Enhancing 5G with microwave

Git Sellin (Executive Editor), Maria Edberg (Editor),
Magnus Berggren, Mikael Coldrey, Jonas Edstam, Dennis Eriksson, Jonas Flodin,
Jonas Hansryd, Andreas Olsson, Mikael Ohberg, Ericsson, Stockholm, Sweden
Dimitris Siomos
(Co-written article), Deutsche Telekom

© https://www.ericsson.com

SYNCHROINFO JOURNAL. Volume 6, Number 3 (2020). P. 29-37.


To meet the rapid deployment of 5G around the globe, it is evident that a variety of transport solutions are required in order to fulfill the needs of communications service providers. The international rollout of 5G is progressing much more quickly than anticipated and the necessity for high capacity backhaul and fronthaul has never been more apparent. Suburban and urban high capacity sites in 2022 will require capacities of up to 2 and 10Gbps respectively, while towards 2025 we will see examples of sites stretching between 5 and 20Gbps. Microwave is already well positioned to support all backhaul capacity needs using standalone E-band or multi-carrier solutions. In regards to fronthaul, microwave can act as a complement to fiber for antenna site capacities in a range of 10Gbps in 2019 and 25Gbps by 2022.
Now that commercial 5G services have gathered a strong global momentum, the dust settles on future spectrum use. Some backhaul frequency bands will eventually be transitioned to 5G access use, such as 26GHz in Europe. In contrast, the E-band and 32GHz band are acknowledged as essential for the backhaul of 5G. The solutions which are viable for each service provider and country are dictated by microwave spectrum availability, which in turn impacts both capacity and the total cost of ownership. In order to enable higher capacities in both traditional spectrum and E-band, access to wider bandwidths is important. Without this, more complex and spectrum-efficient solutions are required. MIMO is an important enabler for countries with limited spectrum availability to reach high capacity links of 1Gbps and beyond. By using MIMO and E-band radios, Deutsche Telekom and Ericsson were able to smash the 100Gbps barrier during a trial in Athens, Greece. With optimal antenna arrangement, the trial achieved 139Gbps over 1.5km, with high availability and low latency. Such microwave links will be ideal as cost- and time-efficient complements to optical fiber for closure and redundancy of metro and core fiber rings, fiber extension applications, campus and enterprise connections and backups to existing high-capacity fiber links. As a result of technological developments, we expect that the first 100Gbps links will be deployed in 5 to 8 years, depending on the market demands. After almost a decade of experience in commercial E-band deployment, we have gained a number of insights to assist in E-band’s future usage. For example, we foresee an increased use of E-band for longer hops, even if that means accepting a slightly lower availability. The widespread use of E-band increasingly supports our prediction that E-band will account for 20 percent of all new microwave links by 2025. It is evident that microwave is well prepared for the network evolution of 5G and beyond.

Keywords: E-band, MIMO for microwave, 100Gbps barrier, 5G