Ryan Bruton, senior international marketing manager, Aviat Networks, discusses the latest trends in the microwave backhaul sector.
CommsMEA Tell me about microwave backhaul. What distances can it cover and does this vary according to the area you are covering?
The distances that can be covered depend on multiple things such as weather phenomenon: is it a rainy area or not, because rainfall can affect these signals.
It depends on line-of-site so you can you see from one antenna to the other. It’s also a factor of how long the link is and how tall the tower is. Normal links in Africa are around 40km or less. In the Middle East you can go a bit further because you don’t have the intense rainfall although you do have dust storms which can be as bad.
CommsMEA What type of terrains is this technology useful for?
Anywhere where infrastructure is difficult, so Africa and the Middle East are very big for us. It is difficult to dig trenches through the middle of the desert and lay fibre. The weather is particularly rough on fibre. In Africa, you can’t stroll through the middle of the Nigerian jungle digging a trench and throwing fibre down. So, in MEA and South America developing areas are very big, although we do work pretty much everywhere. We do about a third of our revenue in North America, third in MEA and the rest is scattered around the rest of the globe.
CommsMEA How has the microwave backhaul sector performed in the past couple of years?
The Middle East has seen a little bit of a contraction of late. We use a few various sources to see what is happening. The Middle East has seen a definite contraction. Several of the industry sources are saying they expect slight contractions or increases for this coming year but it is pretty flat. 2012 saw a drop globally of single digit percentages, although we saw a slight increase.
Some of the operators have been cutting back on spending. This last year the industry has seen a bit of a drop in spending on backhaul equipment although, we have been lucky enough to see an increase in revenues despite this drop.
CommsMEA What are the main advantages of microwave backhaul? How widely used is it?
Microwave accounts for about 50% of all backhaul links worldwide. It is partially due to the economics. It is cheaper to roll out microwave than it is to roll out fibre, and partly due to reliability issues. Fibre by itself is not an unreliable infrastructure, but there are often problems in areas where you have a large amount of construction. People just keep cutting the fibres and it is just not economical to lay three sets of fibre to the site. People either deploy microwave as a backup or they run multiple fibres. But fibre is prohibitively expensive so it is not economically feasible for an operator to roll out fibre to every single base station.