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This chapter presents an overview of microwave transmission. In addition, it also outlines a summary on suitable applications of microwave links and describes the general aspects and advantages of microwave network design. The prediction cycle and the activity blocks applied in the design of microwave networks are also presented.

1 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 9 Transmission options Introduction Radio links versus cable links Microwave transmission - advantages Transmission capacity and covered distance Microwave transmission - suitability The beginning of the microwave transmission era The digitalization era Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) What is microwave radio-link design? The trinity principle of microwave radio-link design The prediction cycle Ericsson offers General aspects From voice to data Competitive advantages Services References 1 1 1 1 2 3 3 3 4 5 6 7 8 8 9 10 10 10



Transmission options
Ericsson offers a complete range of managed, edge-to-edge transmission solutions and services that cover the full range of challenges in mobile, fixed, and converged networks. These enable customers all over the world to migrate, evolve and optimize installed networks in a cost-efficient and step-by-step way.


Transmission is generally made possible by employing the following three major media:

Optical-fiber cables Copper coaxial cables Microwave

Another available transmission option is the use of satellite links. Satellite links are more appropriate, than the use of ordinary terrestrial microwave and cable, in such applications as long-haul routes in international networks that do not require extremely high transmission capacity. Of course, satellite links are basically microwave links operating in appropriate frequency bands.


Radio links versus cable links

Radio-links exhibit many advantages in comparison to fiber-optic links, for example:

Cost-effective transmission links in inaccessible terrain and difficult environments The quick coverage of large areas by new operators Higher security due to the fact that equipment can be physically concentrated

Microwave transmission is therefore a very attractive alternative for applications ranging from:

the coverage of rural and sparsely populated areas and cities or high-dense populated areas the coverage of developing countries having ineffective or minimal infrastructures to well-developed industrial countries that require rapid expansion of their telecommunications networks


Microwave transmission - advantages

Considering the three transmission media mentioned section 1.1, microwave transmission is the most suitable option for networks that are located in areas of difficult terrain topography or where other limitations are imposed on the use of optical fiber and/or copper coaxial cables. Generally speaking, microwave transmission is most suitable in the following applications:

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Long-haul routes for national and international networks covering areas of difficult terrain topography National networks containing microwave in parallel with optical fiber Urban access routes connecting inter-urban optical-fiber cable routes and in-town terminal stations Temporary transmission solution for catastrophic or emergency situations Short-term projects Access links from cellular to public networks Cellular networks Radio in the local loop Point-to-multipoint operation

It is possible to combine the different applications presented above, thus making microwave transmission a very competitive option both technically and economically.


Transmission capacity and covered distance

Figure 1 is a rough illustration of the possible transmission options as a function of the different ranges of transmission capacity (Mbit/s) and distance (km). Except for some overlapping, the figure clearly shows that the transmission options are complementary, while at the same time, each option exhibits its own domain of optimal cost effectiveness.
Capacity, Mbit/s

thousands Optical fiber

Fiber in the loop


MW point-to-point Satellites






hundreds Distance, km


Figure 1: Transmission options for different capacities and covered distances.

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Microwave transmission - suitability

Table 1 illustrates the different aspects of microwave transmission and the corresponding suitable conditions. Subject
Transmission capacity Routes Terrain topography Infrastructure Project implementation Initial operation Coverage Special operation Damaging intention Availability

Suitable conditions for microwave transmission

Low, medium and high (not very/extremely high) Short and medium (not very/extremely long) Inaccessible terrain (not over water) None or hardly existing Short time High initial investment (compared to leased lines) Continental rural and urban Emergency use Easy to protect important sites (nodes) Very high (if required)

Table 1: Suitable conditions for microwave transmission.

The beginning of the microwave transmission era

The worlds first commercial microwave link equipment was put into operation in 1934, in Paris, at the Laboratories Central des Tlcommunications, a subsidiary of the former International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation. The equipment was used in a 56 km microwave path across the English Channel between Calais (France) and Dover (England). The link was amplitude modulated (AM), using a klystron that generated 1 W RF-output power and operating at 1.7 GHz. The hardware technology was provided by two manufactures: the British company Standard Telephones and Cables (now a part of Northern Telecom) and the French company Le Matriel Tlphonique (now integrated into Alcatel Telspace).

The digitalization era

Integrated semiconductor technology started a new era in radio telecommunication. Optical fiber was not available for transmission late in 60s and early 70s. Since digital transmission on coaxial cable was too expensive (repeaters at extremely short intervals) and slowly implemented for relatively long telecommunication routes, low-cost semiconductor technology in the beginning of the 70s became the start of a new telecommunications era. Digital transmission has several advantages compared to analog transmission:

Up to a certain threshold limit, the received signal can be restored to its original shape irrespective of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), thus enabling a large, almost unlimited number of repeaters.

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Microwave transmission at higher frequencies (due to the possibility to cascade many microwave links forming a chain of microwave links)

The worlds first digital microwave link was a 17 Mbit/s equipment that was taken into operation in Japan, in 1969. It provided 240 telephone channels in the 2 GHz frequency band.

Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH)

The digitalization era was based on the Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy (PDH). In the late 80s, ITU-T standardized SDH as an evolution step for the PDH technology. SDH was standardized from its North American equivalent SONET. SDH provides some key benefits in comparison with PDH:

Higher transmissions speeds are defined. Direct multiplexing is possible without intermediate multiplexing stages. This is accomplished through the use of pointers in the multiplexing overhead that directly identify the position of the payload. The SDH overhead supports an effective network management, control over the traffic, network status etc. The SDH protocol is able to handle both the European standard and American standard payloads.

Today, most microwave links with capacities above 50 Mbit/s apply the SDH or SONET standards, while links with capacities below 50 Mbit/s commonly apply the PDH standards. In the market today, there are Microwave links offering IP, ATM, and Ethernet interfaces instead of PDH or SDH. If and when these transport technologies will fully replace the PDH/SDH technologies is still not completely clear. Probably, SDH technology will, for the next 510 years, offer a standardized method for worldwide transmission of all types of data traffic, for both existing and future data transmission systems.

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What is microwave radio-link design?

In general, microwave radio-link design involves specifying equipment configuration and antenna type and sizes to meet a particular quality objective. In the past, radio links had to meet quality objectives strictly enough to carry high quality voice circuits. The minimum quality standard of any transmission medium to carry voice circuits was assumed to be a Bit Error Ratio (BER) of 10-3. If the link quality of a radio system drops below this value, the link was considered to have poor quality and if lasting for more than 10 consecutive seconds the link was considered as unavailable. The duration that the link was in this condition was considered as outage time. Todays requirements when transmitting voice, data, pictures, etc, are higher and the network scenario more complex. More specifically, microwave radio-link design can be a quite complicated and time-consuming task. For instance, it may include initial planning, frequency planning, site survey, path analysis, link dimensioning and equipment specification. Along with the whole process, lots of constrains and parameters are to be considered. The microwave radio-link design considerations can be summarized by:

Network performance Network capacity, capability and coverage Network cost

To each of these considerations there will certainly be hundreds of planning activities and decisions to be considered. Much of the microwave network design is to collect information to be used as base for these decisions. Hereby, microwave network design implies an iterative process requiring feedbacks to the process, and then generating new output that will generate new feedback and so on, until a final solution is attained. Generally speaking, the design of a microwave radio-link network can be structured in six steps:

Initial planning and site selection Topographical analysis Preliminary path and frequency planning Site survey Detailed path and frequency planning Equipment/configuration specification

For a microwave network, the entire design includes

Network management of sites, equipment and links Quality and availability prediction, which is the required calculations to dimension and configure specific microwave equipment

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Network planning as a multi-task process is illustrated in Figure 2.


Network management

Quality and availability prediction

Network Status

Traffic Demand

Radiowave propagation

Interference Analysis

Figure 2: Overview of network planning.

The trinity principle of microwave radio-link design

If we consider the capacity and coverage requirements on the microwave network as given, we can state the three most important tasks when designing microwave network::

Availability, currently expressed as a fraction of time Quality, currently expressed in bit-error ratio (BER) for digital links Cost, expressed in the actual currency

These three tasks constitute the basic body of microwave network design. The multi-task process, along with all of the possible items, is in some way related to these three factors, see Figure 3. In fact, they are the parameters/input that are usually supplied by the customer. Hereby, the parameters define the goals for carrying out the microwave network design!

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Interception risk 16 Flight-path obstacle 15 Far interference 14 Frequency aspects 13 Equipment data 12 Interference risks 11 Terrain 10 Road requirements 9 12 11 10 7 9 8 6 5 8 Path length 13 14 15 16 1 2 3 4 1 Near interference 2 Power supply requirements 3 Capacity 4 Site layout 5 Obstacles 6 Protective measures 7 Coordination


% of time

Figure 3: The trinity principle of network planning.

The prediction cycle

Figure 4 displays the four main activity blocks forming the design process: loss/attenuation, fading, frequency planning and quality & availability. A preliminary fade margin is calculated in the loss/attenuation block and then used for preliminary fade predictions in the fading block. If interference is present in the frequency planning block, then the threshold degradation is included in the fade margin. The updated fade margin (the effective fade margin) is applied in the fading predictions. The results in the loss/attenuation and the fading blocks will form the necessary input to the quality and availability block. The whole process is highly iterative and may pass through many re-design phases before final convergence is attained.

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Rain Diffraction-refraction

Free-space and Gas attenuation

Obstacle and Reflections loss

Multipath propagation

Always present and predictable

Predictable if present

Not always present but statistically predictable

Link budget

Fading prediction

Threshold degradation Quality & Availability

Predictable if present

Frequency Planning



Figure 4: The prediction cycle showing four main blocks: loss/attenuation, fading, frequency planning and quality and availability.

8 8.1

Ericsson offers General aspects

The Ericsson microwave offer involves addressing a number of important cost drivers for the network operator. Both capital and operating cost can be cut throughout the entire economic life of the network, sometimes even more than the price of the equipment itself. Ericsson provides an end-to-end range of nodes that are scalable in capacity and size, flexible to carry any protocol and integrated with powerful protection mechanisms. MINI-LINK TN are easily controlled and managed through built-in traffic routing and end-to-end management solutions. Flexibility in all aspects permits quick and efficient capacity and coverage expansion in a true invest-as-you-grow fashion. The ability to remotely upgrade the equipment means that the cost of the upgrade is reduced to a license fee, with no necessary site visits. The Ericsson microwave offer is designed with support of all the upcoming features of next generation networks, like carrier Ethernet and adaptive modulation. Soft Keys and high-capacity radio units greatly reduce the need for additional investment in the future. Operating cost vary from market to market, the greatest differences being the cost of wages and of power supply. Compact equipment with low power consumption means savings in both capital and operating expenses.

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MINI-LINK TN has a complete offering with indoor units to support all needed site configurations from small edge-nodes to more complex aggregation nodes. Thanks to MINI-LINK TNs modular building practice and bus architecture, the solution provides unique scalability. There is unmatched support for capacity growth by using agile modems and radio unit. The MINI-LINK radio unit fully supports any frequency and any transport mode, and is capable of high capacity transmission accessible through Soft Keys in a true invest-as-you-grow fashion. The radio unit totally supports adaptive modulation, an upcoming feature of future modems. Marconi LH is a high capacity trunk radio with a very modular and compact building practice with a small footprint - easily scalable with increasing capacity needs. It makes the Marconi LH a perfect complement for a powerful backbone to any microwave network. The Marconi LH trunk radio node is specially designed with a compact modular build and low power consumption. Finally, the Ericsson organization for network roll-out is one of the most efficient and experienced in the world. Highly integrated, highly flexible hardware is quick and easy to install.


From voice to data

The technology flexibility in MINI-LINK TN - supporting any traffic mix of Carrier Ethernet/ATM/TDM - provides support for network evolution in any direction on one platform. Multiple technologies can be supported in the same network and even the same link. Moving from voice to data traffic means accelerating needs for capacity. Traffic aggregation is an effective way to postpone investment in further increase of link capacities. The integrated ATM aggregation facilities of the MINI-LINK TN liberate capacity when introducing mobile broadband services. Initial savings, as proven by real-life studies, are as high as 75-80%. Moving from voice to data traffic also implies migration towards Ethernet-based transmission. Ethernet switching, which liberates the same level of capacities for Ethernet traffic, as mentioned above for ATM aggregation, is also available for MINI-LINK TN and Marconi LH. The Ericsson microwave offer provides a variety of transport alternatives for wireline and mobile traffic. Currently, existing MINI-LINK E networks are easily upgraded to Ethernet ability through the introduction of MINI-LINK TN indoor units at strategic nodes, simultaneously supporting both E1 and Ethernet.

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Competitive advantages
Microwave is a frequently used solution as the backbone of public administration, enterprise and public safety networks. For broadband operators, microwave adds the competitive advantage of speed to market, as well as a cost-effective opportunity to reach new customers. The Ericsson microwave offer provides high capacity, small footprint equipment with a modular build to meet increasing capacity needs. MINI-LINK TN has a complete offering with indoor units to support all needed site configurations. The Marconi LH is a perfect complement for a powerful backbone to any network. Microwave is a highly flexible alternative to cable connections in any number of applications. For fixed broadband networks it closes a fiber ring when there are natural obstacles to avoid. It is also a cost efficient solution for DSL (Digital Subscribe Line) backhaul or business network access. The Ericsson microwave offer means products of legendary reliability. No periodic maintenance is required. The remote management system allows for a minimum of site visits and on-the-spot site inventory as well as fault finding capabilities. Microwave is a quick and easy alternative to leased bandwidth, opening up for low-cost capacity increase with increasing numbers of subscribers.


Ericsson has been a key player in the microwave transmission market for decades and has a long-term commitment to continue to provide future-proof solutions to its customers.

[ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] Radio-Relay Systems, Huurdeman, A. A., Artch House Inc.


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