March 24, 2021

Dual Band everywhere: the future of 5G backhaul

Reliable backhaul is an absolutely critical part of that solid infrastructure and so one of the big challenges that operators face is how to deliver robust backhaul that marries the capacity, coverage and reliability to let 5G reach its promised potential.

Benoit Bled, Product Line Manager Microwave Antennas Solutions

In 2020 Lewis Hamilton broke Formula 1's lap speed record with a staggering 264.362km/h lap. To create the vehicle for this was undoubtedly a feat of precision engineering, however, take the same car and put it on a dirt track and that 264km/h is nothing but a theoretical possibility. Why does this matter to a telecoms company? Well, 5G faces the same conundrum, without a solid infrastructure to run on, the theoretical vision and the associated benefits of 5G remain completely hypothetical. Reliable backhaul is an absolutely critical part of that solid infrastructure and so one of the big challenges that operators face is how to deliver robust backhaul that marries the capacity, coverage and reliability to let 5G reach its promised potential. 

The problem with 5G backhaul 

Backhaul is the backbone of 5G. Many of the 5G applications that hold the most promise not only need the enhanced speeds associated with the next generation of mobile connectivity, but increased reliability. This is why the backhaul solutions that operators put in place must integrate the increased capacity and coverage that is expected, into a robust and reliable solution that has a fail-safe to stop any problems impacting the end user. It is a tall order, but is critical to 5G’s success. 

Not all backhaul challenges are created equal. 

Operators face additional challenges as the difficulties associated with 5G backhaul vary based on the environment. 

Environment The challenges
Small but dense coverage
Highest concentration of users Navigating physical obstacles such as buildings
Suburban  Longer range coverage Larger area to cover without skyrocketing equipment costs Variable capacity needs 
Rural Longest range coverage Largest area to user ratio makes balancing coverage with investment a challenge Fiber is difficult to roll out and prohibitively expensive 

There is not a one size fits all solution to the challenges of 5G backhaul, so the question for operators is how do they design infrastructure that meets the variety of needs in a way that is reliable and delivers a 5G network that is fit for purpose? 

A Dual-Band answer

Dual-band microwave systems offer a real-world ready microwave option when it comes to 5G backhaul. They incorporate the latest antenna technologies that combine multiple bands in a single antenna to offer ultra-high capacity that is now comparable to traditional fiber options. 

The result is mobile operators can backhaul higher volumes of 5G traffic much further than previously possible with a number of additional benefits. 

  • Site footprint: one of the biggest challenges facing operators as they look to 5G rollouts is site footprint. They must deliver significantly greater capacity, for an entirely new network generation. without significantly increasing their site footprint.  
    By consolidating multiple bands into a single antenna, operators can deliver the network capabilities that 5G requires without having to incur the additional costs and potential problems associated with expanding their site. 
  • Greater capacity: the dual band approach means a single antenna can deliver higher capacity than in single band. The new dual microwave band antennas double or quadruple capacity, depending on polarization. This is a critical advantage for 5G where capacity is king. 
  • Reliability: Aalongside the benefit of increased capacity, by integrating two bands into a single solution, Dual Band offers its customers a higher level of reliability as it has an inbuilt fail-safe. If there is a temporary problem with one band, there is no down time as the other band continues to function. 

What about the different challenges?

There are clearly a range of benefits that go hand in hand with taking a dual band approach, however how can they help address the various challenges associated with backhauling in different environments? 

RFS has designed a suite of dual-band antenna solutions, tailored to meet the varying demands of backhaul deployments. 

To suit urban environments with a high concentration of users, RFS uses ultra-high-capacity E band in conjunction with an additional medium band such as 15 GHz, 18 GHz or 23 GHz. By combining the high throughput of E-band frequencies with the broader coverage of microwave frequency bands RFS antennas can create a wireless backhaul offering suitable for 5G networks in urban areas. 

This doesn’t work for rural and suburban environments and so, in 2021, RFS launched its new PrimeLine TowerBooster antenna. This is ideal for new long-haul microwave installations and as replacements for single-band antennas. It takes the same form factor as existing 6-12ft microwave antennas and can quadruple backhaul capacity making it ideal for operators looking to roll out 5G in non-urban areas without incurring escalating site costs.

The future of 5G needs backhaul 

$2.2 trillion. That is the anticipated value of the 5G market by 2034 according to research from the GSMA. It is a huge opportunity to make significant headway on the economic recovery that is essential in a post-Covid world. However, the vision and market value of 5G is absolutely contingent on having the right infrastructure in place to support it. It is vital that operators embrace the cost and performance benefits microwave antenna solutions now offer to ensure the vision of 5G is realized. 

If you’d like to read more on our Dual-Band solutions everywhere, see our white paper for more technical detail and real-world applications, or if you want to speak to the RFS team contact Benjamin Gao, RFS Regional Product Manager, Microwave Antenna Systems.