Vodafone and Huawei point to IP microwave backhaul for 5G

Vodafone and Huawei have jointly completed a series of lab tests which claim traditional IP microwave links will be considered a viable technology for 5G backhaul.

With the 5G era quickly approaching on the horizon, the reality of how backhaul can keep pace with network load increases is starting to peak its head around the corner. These tests from Vodafone and Huawei claim it is possible to deliver up to 2.7 Gbps capacity from a single IP microwave link, aggregating 2×112 MHz channels in a single vertical or horizontal polarisation. The pair believe this is the first time a single radio frequency (RF) outdoor unit has been capable of reaching over 2 Gbps in a single polarisation. The test was also able to demonstrate latency of 50 microseconds.

“We plan to next test whether it is possible to achieve 4 Gbps total capacity in one box with the support of dual polarisation,” said Vodafone’s Eva Rossi in a blog post announcing the test.

“A single RF outdoor unit with dual polarisation can respond to both horizontal and vertical radio waves simultaneously, increasing the traffic handling capacity of the system, dramatically reducing the power consumption and halving the amount of space needed to house units providing that capacity.”

While all options should be explored when trying to make the 5G promise a reality, announcements like this should be taken with a pinch of salt. Trying to find justification to avoid the expensive job of using fibre in the network will certainly be fuelling a few projects around the telco world. Such an announcement is seemingly evidence that a combination of IP microwave and E-band technologies could provide 5G backhaul. This is a convenient truth to discover considering high capacity microwave links are already commercially deployed.

Test like this are certainly interesting points to consider when delivering the 5G dream, but let’s hope this is not a sign Vodafone is going to scrimp and save to the detriment of its fifth generation network. Vodafone’s 4G coverage is already pretty woeful in some places around the UK, if it is going to cheap-out when delivering 5G there is little evidence this terrible experience will be corrected.

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