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E-band

Benefits
Benefits of E-band systems over
other solutions

E-Band Communications Corp.


The Benefits of E-band Systems
Over Other Wireless Technologies
By Jonathan Wells, PhD

The 71-76 and 81-86 GHz bands (widely known as e-band) are permitted worldwide
for ultra high capacity point-to-point communications. E-band wireless systems are
available that offer full-duplex Gigabit Ethernet connectivity at data rates of 1 Gbps and
beyond in cost effective radio architectures, with carrier class availability at distances of
several miles.

There are several technologies competing to provide wireless broadband connectivity


and bridge the last mile gap. This paper explores how eband wireless systems
compete effectively against these alternatives, and brings significant advantages to
wireless system providers and network designers.

The High Capacity Wireless Landscape

Figure 1 details the major higher capacity wireless technologies presently available, and
how they fit together to make up the current broadband wireless landscape.

WiFi 802.11 a/b/g

WiFi is a short distance, multi-access technology. Its popularity stems from being able
to take a single data connection (usually a residential or equivalent broadband internet
connection) and enable several users within a hot spot area to share that data
connection. Equipment is currently widely available that can offer data rates of up to 54
Mbps and coverage distances of up several tens of yards, enabling users with suitable
connection equipment fast and easy wireless access to whatever services are being
offered. Extended versions of the WiFi family are constantly evolving, improving
performance and speeds. The latest 802.11n version offers improved data rates
through the introduction of multiple antennas and wider channel transmissions.

Like most technologies, WiFi has a number of limitations. Practically, data rates are
dependant on the distance from the access point, the number of users sharing the
capacity, and the usually constrained size of the access points broadband connection.
In commercial hot spot environments, users would typically realize only 1 Mbps or so
connectivity. By necessity, WiFi is also an unlicensed, broadcast, point-to-multipoint

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technology, allowing users to easily connect and disconnect from the service. This
means interference, data contention and data collisions are difficult to avoid, resulting in
network outages, connectivity issues and security concerns.

Figure 1: The high speed wireless and wired technology landscape.

For these reasons, WiFi is not a useful technology for wide area high data rate
connectivity. It is a very useful wireless technology for easy access, short range
coverage within a limited range hot spot, properties that have made the technology
very popular.

4G WiMAX, LTE and UMB

Fourth-generation (4G) wireless systems the technologies of WiMAX, LTE and UMB
promise a substantial increase in data rates over existing second and third generation
(3G) cellular systems.

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WiMAX is the closest of these technologies to realization. Many proprietary pre-WiMAX
networks and true fixed (802.16-2004) and mobile (802.16e-2005) WiMAX installations
are already successfully in operation around the world. WiMAX is often described as a
big brother version of WiFi. The WiMAX standard has addressed many of the quality-
of-service (QoS) and security issues inherent with WiFi and when properly implemented,
provides a much higher user experience. In addition, WiMAX is usually implemented
using licensed technology in frequencies close to the cellular bands, further improving
the QoS of the service. Theoretical data rates of many tens of Mbps are possible, and
real systems are offering user data rates of 2 to 4 Mbps and up over cell sizes of a few
miles. Future extensions to the WiMAX family (for example 802.16m, or mobile WiMAX
release 2.0) will further extend user data speeds and experiences. WiMAX does offer
the benefit of mobility, making the analogy to advanced cellular systems more accurate
than to WiFi networks.

LTE and UMB technologies are the next generation of the existing 3G cellular
technologies. Theoretically, data rates to 100 Mbps and beyond are possible. Complete
standards are likely to be realized in the next few years, and early experimental systems
demonstrating improved data throughput are already being seen today.

For these reasons, 4G technologies are ideally placed to be useful for wide area, mobile
connectivity, with data rates higher than existing cellular standards. WiMAX is already a
reality, and announcements from mobile network carriers suggest the other technologies
will be reality soon. As 4G technologies are all access technologies, upgrade of the
backhaul networks are required to support the 4G increases in data rates. That makes
these technologies very complementary to the high data rate point-to-point technologies
introduced later in this document.

Point-to-Point Microwave

Fixed wireless radios at microwave frequencies from 6 to 38 GHz are widely used for
point-to-point (PTP) data transmission. Especially in Europe and the developing world,
PTP microwave is used to interconnect cell site and fiber points of presence.

PTP systems are widely available with data rates from a few Mbps up to several
hundred Mbps. To support the higher wireless standards (for example, 100 Mbps fast
Ethernet and 155 Mbps STM-1 SDH and OC-3 SONET), PTP microwave radios have to
compress the data into the narrow channels that are required in the microwave
frequency bands. These can be up to 50 or 56 MHz, but are typically 28 or 30 MHz and
below. Thus PTP microwave radios employ sophisticated signal processing circuitry and
high order 128 or 256 QAM modulation to squeeze data into the narrow available

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channels. These highly complex systems result in increased product costs and system
performance tradeoffs, yet still limit practical data rates in the most advanced products to
311 Mbps. Systems are available that can achieve higher data rates, employing such
techniques as Cross Polarization Interference Cancellers (XPIC) to reuse frequencies for
dual data streams. However such configurations require doubled-up hardware (multiple
units and antennas) resulting in multiplications of system costs and increased system
install and maintenance.

Microwave radios have an important role to play for high quality PTP connectivity.
Systems can be engineered to reliably transmit for several miles and the use of licensed
technology means the systems will be robust and reliable. However limited regulated
channel sizes in the microwave bands means that even the most complex and
sophisticated widely available systems are limited to 311 Mbps or so data rates.

60 GHz Wireless

60 GHz has been used as a wireless transmission frequency for many years, due to the
property that oxygen in the atmosphere strongly absorbs radio waves at this frequency.
Users, particularly in the military, have exploited this characteristic by developing short
range systems that will transmit a few hundred yards before the signal rapidly
deteriorates and so cannot be eavesdropped. The availability of large amounts of
bandwidth at these frequencies has resulted in recent commercial interest for high data
rate short range commercial applications.

Differing worldwide spectrum allocations of the 60 GHz bands means regional


differences in available equipment. In the USA, large amounts of bandwidth are
available, enabling cost effective systems that can transmit data rates to 1 Gbps to be
realized. However the natural oxygen attenuating properties and low regulated power
limits means such system can only reliability transmit a few hundred yards. With best
effort connectivity, system can be engineered to transmit up to half a mile. Since the
band is designated as license exempt in the US, systems are potentially at risk from
interference, either from other links or from future services which might use the open
bands. In Europe, the bands are managed very differently, with narrow channels limiting
the data throughput of systems.

For these reasons, 60 GHz radios are very useful for providing high data rate
interconnections in the USA. However systems are limited in distance to just a few
hundred yards, and the unlicensed nature of the bands poses problems for sophisticated
users who do not want to risk downtime due to interference outages.

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Free Space Optics

Free space optic (FSO) systems use modulated lasers to transmit very high data rates in
the invisible optical spectrum close to the visible bands. Systems are available that can
transmit data rates of 1 Gbps and beyond.

FSO suffers from the disadvantage that as a highly focused optical technology, any
deterioration or blockage of the laser-like signal path will affect the link quality.
Atmospheric effects such a fog, dust, sand, air turbulence and sunlight shimmer limit
practical link distances to just a few hundred yards in many parts of the world. In
addition, practical effects such as flying objects breaking the beams, or tiny building or
tower movements unlocking the precisely pointed equipment, means that sophisticated
tracking mounts and multiple transmitters and receivers are required. This results in
high complexity equipment, adding to system cost, and introducing reliability and
maintenance concerns. Finally the use of lasers raises eye safety concerns, and also
reliability questions due to the naturally high failure rate of optical devices.

Like 60 GHz radios, FSO systems are useful for high data rate transmission over
distances of a few hundred yards. High performance systems can be very complex and
expensive to maintain, with equipment reliability and failure rates much higher than
standard radio systems.

The Fiber Optic / Wireless Gap

Fiber optic cable is the panacea of high data rate technologies. The wide bandwidths
available and the substantial investment made in fiber technology and optical
transmission networks means that very high data rates can be transmitted over very long
distances over most of the developed world.

Despite these advantages, fiber is not everywhere. The vast majority of commercial
buildings do not have fiber connections, and those that do are charged very high lease
rates for high data rate services. Current lease rates for 155 Mbps and up data rates
can run as high as $10,000 per month, making investment in alternative high capacity
systems attractive. Trenching fiber can also be very expensive, with costs per mile
approaching $250,000 in large urban cities.

Until recently, there was a large gap between fiber and other wireless technologies
(see figure 1). Of the technologies discussed so far, only two can reach fiber-like gigabit
per second speeds. These are both limited in distance of just a few hundred yards,
significantly limiting their effectiveness as part of wide area networks. There are

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numerous longer distance wireless alternatives, but these are limited in data rate to
around 100 Mbps or so. For many years, fiber optics remained the only way to realize
medium and long distance communications at the prevalent GigE networking interface
speed, but the economics of installing and maintaining meant its accessibility was limited
to just a limited number of incumbents.

For these reasons, the FCC and many other regulators around the world have opened
up the e-band 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz frequency bands. The availability of this
spectrum enables fiber-like gigabit per second and up interconnection speeds, multiple
mile transmission distance systems, and products with significantly lower cost and
improved economics over buried fiber.

E-band Wireless

The 71-76 and 81-86 GHz e-band frequencies were implemented in part to address the
shortfalls of these other wireless technologies. The bands are globally available for fixed
wireless point-to-point communications. The 10 GHz of bandwidth available the
largest ITU bandwidth allocation for such services provides such a large bandwidth
that ultra-high data rate wireless capacities of 1 Gbps and beyond can be realized with
relatively simple, low cost radio architectures. The 71-86 GHz frequencies occur in an
atmospheric window, whereby atmospheric attenuation is similar to the well used lower
frequency microwave bands of 23 and 38 GHz. With similar propagation characteristics
to these popular bands, and well characterized weather attributes allowing rain fade to
be understood and predicted, link distances of several miles can confidently be realized.
To encourage uptake of services in these bands, the FCC, along with various other
wireless regulatory agencies around the world, have implemented light licensing
regimes for the bands, whereby the full benefits of interference protection are awarded
to system providers, but with licenses that can be quick and cheaply obtained.

High Data Rate Wireless and Fiber Comparisons

E-band wireless systems offer a compelling alternative to these different broadband


technologies, often with many advantages over other systems. A summary of how the
most important system parameters and network characteristics compare are detailed in
the following table.

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WiFi 3/4 G Microwave 60 GHz FSO Fiber E-band
Data Rates Variable, Variable, 2 to 311 100 Mbps 100 Mbps To 40 Gbps 100 Mbps to 3
typically 1 typically 10 Mbps to 1 Gbps to 1 Gbps Gbps today;
Mbps Mbps to 10 Gbps in
the future
Typical 20 yards 2 miles 5 miles 500 meters 200 meters Unlimited 1-3 miles &
distances for higher
carrier class
performance
Spectrum Freely Spectrum Usually Varies Spectrum n/a Available
availability and available very scarce. available country by freely worldwide,
licensing for Owned and for area country. available usually as a
unlicensed fiercely licensing Available as low cost
use protected by from for technology rapidly
select country unlicensed not obtained light
incumbents regulators use in USA regulated license
Guaranteed No Usually Yes No No Yes Yes
interference
and regulatory
protection
Relative cost Low High Medium Medium Medium High Medium
of ownership
Install and Hours Months/Years Weeks / Hours/Days Hours/Days Months/Years Hours/Days
commissioning Months
time

Table 1: Comparison of key system parameters for leading high data rate technologies.

E-band Wireless Benefits

E-band wireless systems offer the most compelling alternative to buried fiber. Of all the
high capacity wireless technologies, e-band systems offer numerous benefits. These
include:
Highest data rates E-band offers the highest data rates of any wireless
technology, with systems available that offer 1 Gbps and above full-duplex
throughput.
Guaranteed data rates Unlike WiFi, WiMAX and other broad-coverage
technologies whose system performance depends heavily on the radio
environment, number of users, distance from base station and even installation
quality, e-band systems offer guaranteed data throughput performance, even
under deteriorated transmission conditions.

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Long distance transmissions With the exception of lower data rate and more
complex microwave systems, e-band wireless offers the longest transmission
distances of the higher capacity wireless systems. Under any environmental
condition, a 1 Gbps e-band system can transmit many times further than similar
data rate 60 GHz or FSO systems.
Robust weather resilience All the higher frequency wireless systems
microwave, 60 GHz, FSO and e-band are susceptible to rain fades. Proper
path planning techniques, using established and proven precipitation models,
enable system designers to implement robust wireless networks that meet their
system availability requirements. Unlike FSO, e-band is not subject to fog, dust,
air turbulence or any other atmospheric impairment that can take down optical
links for hours over regular cycles.
Guaranteed interference protection Since e-band is a licensed technology, all
links have to be registered with national wireless regulators and coordinated with
other links in the area. This gives links full interference protection from other
nearby wireless sources. In the unlikely event of interference, the full weight of
the wireless regulator is available to identify and remove the interference source.
Low cost, rapid license availability In many countries, links are licensed under a
light license process, whereby licenses can be obtained quickly and cheaply.
Such licenses provide the full benefits of traditional link licenses, but at a fraction
of the cost and time. (In the USA, for example, a 10-year e-band link registration
can be obtained over the internet in minutes at a cost of just $75.)
Cost effective, fiber-like wireless solution High capacity wireless systems are
available at a fraction of the cost of buried fiber alternatives. Installed wireless
systems have payback periods of months when compared to the costs of
trenching new fiber. Installing dedicated wireless technology can often be more
economic than leasing fiber-provided high capacity services.

Conclusions

The 71-76 and 81-86 GHz e-band frequencies are globally available for ultra high
capacity point-to-point communications, providing Gigabit Ethernet data rates of 1 Gbps
and beyond. Cost effective radio architectures have been realized that enable carrier
class availability at distances of a mile and further.

There are numerous technologies available to provide wireless broadband connectivity


and provide fiber-like services to bridge the last mile gap. This paper explores these
alternatives and shows how e-band wireless offers significant benefits over other
technologies. These attributes clearly position e-band wireless as the most robust high

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10095 Scripps Ranch Ct, Suite A Fax: +1-858-408-0655
San Diego, CA 92131 USA www.e-band.com 2010 E-Band Communications Corp. V051310
capacity wireless system technology; with a price point that makes it a competitive
alterative to buried fiber.

About E-Band Communications

E-Band Communications Corporation is the leading supplier of ultra-high capacity 70/80


GHz wireless solutions, serving 4G carriers (WiMAX, LTE) and enterprises. In 2009, E-
Band achieved the highest market share in the U.S., based on publicly available annual
FCC license data. A key advantage is its Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit
(MMIC) technology originally designed for high-end military applications and now under
exclusive field-of-use license from a major defense contractor. E-Band's investors
include Avalon Ventures, Hercules Technology Growth Capital, Reliance ADA Group,
ADC Telecommunications, Investec, Express Ventures, OpenAir Ventures and a top-
three U.S. telecommunications carrier.

www.e-band.com

E-Band Communications Corp. Phone: +1-858-408-0660


10095 Scripps Ranch Ct, Suite A Fax: +1-858-408-0655
San Diego, CA 92131 USA

E-Band Communicat ions Corp. 10 Phone: +1-858-408-0660


10095 Scripps Ranch Ct, Suite A Fax: +1-858-408-0655
San Diego, CA 92131 USA www.e-band.com 2010 E-Band Communications Corp. V051310