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.
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.
Designing and engineering microwave radio networks has always been challenging and a bit of an art—especially when they are ultra-long point-to-point wireless networks. In an article published February 25, 2013, Aviat’s solutions architect Charles Dionne outlines some of the key considerations that need to be made when designing and building these ultra-long microwave backhaul links for point-to-point wireless networks.
The article on RCR Wireless provides an overview and detailed checklist of the relevant items for designing ultra-long point-to-point wireless microwave links including:
Readers will take away more than just a laundry list of potential pitfalls; they will gain an enhanced appreciation of the very specialized skills and thorough understanding of microwave technology that is necessary for successfully implementing point-to-point wireless microwave backhaul.
To compare how different wireless backhaul network topologies perform under the same operating scenario, let’s analyze how a traditional hub-and-spoke and a ring configuration compare in connecting the same six sites (See table below). For the hub-and-spoke configuration, each cell site is provided 50 Mbps capacity in 1+1 protection. With five links and no path diversity, full protection is the only way to achieve five nines reliability. In this configuration, 10 antennas are employed, which average a large and costly 5.2 feet in diameter. Total cost of ownership for this six-site network is close to $700,000 for five years.
For a ring design for the same six sites, throughput of 200 Mbps is established to carry the traffic for each specific hop and any traffic coming in that direction from farther up the network. Designed to take advantage of higher-level redundancy schemes, the ring configuration only requires antennas that average 2.3 feet in diameter, which are much lower in cost compared to the antennas in the hub-and-spoke configuration. And even though the ring configuration requires 12 antennas and six links, its overall TCO amounts to a little under $500,000 over five years—30 percent less than TCO for the hub-and-spoke design for the same six sites.
This comparison is based upon deployments in the USA, where most operators lease tower space from other providers.
Senior Product Marketing Manager
Managing a wireless network is essential. Radios, routers and third-party add-ons control vast amounts of valuable user data. Any wireless network downtime damages the user’s business and the operator’s long-term reputation. Thus, operators need a powerful but easy-to-use element management system (EMS) to monitor and administer all the disparate elements in their wireless communication networks.
Also, operators should be able to manage complete networks from a user-friendly interface, which must provide all the necessary information for fast network management system decision-making. And this system must be capable of complete standalone operation or being integrated into an operational support system using NorthBound Interfaces (NBIs).
Other additional functionality in the form of event management and notifications capability is also necessary in an EMS for wireless networks. An EMS should inform wireless operators about network events and device failures and let them to diagnose problems and apply network updates remotely. This reduces the time between a fault occurring and the fault being repaired. It may even allow a repair to be completed before a wireless link fails completely. For day-to-day management, operators need an EMS that can:
Fortunately, such a carrier-class EMS solution does exist. Aviat Networks develops its ProVision EMS based on customer demand and continues to upgrade it as per user requests and requirements. For customers, implementing ProVision is vastly more efficient than developing an in-house EMS, saving time, resources and money. Aviat Networks EMS solutions are the most cost-effective way to manage wireless solutions. Aviat Networks works closely with customers to make sure that ProVision is user-friendly. The goal is that ProVision EMS allows operators to manage their networks proactively—rather than reactively—and with reduced network operating costs.
Look for future blog posts on must-have EMS data features and stats on operators using carrier-class EMS.
Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Aviat Networks