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microwave FREQUENCY BAND


CONGESTION IN 6 AND 11 GHZ

How real it is it, and how to ensure


it does not hold back LTE and LTE-A.

by Eduardo J. Sanchez, Marketing Engineer Aviat Networks; and


Greg Macey, Microwave Engineering Services Manager, COMSEARCH

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CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION 3
MICROWAVE SPECTRUM IN THE USA 3
NOT ALL FREQUENCY BANDS ARE EQUAL 4
FCC COORDINATION PROCESS 4
SPECTRUM USE LOS ANGELES, CA 5
BACKHAUL STRATEGIES 5
CASE STUDY: LOS ANGELES 11 GHZ 6
CONCLUSIONS 6

ANNEX B: SPECTRUM USE LOS ANGELES, CA 6.1 GHZ

ANNEX C: SPECTRUM USE LOS ANGELES, CA 6.7 GHZ

ANNEX D: SPECTRUM USE LOS ANGELES, CA 11 GHZ

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iNTRODUCTION

MICROWAVE SPECTRUM IN THE USA

The exponential growth in demand for mobile data has led

In order to determine the most congested cities in the US,

to a fast evolution of radio access network technologies.

licenses for individual links with in the FCC ULS database

Improvements in spectrum efficiency, user capacity and

were counted for the frequency bands of 6.1 GHz, 6.7 GHz,

latency in the access portion of the network need to be

11 GHz, 18 GHz, 23 GHz and 38 GHz. Figure 2 shows the

matched by advances in the backhaul. High capacity low

ten cities with the greatest number of microwave links in

latency backhaul is a necessary requirement to fulfill the

the US. As environmental conditions change from city to

technological promises of LTE and LTE-A. An argument

city, the distribution of frequency bands will change. The

used by proponents of alternatives to microwave backhaul

frequency band distribution will depend on environmental

such as fiber or unlicensed backhaul radios is that

factors such as rain, terrain type, and radio power and

licensed channels in the 6 and 11 GHz frequency bands

antenna size. From Figure 1 is clear that the city of Los

are congested and should be avoided. The purpose of this

Angeles, CA has the greatest number of links, more than

paper is to analyze the spectrum situation for the city of

doubling the number of links from the next area with most

Los Angeles, CA. Information gained may be extrapolated

microwave links: the San Francisco Bay Area.

for other locations throughout the US.


This paper explains the current FCC coordination process
and advantages of using lower frequency bands. Then
it explores the current state of backhaul spectrum,
backhaul strategies to reduce interference, and ends with
a case study that highlights the use of high performance
category 4 antennas.

Figure 1. Cities with greatest number of microwave links. Source: FCC ULS database

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NOT ALL FREQUENCY BANDS


ARE EQUAL

FCC COORDINATION PROCESS


The widespread deployment of 6 and 11 GHz frequency

Several microwave band options are available to design a

bands has led to the perception that these frequency

high capacity low latency backhaul networks and 6 and 11

bands should be avoided due to difficulties obtaining FCC

GHz are popular options. Figure 1 shows that for the same

licenses. But in reality the number of licenses rejected

capacity 6 and 11 GHz frequency bands achieve higher

by the FCC is almost zero. Every potential license has

availability for longer distances than 18 and 23 GHz.

to go through a process called frequency coordination.

For this reason these latter bands are usually reserved

Frequency coordination includes an interference

for shorter hops. The overall maximum distance in a

analysis to avoid affecting existent license holders. After

particular location will depend on many factors including:

the interference analysis is complete the prospective

rain, multipath fades, reflections, diffraction and other

licensee must provide notices to potentially affected

atmospheric phenomena that affect RF propagation.

parties. Affected parties have 30 days to respond and if

Although 18 and 23 GHz frequency bands have worst

no objections are received after this period, the user is

propagation characteristics they have the advantage

authorized to apply for a license with the FCC. Any issues

of using smaller antennas with narrower beam widths.

or objections received after the coordination period are

This allows greater density of links, ideal for last mile

usually resolved quickly and cooperatively by the potential

applications. For medium and long range links 6 and

licensee and the affected parties.

11 GHz are a better option. The main challenge for the


backhaul network designer is to select the appropriate
frequency band, antenna and radio to meet strict capacity,
latency and availability requirements with the lowest
possible TCO.

Figure 2. Ma ximum distance of non-protected links in Los Angeles, CA.

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SPECTRUM USE LOS ANGELES, CA

BACKHAUL STRATEGIES

As shown in figure 1, the city of Los Angeles, CA is the

From the analysis of the spectrum situation for Los Angeles,

city with the greatest number of microwave links in the


US. This city is a good example of spectrum usage in an
environment with great density of microwave links.

it is clear that instead of widespread congestion, there are


only a minority of sites with potential coordination challenges
(especially for the 6.1 and 11 GHz cases). For cities with less
microwave link density, or for rural environments, the number

Figure 3 shows the spectrum usage for the frequency

of sites with coordination challenges should be lower than is

bands of 6.1, 6.7 and 11 GHz. Spectrum use was estimated

the case for the city of Los Angeles. For these locations some

by adding the used bandwidth of active licenses in each

strategies to facilitate the coordination process include:

site. License information was obtained from public FCC

Using category 4 antennas with narrower beam widths and less side
lobes in areas with a difficult interference situation. Most commercial
antennas available are category 3. Category 4 antennas are
manufactured to deal with extremely high interference potential. The
use of category 4 antennas can significantly reduce interference and
increase the possibility of clearing the coordination process.

ULS license data. Results of the analysis show that less


that 1% of sites use between 80% and 100% of available
spectrum with the great majority of sites using less than
20% of existing bandwidth. For the small minority of sites
with high density of microwave links the coordination
process can be more challenging. Options to facilitate the
coordination process for these locations include: lowering
transmit power, changing the antenna, or applying for a
license in a different frequency band if all other options
are not viable. However first-hand experience from
coordinating entities like Comsearch suggests that
rejection rates of coordination in 6 and 11 GHz frequency
bands are low. Annexes B, C and D show maps of existing
links and spectrum use for the frequency bands of 6.1, 6.7

Deploying radios with improved filter response such as IRU600. Poor


filter response can lead to increased interference and a reduced
probability of clearing the coordination process. Although filter
response for most manufacturers has improved in recent years
selecting equipment with higher interference tolerance can make a
difference in dense microwave environments.
Installing high power radios like Aviats IRU600. Higher power
radios offer flexibility to coordinate links in higher frequency bands
that wouldnt be achievable with lower power radios, thus avoiding
congested bands and making coordination possible. In addition, as
new high capacity backhaul for LTE is overlaid over existing backhaul
used to support legacy LMR medium range 6 GHz links can be
replaced using 11GHz links. This can increase the number of available
6GHz channels for longer hops.

and 11 GHz in Los Angeles.

Figure 3. Spectrum use 6 and 11 GHz

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CASE STUDY: LOS ANGELES 11 GHZ

for the VHLP3-11 and then for the SHP3-11.

There are over 3200 licensed paths in California.

Having too few or too many frequency choices would give

Approximately 13% of all the licensed paths in California

inconclusive results, so an arbitrarily low number of 4

are within 15 miles of downtown Los Angeles so obtaining

channels with a single polarity (vertical) were chosen. The

microwave frequencies in this particular corridor can be

results of the study showed that using a higher quality

challenging. Frequency Coordination companies such

dish can have a marked positive effect on frequency reuse.

as Comsearch utilize a myriad of techniques to squeeze

In this particular case study the SHP3-11 allowed a 40%

frequencies in microwave dense areas. Some of the most

increase in frequency reuse. The findings of this study

common techniques for clearing frequencies involve

indicate that as time goes on and microwave congestion

frequency offset or terrain/building obstruction. Another

increases in some area, the use of higher quality

technique that is often used to find interference free

dishes will be a critical key to successfully ascertaining

frequencies is to make use of antennas that are of higher

frequencies.

discriminating quality. This study will show the effects of

CONCLUSIONS

frequency reuse from a sampling of existing Los Angeles


paths using a standard quality dish that meets the FCCs
most stringent quality standard (Category A) versus an
antenna that goes far above and beyond the FCC top
highest standards. The two dishes that were used for this
study are the Commscope VHLP3-11 and the Sentinel
SHP3-11. The Sentinel antenna is a new Super High

As a bellwether of 6 and 11 GHz spectrum situation in the


rest of the country, the city of Los Angeles shows that
there are only a minority of sites that might experience
coordination challenges and that congestion is not
generalized for these frequency bands.
The use of feature rich flexible MW radio equipment and

Performance antenna that provides superior side and rear

improved antennas by skilled spectrum management

lobe suppression.

engineers ensures that spectrum can be coordinated.

A sampling of approximately 100 microwave paths in


the 11 GHz band were chosen within 15 miles of the Los
Angeles city center. Licensed paths with 2 4 foot dish

This means that high capacity LTE and LTE-A backhaul


networks can be deployed using these frequency bands.
The use of radios with improved filter response, category 4

diameters were the focus as they would be candidate

antennas, and the smart use of existing frequency assets

paths because of similar dish sizing. The existing antennas

ensures that network designers have the necessary

were then substituted with the ones in the case study first

channels to deploy high capacity microwave backhaul.

Figure 4. 11GHz Links upgr aded using 11GHz Sentinel Antennas

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ANNEX B: SPECTRUM USE LOS ANGELES, CA 6.1 GHZ

ANNEX C: SPECTRUM USE LOS ANGELES, CA 6.7 GHZ

ANNEX D: SPECTRUM USE LOS ANGELES, CA 11 GHZ

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