Wireless backhaul, also known as fixed wireless, technology has become a standard means of creating a data communications link between locations. Microwave radio links can be used to make data connections from building to building, to connect remote field locations to a network presence (also known as last mile wireless), connecting network fiber segments, and for connecting network devices (like IP video cameras, SCADA devices, client devices, phones, two-way radio / pagers, etc.) to networks.
Wireless backhaul can be in point to point wireless, point to multipoint wireless, or wireless mesh configurations. Wireless bridges can be licensed microwave links or unlicensed wireless Ethernet bridges. A licensed microwave link or unlicensed wireless Ethernet bridge can provide throughput as low as 10Mbps up to GigE full duplex (with gigabit wireless). There are many wireless backhaul radio platforms offering a solution to just about any application. Wireless backhaul systems can provide 99.999% reliability. A Point to point wireless Ethernet bridge or licensed microwave link can enable high capacity wireless backhaul connections from less than one mile to more than 50 miles, without performance degradation. Licensed microwave links and unlicensed wireless Ethernet bridges enable carrier class delivery of IP services with full wire-speed performance. Typical latency on a wireless Ethernet bridge or licensed microwave link is under 1ms.
Even though there are some outdoor wireless radio systems that can do non-line-of-sight (“NLOS”), the majority of wireless backhaul requires line-of-sight (“LOS”) with proper Fresnel Zone clearance to properly operate. This means the transmitting and receiving antennas most be able to see one another with any obstructions. In most cases this requires mounting the antennas on a structure with adequate height to create LOS.
Many times when doing a point to point microwave link from one tall buildings roof top to another’s it can be easy to have LOS.
Sometimes this is not possible. Putting a antenna mast on a roof top can sometimes be sufficient. Other times it may become necessary to construct a communications tower. The first reactions that come to a client’s mind when a wireless installation vendor says a tower need to be built is no way. Several misconceptions arise. Towers are too expensive, unsightly, and are a huge construction project. Reality is that none of these are true.
Communication towers are relatively inexpensive to have installed. Leasing high speed bandwidth form a telco or installing dark fiber is extremely expensive. Point to point wireless backhaul or creating point to multipoint wireless Ethernet bridges for last mile connections have a rapid ROI (typically less than 6 months with no reoccurring costs). Adding a tower into the solutions may only add 3 to 4 months until the CAPEX achieves and ROI. Free standing towers from 40ft to 80ft in height can be installed from $15,000 to $35,000. That is not much money when you look at the big picture.
Build it and they will come! Communication towers are typically built for an initial solution but can offer great potential for future wireless backhaul projects. The tower may have been built to accommodate a point to point wireless bridge like a licensed microwave link between two locations. Now in place it may be used for other wireless Ethernet bridges or point to multipoint last mile wireless bridge connections. Odds are that if you needed to build a tower to gain some height in a geographical area other may need some height too. Leasing opportunities can come knocking on the door. Tower can create a great source of re-occurring revenue for an organization by leasing antenna space off to other parties that need a repeater location or leasing space to the mobile carriers, like At&t, Verizon, Sprint, Clearwire, etc. These opportunities can pay for the tower itself.
The fact is that there are tower all around us and we just don’t even notice them. Microwave communication towers tend to blend into the skyline. So many times we hear about cosmetic concerns when it comes to mounting antennas on buildings but the fact remains that they are all around and no one ever notices them (unless you are in the wireless industry and pay attention to them). Many are less obtrusive that satellite TV dishes everyone mounts on their homes!
Microwave tower have been manufactured in ready to deploy configurations and even come with approved engineered design drawings making the permitting process simple. Communication towers used for wireless backhaul can typically be installed within a few days and offer a long term solid structure for mounting wireless backhaul antennas and equipment.