Microwave Antenna Alignment

Alignment of Microwave Antennas for Digital Microwave Transmission Systems

This article contains generic instructions for alignment of Microwave antennas.  Specific products may have different features, in which case please refer to the documentation provided for those products:

CableFree Microwave Antenna Alignment
CableFree Microwave Antenna Alignment

Antenna Alignment for Microwave Links

This guide explains how to achieve the optimal antenna alignment of microwave antennas when used with modern digital microwave products.  Before attempting to do the alignment it is highly recommended that you read this guide in detail.  For specific commands please consult the manual of the product being installed

Step 1:  Preparation:

Mount the antenna on the tower according to the antenna installation instructions:  Ensure that the adjustment bolts move smoothly and the range of motion is sufficient for the expected angle of up and down (elevation) tilt. Ensure that the mount itself is attached securely and all safety precautions have been taken.

CableFree Microwave Antenna Alignment using DVM
CableFree Microwave Antenna Alignment using DVM

Step 2: Coarse Alignment:

Visually align the antenna with the far end.  The most common ways to do this are :

1)      If the visibility is good and the sun is in the correct position, have someone at the far end location reflect the sun with a mirror so the location is obvious.

2)      If visibility is poor, use GPS coordinates and a GPS compass to aim the antenna coarsely.

CableFree Microwave Antenna Alignment avoiding Sidelobes
CableFree Microwave Antenna Alignment avoiding Sidelobes

Step 3: Fine Alignment.

Before conducting fine alignment, the ODUs at both ends of the link must be attached properly to the antenna via the direct mount or remote mount (using Waveguide) and the far end ODU must be powered on and transmitting.  The ODU lightning surge suppressors and grounding provisions should be put in place as well before alignment. The local ODU must be powered on, but need not be transmitting.

Ensure that:

1)      Frequency of the far end transmitter matches the frequency of the local receiver.

2)      The TX output power is not set above the level of the license.

3)      ATPC is turned OFF on the far end.

4)      Alignment mode is ON for SP ODUs – Display on ODU and IDU will update at 5 times per second.

FINE ALIGNMENT PROCEDURE

1)      Adjust the azimuth over a 30 degree sweep by turning the adjustment bolt in increments of 1/10th turn to avoid missing the main lobe. When the highest signal has been found for azimuth, repeat for the elevation adjustment.

2)      Turn the local transmitter on to allow alignment at the far end.

3)      Move to the far end of the link and repeat step 1.

4)      Lock down the antenna so no further movement can occur.

5)      Install the antenna side struts supplied with the antenna.

6)      Verify the RSSI remains the same and is within 2-4 dB of the expected levels.

7)      Check the ODU connector seals.

8)      Turn alignment mode OFF

9)      The alignment is complete.

Microwave ODU

Microwave ODU (Outdoor Unit)

The term ODU is used in Split-Mount Microwave systems where an Indoor Unit (IDU) is typically mounted in an indoor location (or weatherproof shelter) connected via a coaxial cable to the ODU which is mounted on a rooftop or tower top location.

CableFree Microwave ODU
CableFree Microwave ODU

Often the ODU is direct mounted to a microwave antenna using “Slip fit” waveguide connection.  In some cases, a Flexible Waveguide jumper is used to connect from the ODU to the antenna.

ODU functions

The ODU converts data from the IDU into an RF signal for transmission. It also converts the RF signal from the far end to suitable data to transmit to the IDU. ODUs are weatherproofed units that are mounted on top of a tower either directly connected to a microwave antenna or connected to it through a wave guide.

Generally, Microwave ODUs designed for full duplex operation, with separate signals for transmit and receive.  On the airside interface this corresponds to a “pair” of frequencies, one for transmit, the other for receive.  This is known as “FDD” (Frequency Division Duplexing)

ODU Power and data signals

The ODU receives its power and the data signals from the IDU through a single coaxial cable. ODU parameters are configured and monitored through the IDU.  The DC power, transmit signal, receive signal and some command/control telemetry signals are all combined onto the single coaxial cable.  This use of a single cable is designed to reduce cost and time of installation.

ODu Frequency bands and sub-bands

Each ODU is designed to operate over a predefined frequency sub-band. For example 21.2 – 23.6GHz for a 23GHz system, 17.7 – 19.7GHz for a 18GHz system and 24.5 – 26.5GHz for a 26GHz system as for ODUs.    The sub-band is set in hardware (filters, diplexer) at time of manufacture and cannot be changed in the field.

1+0, 1+1, 2+0 Deployments

Microwave ODUs can be deployed in various configurations.

Microwave ODU in 1+0 Configuration with Antenna
Microwave ODU in 1+0 Configuration with Antenna

The most common is 1+0 which has a single ODU, generally connected directly to the microwave antenna.  1+0 means “unprotected” in that there is no resilience or backup equipment or path.

 

 

 

Two Microwave ODUs in 1+1 HSB or 2+0 configuration with Coupler and Antenna
Two Microwave ODUs in 1+1 HSB or 2+0 configuration with Coupler and Antenna

For resilient networks there are several different configurations.  1+1 in “Hot Standby” is common and typically has a pair of ODUs (one active, one standby) connected via a Microwave Coupler to the antenna.  There is typically a 3dB or 6dB loss in the coupler which splits the power either equally or unequally between the main and standby path.

Other resilient configurations are 1+1 SD (Space Diversity, using separate antennas, one ODU on each) and 1+1 FD (Frequency Diversity)

The other non-resilient configuration is 2+0 which has two ODUs connected to a single antenna via a coupler.  The hardware configuration is identical to 1+1 FD, but the ODUs carry separate signals to increase the overall capacity.

Grounding & Surge Protection

Suitable ground wire should be connected to the ODU ground lug to an appropriate ground point on the antenna mounting or tower for lightning protection.  This grounding is essential to avoid damage due to electrical storms.

In-line Surge Suppressors are used to protect the ODU and IDU from surges that could travel down the cable in the case of extreme surges caused by lightning

The specification of a typical Microwave ODU is shown below.

Typical ODU Features and Specifications:

  • 4-42GHz frequency bands available
  • Fully synthesized design
  • 3.5-56MHz RF channel bandwidths
  • Supports QPSK and 16 to 1024 QAM.  Some ODUs may support 2048QAM
  • Standard and high power options
  • High MTBF, greater than 92.000 hours
  • Software controlled ODU functions
  • Designed to meet FCC, ETSI and CE safety and emission standards
  • Supports popular ITU-R standards and frequency recommendations
  • Software configurable microcontroller for ODU monitor and control settings
  • Low noise figure, low phase noise and high linearity
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Very high frequency stability +/-2.5 ppm
  • Wide operating temperature range: -40°C to +65°C

For Further information

For More Information about Microwave ODUs, we will be delighted to answer your questions. Please Contact Us

Microwave Backhaul for 5G Mobile Networks

5G Mobile networks, Microwave Backhaul and future trends in Mobile Networks

CableFree 5G Mobile Wireless Network
CableFree 5G Mobile Wireless Network

With 5G mobile communication becoming available around 2020, the industry has already started to develop a fairly clear view of the main challenges, opportunities and key technology components it involves. 5G will extend the performance and capabilities of wireless access networks in many dimensions, for example enhancing mobile broadband services to provide data rates beyond 10 Gbps with latencies of 1 ms.

Microwave is a key element of current backhaul networks and will continue to evolve as part of the future 5G ecosystem. An option in 5G is to use the same radio access technology for both the access and the backhaul links, with dynamic sharing of the spectrum resources. This can provide a complement to microwave backhaul especially in very dense deployments with a larger number of small radio nodes.

Today, microwave transmission dominates mobile backhaul, where it connects some 60 percent of all macro base stations. Even as the total number of connections grows, microwave’s share of the market will remain fairly constant. By 2019, it will still account for around 50 percent of all base stations (macro and outdoor small cells (see Figure 3). It will play a key role in last mile access and a complementary role the aggregation part of the network. At the same time, fibre transmission will continue to increase its share of the mobile backhaul market, and by 2019 will connect around 40 percent of all sites. Fibre will be widely used in the aggregation/metro parts of the networks and increasingly for last-mile access. There will also be geographical differences, with densely populated urban areas having higher fibre penetration than less populated suburban and rural areas, where microwave will prevail for both short-haul and long-haul links.

Spectral efficiency

CableFree 5G Mobile Backhaul Wireless Tower
CableFree 5G Mobile Backhaul Wireless Tower

Spectrum efficiency (that is, getting more bits per Hz) can be achieved through techniques like higher-order modulation and adaptive modulation, the superior system gain of a well-designed solution, and Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO).

Modulation

The maximum number of symbols per second transmitted on a microwave carrier is limited by the channel bandwidth. Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) increases the potential capacity by coding bits on to each symbol. Moving from two bits per symbol (4 QAM) to 10 bits per symbol (1024 QAM) delivers a more than five-fold capacity increase.

Higher-order modulation levels have been made possible through advances in component technologies that have reduced equipment-generated noise and signal distortion. In the future there will be support for up to 4096 QAM (12 bits per symbol), but we are approaching the theoretical and practical limits. Higher-order modulation means increased sensitivity to noise and signal distortion. The receiver sensitivity is reduced by 3 dB for every increased step in modulation, while the related capacity gain gets smaller (in percentage terms). As an example, the capacity gain is 11 percent when moving from 512 QAM (9 bits per symbol) to 1024 QAM (10 bits per symbol).

Adaptive modulation

5G Backhaul Microwave Link
CableFree Microwave Link installed on a telecom tower

Increasing modulation makes the radio more sensitive to propagation anomalies such as rain and multi-path fading. To maintain microwave hop length, the increased sensitivity can be compensated for by higher output power and larger antennas. Adaptive modulation is a very cost-effective solution to maximize throughput in all propagation conditions. In practice, adaptive modulation is a prerequisite for deployment with extreme high-order modulation.

Adaptive modulation enables an existing microwave hop to be upgraded from, for example, 114 Mbps to as much as 500 Mbps. The higher capacity comes with lower availability. For example, availability is reduced from 99.999 percent (5 minutes’ yearly outage) at 114 Mbps to 99.99 percent of the time (50 minutes’ yearly outage) at 238 Mbps. System gain Superior system gain is a key parameter for microwave. A 6 dB higher system gain can be used, for example, to increase two modulation steps with the same availability, which provides up to 30 percent more capacity. Alternatively it could be used to increase the hop length or decrease the antenna size, or a combination of all. Contributors to superior system gain include efficient error correction coding, low receiver noise levels, digital predistortion for higher output power operation, and power-efficient amplifiers, among others.

MIMO Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO)

MIMO is a mature technology that is widely used to increase spectral efficiency in 3GPP and Wi-Fi radio access, where it offers a cost-effective way to boost capacity and throughput where available spectrum is limited. Historically, the spectrum situation for microwave applications has been more relaxed; new frequency bands have been made available and the technology has been continuously developed to meet the capacity requirements. However in many countries the remaining spectrum resources for microwave applications are starting to become depleted and additional technologies are needed to meet future requirements. For 5G Mobile Backhaul, MIMO at microwave frequencies is an emerging technology that offers an effective way to further increase spectrum efficiency and so the available transport capacity.

Unlike ‘conventional’ MIMO systems, which are based on reflections in the environment, for 5G Mobile Backhaul, channels are ‘engineered’ in point-to-point microwave MIMO systems for optimum performance. This is achieved by installing the antennas with a spatial separation that is hop distance-and frequency-dependent. In principle, throughput and capacity increase linearly with the number of antennas (at the expense of additional hardware cost, of course). An NxM MIMO system is constructed using N transmitters and M receivers. Theoretically there is no limit for the N and M values, but since the antennas must be spatially separated there is a practical limitation depending on tower height and surroundings. For this reason 2×2 antennas is the most feasible type of MIMO system. These antennas could either be single polarized (two carrier system) or dual polarized (four carrier system). MIMO will be a useful tool for scaling microwave capacity further, but is still at an early phase where, for example, its regulatory status still needs to be clarified in most countries, and its propagation and planning models still need to be established. The antenna separation can also be challenging especially for lower frequencies and longer hop lengths.

More Spectrum

Another section of the microwave capacity toolbox for 5G Mobile Backhaul involves getting access to more spectrum. Here the millimeter-wave bands – the unlicensed 60 GHz bands and the licensed 70/80 GHz band – are growing in popularity as a way of getting access to new spectrum in many markets (see Microwave Frequency Options section for more information). These bands also offer much wider frequency channels, which facilitate deployment of cost-efficient, multi-gigabit systems which enable 5G Mobile Backhaul.

Throughput efficiency

Throughput efficiency (that is, more payload data per bit), involves features like multi-layer header compression and radio link aggregation/bonding, which focus on the behaviour of packet streams.

Multi-layer header compression

Multi-layer header compression removes unnecessary information from the headers of the data frames and releases capacity for traffic purposes, as shown in Figure 7. On compression, each unique header is replaced with a unique identity on the transmitting side, a process which is reversed on the receiving side. Header compression provides relatively higher utilization gain for packets of smaller frame size, since their headers comprise a relatively larger part of the total frame size. This means the resulting extra capacity varies with the number of headers and frame size, but is typically a 5–10 percent gain with Ethernet, IPv4 and WCDMA, with an average frame size of 400–600 bytes, and a 15–20 percent gain with Ethernet, MPLS, IPv6 and LTE with the same average frame size.

These figures assume that the implemented compression can support the total number of unique headers that are transmitted. In addition, the header compression should be robust and very simple to use, for example offering self-learning, minimal configuration and comprehensive performance indicators.

Radio Link Aggregation (RLA, Bonding)

Radio link bonding in microwave is akin to carrier aggregation in LTE and is an important tool to support continued traffic growth, as a higher share of microwave hops are deployed with multiple carriers, as illustrated in Figure 8. Both techniques aggregate multiple radio carriers into one virtual one, so both enhancing the peak capacity as well as increasing the effective throughput through statistical multiplexing gain. Nearly 100 percent efficiency is achieved, since each data packet can use the total aggregated peak capacity with only a minor reduction for protocol overhead, independent of traffic patterns. Radio link bonding is tailored to provide superior performance for the particular microwave transport solution concerned. For example, it may support independent behaviour of each radio carrier using adaptive modulation, as well as graceful degradation in the event of failure of one or more carrier (N+0 protection).

Just like carrier aggregation, radio link bonding will continue to be developed to support higher capacities and more flexible carrier combinations, for example through support for aggregation of more carriers, carriers with different bandwidths and carriers in different frequency bands.

Network optimization

The next section of the capacity toolbox is network optimization. This involves densifying networks without the need for extra frequency channels through interference mitigation features like super high performance (SHP) antennas and automatic transmit power control (ATPC). SHP antennas effectively suppress interference through very low sidelobe radiation patterns, fulfilling ETSI class 4. ATPC enables the transmit power to be automatically reduced during favorable propagation conditions (that is, most of the time), effectively reducing the interference in the network. Using these features reduces the number of frequency channels needed in the network and could deliver up to 70 percent more total network capacity per channel. Interference due to misalignment or dense deployment is limiting backhaul build-out in many networks. Careful network planning, advanced antennas, signal processing and the use of ATPC features at a network level will reduce the impact from interference.

Looking to the future, 5G and Beyond

CableFree 5G Mobile Wireless Technology
CableFree 5G Mobile Wireless Technology

Over the coming years, microwave capacity tools for 5G Mobile Networks will be evolved and enhanced, and used in combination enabling capacities of 10 Gbps and beyond. Total cost of ownership will be optimized for common high-capacity configurations, such as multi-carrier solutions.

Microwave Mobile Backhaul

Packet Microwave Radios for Mobile Backhaul

To deliver a compelling quality of experience for subscribers, you must respond quickly to growing traffic demands. Modern Packet Microwave Mobile Backhaul products help you maximize the network’s performance by enabling rapid deployment of scalable backhaul to cell sites.  Modern solutions include a portfolio of microwave products to address the backhaul needs of 2G, 3G, and LTE macro cells and 3G, LTE, and Wi-Fi® small cells. Radio spectrum is maximized using innovative techniques to maximize payload capacity to support the evolution to LTE and heterogeneous networks. Unique, common radio support for indoor and outdoor deployments enhances savings potential.

Packet Microwave Mobile Backhaul is a key component in a modern end-to-end mobile backhaul solution, which provides the flexibility, scale and operational simplicity to lower the total cost of ownership and simultaneously enhance the mobile service experience.

BENEFITS

CableFree Microwave for Mobile Backhaul
CableFree Microwave for Mobile Backhaul

Economic benefits

Rapidly support the optimal cell site location

  • Complete backhaul portfolio for macro cells and small cells
  • Support for all sites including both end and intermediate cell sites
  • Space and power efficiency
  • Full outdoor option to meet different microwave site space requirements

Achieve maximum spectral performance

  • Maximum bandwidth per band
  • Intelligent compression
  • Advanced quality of service levels supporting subscriber quality of experience

Scale the network cost effectively

  • Reliably bond radio channels to create larger microwave links
  • Any topology, any number of microwave link directions
  • Network awareness for both Carrier Ethernet and/or IP/MPLS networks

Be operationally efficient

  • Common radio for all cell sites
  • Evolutionary path from hybrid microwave to packet microwave at the touch of a button
  • Management beyond basic IP partner integration

Deployment, management, end-user benefits

Grow and retain subscribers by maximizing the mobile experience

  • Infrastructure support for increased subscriber bandwidth demands
  • Ability to react quickly to subscriber demand with optimally-located cell sites
  • Increased capacity that supports high bandwidth data applications

COMPONENTS

4G/LTE Mobile Backhaul
4G/LTE Mobile Backhaul

Packet Microwave Mobile Backhaul integrates a modern microwave portfolio with small cell optimized products to provide a complete backhaul offering for small cells and/or macro cells.

Read on in our following pages to find out more about technologies used in mobile backhaul applications