Low Latency Microwave Crosses Europe for the First Time

financial-trades-depend-on-ultra-low-latency-microwave-point-to-point-wireless-networks

Successful financial trades depend on ultra low latency microwave networks. Photo credit: francisco.j.gonzalez / Foter.com / CC BY

Germany is well-known for its autobahn highway system, where there are no official speed limits. Now there is a new high-speed network that traverses Western Europe from Frankfurt in Germany to London in the UK.

In addition, you may have read elsewhere in recent weeks about low latency microwave networks being constructed in the United States in support of the financial markets. The busiest route there is between the financial centers in Chicago and New York, where microwave can shave off 5 milliseconds off the transmission time along the 700 mile (1,000 km) route when compared to fastest fiber network (13 milliseconds). This saving directly equates to revenue for trading houses that are able to leverage this speed advantage.

In the United States, planning and deploying a point-to-point (PTP) microwave network is relatively predictable and straightforward: acquire sites and avoid interference from other network operators. Where PTP wireless networks cross state boundaries, a network operator need only deal with the national telecom regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), when obtaining required licenses to operate the microwave system.

But in Europe, this is a very different matter. While trans-European fiber networks have been a reality for many years, a microwave route like London to Frankfurt must traverse several national borders, forcing operators to deal with multiple regulators, with complex negotiations needed for microwave paths that cross national boundaries. For this reason very few—if any—microwave networks of this type have been built, up until now. However, the opportunities offered by the combination of the new low latency sector, along with the performance advantage of microwave over fiber, have now made the case  for these kinds of networks compelling enough to outweigh the challenges, and costs, of planning and implementing them.

For a low-latency microwave network servicing the financial sector on the London-to-Frankfurt route, there are a number of major challenges beyond just identifying and securing suitable sites and coordinating frequencies. The difficulty of planning a long trunk route is also greatly exacerbated by going through the densely urbanized region of Western Europe. This results in a constant iteration between finding the right route, identifying accessible sites, and securing required microwave frequencies. To be successful you need all three—a site on a great route is useless if no microwave spectrum is available. All the while, there are other competing providers all trying to complete the same route in the fastest time possible—not only in latency terms, but also time to revenue.

This poses huge potential pitfalls in having to take the long way around, requiring additional sites and links, if a site is not available. The added latency caused by any such deviation could kill the entire project. This race is like no other in the microwave business—whoever is fastest wins first prize, and it is winner take all in this competition. The potential revenue for the London-to-Frankfurt low-latency path is quite staggering, even on a regular day, but on busy days when the market is volatile the potential can be much higher.  Operators can plan on recouping their total investment in the microwave network in well under a year. Then once you have the most direct route, compared to your competitors, your problems may not be over, so it can come down to squeezing those extra few microseconds, or even nanoseconds, out of your equipment.

On this particular route there is also one significant natural barrier to contend with—the English Channel. There are only a few ways across that are short enough to allow a reliable microwave path, space diversity protection is a must and only a few towers are tall enough to support these distances. Even though there are no obstacles over the channel (apart from the occasional container ship), towers need to be high enough to allow the microwave signal to shoot over the bulge of the earth. Again, securing tower space at these sites is critical to success, but also obtaining the right to use one or more of a finite pool of available frequency channels, otherwise fiber may be needed across this stage, adding latency. One group even took the step of purchasing a microwave site in the Low Countries to secure it precisely for this purpose.

London to Frankfurt will only be the start for low latency microwave networks in Europe, as there is always a need and an opportunity to provide competitive transmission services to other financial centers throughout the continent. The winners will be those with the speed and agility to quickly seize these opportunities, along with working with the right microwave partner who can help them with the intensely complex business of planning and deploying these trans-national networks, and who can also supply microwave systems with ultra-low latency performance.

We will have more to say publicly on this topic in the near future. Or if you prefer not to wait that long, we would be more than happy to have a private conversation about low-latency microwave with you.

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Aviat Networks in the News: Highlights & What’s Ahead in Wireless

France Télécom phone booth in Wellington, New ...

Image via Wikipedia

This month we have a few technology updates from our travels abroad to London and Amsterdam where we presented our perspectives on backhaul at two LTE conferences.

In May, Stuart Little, our director of global corporate marketing, presented at an LTE backhaul conference organized by Telecom IQ in London. Stuart hosted a workshop that focused on the current challenges faced by mobile service providers while preparing their backhaul networks to meet the demand of next generation LTE broadband services. Comprising an intimate crowd of mostly operators, the conference focused on a series of operator presentations, panel discussions and roundtable conversations. Representatives from operators such as BT, Telenor, France Telecom, Telecom Italia, Vodafone, Mobitel and Saudi Telecom were in attendance. Some key issues discussed focused on the backhaul needs of LTE, which are difficult to predict. With a few exceptions, most LTE deployments to-date are limited or in the trial phase. Operators are also grappling with a mix of technologies in their networks, making migration to all-IP a huge and complicated task.

While in London, Stuart also spoke at the 13th annual Transport Networks for Mobile Operators (TNMO) Conference on May 10. TNMO is one of the largest conferences in Europe focused purely on backhaul transport networks. This year, Aviat Networks participated by presenting on the topic of “Realistic Capacity Requirements for LTE,” or why fiber is not the only answer, and took part in a panel discussion on Carrier Ethernet for mobile backhaul. The conference was fairly well attended, with a packed agenda that covered the full range of transport challenges from the access to the core. Numerous solutions to the problem of delivering more capacity to meet expected demand were discussed, including network sharing, microcells, network offload and intelligent backhaul optimization techniques. It seems that there is no single winner in the race to find a solution. Operators are going to have to choose from an array of options to get the right fit for their particular needs.

Over in Amsterdam, Peter Croy, our senior IP network architect, presented on the topic of Carrier Ethernet for LTE mobile backhaul requirements at the LTE World Summit. Not sure if you have read previous blogs or joined in our webinars on this subject, but Peter is a well versed expert on backhaul. See his overview from the conference.

With summer fast approaching and vacations looming, June will be a bit slower. Good thing as planning will begin for some major events and shows coming in the fall and early 2012.

An event you won’t want to miss is the 1588v2 Synchronization for Mobile Backhaul Networks Webinar on June 6. Hosted by Patrick Donegan, senior analyst at Heavy Reading. This webinar will bring together leading vendors and operators to develop best practice guidelines for operators as they deploy the 1588v2 standard. Drawing on real implementation case studies, industry leaders will demonstrate where some implementations have gone wrong in the past and what leading operators and vendors are now doing right to deploy this key standard. Please join us for this highly interactive webinar. The webinar is co-hosted by Errol Binda, our very own solutions marketing manager.

Another interesting event is the National Urban Areas Security Initiative Conference (UASI) conference held in San Francisco, June 20-23. This conference is in cooperation with Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Grants Programs Directorate. The conference will provide an opportunity for stakeholders from all areas of homeland security and emergency preparedness to gather and exchange important information to make the United States safer.

We will have a booth, No. 85 in the Continental Ballroom, at the conference where we will display our public safety solutions along with showcasing all-indoor configurations of Eclipse Packet Node. Ali Hirsa from Aviat Networks will be at the booth to answer any questions you may have.

That’s it for now. I will be back in touch next month to update you on the latest happenings at Aviat Networks. Until then, follow the dialogue and news on our social sites.

www.aviatnetworks.com

www.facebook.com/AviatNet

www.twitter.com/aviatnetworks

www.blog.aviatnetworks.com

www.youtube.com/aviatnetworks

Cyndy Johnson
Director of Corporate Communications, Aviat Networks

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