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New technologies are bound to be introduced, making microwave the ideal wireless backhaul that delivers larger capacity, lower latency, and higher performance. In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Perry Yang, president of wireless microwave product line, Huawei, gave invaluable insights regarding microwave technology and the market progress and the company’s strategy for target networks of 2025.

Outlook on microwave 

Speeding up the deployment of fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure is essential with the rapid development of new technologies, high usage of mobility, and increased demand for wireless network coverage and capacity.

Mr. Yang expressed that based on Huawei’s gathered data in Q1 2022, “the microwave market is bouncing back.” The deployment of microwave backhaul for 5G started back in 2019, and over the past three years, it has been proved that the performance of microwave backhaul can meet, and even exceed the requirements and expectations of customers.

The quality of microwave backhaul has already improved, and being represented as a fundamental tool in extending the advantages of 5G networks to various areas of the world is a testimony to this.

Citing an example among the many leading carriers that have deployed microwave for 5G development, in the Middle East market, one operator who is using microwave as dominant network backhaul solution is taking the lead as per network quality performance rating. “This clearly shows that microwave can support 5G well,” added Mr. Yang.

To add, in terms of microwave transmission, Dell’Oro Group disclosed that in 2021, Huawei held the highest market share in mobile backhaul, accounting for approximately one-third of total radio transceiver shipments.

Mr. Yang highlighted two major opportunities in today’s booming market: gearing customers' network construction as they are seeking larger-capacity and long-distance E-band, and helping reduce network deployment and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs by allowing carriers to sync 3-in-1 antennas as well as highly integrated 4-in-1 carrier aggregation outdoor units.

Two-fold strategy for target network of 2025

As transformation towards an intelligent society accelerates, Mr. Yang gladly shared several dimensions in achieving the target network of 2025.

The first one is larger capacity. The capacity should be large enough in order to accommodate the need for the 5G/5.5G era. By 2025, one of the major network trends to emerge is the full coverage of E-band in urban areas. As part of Huawei’s two-fold strategy, Mr. Yang believes that the technologies right now are highly capable to achieve that.

The increasing adoption of E-band, a major solution for 5G's microwave transmission, lies in the range of 80 GHz radio frequencies. This is crucial for high bandwidth transmission that can be as high as 20 Gbps. For a lot of carriers, it is important not only because of its larger capacity, but also its capability for long-distance transmission. “I believe in the future, long-distance E-band transmission is going to be the trend.”

Having said that, Huawei will keep up with their innovation on the E-band, to make it the most efficient and effective way of covering the urban area. While in the rural areas, technologies like carrier aggregation and multi-bands antenna integration will be used to help better make full utilization of traditional microwave bands.

“In this way, we can meet the larger capacity, high performance, and low cost of transmission needs of carriers. These are very simple and feasible solutions, and I'm confident that such solutions can well support the 5G/5.5G capacity and performance needs,” Mr. Yang proclaimed.

Secondly, carriers are seeking simplified and more cost-effective solutions. Traditionally, microwave solutions face the challenges of insufficient tower space and spectrum, difficulty to upgrade, and the high cost of tower climbing.

Introduction of new technologies can help further reduce carriers’ CAPEX and OPEX and lessen the burden of tower equipment loading.

“With these new technologies, our microwave equipment will be lighter in weight, resulting in a more integrated approach in towers and spaces, leading to lowered rental costs and less wind resistance caused by installation. As a whole, it will eventually help reduce TCO,” explained Mr. Yang.

Architecture-wise, equipment should be lean and green in order to support the carriers' need for power-saving and environmental protection alongside lower network deployment costs.

Such lean and simplified network architecture can support the backhaul needs of 5G/5.5G. Broadly speaking, Huawei microwave solutions are carried out because of better ROI and innovative R&D on components like amplifiers, the 4-in-1 carrier aggregation outdoor units, highly integrated antennas, as well as intelligent beam tracking technology (IBT).

“Combining these needs, we’re going to see more and more new technologies to be introduced in the microwave domain,” Mr. Yang asserted. In the years to come, Huawei will continue to release a lot of new products to meet the market needs and customers' expectations.

In line with making full preparations for the target network of 2025, Huawei recently released the long-range E-band and SUPERLINK solutions which are already highly recognized by customers and being deployed commercially.

Microwave: A key aspect of 5G success

The number of wireless base stations and deployment density will increase in the 5G era, and with Huawei’s full-band microwave solutions, backhaul difficulties and challenges when wireless base stations are densely deployed are addressed.

Mr. Yang sees two major values brought by microwave for 5G success. The first one is the faster deployment enabled by microwave. This is especially important for countries and regions without wide access to fiber, and these can help ease the pressure of deploying fiber on a larger scale.

It is worthy to note that Huawei has continuously developed transport technologies, especially for mobile transport and broadband services in scenarios where optical fiber deployment is unfeasible.

Driven by 5G, a lot of international carriers are now seen to have recovered from the pandemic and are stacking up their telecom investments. In this case, microwave becomes very important and promising. For instance, “in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific regions, there is a need for 5G capacity expansion,” Mr. Yang stated.

Besides, there are new technologies to be introduced making microwave more performative in terms of high capacity, low latency, and higher performance. This has eased the concerns of carriers and other customers about deploying microwave on a large scale.

Certainly, using microwave as the backhaul solution can help save the investment cost and ease the pressure on carriers. In the case of Africa, carriers can quickly deploy their mobile backhaul network to be 5G-ready.

Industry insights show more than 85% of base stations in Africa use microwave for backhaul while carriers provision 5G services. Until today, microwave backhaul is playing an increasingly important role as an essential component of 5G network infrastructure, allowing carriers to launch their network more quickly to the market.

“That's why the World Bank has once said that the choice of fiber versus wireless backhaul turns out to be a larger cost driver than the choice of 5G over 4G. Overall, the microwave solution can significantly help to save costs and time for carriers,” concluded Mr. Yang.

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