhaul technology and obscure the relative importance of features. Features that lower critical components of TCO are often not given enough attention.
A summary of a TCO model for a mobile operator in North America is shown below. Clearly, ongoing OPEX resulting from tower leases represent largest contributor to total cost. These lease costs include tower space for antennas and cable runs, shelter/cabinet space and power, and ongoing move/add/change fees regularly paid to tower companies. The largest portion of this tower lease is related to the antenna size. Microwave products and features that enable smaller antennas sizes, less indoor space, and fewer cables are most important for operators.
*Note: for private network applications (like state/local governments, public safety organizations, and utilities) who generally own towers, initial CAPEX is often higher, leading to an overall reduction in ongoing OPEX and TCO.
Make sure to check back next week for post #2 ” How Important is Initial CAPEX?” where I breakdown the true costs of initial and ongoing CAPEX.
Product Marketing, Aviat Networks
February 15, 2011
I must have counted nearly 30 vendors during the opening day at Mobile World Congress this year who are promoting some form of wireless backhaul solution. It seems like instead of consolidating the market it continues to expand and fragment like never before. Ten or 15 years ago I thought that the market could not support 20 vendors, but now things are hotter than ever.
There are the big guys (Ericsson, NSN, Huawei, Alcatel Lucent and NEC), the independent point-to-point (PTP) microwave providers like Ceragon (newly merged with Nera) and SIAE from Italy (part of the STM Group), to a myriad of small guys from all over the world. And then there are the other wanna-be backhaul solutions, like point-to-multipoint (PMP), free space optics (FSO), mesh, E-Band, etc.
There are also a slew of new products announced and on display (including two from Aviat Networks), including Ericsson, Ceragon, Trango, Comba and NEC. A lot of these new products are IP based and primarily all-outdoor, reflecting the ongoing trend in the industry for ‘zero footprint’, packet microwave systems for new 4G/LTE base station deployments.
With all of these players and products coming to market each year at Mobile World Congress it’s a must see event and I can’t wait for the next few days to unfold.
Director of Marketing, Aviat Networks