Rules of the Game: Low Latency Microwave in a Multi-Regulatory Environment

[潛伏Latency] Charcoal, watercolor, fire on paper, 2011. Photo credit: RedPapaya (栩) / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

[潛伏Latency] Charcoal, watercolor, fire on paper, 2011. Photo credit: RedPapaya (栩) / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Over the course of the last 18 months, a new application has grown by leaps and bounds for microwave networks: low latency. Low-latency microwave networks find most of their applicability in financial transactions, such as for executing trading instructions between major stock exchanges and trading houses in other cities.

Typically, low-latency microwave is used to “replace” traditional-fiber based networks linking financial centers. The business driver for microwave-instead-of-fiber in low latency is the time it takes to transmit trading instructions. With microwave, latency is reduced by a few milliseconds as compared to fiber. Nevertheless, those few milliseconds can translate into a trading edge over rival investors, which means big bucks. Low latency investors will pay a premium for this edge resulting in increased revenue for low-latency microwave network operators.

However, as with most financial functions, low latency is subject to a set of stringent regulations. The scenario is doubly difficult when low-latency microwave networks transmit across international boundaries. This compares to linking financial centers within a single country, which is relatively straightforward from a regulatory perspective because there is only one set of rules. The fact is when connecting financial centers in different nations and the operator’s network has to traverse other countries’ borders, the process becomes orders of magnitude more complex. Download the complete article for a fuller examination of some of these issues and why there should be widespread support for greater international harmonization of microwave regulation.

Ian Marshall
Regulatory Manager
Aviat Networks

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A (Personal) Milestone in Microwave Networking

aviat-networks-senior-network-engineer-shares-his-first-microwave-radio-path-plan-on-28th-anniversary-with-the-company-Ivan-says-I-am-showing-the-first-studio-transmitter-link-STL-design-I-did-in-January-1986-for-a-broadcaster-in-Louisiana-while-working-as-a-Proposals-Engineer-for-Harris-Broadcast-Microwave-in-Mountain-View-CA-The-antenna-heights-were-around-600-ft

Figure 1: Aviat Networks’ senior network engineer Ivan Zambrano shares his first microwave radio path plan on the occasion of his 28th anniversary with the company.

Recently, Aviat Networks was privileged to mark a milestone for one of its longest tenured and most distinguished employees, Ivan Zambrano. For 28 years, Ivan has dedicated his professional life to providing education and expert analysis to the microwave backhaul community, on the behalf of Aviat Networks and its corporate predecessors. As a senior engineer, Ivan teaches network transmission courses and other topics around the world on a regular basis.

However, Ivan got his start in the field. In fact, he still has the very first microwave radio path plan he ever created for a television station in Louisiana (Figure 1).

Together with the legendary Dick Laine (Figure 2), the two veteran microwave communications professionals have a combined 97 years of experience in the field. Unbelievably, Ivan actually has seniority over Dick (in the company at least). Dick has only been with us for a mere 26 years!

Between-Aviat-Networks-Dick-Laine-left-and-Ivan-Zambrano-right-the-two-microwave-radio-path-planners-have-97-years-experience-13Sep13

Figure 2: Dick Laine (left) and Ivan Zambrano have a combined 97 years of microwave experience.

To help celebrate the occasion, Aviat Networks CEO, president and board member Michael Pangia took some time to personally congratulate Ivan (Figure 3). So here’s to you Ivan! We’re all looking forward to at least another 28 years!

Aviat-Networks-CEO-president-and-board-member-Michael-Pangia-personally-contragulated-Ivan-Zambrano-on-his-28-years-with-Aviat

Figure 3: Aviat CEO Michael Pangia and Ivan.

If you’d be interested in having Ivan or Dick lend a hand (or bend an ear) on your microwave project, let us know by dropping a note below. Give us an idea about the type of training or consultation you need and any other pertinent details about the project.

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Public Safety Broadband Stakeholders Have to Decide

PSCR-hosted-the-Public-Safety-Broadband-Stakeholder-Conference-June-4-6-2013-in-Westminster-ColoradoIn the effort to build out the nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network, stakeholders are making themselves heard. They were heard at the Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Conference held last week, June 4-6, 2013, outside of Denver, Colo., hosted by the Public Safety Communications Research lab. It brought to the surface the many competing agendas local public safety network operators, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), wired and wireless vendors and even mobile app developers contend with.

Aviat Networks had a chance to sit down with Tammy Parker, editor of FierceBroadbandWireless, during the conference to discuss some of these issues, such as the debate on the effectiveness of fiber optic technology in backhauling public safety networks. The fact is that microwave indeed will be a key element in the design and implementation of the FirstNet mission-critical network. And fiber does not provide the reliability and survivability needed. In the commercial mobile telecom space, the poor survivability of fiber is tolerated, but when it comes down to crunch time when lives are on the line, public safety operators will take microwave over leased fiber.

Randy Jenkins, Aviat director of business development, expanded on this vital decision for public safety operators to make between microwave and fiber. “As a vendor vested in the public safety community for more than 50 years, Aviat understands its responsibility to find innovative ways of offering microwave solutions that can save CAPEX and OPEX in support of the biggest challenge FirstNet is addressing—not enough money. Aviat is bringing backhaul innovation to this program.”

The bottom line is that backhaul is always the bottleneck in any network planning. In that case, it’s important for public safety operators to address that aspect first, according to Tony Ljubicich, Aviat’s vice president of sales and services.

If you would like to hear more about how Aviat Networks is making microwave backhaul the best choice for FirstNet-ready public safety, leave your contact information and reference the upcoming webinar on public safety broadband backhaul for a major statewide network. We’ll let you know when it’s scheduled.

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What Does it Take to Get the Most out of Your Wireless Backhaul?

Wireless tower in Ghana. Photo credit: Rachel Strohm / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Many wireless operators, such as MTN in Ghana, need to optimize management of their networks and Aviat can help with products, services and software capabilities. Photo credit: Rachel Strohm / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Wireless backhaul operators, both mobile phone networks and others carrying dedicated traffic, face the constant issue of maximizing the functionality of their systems.

In the emerging markets around the world, the pressure can be most intense. Wireless network reliability, availability and capacity all need to be increased. Customer expectations are on the rise, and operators must take the appropriate steps to meet and exceed them.

In working with MTN Ghana, Aviat Networks recently completed an implementation to increase network visibility (i.e., intelligence) by close to one-third. Aviat’s professional services experts designed the mobile operator’s backhaul links for high capacity and resiliency. Using ProVision, Aviat’s leading network management software, MTN Ghana can now administer its wireless backhaul efficiently and effectively with a reduced level of manpower.

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Possibly the World’s Oldest Microwave Link Still in Service

John Lennon was still alive when Aviat's oldest microwave link first went operational in 1980.

John Lennon was still alive when Aviat’s oldest microwave link first went operational in 1980. Photo credit: Roy Kerwood / Foter.com / CC BY

The year was 1980. The Americans beat the Russians for the Olympic gold medal in hockey. John Lennon of The Beatles was killed. Mount St. Helens erupted. The Soviet Union had just invaded Afghanistan. Ronald Reagan was elected president. The hostages were still in Iran. People asked themselves, “Who shot J.R.?” and caught Pac-Man fever. Voyager 1 flew by Saturn and left the solar system. The Empire struck back. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd were on a “mission from God.” The Clash came calling on London. Led Zeppelin broke up. And Farinon Electric, Aviat Networks’ direct predecessor, put into service a series of analog microwave radio hops for the Canadian province of Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources. The radios in question were the SS2000 model.

The province used them to carry government data traffic for firefighters and police, where data bits were stuffed into 4kHz voice channels. Remarkably, 33 years later, three hops of these SS2000 radios are still in operation, making these, quite possibly, the world’s oldest continuously in-service microwave links.

Farinon SS2000 analog microwave radios were available for sale on eBay as recently as 2011! How’s that for durability?!

Farinon SS2000 analog microwave radio transmitters (but not entire units) were available for sale on eBay as recently as 2011! How’s that for longevity?!

Offering 120, 300 or 600 voice channels on the old 2GHz band, SS2000 radios were considered cutting-edge technology at the time—check out their cool retro-style data sheet—and highly reliable with their ability to provide microwave links despite the challenging weather and difficult propagation conditions of Nova Scotia—snow, ice, sleet, fog…they have it all! As proof, four other SS2000 radio hops were recently decommissioned and found to still be working up to spec as per the original, accepted level of performance. Then there was someone selling SS2000 radios on eBay in 2011!

But we challenge you, our loyal blog readers, to tell us of any even older microwave links that have been in operation for more than 33 years. So if you have an Aviat Networks link, or that from a predecessor company, which is still operating today and was installed before 1980, please comment! We want to hear from you!

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Know Your Microwave Backhaul Options

If you look in the November issue of MissionCritical Communications, you will see an article by Aviat Networks director of marketing and communications, Gary Croke. In his article “Know Your Microwave Backhaul Options,” Gary covers:

  • Benefits of using indoor, outdoor and split-mount microwave radios in various scenarios
  • Rationale for choosing microwave over fiber (especially for LTE)
  • Deployability of microwave
  • Software-upgradeable capacity for “pay-as-you-grow” capex scalability
  • Cost contribution of towers over the first 10 years of LTE implementation
  • And more

You can read Gary’s article (on page-30) here—MissionCritical Communications—November 2012.

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Record 180 km Hybrid Diversity IP Microwave Link

Survey view from Belize toward Honduras, at 1000 m AMSL

Survey view from Belize toward Honduras, at 1000 m AMSL

Link between Honduras and Belize Crosses Water and Land

Last year I wrote about the world’s longest all-IP microwave link, stretching 193 km over the Atlantic Ocean in Honduras. Aviat Networks and Telecomunicaciones y Sistemas S.A. (TELSSA) designed and implemented this link together. This year, Aviat Networks and TELSSA again worked together to build another link and achieve another record—an Eclipse microwave link between Honduras and Belize that crosses 75 km of the Atlantic Ocean and 105 km of rugged terrain for a total path length of 180 km. This is a new world record for a hybrid diversity microwave link!

After the success of implementing the 193km link over water, Aviat Networks and TELSSA were eager to meet the challenge to connect Honduras and the neighboring nation of Belize using a single microwave link. Aviat Networks network engineers and TELSSA engineers were able to use their extensive knowledge of local propagation conditions, thorough understanding of long path design principles and precise installation practices to successfully implement this 180km microwave link.

Long Path Design Considerations

As outlined in the article last year for the longest all-IP hop, a deep understanding of path design considerations and experience in microwave transmission path design are necessary to successfully complete a long path design. Key considerations involved:

  • The effect of antenna diameter on highly refractive paths
  • Precise alignment of the antennas to mitigate the effect of refractivity
  • Optimum RF and space diversity spacing to counter elevated divergent dielectric layers
  • Deterministic prediction of the variations of atmospheric conditions
  • Multi-path propagation delay

To read more about this world-record Hybrid Diversity IP microwave link, download the full article.

Ivan Zambrano
Senior Network Engineer
Aviat Networks

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The Modulation Arms Race: A Case of Diminishing Returns

English: A standard Quadrature Amplitude Modul...

A standard Quadrature Amplitude Modulation constellation (non-gray code) diagram showing a demonstrative 4-bit binary code pattern. (Phase offset and amplitude values may not represent those used in real life) (Photo credit: Chris Watts via Wikipedia)

There’s a new arms race in the microwave industry, and it’s over who can claim support for the highest QAM level. Now two vendors are out in the market fighting it out over who had 2048QAM first, yet go back a little more than 12 months and 512 or 1024QAM had barely hit the market. We even are seeing mentions of 4096QAM in some conference presentations. We here at Aviat Networks view these advances as a good thing for our industry, but this heavy marketing of 2048QAM does no one any favors, as it focuses purely on only one aspect of high modulationscapacityand ignores several other aspects that need to be understood, namely:

  • Capacity improvement diminishes with every higher modulation step
  • High modulations come with much lower radio system performancerequires shorter hops and/or larger antennas
  • High modulations are much more sensitive to interferencemakes link coordination difficult (if not impossible)
  • High modulations need higher Tx power, increased phase noise and linearityincreases radio design complexity cost

So as with most things that are presented as a cureall, higher order modulations are a useful tool to help operators address their growing backhaul capacity needs, but the catch is in the fine print. Operators will need to look at all the tools at their disposal, of which 1024/2048QAM is a useful option, albeit one that will require very careful planning and strategic deployment. In general, operators need practical solutions for capacity increases, as detailed in “Improving Microwave Capacity“.  In fact, speaking of practicalities, the real challenges with LTE backhaul has very little to do with capacity…as detailed by this article. For the complete “Modulations Arms Race” article, click here.

Stuart Little
Director, Corporate Marketing
Aviat Networks

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3 Models for Microwave Link Error Performance? Laine Explains

Dick Laine explains ITU-R models

In the second episode of Aviat Networks’ Radio Head Technology Series, Principal Engineer Dick Laine explains ITU-R models for Fixed Wireless Systems.

As most radio engineers know, Vigants calculations, which are discussed in a broadly cited Bell System Technical Journal article, are widely used to determine reliability or error performance for microwave link design. In Video 2 of Aviat Networks’ popular Radio Head Technology Series, which is now available for viewing, Principal Engineer Dick Laine explains how he uses Vigants calculations in conjunction with the three completely separate ITU-R Fixed Wireless System (FWS) models for TDM.

Because of all these models, he likes to use Vigants calculations as a “sanity check” to see that he is close to the correct result for his path engineering plans. The free Aviat Networks’ Starlink wireless path engineering tool can be used to handle Vigants calculations for Aviat Networks’ and other vendors’ equipment.

Can’t wait to hear more of Dick’s experienced views on microwave radio transmission engineering? You can get ahead of the learning curve by registering for the series and get these videos sent to your inbox as soon as they are released.

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Cloud Computing is Demanding Bandwidth

All I can say is watch out Mr. Mobile Operator. Google just launched their new Google Drive, a cloud-based product that replaces Google Docs. Drive adds the capability to essentially push all of your documents from various locations to the cloud for collaboration and synchronization to any device. This puts Google’s cloud-based capability on par with Apple’s iCloud service launched last year.

With the massive number of smartphones on the market and somewhere north of 45% being Android-based, this adds even more cloud-enabled devices to the mobile network. We’re talking about photos, videos, documents, etc… any type of file can be uploaded to your Drive on Android-based phones.

Add this to expanded/simplified Dropbox services, Microsoft’s SkyDrive that now provides 7GB of free storage and the many cloud storage products, and you’ve got a ton of data flowing across the mobile network in both directions (e.g. uplink and downlink).

Services like this will continue to fuel the subscriber appetite for more and more feature rich services at the same time fueling demand for ever increasing amounts of raw bandwidth all the way to the edge of the network. Those 8 megapixel photos or 1080P videos most newer smartphones take use a lot of space and therefore lots of bandwidth.

Steven Loebrich
Director, Partner and Solutions Marketing
Aviat Networks

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