In many wireless networks, transport engineering looks after the microwave radio function while the IT department has domain over IP equipment. These two organizations started independently and grew separately over many years. It did not seem that there was any problem with this arrangement.
However, it led to the selection of equipment—radios and routers—that worked really well on their own but had no awareness of one another. Not surprisingly, these technology solutions did not perform together optimally.
Old world of low-data-rate applications
In the old world of 2G, SCADA and other low-data-rate applications, lack of microwave and IP integration, or awareness, was no Big Fatal Decision—BFD. However, now that LTE-Advanced has taken hold and 5G beckons on the horizon, network operators can no longer afford an ill-paired microwave and IP solution stack in their backhaul. They require a new solution that combines microwave and IP technologies. Let’s take a closer look.
The problem: Microwave networks differ from all other networks in use today. While other Layer 1 transport technologies such as coax, copper and fiber come in well understood capacities (e.g., 100Mbps, 1Gbps, 10Gbps) and transmit over media that never vary, microwave communications capacities constantly change with dynamic atmospheric conditions. In addition, complex data coding and compression schemes utilized by microwave are hard for interconnecting equipment including IP routers to decipher.
The solution: IP networking gear needs awareness of the microwave medium. In addition, IP kit must adapt to the unpredictability of microwave. In other words, routers must be capable of adaptive media awareness to interpret data back and forth between the microwave and IP realms. Regular routers used to dealing with the invariable environments of clean rooms and data centers cannot. A new breed of device that integrates microwave and IP into a single chassis is needed: a microwave router.