Microwave is seeing growing popularity amongst operators as the backhaul method of choice due to faster deployment and lower cost – this is further bolstered by the large capacity capabilities of the new microwave radios being released to the market. But this technology has a perceived problem – aesthetics.

As operators expand their networks and also begin to utilise their LTE spectrum, they come up against the high expectations of subscribers who now take for granted both uninterrupted coverage and unlimited capacity.

In order to meet these expectations, the radio access network must be supported by a backhaul system capable of transporting the ever-growing data traffic.

One of the challenges associated with this is the increased number of sites needed to improve coverage – particularly at a time where it is becoming extremely difficult to add new base stations (especially in urban areas where the expected boom is most anticipated).

In order to ease the zoning process, it is paramount that antennas deployed in microwave networks be as small as possible while still being capable of transmitting the signal. CommScope has been innovative in this space with the release of its Sentinel® microwave antenna solution where, because of the high interference immunity due to the low antenna side lobes, smaller antennas can regularly be deployed. These antennas allow the necessary C/I (Carrier to Noise) ratio to be met and achieve the target availability requirements of the link where large antennas would have had to be used in the past. And think about the financial savings that using a 0.6 m (2 ft) antenna over a 1.2 m (4 ft) antenna would bring. For example, there is typically a $2,400 saving per antenna per year on tower lease costs alone!

Another space being explored by many regulators and operators today is the use of millimeter wave backhaul in the small cell environment. With large channel bandwidths available in some of these bands—for example 250 MHz, 500 MHz and 1250 MHz—the capacity of links can be significantly higher than at lower microwave frequencies. CommScope has recently introduced e-band products into its ValuLine® antenna range and is working on expanding this range of products in the next few months into smaller diameters. With many of the links in these bands expected to be at street level, there is obviously a strong push for smaller products to be made available due to aesthetics.

Regardless of what technology or frequency bands are selected for the various cell configurations in a network, aesthetics will always be an issue, and it is the responsibility of antenna manufacturers to ensure that they design efficient microwave antenna products that can keep the size and visual impact of any antenna to a minimum.

Have you had zoning issues with your microwave links? What helped resolve these issues? Please share any relevant experiences in the comments.

About the Author

Jim Syme

Jim Syme is product line manager for CommScope’s Microwave Systems division, responsible for business development in the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific regions with additional global management responsibility for several major OEM customers. Jim began his 27-year career with Andrew Corporation in the microwave antenna design engineering group and is a regular participant at conferences on all matters related to microwave antenna systems. Prior to joining Andrew Corporation, Jim was a design engineer for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.

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1 comment for "More Coverage, More Capacity…Less Visibility"
Michael Horan

Well said, James!

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