Space Diversity in Microwave Links

Why use Space Diversity?

Long distance Microwave Links often use Space Diversity to ensure reliable communications between the two end points.

In certain geographic locations, such as over water and in deserts, multipath propagation poses an impediment to long-haul radio performance in the form of intolerable link outages. To compensate, a protection scheme must be applied. Space Diversity is one such widely implemented protection scheme that improves the performance of long-distance microwave radio links.

Microwave links below and above 10GHz

At link frequencies above 10 GHz, the path length of the link is limited by fading due to the occurrence of precipitation, while at link frequencies below 10 GHz rain attenuation has a limited effect on the path length. For this reason, frequencies below 10 GHz are best suited for long-haul communication networks. However, even in these preferred long-haul frequencies, path length and link availability can be
limited by another phenomenon—fading caused by multipath propagation.

The probability of fading due to multipath propagation is dependent upon geographic factors such as the locale, the terrain over which the radio waves propagate and the path inclination (angle). The path length itself also has an effect since the likelihood of multipath propagation increases as the path length increases. In general, multipath propagation is more likely to occur in tropical areas, desert areas and in links over large bodies of water

Multipath Propagation

Multipath propagation occurs as a result of one or more waves that are sent out from the transmitting antenna being reflected or deflected back onto a path that leads to the receiving antenna. The reflected/deflected wave is received in addition to the direct path wave.

Multipath Propagation example

Why use Multiple Antennas?

Spatial diversity employs multiple antennas, usually with the same characteristics, that are physically separated from one another. Depending upon the expected incidence of the incoming signal, sometimes a space on the order of a wavelength is sufficient. Other times much larger distances are needed.

As the multipath transmission is typically caused by fluctual layers in the atmosphere or at ground level, the delay difference between the direct path and the reflected/deflected paths vary over time. Also, the reflection coefficient (strength of the reflection/deflection) varies over time resulting in erratic fading behavior. By putting a second receive antenna on the tower, with a vertical separation from the first antenna, we create a second set of delay combinations. This technique is called Space Diversity. As described below, selective fading will occur at different frequency notches in the two received signals (one at each antenna) due to different delays, resulting in a significantly higher probability of receiving an undistorted signal.

Space Diversity with Multiple Antennas

How to achieve Space Diversity

Space Diversity is usually achieved using two vertically spaced antennas (space diversity), multiple transmitter frequencies (frequency diversity), both space and frequency diversity (quad diversity), or reception using two different antenna patterns (angle diversity). Frequency diversity was the first diversity used by fixed point to point microwave systems. Combining dual‐channel space and frequency diversity produces a powerful diversity improvement receiver configuration. The chapter illustrates the receive signal levels for a quad‐diversity path. The purpose of angle diversity antennas is to mitigate the destructive effects of multipath propagation without using a vertically spaced diversity antenna on the microwave tower.

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