Randy Jenkins, Aviat Networks’ Director of Business Development for North America, attended the “5G Transport & the Edge” meeting of technology leaders in New York on October 10. He sat on the microwave transport in the 5G environment panel, titled “Redefining the Access Network: Examining RAN Architecture & the Implications for 5G Transport.”
“Microwave is sometimes seen as not having the capacity to handle the rapidly increasing data flow in the transport segment of the edge,” said Jenkins. “Operators can hurt themselves by investing in very expensive fiber solutions that might take years to implement—with overruns common in both cost and time. Microwave is ready to meet 5G demands today and get service providers into that market in a fraction of the time it takes fiber, and at a far lower cost. The business model is highly favorable for operators who go with microwave early and benefit from new revenue streams in the near term. Some are making long-term plans for fiber yet intend to implement advanced microwave solutions today and use them as backup when fiber is ready to roll out.
“It was standing room only there. The meeting was essentially a technical discussion on the needs of 5G networks. It was a highly useful interchange—in a stimulating atmosphere, among eight vendors—about what operators need. A highlight for me was the keynote by Glenn Wellbrock, Director of Optical Transport Network Architecture at Verizon. He really gave us a feel for the vision and evolution of 5G by a major provider currently rolling out 5G services. That was something I could bring home to my team and the company.”
One innovation Aviat now offers is Multi-Band, which combines E-Band (80 GHz, for up to ten times greater capacity) with traditional microwave (18 GHz, to enhance link stability), with a single enclosure and single antenna on each end of the link. The rocket-boosted capacity of E-Band can be used immediately at turn-up or later, as needed.
This innovation offers greater immunity to environmental issues such as rain or wind. When conditions make 80 GHz throughput unstable, the 18 GHz side of the unit takes over automatically—then returns automatically when conditions improve. Planning and installation are also easier, with only one unit to install at each end and simplified antenna alignment.
Aviat is currently working toward new innovations to serve this new market, such as shrinking radios even further (important especially when space and aesthetics are critical) and incorporating advanced paddle antennas.
While fiber capacity and throughput are impressive, complete reliance on fiber networks to serve the 5G market will have the same problems fiber has had traditionally: slow planning, approvals, installation and turn-up, long time to revenue, cost overruns, and expensive network downtime due to backhoe cuts and other cable damage. Every operator out there has a story to tell.
In addition, many new apps are being developed that will make reliability more critical than ever. As public safety networks take on new machine-management-type roles, such as driverless cars or semi-automated driving, reliability will suddenly move to the top of the list of critical network attributes. As those types of changes approach, the value of highly reliable Multi-Band links will become even higher. And Multi-Band microwave backup for fiber networks, particularly in networks with the new apps or areas prone to unpredictable environmental conditions, could become the reliability solution of choice.