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The Next Generation of Microwave Backhaul

Nokia Wavence: The Industry Leader in Microwave Backhaul

As a Microwave Solution Architect of Nokia’s Wavence products portfolio, Infinity TDC was delighted to hear from John Gilbert, who humbly describes himself as “the business development guy for microwave” at Nokia, about the future of microwave backhaul.

Since 2008, Nokia has been at the forefront of packet microwave, offering reliable links to remote locations and last-mile connectivity where fiber is not an option. According to the market analysts at Dell O’ro, Nokia Wavence packet microwave technology continues to be the industry gold standard for wireless backhaul, surpassing all competitors.

While serving as the top provider of backhaul solutions for Service Providers of 3G and 4G, as well as Enterprises, Nokia recognizes that microwave networks will also play a critical role in the emergence of 5G broadband coverage for all. Bridging the digital divide between those who have access to reliable internet connectivity and those who don’t is central to the mission of both Nokia and Infinity TDC.

A recent assessment of digital equity from the Brookings Institute identifies the factors that need to be addressed in order to complete the work of the digitalization of all American households. As the Covid pandemic demonstrated, we need to ensure that students will be able to participate in the ongoing revolution of eLearning, and that the American workforce has access to affordable broadband. As more employees begin working from home, access to reliable internet coverage will soon be viewed as a need—on par with electricity and indoor plumbing—rather than a good.

Addressed in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) recently signed into law, which has been described as “the broadband down payment our country needs,” are the physical gaps in local broadband networks. Point-to-point microwave backhaul provides a significant means to tackle these physical barriers in providing broadband to locations that Service Providers have yet to reach.

Connecting all American households to broadband networks will be an integral part of America’s digital transformation, and Nokia and Infinity TDC are proud to be a part of the solution in addressing the issue of physical gaps in our current broadband infrastructure and access.

An Increase in Frequency Bands Are Driving the Microwave Market

The traditional frequency range for microwave bands allowed between 6-38 GHz, with a link capacity of 5 Gbps and a latency of 50us, respectively. As of 2013, proponents of microwave backhaul—acknowledging the need for connectivity in areas without fiber—were arguing vociferously for the FCC to open up E-Band millimeter waves for mobile backhaul.


Eventually, the FCC did approve E-Band for mobile backhaul, which enabled the leveraging of innovation at Nokia Bell Labs to increase microwave speeds to 80 GHz, with link capacities up 20 Gbps and latencies of 10us.


As John Gilbert explains in the above webinar, however, the next push in microwave transmission will be for the FCC to approve D-Band frequencies, which would increase strength to 170 GHz, link capacity to 100 Gbps, and latencies to >10us.


In short, our expectation is that microwave transmission will experience a substantial boost in capacity and lower latency in the near future.


The Next Gen Microwave Networks

In order to serve both Service Providers and Enterprises, Nokia Microwave product set is focused on five key areas that will accelerate the success and ease of microwave as a solution to broadband access.

1.  Interoperability

The vast majority of IP networks today avail themselves of products from multiple vendors. In order to serve legacy networks with a variety of differing protocols, Nokia’s microwave products are agile in network interoperability. Nokia’s more dynamic and programmable microwave networks will enable operators to easily integrate new features and equipment without the need for time-consuming and costly vendor-specific configurations. 

2.  Multiple Frequency Bands for Carrier Aggregation

As we touched on above, there has been a significant increase in the number of frequency bands on which microwave can transmit. Nokia’s Wavence products provide maximum efficiency due to their 100% Carrier Aggregation capability, including 5G backhaul across different frequency bands. For example, customers using 11 and 23 GHz frequencies can access other bands to add capacity. 

3.  High QAM Modulation Rates 

Nokia Wavence offers QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) rates up to 4096, which provides ultra-high service speeds and a superior customer experience. The evolution in edge QAM rates suggests that we are very close to CCAP (Converged Cable Access Platforms), which would in turn ramp up on the data capabilities of smart cities in deploying video networks and surveillance technologies, among a host of other benefits.  

4.  Adaptive Modulation

In order to boost channel capacity, Nokia uses advanced packet compression, as well as higher-order modulations (see above). While other companies, however, can meet Nokia’s QAM rates, what sets Nokia apart from their competitors is the adaptive modulation capabilities in their microwave product set. Adaptive modulation can be enabled across every channel in a multichannel bundle, which increases capacity and service availability.


5.  Wider Bands Mean Increased TP (Transport Packet) Speeds

As we pointed out earlier, wider frequency bands ultimately translate into faster speeds for the end user. Given that Nokia offers 100% Carrier Aggregation with both traditional, E-Band, and now D-Band radio frequencies, we can say with confidence that we offer the highest capacity and lowest latency microwave products on the market. 

Whether you’re a Service Provider or Enterprise, the mission of Nokia Wavence is to continue to offer cutting-edge microwave solutions. As we venture into the future of 5G, we will require technologies that connect the globe—from the city center to the last mile.

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