RadioMobile: Popular software for Microwave Link planning
RadioMobile is a widely-available software package which can be used for Microwave Link planning, including path profiling and clearance criteria, power budgets, choosing antenna sizes and tower heights.
For website for RadioMobile, please see this the relevant website.
For Microwave Link Planning, the software package can be configured with the characteristics of your required radio links.
Link Budget & Fade Margins
The software enables quick and rapid calculation of link budget and fade margins for any frequency band.
The software uses the freely available SRTM terrain data which can download “on demand” for calculation of terrain heights. Combined with LandCover, this enables estimation of trees/forests also.
Line of Sight
The software uses the terrain database to allows quick establishment of available Line of Sight and “what if” adjustment of antenna/tower heights in a microwave radio network design
Radio Fresnel Zone
RadioMobile automatically calculates the Fresnel Zone for any required link, with graphical display enabling quick feasibility and identification of any obstacles to be noted.
Radio Parameters & Network Properties
Any new user to Radio Mobile will have to enter link parameters for the chosen equipment. This includes transmit power, receive sensitivity and antenna gains. Some vendors such as CableFree include this data as a planning service with their products
Radio Mobile: Free to Use
The Radio Mobile software is free to use including for commercial use. Radio Mobile software is a copyright of Roger Coudé. The author notes:
Although commercial use is not prohibited, the author cannot be held responsible for its usage. The outputs resulting from the program are under the entire responsibility of the user, and the user should conform to restrictions from external data sources.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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Modulation is a data transmission technique that transmits a message signal inside another higher frequency carrier by altering the carrier to look more like the message. Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) is a form of modulation that uses two carriers—offset in phase by 90 degrees—and varying symbol rates (i.e., transmitted bits per symbol) to increase throughput. The table in this blog post (Figure 1) describes the various common modulation levels, associated bits/symbol and incremental capacity improvement above the next lower modulation step.
2. Must all operators who use microwave backhaul use higher-order QAMs?
Higher-order QAMs are not necessarily a must-have for all network operators. However, higher-order modulations do provide one method of obtaining higher data throughput and are a useful tool for meeting LTE backhaul capacity requirements.
3. What is the main advantage of using higher-order QAMs with microwave radios?
The main advantage is increased capacity, or higher throughput. However, capacity improvement diminishes with every higher modulation step (i.e., moving from 1024QAM to 2048QAM the improvement is only about 10 percent!), so the real capability of higher-order modulations alone to address the objective of increasing capacity is very limited. Other techniques will be needed.
4. What are the tradeoffs of higher-order QAMs on RF performance?
First, with each step increase in QAM the RF performance of the microwave radio is degraded as per the Carrier-to-Interference (C/I) ratio. For example, going from 1024QAM to 2048QAM will produce an increase of 5 dB in C/I (Figure 2). This results in the microwave link having much higher sensitivity to interference, making it more difficult to coordinate links and reducing link density. Along with this increase in phase noise there will be an increase in design complexity cost.
Also, by increasing from 1024QAM to 2048QAM, system gain will decrease from above 80 dB to just above 75 dB (Figure 2). With much lower system gain microwave links will have to be shorter and larger antennas will have to be employed—increasing total cost of ownership and introducing additional link design and path planning problems.
All of the above are the results of linear functions: they degrade in a one-to-one relationship with the move to higher-order QAMs. Meanwhile, the capacity increases derived from higher-order QAMs are the function of a flattening curve: Each step increase in QAM results in a reduced percentage increase in capacity compared to prior increases in QAM. The added capacity benefits are diminished when considering the added costs of higher C/I and lower system gain.
5. Do you need to use Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM) while using higher-order QAMs?
ACM should be implemented while employing high-order QAMs to offset lower system gain. However, while ACM does help mitigate the effects of more difficult propagation when using higher-order modulations, it cannot help offset increased C/I.
6. What gives CableFree a “heads-up” here when other big name companies seem to be supporting the technology?
CableFree realizes higher-order modulations are not a panacea—a cure-all. While every minor technology improvement in throughput can help, a focus on technologies that grow capacity in hundreds of percentage points vs. tens of percentage points is most critical now. CableFree believes that these hundreds-of-percentage-points-of-improvement-in-capacity solutions will be the most important moving forward. It is in these technologies that CableFree has a “heads-up.” Such techniques include deploying more spectrum—particularly in the form of multichannel RF bonding (N+0) solutions—to achieve a minimum of 200 percent capacity increase. This technique is subject to frequency availability, but with flexible N+0 implementations (such as being able to use frequency channels in different bands and different channel sizes) many congestion issues can be avoided.
Second, intelligently dimensioning the backhaul network based on proven rules, best practices and L2/L3 quality of service (QoS) capabilities is another technique to provide potentially very large gains in backhaul capacity. Higher-order modulations can be one tool to achieve required capacity increases in the backhaul network. However, their inherent drawbacks should be well understood, while the most attention should be paid to other techniques that deliver more meaningful and quantifiable benefits.
7. Will operators need to “retrofit” microwave radios to be capable of higher-order QAM operation in their existing microwave infrastructure? Or will completely new hardware be required?
This depends on the age and model of the existing radios. Older microwave systems will likely need to be “retrofitted” to support 512QAM and higher modulations. Recently installed microwave systems should be able to support these technologies without new hardware.
8. How will QAM evolve in the future? Is the introduction of higher-order QAMs an indefinite process, with no end in sight?
The introduction of higher-order QAMs is not an endless process. As per Figure 1 above in this blog post, the law of diminishing returns applies: Throughput percentage improvement declines as modulation rates increase. The cost and complexity of implementing higher-order QAMs probably is not worth the capacity increase benefits derived—not past 1024QAM, in any event.
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