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Designing microwave radio links

Jay M. Jacobsmeyer, P.E. | Urgent Communications Apr 1, 2008

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The golden age of point-to-point microwave was the 1960s, when nearly all long-distance New on Urgent Communications
telephone calls and all network television signals traveled over the medium. Eventually,
fiber optic cable replaced microwave for most telephone calls, and satellite took over for Newscan: There may be a good reason why
television. Pittsburgh kept its body-camera policies under
Today, cellular radio networks rely primarily on landline T-1s for backhaul, but most
Assured Wireless: Steve Morley highlights
public safety radio networks use microwave radio for this purpose. Microwave is company's prototype Band 14 hotspot that
preferred by public safety because the recurring costs are lower than leased T-1s, and leverages high-power rules
reliability can be higher than landline networks. As an old AT&T microwave engineer
SMS/MMS text messaging can help local
once said to me, a landline can be cut at an infinite number of points, but a microwave governments and public-safety agencies
link can fail at only two spots. Modern microwave links often are organized into connect to the public
self-healing rings with equipment and path redundancy to ensure a single equipment
T-Mobile leads bidding in FCCs 600 MHz
failure does not cause a network failure. incentive auction

Microwave paths are quite different from land mobile radio paths. Unlike mobile radio, Former board member Paul Fitzgerald on
microwave radios are always stationary, and every effort is made to ensure the antennas FirstNet-AT&T deal: 'I like what I see and hear'

are line-of-sight. The dominant impairment should be free space loss, and fading occurs
not from scattering but from atmospheric effects. GET MORE HEADLINES

Microwave paths must have an extremely high availability (greater than 99.995%) and
low bit-error rate (less than 10?9) in order to be effective. Bandwidths of microwave
channels are much wider than most mobile radio channels, usually on the order of 30
MHz, with bit rates as high as 155 Mb/s. To achieve these bit rates, higher-order signal Sign-up to receive our free newsletters
constellations such as 64-QAM are used with trellis-coded modulation.
UC Today - (Twice Weekly) View Sample

In the U.S., the FCC allocates spectrum for microwave point-to-point links, and frequency Breaking News - (Varies) View Sample
coordination is required as part of the license application. Antenna gain and polarization IWCE's UC Industry Talk - (Varies)
are used to pack frequencies very tightly. Depending on the band, high-performance View Sample

antennas with reduced sidelobes may be required to mitigate interference to other Live from IWCE - (Daily)
View Sample
systems. Popular microwave bands include the 2, 4, 4.9, 6, 10, 12, 18 and 23 GHz licensed
bands and the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz unlicensed bands. Live from APCO - (Daily)
View Sample

This article describes the process for designing microwave links, which involves picking E-MAIL*
the sites, plotting the path profile, predicting the path loss and calculating the path
Site selection

In LMR networks, microwave radio sites are usually co-located with the LMR tower and ORGANIZATION TYPE:*
the tower height is used to ensure a line-of-sight path. Sometimes an intermediate relay is
necessary when terrain or buildings block the path. Enter your email above to receive messages about
offerings by Penton, its brands, affiliates and/or
Path profile third-party partners, consistent with Pentons Privacy

After the prospective sites are chosen, the path profile is the first step to ensuring the SUBSCRIBE
feasibility of the path. The profile indicates whether the path is free of obstructions.
Because the atmosphere has a refractive index gradient that tends to bend radio waves
back toward the earth, the radio horizon is usually greater than the optical horizon. The
standard propagation model assumes an equivalent earth radius equal to 4/3 the actual Connect With Us
radius. To capture this effect on the path profile, a 4/3 earth profile is used.

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Designing microwave radio links | content content from Urgent Comm...

Before the advent of personal computers, the designer plotted the profile on special graph
paper. Today, the computer creates the 4/3 earth profile when it plots the terrain profile,
or equivalently, the terrain is plotted on a flat earth and the path is curved to show the
Commentaries and Blogs
effect of a 4/3 earth. Sometimes anomalous atmospheric conditions occur and create the
equivalent of a smaller earth radius. For this reason, some paths also are plotted SMS/MMS text messaging can help local
governments and public-safety agencies
assuming a worst-case earth radius. connect to the public
Posted 2 days ago
Terrain usually is the dominant factor in the profile. Digital terrain databases are used to in View from the Top
save the time and trouble of extracting elevations from topographic maps. Generally
speaking, a high-resolution database such as the 30-meter database produced by the U.S. Former board member Paul Fitzgerald on
FirstNet-AT&T deal: 'I like what I see and
Geological Survey is preferred.
Posted 6 days ago
Buildings and foliage also can obstruct the path, and these obstructions usually are not
in View from the Top
indicated on digital terrain databases. Therefore, a thorough site survey is required before
the path is selected for construction. A typical path profile is shown in Figure 1. 911 telecommunicators deserve the
spotlight all year long
Path loss prediction Posted 6 days ago
in View from the Top
A simplified link budget can be calculated using Equation 1, while the required signal
amplitude for a particular path-availability can be found via Equation 2.
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The lack of sufficient clearance above terrain obstacles will result in attenuation of the
radio signal. Pure line-of-sight is not sufficient because all radio waves cast shadows, and
How many PSAPs do we need? ORiellys
a sufficient clearance above obstacles is required to ensure there is no diffraction loss.
challenge could portend a new era for 911
Clearance above terrain is measured in terms of the Fresnel zone radius, or Fn, where n = operations
1, 2, 3, etc. From diffraction theory, we can calculate the radius of the nth Fresnel zone
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using Equation 3.
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architecture work
Usually, we are concerned only with the first Fresnel radius, F1. The path clearance must
be at least 0.6 F1 to ensure negligible attenuation. At grazing (0.0 F1), the attenuation can Body-worn cameras for law enforcement: A
really big deal and really, really Big Data
be as high as 15 dB, depending on the shape of the obstacle and its conductivity.
Are you prepared for LTE?
The Fresnel radius reaches its maximum level at the center of the path, as shown in
Figure 1. In the late 1950s, Ken Bullington published a nomogram that predicted the South Carolina county turns to Motorola
obstacle diffraction loss as a function of clearance. This nomogram is useful, but most Solutions, Intrado for integrated text-to-911
designers simplify the problem to creating adequate clearance so that the predicted
diffraction loss is zero, meaning that the clearance must be at least 0.6 F1. Newscan: AT&T, Verizon, Dish rule FCCs AWS-3
spectrum auction
Path availability
Broadband, wideband, narrowband: Whats the
The path availability (also called link reliability) is the percentage of time that the difference?
received signal is above the required threshold, Preq. It is sometimes expressed as the
Former Nextel execs embark on another PTT
expected minutes of outage per year. The path availability is a function of the radio ventureand possibly broadbandwith Pacific
frequency, diversity (if any), fade margin, path length, and local climate. The DataVision
International Telecommunication Union publishes reports with empirical models of
CDC continues to update 911/EMS protocol for
required fade margin for different parts of the world. Designers use these reports to Ebola
ensure adequate fade margins. A typical design requirement is 99.995%, which is equal to
an expected outage of 26 minutes per year. Airbus DS Communicationsformerly Cassidian
Communicationsput on selling block

Jay Jacobsmeyer is president of Pericle Communications Co., a consulting engineering Top 5 stories: Week of Jan. 26 30

firm in Colorado Springs, Colo. He holds BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering

from Virginia Tech and Cornell University, respectively, and has more than 25 years of
experience as a radio frequency engineer.

Equation 1

Pr = Pt + Gt - Lfs - Lo - Lc + Gr

where Pr = received signal power in dBm

Pt = transmit power in dBm

Gt = transmit antenna gain in dBi

Lfs = free space loss in dB = 22 + 20 log10(d/), where d is the path length and is the
radio carrier wavelength

Lo = all other path losses including diffraction loss and rain attenuation

Lc = cable and waveguide losses

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Designing microwave radio links | content content from Urgent Comm...

Gr = receive antenna gain in dBi

Equation 2

Preq = -174 + 10 log10(Bn) + NF + C/Nreq + FM

where Bn = equivalent noise bandwidth of the receiver in Hz

NF = receiver noise figure in dB

C/Nreq = required carrier-to-noise ratio for a particular bit-error rate

FM = fade margin to account for fading and rain attenuation, usually 25 to 40 dB

Equation 3

where is the wavelength of the radio carrier

d1 = the distance from the first end point to the point of interest

d2 = the distance from the second end point to the point of interest

Fn = n d1d2/d1+d2


Ken Bullington, Radio Propagation Fundamentals, Bell System Technical Journal, vol.
36, no.3, 1957.

International Telecommunications Union, TU-R P.530, Propagation data and prediction

methods required for the design of terrestrial line-of-sight systems, Feb 2007.

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