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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Quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) including 16QAM, 32QAM, 64QAM, 128QAM, 256QAM, 512QAM, 1024QAM, 2048QAM and 4096QAM is both an analog and a digital modulation scheme. It conveys two analog message signals, or two digital bit streams, by changing (modulating) the amplitudes of two carrier waves, using the amplitude-shift keying (ASK) digital modulation scheme or amplitude modulation (AM) analog modulation scheme.
Why are higher QAM levels used?
Modern wireless networks often demand and require higher capacities. For a fixed channel size, increasing QAM modulation level increases the link capacity. Note that incremental capacity gain at low-QAM levels is significant; but at high QAM, the capacity gain is much smaller. For example, increasing
From 1024QAM to 2048QAM gives a 10.83% capacity gain.
From 2048QAM to 4096QAM gives a 9.77% capacity gain.
What are the penalties in higher QAM?
The receiver sensitivity is greatly reduced. For every QAM increment (e.g. 512 to 1024QAM) there is a -3dB degradation in receiver sensitivity. This reduces the range. Due to increased linearity requirements at the transmitter, there is a reduction in transmit power also when QAM level is increased. This may be around 1dB per QAM increment.
Comparing 512-QAM, 1024-QAM, 2048-QAM & 4096-QAM
This article compares 512-QAM vs 1024-QAM vs 2048-QAM vs 4096-QAM and mentions difference between 512-QAM, 1024-QAM, 2048-QAM and 4096-QAM modulation techniques. It mentions advantages and disadvantages of QAM over other modulation types. Links to 16-QAM, 64-QAM and 256-QAM is also mentioned.
Understanding QAM Modulation
Starting with the QAM modulation process at the transmitter to receiver in the wireless baseband (i.e. Physical Layer) chain. We will use the example of 64-QAM to illustrate the process. Each symbol in the QAM constellation represents a unique amplitude and phase. Hence they can be distinguished from the other points at the receiver.
Fig:1, 64-QAM Mapping and Demapping
• As shown in the figure-1, 64-QAM or any other modulation is applied on the input binary bits.
• The QAM modulation converts input bits into complex symbols which represent bits by variation in amplitude/phase of the time domain waveform. Using 64QAM converts 6 bits into one symbol at transmitter.
• The bits to symbols conversion take place at the transmitter while reverse (i.e. symbols to bits) take place at the receiver. At receiver, one symbol gives 6 bits as output of demapper.
• Figure depicts position of QAM mapper and QAM demapper in the baseband transmitter and receiver respectively. The demapping is done after front end synchronization i.e. after channel and other impairments are corrected from the received impaired baseband symbols.
• Data Mapping or modulation process is done before the RF upconversion (U/C) in the transmitter and PA. Due to this, higher order modulation necessitates use of highly linear PA (Power Amplifier) at the transmit end.
QAM Mapping Process
Fig:2, 64-QAM Mapping Process
In 64-QAM, the number 64 refers to 2^6.
Here 6 represents number of bits/symbol which is 6 in 64-QAM.
Similarly it can be applied to other modulation types such as 512-QAM, 1024-QAM, 2048-QAM and 4096-QAM as described below.
Following table mentions 64-QAM encoding rule. Check the encoding rule in the respective wireless standard. KMOD value for 64-QAM is 1/SQRT(42).
The 64-QAM mapper takes binary input and generates complex data symbols as output. It uses above mentioned encoding table to do the conversion process. Before the coversion process, data is grouped into 6 bits pair. Here, (b5, b4, b3) determines the I value and (b2, b1, b0) determines the Q value.
The above figure shows 512-QAM constellation diagram. Note that 16 points do not exist in each of the four quadrants to make total 512 points with 128 points in each quadrant in this modulation type. It is possible to have 9 bits per symbol in 512-QAM also. 512QAM increases capacity by 50% compare to 64-QAM modulation type.
The figure shows a 1024-QAM constellation diagram.
Number of bits per seymbol: 10
Symbol rate: 1/10 of bit rate
Increase in capacity compare to 64-QAM: About 66.66%
Following are the characteristics of 2048-QAM modulation.
Number of bits per seymbol: 11
Symbol rate: 1/11 of bit rate
Increase in capacity from 64-QAM to 1024QAM: 83.33% gain
Increase in capacity from 1024QAM to 2048QAM: 10.83% gain
Total constellation points in one quadrant: 512
Following are the characteristics of 4096-QAM modulation.
Number of bits per symbol: 12
Symbol rate: 1/12 of bit rate
Increase in capacity from 64-QAM to 409QAM: 100% gain
Increase in capacity from 2048QAM to 4096QAM 9.77% gain
Total constellation points in one quadrant: 1024
Advantages of QAM over other modulation types
Following are the advantages of QAM modulation:
• Helps achieve high data rate as more number of bits are carried by one carrier. Due to this it has become popular in modern wireless communication system such as LTE, LTE-Advanced etc. It is also used in latest WLAN technologies such as 802.11n 802.11 ac, 802.11 ad and others.
Following are the disadvantages of QAM modulation:
• Though data rate has been increased by mapping more than 1 bits on single carrier, it requires high SNR in order to decode the bits at the receiver.
• Needs high linearity PA (Power Amplifier) in the Transmitter.
• In addition to high SNR, higher modulation techniques need very robust front end algorithms (time, frequency and channel) to decode the symbols without errors.
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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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