Microwave Transport Will Continue to Play an Important Role in 5G

The rapid development of mobile Internet and Internet of Things (IoT) in recent years has led the industry to focus on 5G technology and has put 5G bearer research on its agenda.

In 2015, ITU officially defined three types of 5G application scenarios — Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable and Low-Latency Communication (uRLLC), and Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC)— that places large-bandwidth, low-latency, and large-connection requirements on bearer networks. Currently, 50% to 60% of mobile base stations around the world use microwave to bear services. As 5G deployment accelerates and the number of mobile base stations increases, microwave, as an important method for service bearing in the absence of fibers, will continue to play an important role in the evolution towards 5G.

1.Microwave provides up to 10 Gbps.

The goal of 5G is to provide more than 100 Mbps to subscribers anytime, anywhere. The average and peak bandwidths of a 5G base station will exceed 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps respectively, representing a ten-fold increase over the average and peak bandwidths of 4G networks. With the development of microwave technologies, microwave bandwidths have increased from Mbps to Gbps. As more new technologies, including multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), carrier aggregation (CA), large-capacity E-band, and combination of common-band with E-band, are implemented, microwave bandwidth will support 10 Gbps, fully meeting the bandwidth requirements for 5G bearing.

2.Microwave provides a low latency of 25 μs/site.

Some new 5G services require an end-to-end (E2E) latency of less than 5 ms, with a transport latency of no more than 2 ms. Microwave transmission in air is faster than light transmission in the optical fiber. With new technologies, single-site microwave links can reduce their latency to 25 μs/site, meeting the low-latency service requirements of 5G.

3.Microwave provides flexible O&M.

As network scale becomes larger, 5G networks must provide more flexible and intelligent O&M. By employing SDN technologies, microwave provides automatic network configuration, improving E2E service deployment efficiency and addressing flexible O&M requirements for 5G networks. Microwave also provides energy consumption management to reduce transmit power during off-peak hours, reducing power consumption costs for customers.

4.Microwave supports network slicing.

Different services have different requirements for bandwidth, latency, and reliability. To meet the SLA requirements of 5G, microwave networks can be sliced into multiple E2E logical networks by using VPN and H-QoS technologies, providing network resource isolation on demand.

5.Microwave supports smooth evolution.

Worldwide, more than two million hops of microwave devices have been deployed. In the 5G era, microwave needs to maximize use of legacy microwave devices, by replacing components (such as boards and ODUs) in a minimized way. This not only protects operators' initial investment, but also makes 5G evolution faster.

As 5G microwave bearer technologies continue to be researched and innovated, a strong support will be provided for large-bandwidth, low latency, flexible O&M, and network slicing, promoting the development of 5G services as well as delivering a better service experience.