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Reducing the Risk to Backhaul Links in the Integrated Radio-to-Antenna Path
Dual-polarized working is not new in the microwave terrestrial point to point radio domain and is prevalent in core or backbone transmission systems where multichannel high capacity is the norm. However in the traditionally lower capacity Mobile Backhaul theatre, currently only a small percentage of links are using dual polarization—a ﬁgure which is expected to grow given the recent demands for increased capacity, spectral efﬁciency, and improvements in radio functionality. Successful development of technologies such as Cross-Polar Interference Cancellers (XPICs), which mitigate the impact of polarization cross-coupling, are facilitating co-channel, dual polarization operation within the mobile backhaul networks. Use of XPICS with a dual polarization system doubles the transmission capacity of a microwave link within a single frequency channel allocation. CommScope is actively partnering with the industry’s major radio OEMs to develop viable models that will make deployment of these next generation systems economically and functionally feasible. Our research has highlighted opportunities and challenges in this area. Among the more signiﬁcant challenges is the importance of designing the radio-to-antenna path as a closely integrated package. This is of special concern given the common practice of using waveguide components designed by third party manufacturers and inserted in the radio-to-antenna path. Speciﬁcally, these third party add-ons may compromise both spectrum efﬁciency and/or product life within the radio-to-antenna path. This white paper has been developed in order to illustrate the risks involved in introducing third party components into the antenna-to-radio path. Further, it argues the case for carefully qualifying and sourcing all radio-to-antenna path components - including associated waveguide assemblies - as an integrated package from a reputable antenna manufacturer.
In a traditional dual-polarized radio-to-antenna microwave solution, remotely located radios- are connected to the antenna via two runs of waveguide—one per polarization. The polarizations merge into the same transmission path using a device known as an Ortho-Mode Transformer (OMT). Also referred to as a polarizer the OMT forms part of the antenna feed system and is either positioned adjacent to the focal point of a reﬂector antenna as part of the feed horn, or at the antenna’s radio interface. In transmit mode, the OMT combines the polarizations from the two dedicated rectangular waveguides into a single transmission path, usually carried by a circular waveguide connected to the radiating aperture of the feed system. In receive mode the process is reversed with the OMT responsible for accepting the combined signal from the circular waveguide, separating it into its component polarized signals and conducting them onto their respective rectangular waveguides.
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Critical Design Aspects A key concern regarding the new integrated dual polarized split mount design is the mechanical integrity of the radio-to-antenna path. Today. the majority of dual polarized systems for backhaul required two remote radios mounted adjacent to the antenna and two runs of ﬂexible waveguide to connect each radio to the ports on the OMT. Both RF characteristics should be evaluated on the production test bench. there is a third—and potentially more signiﬁcant—RF parameter which cannot be so easily measured. system providers have recently begun mounting the ODUs of the two single polarized radios directly onto the OMT which in turn is mounted directly onto the antenna. Beyond its ability to withstand the additional load. The testing must be done on a per customer basis as each OEM radio is different and each impacts the performance of the radio-to-antenna path in a different manner. Enhancements such as the development of XPICs. And while inter-port isolation less than 35 dB is acceptable. operators can double the channel’s data handling capacity with only negligible impact on spectrum leasing costs. the split mount design presents two important RF challenges which must be considered: insertion loss. The microwave components are housed within an outdoor unit (ODU) integrated with. The solution creates a split mount dual polarized conﬁguration that eliminates the need for the two antenna mounts and the two runs of ﬂexible waveguide. Therefore it is mandatory that the system undergo load. shock and vibration testing at the design stage. The effect is a signiﬁcant contribution to CAPEX cost. this can reduce the effectiveness of the XPIC in correcting for link-induced polarization impediments. Whereas both insertion loss and inter-port isolation can be assessed through bench testing. the antenna. and the isolation between the two polarizations. Until recently.White Paper (Continued) For mobile backhaul applications. the majority of split-mount radios are conﬁgured for single polarization operation. www. As a result. the rapid growth of data services is pressuring operators to increase mobile backhaul capacity to cope with the increased demand. A single go/return radio channel pair provides full duplex operation. assuming cross-talk correction from the XPIC. which separates the microwave circuitry from the baseband processing circuitry. often mounted in a standard rack unit at the base of the antenna tower installation. to ensure adequate performance. simultaneously send and receive the orthogonal polarization. Acceptable levels are ≤0. The baseband processing components are housed in an indoor unit (IDU).2 dB is indicative of a poor RF design and begins to impact system gain. or mounted adjacent to. the most common radio-to-antenna conﬁguration is the split-mount radio. communication and power connection between the two units. allow for simultaneous transmission of the vertical and horizontal polarizations on the same channel.commscope. However. While this conﬁguration is functionally viable. known as inter-port isolation. it is economically imprudent. A coaxial cable provides IF. One solution is to re-use the single polarized radio channel enabling it to. Insertion loss above 0. In order to reduce CAPEX. while minimizing cross talk. The mounting of two OEM radios onto an antenna together with the associated waveguide components represents a considerable load.com/andrew Page 2 of 7 .2 dB for insertion loss and ≥35 dB for inter-port isolation.
Figure 3b illustrates the corresponding cross-polar radiation patterns. mid. These devices typically feature a split-block waveguide design in which two half-longitudinal sections are joined to create an RF seal. but can be especially problematic from the waveguide devices such as OMTs and couplers. and top frequencies across the operating band. The received signal level is then recorded as a function of azimuth angle.com/andrew Page 3 of 7 . can be 60-80 dB below the main beam peak level. Typically. as set by regulatory authorities. Depending on the antenna’s gain the radiation limits. must be established at the design stage. The pattern degradation behind the antenna. the antenna is illuminated by an in-band RF signal transmitted from a remote location. Figure 2—Typical Integrated OMT unit mounted on the antenna Figure 1—Typical test range set up for the evaluation of RF leakage To accurately test for RF leakage. Figure 3a compares the co-polar radiation patterns of an integrated system using a ValuLine® 18 GHz microwave antenna with a well-designed OMT as compared to the same antenna paired with a poorly-designed third-party OMT. To do this.commscope. the waveguide device is integrated with the target antenna. Measurements are also taken at the co-polar and cross-polar incident polarizations. and the measurement program repeated. www. On completion. and per ETSI. RF leakage from the AUT can signiﬁcantly impact the antenna’s radiation pattern performance. the OMT device is assembled onto the antenna now commonly referred to as the assembly under test (AUT). where the speciﬁcation is even more stringent. The integrity of the seal: however. Any differences in the recorded radiation patterns between the antenna when measured in isolation and the AUT can then be directly attributed to RF leakage arising from integration. is severe enough to prevent compliance to the mandatory ETSI regulation Class 3 pattern envelope speciﬁcation. Again the effect of RF leakage from the poorly designed OMT package is apparent. engineers ﬁrst mount and align the antenna in isolation onto an azimuth rotator. measurements are recorded at the bottom.White Paper RF Leakage—the hidden menace (Continued) RF leakage can occur virtually anywhere along the radio-to-antenna path. Conclusive antenna range testing requires high dynamic measurement capabilities. radiation patterns from the entire assembly are then measured on an antenna test range and evaluated. caused by RF leakage.
White Paper (Continued) Figure 3a: Co-polarized Radiation Pattern Coverage of correctly designed integrated OMT assembly compared with poorly designed components against mandatory FCC and ETSI regulatory speciﬁcations Figure 3b: Cross-polarized Radiation Pattern Coverage of correctly designed integrated OMT assembly compared with poorly designed components against mandatory FCC and ETSI regulatory speciﬁcations.commscope. www.com/andrew Page 4 of 7 .
RF leakage poses a signiﬁcant risk to the performance of an integrated radio system and must be eliminated at the design stage. Such information is readily accessible for the antenna to radio integration package from the reputable antenna manufacturers who perform the overall design and qualiﬁcation of their own Integrated Products as part of their Product Development Process (as required by for example ISO9000). who does not have access to the design details of the antenna. A poorly designed ineffectual environmental seal at the OMT/Antenna interface may not be detected during or even immediately after installation. When multiplied by the number of frequency bands that must be tested and the various combinations of radios/OMTs/antennas that must be conﬁrmed. The most likely solution will be to replace both the antenna and integration unit. Therefore. and conﬁrmed by RF testing as an assembly. The impact. the risk of moisture ingress is present. It is therefore incumbent on them to ensure that the required performance parameters are achieved. Clearly. the process quickly becomes cost-prohibitive. Leasing an approved testing facility with the associated personnel typically costs $3. Conﬁrming the integrity of multiple seals in an integrated system. is far more involved and no less important when it comes to the design and veriﬁcation processes. www. so the loss in link performance will affect both channels. it is the radio OEM who will take ultimate responsibility for the declaration of compliance to harmonized standards for the complete integrated radio system. In Europe.White Paper (Continued) Potential Consequences of RF Leakage: • Degradation of carrier/noise ratio (C/N) can lead to bit errors in systems using stringent high capacity modulation schemes • Non-compliance to published speciﬁcations • Non-compliance to mandatory regulatory speciﬁcations such as FCC and ETSI • Non-compliance to Conformity to Harmonized Standards (in the EU) prevent the use of the ‘CE’ mark on the assembly. To accurately and precisely engineer the seal with the requisite integrity requires intimate details of the mating parts during the design stage. the OMT/Antenna interface is in the common RF path.com/andrew Page 5 of 7 . the antenna designer/manufacturer is best suited to provide directly compatible parts for the integration. For any single isolated component such as an OMT. The third-party supplier. Moisture Ingress—another hidden menace With any integrated assembly. will be unmistakable in time. Such information is of course readily available to the antenna designer/manufacturer who owns the design. there is no redundancy or protection within an integrated system to mitigate against the effects of moisture ingress. What is more. ensuring the mechanical integrity of an environmental seal is as straightforward as performing a simple pressure leak test. Of special concern is the point at which the radio/OMT assembly attaches to the antenna at or adjacent to the microwave interface. Because of the sophistication and cost of the testing involved the majority of third party waveguide component manufacturers do not have this ability. the third-party is at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to developing and evaluating ‘add-on’ devices such as an OMT solution for an antenna integration compared with the reputable antenna manufacturer who not only has the design expertise.commscope. but also ready access to the mandatory test regime. is at a signiﬁcant disadvantage.000 or more per day. That cost rises substantially if the system is to be labelled with the CE mark in the EU. Moisture ingress into the microwave path will lead to signiﬁcant losses in link performance and can result in missing availability targets. Unfortunately. however.
Reputable antenna manufacturers have resolved this issue by incorporating an independent polarization alignment feature within the antenna/radio assembly. Integrated assemblies subjected to these test have been shown to meet or exceed mechanical integrity requirements. the pipe at one end of the link is at +3 degrees to the vertical whilst the pipe at the far end is —3 degrees. one end may be set to the nominal reference. and load testing. the mounting must also allow for the full range of azimuth and elevation adjustment. This minimizes cross coupling between vertical and horizontal polarized signals. longevity. and the strict beam-pointing accuracy speciﬁcations of high frequency.commscope.com/andrew Page 6 of 7 . A second mechanical consideration involves structural logistics. they are deployed to compensate for dynamic variations in cross-polarization impediments arising from the link. In this way. Figure 5: Dual Polarized Integration undergoing Y-axis Vibration Testing Figure 4: Typical Finite Element Analysis of Antenna Mount when loaded with an integrated OMT and two radios www. the result will be a misalignment of the polarization axes of 6 degrees. this is a feature that is regularly incorporated into the integrated OMT/Antenna designs of reputable antenna manufacturers—but is not. At the same time. Again. enables operators to optimize the link cross-coupling at the RF commissioning stage. The two ODUs mounted adjacent to the back of the antenna must not impede or interfere with the mounting of the assembly onto the required pole. The alignment feature. supported by practical 3-axis vibration testing. Unless corrected. The effect of the increased load must be determined during assembly and should take into account all integrated hardware including the OEM radios. for example. The antennas are generally mounted onto pipe structures which in turn are attached to towers. a purpose for which they are much better suited. the XPICs are not being used to compensate for internally generated stable cross-polarization created by misalignment. which functions independent of the mounting pole. however. while the remote end is ﬁne adjusted to provide maximum isolation. For example. typically +/—15 degrees along both axis. If. this misalignment will result in polarization coupling. The orientation of the pipes at each end won’t necessarily be coincident. high gain antennas (Figure 5).White Paper Fine Polarization Adjustment (Continued) In a practical dual polarized microwave point to point link. shock analysis to ETSI EN 300 019. Instead. such as Finite Element Analysis (see Figure 4). Recommended procedures for determining load impact include analytical work. typically a feature of waveguide components products by third-party manufacturers Mechanical Integrity The presence of two ODUs can constitute a signiﬁcant load on the antenna and/or antenna mount system. it is important to ensure that the polarization axes of the two antennas are coincident.
This takes on added importance considering each OEMs has their own unique approach to designing their units. The mechanical veriﬁcation phase becomes a critical aspect of the design process. Reputable antenna manufacturers have this expertise. Without the resources to design and test their waveguide components within the context of the entire system. of CommScope. moisture ingress.not to mention the proprietary information needed . All rights reserved. (Continued) Figure 6: Typical shock test result Conclusion Today’s mobile network is quickly evolving into a high-capacity. the use of third-party waveguide components poses a severe risk to overall system performance and longevity. the advanced analysis needed to verify mechanical integrity of the integrated assembly is typically not within the scope of the third party waveguide component supplier.com/andrew Page 7 of 7 . antenna. third suppliers can introduce a variety of problems into the integrated system. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating to CommScope products or services. However.1--EN (4/11) www. volumes and weights of speciﬁc units require individual and unique integration designs. www. The most common deployment of the dual-polarized radio is the “split-mount” design that features a dual-polarized radio. It is. mechanical instability and imprecise polarization adjustment issues. Different sizes. Considerable expertise and resources are required. and product veriﬁcation. but in the design and performance veriﬁcation of the entire Integration Package as a whole. respectively. © 2011 Commscope. Inc. As these integrated packages become more commonplace. In house resources and expertise . analysis. and various waveguide components such OMTs. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or trademarks.enable the established manufacturer to perform the necessary design.com/andrew Visit our Web site or contact your local CommScope representative for more information. WP-104316. together with the requisite infrastructure necessary to demonstrate integrated product integrity. very much within the ability of the reputable antenna manufacturer.commscope. not only for the design of the individual components. Inc. data-driven environment.commscope.White Paper As with sophisticated range testing used to measure RF leakage. These include unacceptable levels of RF leakage. This evolution is leading to more dual-polarized radio systems being used in the backhaul theatre. the use of third-party waveguide components becomes more frequent. however.
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