Top Promising Innovations – Sentinel Class 4 Microwave Antennas
Note: Last year, we unveiled our top 40 innovations made by CommScope or one of its acquired companies. This recognition was part of our 40th anniversary celebration. We are proud of all our innovations—past and present. Now, we look to new innovations that we hope will become the essential building blocks for the networks of the future. In a series of blogs, we will introduce you to our Top Promising Innovations in the world of wireless and fiber optics. We believe these innovations have the potential to have significant impact on the industry, much like some of the others from our past.
Sentinel Class 4 Microwave Antennas
Definition: Sentinel is the world’s first cost-effective European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) Class 4-compliant microwave antenna, which enables network operators to add more microwave links in a given area using the same frequencies but without causing interference.
Year of Innovation: 2013
What is the innovation that CommScope was first in creating?
Sentinel was the first cost-effective, prime focus ETSI Class 4 compliant antenna. Class 4 antennas have very low side lobes in the antenna radiation pattern, so they minimize interference with adjacent antennas. Sentinel accomplishes this with a compact, highly-integrated antenna reflector. Prior to Sentinel, this level of performance could only be achieved with highly complex dual offset reflector antennas, which were too expensive for wide adoption in the market.
What was happening in the market that this innovation was needed?
Demand for network capacity has been growing exponentially. Wireless network operators have to build more cell sites, which in turn have to be connected to the core networks. More cell sites means more microwave links in the same area, and these links cannot interfere with each other. In addition, individual link capacity demands are increasing due to higher traffic demands, and this requires larger channels (more spectrum) on each link. Class 4 antennas such as Sentinel allow for more microwave links because their radiation patterns prevent interference with other nearby links.
How does this innovation benefit customers and the industry?
Class 4 antennas allow more links to be deployed in a given area because their excellent pattern characteristics prevent interference. This same characteristic also means that the same spectrum can be reused without risk of interference, thus enabling larger channels to be deployed on a given link.
In areas of the world where there are weak regulatory regimes or where poor quality antennas have been deployed in adjacent networks, Class 4 antennas can prevent interference from these adjacent networks from impacting the customer’s network. Where an operator has sole use of a block of spectrum, Class 4 antennas enable operators to maximize the utilization of that spectrum - saving considerably on licensing costs.
What makes this a promising innovation for future networks and customer applications?
With the coming of 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), network density and the demand for spectrum is only going to increase. It is therefore essential that spectrum be used as efficiently as possible. It is also essential that networks operate without interference. Class 4 antennas are a key enabler for efficient spectrum use and low-interference networks.
What are some of the early marketplace successes for this innovation?
Major operators in Africa and Mexico have extensively deployed Class 4 antennas. In France, ARCEP, the telecom regulatory body, has mandated the use of Class 4 antennas in new frequency bands as they are released.
What is the significance of the innovation for CommScope?
CommScope is a market leader for microwave antennas, and Sentinel antennas reinforce our belief that high-performing, high-quality antennas are essential in today’s networks.
Does the innovation follow any established industry standards or do you believe it might set a precedent for its own?
The design is compliant to ETSI Class 4 – a regulatory class that was previously little used due to the lack of a cost-effective product that could comply with it. The release of Sentinel antennas effectively opens up Class 4 technology for broad use.
How do you see this innovation evolving?
At present, the product is available in 0.3, 0.6 and 1.0 meter variants. Over time, the Sentinel portfolio will expand to include larger sizes. Ultimately, Class 4 may well become the default standard in same way as ETSI Class 3 superseded Class 2 around the turn of the century.
About the Author
Donald Gardner is a product line manager within the Microwave Antenna Systems team at CommScope and is based in Lochgelly, Scotland. Holding masters degrees from the University of Strathclyde and the University of Edinburgh, he has been involved in the wireless communications industry for over 20 years. Prior to his current position, Gardner has held various positions in quality and engineering within our microwave antenna group. His key expertise includes mechanical and process engineering of microwave antennas and product management of microwave backhaul solutions