The Future of Microwave Backhaul

Donald-Gardner-10-20-14--thumb Donald Gardner December 9, 2015
City-center-compressedAs we look forward to 2016, one thing is certain: data traffic over mobile networks will continue to increase exponentially. A recent Cisco report predicts a tenfold increase in data traffic to over 20 Exabytes per month by 2019. To support this demand, operators are rolling out networks with ever greater density. A recent Ericsson report noted microwave will continue to be the leading backhaul technology with an expected 65 percent of all cell sites to be connected with microwave solutions in 2020.

Someone recently asked me why microwave use is so high for backhaul compared to fiber. It is true that wireless operators would generally prefer to use fiber where it is available. But cell sites are not always located where fiber is already present, and it typically is prohibitively expensive to lay new fiber to such places. What usually happens in such cases is that microwave, with all its speed of deployment and cost advantages, is used to provide the backhaul link to a fiber access point. From there the traffic goes onto fiber back to the core network.

Think of it like a city center commute. Many commuters get in a car and drive from their homes to their local rail station, where they board a train that takes them the longer part of their journey. Only a minority of commuters live within walking distance of the train station, so they can avoid driving at all. It’s a similar situation with microwave and fiber.

Rising data traffic places increasing demands on available microwave backhaul spectrum. Operators are already starting to move to the next generation of microwave antennas that offer greater spectrum reuse, increased resilience against interference and the potential to reduce costs. These antennas are ETSI Class 4 compliant, and at CommScope, we have been making them under the Sentinel name for three years.

Want to learn more about microwave communications and Class 4 antennas? Download the just issued “Microwave Communication Basics” eBook to learn more about microwave theory, practices and technologies.

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About the Author


Donald Gardner

Donald Gardner is new product development manager within the Microwave Antenna Systems team at CommScope and is based in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. Holding a Master of Engineering degree from the University of Strathclyde and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Edinburgh, he has been involved in the wireless communications industry for over 30 years. Prior to his current position, Gardner held various positions in quality, engineering and product management within our microwave antenna group. His key expertise includes mechanical and process engineering of microwave antennas and product management of microwave backhaul solutions.