When people think of mobile security, they usually think of encryption for their smartphones, tablet computers such as the BlackBerry PlayBook or other wireless devices. Or they think of a remote “wipe” capability that can render any lost device blank of any data if some unauthorized party did in fact try to enter the device illegally. These wireless solutions are all state-of-the-art thinking in the mobile security community. And many wireless equipment OEMs and third-party mobile security providers offer them.
This large western US state had a longtime relationship with a microwave radio vendor and would have continued buying from them if their radios and support evolved with the State’s needs. However, over time its needs changed and it had to have more capabilities from its communications network. But it did not want to unnecessarily build new sites and erect costly new towers.
In microwave communications—as in all electronic communications mediums—operators trend toward the latest technologies (e.g., IP/MPLS). They all have conditioning to think that newer is better. And by and large that’s right.
However, when it comes to IP/MPLS—one of the most advanced packet technologies—you need to handle this concept with care. Especially in a mixed infrastructure that includes microwave, fiber and other potential backhaul transport.
In Australia, the federal government has had an ambitious plan to connect all citizens to a national broadband network (NBN). However, in some of the more remote parts of the country, of which there are more than a few, the incumbent provider, Telstra, cannot deliver that subscriber experience. This leaves it to alternative access providers to fill the gap.
One of these providers, Aviat partner MIMP Connecting Solutions, decided to use Aviat Networks microwave solutions to reach remote customers beyond the NBN fiber footprint. This is important as many vulnerable subscribers need to be connected to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals for help. Literally, this can be a matter of life or death.
The public safety market has relied for many years on Aviat Networks to be a supplier of mission-critical microwave backhaul equipment. For example, since the introduction of the Eclipse microwave radio a few years ago, it has been received very successfully in the Australia public safety market. In the last five years, Aviat has sold and deployed thousands of radios (i.e., TRs) in the public safety and life critical radio ecosystem.
“The cutting-edge Gigabit Ethernet and IP capabilities of Eclipse were critical for Australia government agencies,” says Raj Kumar, vice president, sales and services, Asia Pacific, Aviat Networks. “As radio sites rolled out across Australia, Eclipse has enabled efficient deployment of multiple radio carriers in a single chassis—a mission-critical advantage for the simulcast trunking sites.”
As mobile phone and other wireless networks “densify” in the parlance of the day, airwave congestion will inevitably rise causing greater interference. Generally, microwave path planners will use dish antennas that provide tighter radiation patterns with more focused main beams and smaller side lobes to overcome interference that results from congestion.
To indicate the tightness of their radiation patterns ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) classifies antennas from 1 to 4 with higher classifications having tighter radiation patterns. Until recently, to fight interference in most circumstances wireless transmission engineers would resort to Class 3 antennas for deployment scenarios where “very high interference potential” existed.
However, the situation has changed. More drastic implementation scenarios now drive path planners to invoke more dramatic solutions. That includes use of Class 4 antennas, which are for “extremely high interference potential” situations, according to ETSI. For a more detailed treatment of antenna classifications and radiation patterns, see the ETSI document “Fixed Radio Systems; Point to Point Antennas.”
It’s an urban thing
In most cases, microwave radio congestion that leads to interference problems occurs primarily in urban locations. With wireless backhaul sites in much closer proximity in urban areas than in rural or suburban locales, there it’s more likely that side lobes from microwave transmitters could become sources of secondary RF radiation, which can overlap with point-to-point links between neighboring sites.
For example, according to an Aviat Networks analysis of three wireless sites in South America that recently experienced interference issues, at one site the congestion was so intense as to make one complete channel unusable. Even if Class 3 antennas were used, the interference levels were too high to be able to reactivate the disabled microwave channel.
Wider channels, larger capacity
For situations where the operator needs to increase capacity from a wireless backhaul site, the easiest way remains widening the channel size. But at sites that experience extremely high interference, the operator may not be able to coordinate radio frequency pairs in wide channels with Class 3 antennas. However, moving up to Class 4 antennas would allow the operator to optimize the signal-to-noise ratio and let higher modulations come into play, so wide channels could be coordinated with correspondingly higher data rates.
Smaller is more
In cases of high interference, larger antennas can be used to reduce it. For a subset, smaller Class 4 antennas can be used instead of their oversize Class 3 counterparts. Thus, operators who deploy Class 4 antennas gain the added benefit of dropping down a parabolic dish antenna size as compared to a Class 3 antenna in the same application. In general, smaller dishes advantage the operator due to their lighter weight and lower opex tower charges, albeit with an initially bigger upfront capex. Because Class 4 antennas represent an elevated level of precision tooling and more detailed manufacturing versus lower class antennas, capex of these passive, higher-performance infrastructure pieces always weighs in the balance.
As we’ve seen, Class 4 microwave antennas have many general uses. They also are very good alternative solutions for specific industries. For example, utilities often find it difficult to implement Adaptive Coding and Modulation schemes in their backhauls, so Class 4 antennas can provide another way for them to achieve their connectivity and capacity goals.
Lower frequency bands (i.e., less than 11 GHz) have long had access to Class 4 antennas. More recently, antenna manufacturers such as Commscope have begun to make Class 4 antennas for higher frequency bands (e.g., 13, 15, 18, 23 GHz). And RFS has also expressed interest in supplying higher frequency class 4 antennas.
This overview has provided a broad grounding in Class 4 microwave antenna subject matter, but for more in-depth information please download the Aviat white paper “Use of Class 4 Antennas” for which no signup is necessary.
At a time in the not-so-distant past, there was only one way to implement microwave radio: one radio link per microwave terminal. Did not matter what type of link it concerned: protected, non-protected or multi-channel. From the advent of digital microwave radio in the 1980s and 1990s, terminals typically had no options for integration of co-located telecom devices. And to interconnect muxes or switches required external cabling and possibly a patch-panel.
Then in the early 2000s, so-called “nodal” radios came into vogue. Designed to address the drawbacks of the one-radio-one-link paradigm, a single microwave radio node could serve as a platform for multiple links. There were still limitations when it came to radio and switch interactions, but multiple sources of traffic could now be integrated and connected on the nodal platform.
At the recently concluded Ghana Telecom Awards held in May 2015, Aviat Networks won the Microwave Backhaul Vendor award for the second year in a row. Based on a survey of telecom industry participants, Aviat bested all the other major microwave specialists and one of the top three telecom generalists.
“I am very proud to inform you that Aviat Networks has been honored again as the best overall microwave backhaul solutions provider in Ghana,” said Ahmed Adama, country manager, Ghana, Aviat Networks. “The combination of our microwave networking technology and full turnkey service capability was key to securing this award.”
Whether the local police department responding to a burglary call or firefighters putting out a blaze in the historic district, first responders across America rely on mission-critical communications infrastructure to provide timely, reliable and secure voice, video and data services to do the job.
In our data-infused, mobile and Internet-connected world, public safety agencies have come to realize that upgrading infrastructure to IP/MPLS technology is the best way to lower costs and provide rich services in a scalable way, while enabling effective communication with peer local, state and federal organizations. Access to high volumes of data and the ability to share it with key stakeholders allows public safety professionals to make rapid decisions and speed up actions.
IP/MPLS and Microwave: Better Together
At Aviat Networks, we have blazed a path to IP in privately operated networks with our hybrid IP/TDM microwave radios, which efficiently converge packet-based traffic with legacy TDM. This solution gives public safety network operators a concurrence of technology while migration decisions and investments are made.
Recently, Aviat introduced the term “microwave routing” with the launch of its CTR platform. At its core, microwave routing is about integrating IP/MPLS capability into the microwave layer to increase transport intelligence while decreasing cost and complexity. As part of its portfolio, Aviat features the highly resilient CTR 8611 microwave router, which has been designed to meet the needs of public safety agencies today and tomorrow—addressing a future that is sure to include LTE/LTE-Advanced technology and a vast new buildout of advanced networking infrastructure ushered in by the FirstNet initiative.
IP/MPLS in Action
One example of IP/MPLS in public safety networks can be found in the Northeastern United States, where a major statewide public safety agency recently adopted IP/MPLS functionality in its backhaul. This deployment is based on the CTR 8611 and ProVision network management system (NMS). ProVision, with its new INM package, provides a smarter end-to-end, point-and-click IP/MPLS service management solution.
Armed with these tools, this public safety agency turned up a complete IP/MPLS solution for its mission-critical networks, which includes microwave radios, microwave routers and network management. Aviat supports the agency with turnkey services to simplify the network design, install and commission equipment and provide post-deployment support.
IP/MPLS for Everyone
Since 1999, IP/MPLS has been deployed in the mainstream of networking. Until now, its implementation has largely been the domain of wireline telephone companies and more recently mobile operators. However, we now see private network operators adopt IP/MPLS technology because of its superiority and economic benefits. Although IP/MPLS is not something that is perceptible by the ordinary citizen, its positive impact on our daily lives is significant. We Heart IP/MPLS!
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In all its years, Aviat Networks has installed a great many microwave radios and in some very interesting places. On the sides of the largest dams. On top of the most famous bridges. Deep in the Aboriginal Outback. Way out to sea. In the frozen wastes of the Great White North.
Our latest triumph of man and mechanism over elements comes by way of Papua New Guinea, one of the last lands to be touched by the progress of high technology.
Deep in the heart of this primordial island nation, an imposing mountain stands: Mt. Otto, nearly 11,000 feet (3500m) of steep slopes and very little summit. Few people climb it. There are virtually no roads of which to speak. The only practical way to bring wireless telecom gear up is via helicopter.
However, Aviat Networks was equal to the challenge. Aviat’s services department is loaded with can-do problem-solvers keen to tackle projects like this. In this case, a critical issue for the Mt. Otto site revolved around power. Issue resolved with a big Eltek generator, part of an amazing energy solution that powers an Aviat WTM 6000 14+2 repeater with a 7+1 spur—all built to run at Mt. Otto’s high altitude without supervision for extended periods. If we look a bit closer at the site specs, we will see:
To keep the site online, an array of 96 solar panels powers the microwave radios with 24 kW of electricity. As backup, the 80KVA Eltek generator provides up of five days of continuous current in case of extended cloudy weather. It is capable of this as it runs on fuel that’s kept warm in a modular container. Otherwise the fuel would freeze solid in the thin mountain air. A large battery installation provides an extra five days of backup power. Those same solar panels top off the charge on these 57,000 pounds (25,704 kg) of batteries. It’s a closed system completely designed for 100 percent off-the-grid operation.
To complete the site, required dozens of sorties airlifting personnel and all the material necessary to build and install the site. Overall, the Mt. Otto site is an amazing accomplishment in a super remote and hard-to-get-to place.
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”.
The mobile phone industry has been mature for some time. Around the world, most people who want and are able to use a cellular handset already have one—sometimes more than one. Even with innovations such as HSPA+, LTE and LTE-A becoming mainstream, average revenue per user (ARPU) continues to decline. Mobile operators may be at the crossroads. They are certainly at an inflection point. How to counter the trend is what operators must decide.