Microwave technology advances to meet rising demand for 5G wireless backhaul

The potential of E-band to fulfill the backhaul capacity needs of most 5G deployments beyond 2030 is among the key topics of the Microwave Outlook 2023 report out today. The 10th edition of this industry report from Ericsson also looks at the latest innovations in antenna designs and how AI and automation can lower operational costs of transport networks.

E-band spectrum (radio frequencies from 71 GHz to 86 GHz) can meet the backhaul capacity needs of most 5G sites up to 2030 and beyond, being already open for deployment in countries where 90 percent of the world’s population live, according to the report. The projection is supported by a simulation of backhaul networks from three European cities with different densities of E-band links.

The report also shows the trend of a gradual increase in the share of fiber-connected installed sites vis-à-vis those connected with microwave solutions, reaching a 50/50 split by 2030. Microwave solutions will be the main connectivity option where fiber is unavailable, and the preferred solution in rural areas where fiber investments can be challenging.

Innovation is in focus with the report looking at how new antenna designs enable better use of required spectrum in dense networks, lower spectrum costs and improve performance. For example, *0.9 meter sway compensation antennas provide 80 percent longer hops than 0.3 m regular antennas. The value of other antenna innovations such as muti-band and water-repellent radomes is also highlighted.

A case from Greenland illustrates how long haul can be a perfect solution for providing residents in faraway locations with easy access to the high-speed mobile communications integral to modern life. A local service provider has been using a microwave network to serve the connectivity needs of settlements along the west coast over a distance of 2,134 km (corresponding to the flight distance between Brussels and Athens). This network is now being upgraded and expanded to cater to the higher capacities of 5G.

Another case in the report describes how operational costs for managing a microwave network can be significantly reduced by applying AI-based network automation. The benefits include less time spent on troubleshooting, a reduction of site visits by at least 40 percent, and better overall prediction and planning. 

“Predicting the future accurately requires a good understanding of the past in combination with market and technology insights. This is what makes Microwave Outlook a highly relevant report, says Mikael Öhberg, acting Head of Microwave Systems, Business Area Networks, Ericsson. “As we release the 10th edition, we are glad to see that during the past decade of its publishing, Ericsson Microwave Outlook has come to be considered the primary source of insights and trends in the wireless backhaul industry.”

Microwave Outlook is a technology report focusing on microwave backhaul networks, with in-depth articles on current and emerging trends and developments in different areas that can be of interest for communications service providers who are using, or considering the use, of microwave backhaul in their network.

Download the Microwave Outlook 2023 report

*The diameter of the antenna is 0.9 meter

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