We Put the Spotlight on Voice Over LTE (VoLTE)

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.

VoLTE Logo

Logo courtesy of YTD2525 Blog

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”.

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Balloons & Drones for Internet Access? Seriously?!

Remote/Rural Communications don’t Need Loopy Ideas to get Online

There has been much talk in recent months and now some business transactions by leading technology companies to implement exotic schemes to get remote and/or rural communities onto the Internet. These schemes involve high altitude balloons and drones. Seriously? Give us a break! Of all the loopy ideas we’ve heard lately, these have to be some of the most far out.

Google using Titan drones to get rural communities on the Internet is just loopy. Photo credit: singlesoliloquy / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Google using Titan drones to get rural communities on the Internet is just loopy. Photo credit: singlesoliloquy / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Beyond generating a lot of publicity for “original” thinking, we really have to be skeptical about the efficacy of such ludicrous proposals. Besides the hard-to-calculate cost of these schemes, they are likely to be highly unreliable, as it’s notoriously difficult to keep either a balloon or a drone geostationary in the stratosphere with all its turbulent airflow. Not to mention the ever-present likelihood of mechanical failure, wing icing, leaks and other factors leading to crash landings. And what about fuel? Or batteries? Can solar power alone keep these contraptions airborne for up to three years? And then what?

Plain ol’ microwave radio
In these situations, all that’s needed is a traditional, reliable microwave radio link. Rather than spend gargantuan wads of their shareholders’ cold, hard cash on pie-in-the-sky Internet boondoggles, Facebook, Google and these other titans of Silicon Valley should come down to earth and look at quick and practical methods for extending Internet connectivity to the Unconnected.

For example, consider the position that Stuart Little, Aviat Networks’ director of solutions marketing, stakes out in April’s issue of “Land Mobile” magazine. He points out that microwave radio technology has been reliably and cost effectively spanning long distances—sometimes over inhospitable geography like deserts or jungles—for decades to connect outposts of humanity to the outside world.

Advantages of microwave radio
Microwave radio has the advantages of high bandwidth and speed to deployment going for it when servicing rural communities. Aviat long-haul microwave radios can accommodate up to 3.7Gbps bandwidth. And it’s very cost effective and can be deployed in a matter of weeks, in some cases.

The other regularly used long-distance backhaul option, fiber-optic technology, has high-capacity bandwidth, but neither cost effectiveness nor speed to deployment for rural communities. Outside of dense urban corridors where high-density populations defray the overall capital expenditure on a per capita basis, fiber is very cost prohibitive. And to trench fiber over an extended distance can take many months.

In testimony before the United States Federal Communications Commission in 2009, representatives of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), estimated that it could cost $70,000 per mile to deploy a fiber network solution to rural communities. And they are citing just a vanilla example of pulling fiber in a trench in dirt alongside a road. If you add in core electronics for the network you pile on millions of dollars more per site serviced to terminate the network.

For more extreme environments such as in Alaska, a more recent estimate places the cost of deploying fiber at $100,000 per mile. In contrast, for the most sparsely populated parts of Alaska, microwave radio could be deployed at a cost of less than $30,000 per mile. This estimate assumes a tower every 25 miles to host microwave equipment to relay the signal onto the next tower in the network.

By its own admission, the Alaska Broadband Task Force says that 25 miles between radio towers is a conservative assumption. In Aviat Networks’ experience, 40 miles between towers for long distance microwave backhaul can be more typical. And in the most extreme cases, Aviat has been able to implement microwave links of more than 100 miles. The point is that the longer the microwave link the less equipment that is involved, which drives down the cost per mile.

So Facebook and Google, save your billions. Thinking crazy can make you loads in social media and Internet search. But when it comes to building a way-out-there network, you’ll just be tossing your money out a window.

C’mon, Zuck! C’mon, Larry! If you need help with this, give us a call. Or like our Facebook page.

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Urban Backhaul with 70-80GHz E-band Radios

E-band-millimeterwave-backhaul-radios-in-the-70GHz-and-80GHz-spectrum-will-be-able-of-mounting-on-various-urban-infrastructure-Aviat-Networks-blog-17-January-2014

Urban infrastructure for E-band radio. Photo credit: christine592 / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

For years and years, microwave and millimeterwave radio technologies have coexisted without very much overlap in either their markets or applications. Microwave radio served telephone company needs (e.g., long distance backhaul, mobile access aggregation) for the bulk of its implementations with some vertical deployments for oil and gas, public safety and utilities organizations. Typically, licensed bands in service ranged from 6GHz to 42GHz—with 11GHz and under popular for long haul; 18-38GHz trendy for short urban hops. Generally, millimeterwave radio is considered to be between the 60GHz and 80GHz bands and found its applications confined to those for intra-campus communication from building to building for universities, civic centers, other government conglomerations and large, spread-out (i.e., 1 to 5 miles) corporate facilities.

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‘My Experience’ with Microwave Radio Systems

Like-a-star-in-a-distant-galaxy-each-users-experience-with-Aviat-Networks-microwave-radio-is-unique-and-positive-13Dec13

Quasar GB 1428, 12.4 billion light years from Earth, a celestial source of enormous X-ray and microwave energy. Photo: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Collectively, we as consumers of high-tech communications systems tend to think very analytically, very logically, about the solutions that form the core of our working lives. In all the fields that we pursue from mobile telecom to public safety to utilities to oil and gas to financial, microwave radio has touched, shaped and framed our worldview. But like a star in a distant galaxy, every user’s experience with microwave radio is unique. No exception to that totality of reality is Ron Beck, president emeritus and past chairman of the Utilities Telecom Council, a trade group dedicated to advocating telecommunications issues for energy companies and associated concerns.

In a recent video, Beck talks about his life with microwave radio for almost 30 years. Starting with analog TDM microwave radio, he has traveled the technology evolutionary path to arrive at the present day systems of digital IP/Ethernet microwave communications. However, before ever touching on any technical considerations, he talks about the people responsible for his and his company’s success with microwave. For utilities applications, Beck feels it is critical that the people he deals with at a microwave solutions provider understand his business. “The (Aviat) sales force understands utility applications; they understand what we need in a radio system,” he says.

Beck goes on to elaborate how Aviat design and engineering groups collaborate closely with his team to deliver exactly the solution that is needed. Service and standards-based technology are very important to him and make microwave radio very user-friendly because “frankly, you don’t have to touch it very much.” See and hear all Beck has to offer below:

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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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All-Outdoor Microwave Radios: Site Considerations

One of the great things about the microwave radio market today is the diversity of products available to network operators. But like many situations where there is a glut of options, it tends to put more stress on making the right choice.

An operator looking at products in the microwave radio sector will notice that there are three general categories of product to choose from: all-indoor, split-mount and all-outdoor, and within each, they are myriad different flavors.

All-outdoor radios are the most recent addition to the microwave radio party, and for the sake of easy reference, I’ll refer to them as ODRs (outdoor radios). These self-contained systems incorporate the traffic interfaces, switching/multiplexing elements, radio modem and radio transceiver—all packaged in a weatherproof outdoor housing. By contrast, an outdoor unit (ODU) used in split-mount systems only contains the radio transceiver, which connects to a radio modem embedded in an indoor unit (IDU). In a split-mount radio system, the IDU also provides the traffic interfaces and switching/multiplexing elements.

The rationale for ODRs is straightforward—networks are getting denser, new sites are getting smaller and established sites more densely populated. Space for equipment such as IDUs is at a premium and costs of upgrading sites with bigger equipment shelters is often not viable or possible due to site constraints. As a result, more network devices are being repackaged for deployment outdoors on supporting structures such as towers, walls or masts. Advances in electronics have made microwave radios viable for all-outdoor treatment, so ODRs came into being.

They did so to a fanfare of claims that pointed to fantastic gains in terms of operator TCO (total cost of ownership). No doubt, an ODR can deliver cost benefits, but it is important to fully scope and quantify those benefits, because although ODRs represent simplification in terms of product architecture, most networks have remained stubbornly complex. In practical terms, this means for each type of site in the network an operator needs to closely examine the gains an ODR might generate vs. a split-mount radio, for example. Our experience is that ODRs provide the most operator benefits at sites where:

  • One gigabit Ethernet (GbE) interface is adequate
  • Only a single local device will be connected (such as an LTE basestation)
  • There are no requirements to aggregate traffic from “downstream” sites
  • Out-of-band management facilities are not required
  • Non-protected (1+0) link configuration is adequate

Once operators consider sites with requirements beyond this scope—usually the majority—then ODRs (somewhat ironically) start to generate complexity and cost. This becomes manifest in the form of multiple Ethernet cable runs, multiple power cable runs, multiple PoE injectors, multiple lightning protection devices and, in some cases, the need for a separate outdoor Ethernet switch.

Even at modestly complex sites, the overhead costs ODRs can generate mean that a split-mount radio will often be a more effective option and deliver better TCO, assuming space can be found. On that note it is worth highlighting that IDUs already deployed at such sites are often modular and can be scaled without consuming any additional rack space, and the most advanced fixed (i.e., non-modular) IDUs only consume a half-rack unit of space.

On the surface, the case for ODRs can seem compelling but before jumping in, I would encourage operators to carefully examine how marketing claims translate into meaningful (real) TCO gains.

I am convinced ODRs represent a new and potentially very useful product category for microwave radio, but they are not a panacea; our experience (at Aviat Networks) is that optimum TCO is based on a mix of split-mount and all-outdoor radios (i.e., one “size” does not fit all).

So there you have it, in the right environment, an ODR can offer a winning formula but in other situations, it may not work so well. An old saying comes to mind: Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in a fruit salad.

Next time, we will examine ODRs in more detail, how they differ and how to choose the best option for your network.

Jarlath Lally
Product Marketing Manager
Aviat Networks

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National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show 2012

NAB 2012NAB 2012 was extremely well attended by both vendors (all three exhibition halls were fully occupied) and participants. Thanks to the continuing conversion from analog to digital broadcasting, TV companies are investing heavily in equipment and software solutions. Every company was presenting digital solutions from cameras to studio equipment to TV transmitters to Microwave Radio transport.

Every facet of the solution set must be upgraded to accommodate the intricacies of digital networks. In the case of the Microwave Radio, they are moving to bi-directional radios that can not only carry the studio content up to the transmitter site, but also can carry collected content from various mobile generating platforms (trucks, helicopters, etc) back to the studio for editing.

It was interesting to see Cisco, HP and other networking companies exhibiting. The integration of Internet Protocol (IP) into the broadcasting community has created a real demand for networking appliances like routers and switches. Other devices like Microwave Radio must also be able to accommodate IP protocols for efficiently carrying the video content to the various transmitters in the network.

I was amazed at the range of nationalities represented. Clearly this show offers value to broadcaster across the globe. I heard a figure of over 400 people from Brazil attended the show. I think I heard people complain about their tired feet in 25-30 different languages! The combined attraction of NAB and Las Vegas is very difficult to pass up.
See you at NAB 2013.

Randy Jenkins
Director Business Development
Aviat Networks

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Not Your Usual Microwave Installation

Have you ever had an unusual experience at a microwave radio site?

Here’s one we would like to share with you. Aviat Networks Account Manager Mark Davis recently experienced an ascent of Mt. Pisgah in North Carolina (mid-Atlantic coast USA) in a cable car—climbing 3,600 feet in 11 minutes. The cable car is purpose-built to carry engineers to the TV broadcast tower on top of Mt. Pisgah, in this intance it transported 6-ft antennas and Aviat Networks radio gear. The microwave radio installation will connect U.S. National Park Service offices along the entire Blue Ridge Parkway.

Check out the video:


We are sure there are many more interesting examples of radio installations out there. Post comments below or email us your story or images. We want to hear from you!

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The kWh Joins the dB?

kWh imageSome leading telecommunications carriers are quietly effecting a shift in design priorities. For microwave radio, for example, output power, receive threshold, system gain and various other performance parameters (the dBs) have always been important product differentiators. Equipment vendors have also strived to make their equipment ever smaller to fulfil a requirement to pack more capacity into less rack space.  There is, however, what appears to be a shift in some quarters.

British Telecom (BT), Verizon and AT&T are among those passionate about reducing their energy consumption and, hence, their carbon emissions. Environmentally aware operators that have set themselves the challenge of reducing their overall energy usage are facing the challenge of doing so at a time when there is an exponential increase in demand for their services.   The frequency with which the kWh is referred to by operators increases with each passing year.

BT was an early mover and has already reduced its UK carbon emissions by 60% since 1997 and reduced its energy consumption by 2.5% year-on-year, as reported Spring 2011. BT has set an incredibly ambitious target of cutting its carbon footprint by 80% between 1997 and 2020. How are they doing this at a time of growth?  Well, BT has reported that their new 21st century data centers use 60-70% less energy and the resulting financial savings have made the centers profitable within 18 months. BT estimates that an incredible 50% of the energy consumed by a typical data centre can be consumed by cooling. By introducing fresh air cooling they have reduced this requirement by 85%, as much of the year no refrigeration is required.

Among other measures, BT has focused on energy efficiency of network equipment and also increased efficiency by supplying DC power directly to equipment rather than sustaining significant losses associated with converting AC power to DC. This is an incredibly inspiring record. BT is genuinely committed to its environmental policy believing that it has a responsibility to reduce power consumption, as one of the UK’s top ten energy users. There is certainly a compelling business case for their policy too as they have seen substantial savings and also a significant increase in the volume of business that requires environmental reporting.  BT estimates that its UK business alone saved £35M or $54M for the year 2010/2011 over where their energy usage would have stood without the efficiencies introduced by their energy program.

Verizon has emerged as a key North American player and, witnessing what they considered to be apathy with regard to standardization, the Verizon NEBS group released an energy efficiency standard (VZ.TPR.9205) in 2008.  NEBS had been traditionally focused on EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) and physical protection requirements such as survival over temperature and earthquake resistance. Energy efficiency became, therefore, an unexpected but vital third strand of NEBS for Verizon.  Since then, energy efficiency and related topics have become key at the Verizon-hosted annual NEBS conferences. Verizon has launched a carbon intensity metric which measures Verizon’s carbon intensity by factoring the amount of CO2 produced per Terabyte of data. Year-on-year, Verizon achieved a 15.75% reduction 2009/2010. Verizon’s projections show a forecasted financial saving of around $22M for 2011. Equipment cooling is recognized by Verizon and AT&T as a big factor in energy consumption too but their method of managing this varies.

At this year’s NEBS conference both AT&T and Verizon made announcements that will affect the way that some vendors design their equipment.  AT&T announced that from 1st January 2012 they will mandate equipment with airflow that flows front to back within the rack. This move is related to the fact that AT&T has established ‘hot aisles’ and ‘cool aisles’ within its centers. The aisle facing the front of the rack is the cool aisle and the equipment draws air from this aisle, exhausting it into the hot aisle. This allows for the hot air to be efficiently extracted from the center, resulting in significant reductions in the energy consumed by the HVAC system. Verizon also announced that it would be mandating front-to-back airflow in the future. They are seeking to include this as a requirement within GR-63-CORE as this Telcordia standard currently states front-to-back airflow as an objective only.  Verizon’s motive for seeking this change to GR-63-CORE is the fact that they also have a hot aisle/cool aisle system. Verizon is also hoping to have the core NEBS standards updated to include energy efficiency requirements. If successful this will mean that NEBS certification, whether it is for equipment intended for Verizon or not, will need to meet a minimum efficiency specification and have front-to-back cooling. Another shift is that efficiency of equipment cooling is starting to be regarded ahead of equipment size by some operators.  A slightly larger mechanical enclosure is easier to cool, using less energy. All of these shifts seem to suggest that environmental performance is taking its place alongside other parameters as a key consideration for some operators.

Aviat Networks’ Eclipse product line meets the Verizon energy efficiency standard and additional energy efficiencies are being built into future products. Aviat Networks is committed to working  closely with customers, vendors and standards agencies to both understand and promote the requirement for environmental sustainability within the telecoms sector at a time when it is challenged with an explosion in demand.

BT’s sustainability report, 2011

More information on Verizon’s environmental sustainability

Footnote – NEBS (Network Equipment Building Systems).

Ruth French
Product Compliance Manager
Aviat Networks

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How Many Radio Options Are You Juggling?

Juggling Radio OptionsBalancing cost and performance is a tough act for most operators dealing with telecom networking, especially when it comes to equipment procurement.  Getting all the bells and whistles can sometimes result in having a lot of options to choose from.   Often times microwave users have to juggle with a variety of radio options that suit a particular site requirement, for example, having to select between low power or high power radios to meet varying distance or system throughput/gain needs.  Depending on location and licensing requirements, this may even translate into different products types for different frequency bands.  More products result in more spares to maintain in inventory, along with added support and maintenance, inevitably leading to higher costs.

To help address this challenge, Aviat recently unveiled the industry’s first universal outdoor unit (ODU) to support software- defined base and high power modes in a single ODU, with Aviat’s unique Flexible Power Mode (FPM) capability.  FPM allows operators to optimize both cost and performance, minimizing their overall total cost of ownership, by paying for the power they need only when needed.  As a result, operators can procure a single ODU for multiple locations and via a simple software licensing mechanism, remotely adjust the transmit output power to meet the needs of a particular site.  No need to spare multiple radios, nor deal with the operational burden of managing and supporting a variety of product options.

Additionally, operators can apply this flexibility to migrate from legacy low power, low capacity radios to a high power and performance ODU  to support much greater link throughput, without having to change their installed antennas. This minimizes both their CAPEX and OPEX while migrating their network from a legacy low capacity TDM microwave link to a high speed Ethernet one.

So while juggling may still be a well needed skill to survive in Telecom, Aviat is reducing the load when it comes to microwave networking. Click here to find out more.

Errol Binda
Senior Solutions Marketing Manager
Aviat Networks

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