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Apr 08 2019

Don’t let transport throttle your 5G ambitions

This is part of our ‘5G Anyhaul’ blogs series providing expert insights and best practices to help you prepare your transport network for 5G and support innovative services that create new revenue opportunities.

Before any of your subscribers can begin to experience the eye-popping performance of 5G, you must connect them to the network. That, of course, means connecting the 5G device to the base station over high-performance radio links. It also calls for the base station to be attached to the network using transport that can handle 5G’s extreme throughput and latency capabilities.

However, squeezing the required gigabit performance (we’re talking 10G here) from conventional microwave transport, which typically peaks out at 300-500 Mbps, isn’t going to happen.

Enhance capacity, extend reach

The answer is transport carrier aggregation that bonds together channels to take advantage of the performance characteristics of different frequency bands.

There are many possibilities. Aggregation combines separate frequency bands from the traditional 3 to 42 GHz microwave range to upgrade microwave throughput. It also enables newer mmWave frequencies, such as the 70/80 GHz E-band, to be combined with a conventional microwave band to capture the best both technologies – reliable long transmission reach and very high throughput with ultra-low latency. Using carrier aggregation, microwave bands will support priority traffic such as voice, while the mmWave band provides high capacity for data traffic – all in a convenient, single wireless link.

Carrier aggregation offers a choice of frequency configurations to cost-effectively meet any scenario. Band combinations can be set up to support hotspots like airports that demand high rates up to 10 Gbps, as well as suburban and rural coverage of up to a few Gbps.

Upgrade, don’t replace

That’s great, but at this point you may be asking if this approach means existing transport infrastructure must be replaced with new carrier aggregation equipment. That could be costly and inconvenient, right?

Enabling Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to enhance their existing microwave transport networks was a prime goal in the development of the Nokia Wavence packet transport solution for carrier aggregation. The result is that existing microwave radio links, even those from other vendors, can be integrated into the Wavence carrier aggregation solution. The CSP can select which carriers to use to create a tailored migration path to 5G. That’s sweet news for CSPs keen to make the most of their legacy infrastructure investments.

Re-use existing investments

Nor does the solution have to mean major site changes to accommodate new equipment. The new Wavence dual-band antenna and single ultra-broadband transceiver both support multiple carriers, which means less hardware, faster installation, fewer spares and less site space than a system with separate antennas and modules for each carrier. All of which adds up to a typical saving of 20 percent in overall costs compared to installations with separate transceivers and antennas for different carriers.

Furthermore, as 5G evolves in the coming years, installed Wavence wideband antennas can be re-used to support different bands. In fact, up to 40 percent of a CSP’s existing antennas could be re-used as the network evolves.

D-band for densification

In the future, frequency bands above 100 GHz (D-band) will be used to provide even greater capacity that is well suited to the needs of ultra-dense networks. Carrier aggregation can also be applied using the D-band. Providing extreme capacity links over short distances, the small size of D-band antennas makes them easier and lower cost to deploy in urban areas and a great solution for backhauling small cells.

Make transport ready for 5G

Upgrading to very high throughput, ultra-low latency links is an essential early step in readying transport networks for 5G. Carrier aggregation that combines bigger channels to boost capacity with smaller channels for reliability, will play a major role, as well as dynamic end-to-end service management and support for network slicing. These are essential ingredients of a fully programmable, flexible transport network that is ready for 5G and ready to support years of service and business innovation.

Visit our Microwave Anyhaul page to learn how we can help you prepare your transport network for 5G and support innovative services that create new revenue opportunities.

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About Tamas Madarasz

Tamas is portfolio marketing manager for Nokia’s Mobile Network Solutions. With 15 years experience in wireless technologies and MSc degrees in both Economics and Electrical Engineering, feel free to ask him anything about the latest mobile applications!

Tweet me at @t_madarasz