Wireless backhaul is often neglected when talking about 5G, with many assuming that every base station will require high quality fiber. However, in dense networks, it will often be impractical for every cell to have a fiber link, and Deutsche Telekom is looking to use microwave for some bigger connections too.
The German telecoms group conducted tests in its R&D center in Athens, Greece, with Ericsson, which achieved data speeds of over 100Gbps in a live test on prototype 5G networks. The test, said DT, saw consistent speeds of 100Gbps over a microwave link spanning 1.5 kilometers, with the connection maintaining that data rate for 99.99% of the time, while peak speeds were 140Gbps.
“Advanced backhaul solutions will be needed to support high data throughput and enhanced customer experience in the 5G era. This milestone confirms the feasibility of microwave over millimeter wave spectrum as an important extension of our portfolio of high capacity, high performance transport options for the 5G era,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP for strategy and technology innovation at DT.
He also referred to an even more challenging transport application in the 5G network, the fronthaul links between centralized, shared baseband units and remote radio heads. Choi said the microwave solution “represents a game-changing solution for future fronthauling capabilities.”
The telco has been in the forefront of testing alternatives to fiber for high performance 5G transport use cases, including copper-based G.fast, full duplex connections, and various wireless options, as it looks to assemble a technology patchwork that can deliver the best balance of cost and performance.
“This trial signifies the successful establishment of true fiber capacities over the air using microwave. This means that microwave will be even more relevant for communications service providers in creating redundant networks as a back-up for fiber, or as a way of closing a fiber ring when fiber is not a viable solution. By carrying such high capacities, microwave further establishes itself as a key transport technology, capable of delivering the performance requirements of 5G,” said Per Narvinger, head of the Networks product area at Ericsson.