WHITE PAPER MICROWAVE PATH AVAILABILITY AND ERROR PERFORMANCE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

No. 1 in a series of technology briefs on the concept of fading/outages in microwave wireless backhaul solutions.

MICROWAVE PATH AVAILABILITY AND ERROR PERFORMANCE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
In considering how to establish realistic outage or reliability objectives for wireless networks, several things need to be kept in mind. A single overall design objective, for not more than X hours, minutes or seconds’ outage, over such periods as a year is an oversimplification. The character of the particular kind of outage and its effect on the system and its subscribers should be taken into account, and perhaps there should even be different objectives for different types of outage.

Figure 1. Cumulative multipath fading in this microwave hop of an hour per year might represent 1,000 or more individual outages of 1-2 second or less with little note taken of such events by subscribers. In contrast, other fading types and infrastructure or equipment failure scenarios if of 3-10sec or longer in duration could result in periods of link unavailability (traffic disconnects, downtime).

Error performance (RBER, short-term outage probability, short-term outage sec/yr, path reliability, etc.) in digital microwave links is predicted, and then measured or monitored, only during periods when the microwave link is acceptable for subscriber use, i.e. is “available”. It is the primary responsibility of network planners and transmission engineers to design robust wireless links that provide the highest possible availability.

LINK AVAILABILITY (LONG-TERM OUTAGE) PARAMETERS
In accordance with North American (e.g., Bell) and International (e.g., ITU) standards, and as reported in ADM mux and other NMS (network management systems), each direction of a digital microwave path can be in one of two states: “available” (uptime) during which period (approaching 100% of the time) the link’s short-term error performance (or packet loss) is suitable for TDM (or Ethernet/IP) traffic with no subscriber disconnects, or “unavailable “ (downtime). For TDM traffic, the criteria determining the transition between the two states are as follows: A period -3 of unavailable (downtime), known as a VSB - very begins at the onset of a10 consecutive SES (10 BER severely errored second) or LOF (loss-of-frame synchronization second) event. As some ports will however disconnect trunks (trigger an AIS – alarm indication signal, or CGA – carrier group alarm) in 3-9s (user-selectable), there has been some activity within the ITU to start the unavailable period with a 3 CSES event but the 10 CSES definition as an unavailable period remains in the standards. As seen in Figure 2 below, these initial 10s are considered to be part of unavailable time. A new period of available time begins at the onset of 10 consecutive non-SES events. These 10s are considered to be part of available time. A path is available for performance prediction, evaluation, and use if, and only if, both directions are available.
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WHITE PAPER MICROWAVE PATH AVAILABILITY AND ERROR PERFORMANCE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Figure 2. The North American (Bell) and international (ITU) definition of unavailability (downtime) in a wireless hop and other transport media starts with a 10 CSES (continuous outage seconds). Traffic conditioning in a TDM trunk could however drop subscribers after only 2.5s (Bell standard).

Microwave link unavailability or downtime can result from any of the following examples: • Predictable and therefore acceptable events: Rain outage in millimeterwave links of perhaps 5-15min each in duration (shown below) computed from the Crane or ITU-R P.530 rain models which yield similar but not identical results, equipment failure for an MTR – mean time to restore – period computed from its MTBF – mean time between failures , low fade margin especially In non-diversity hops

Non-predictable events, but mitigated by optimal link design: Robust infrastructure (towers, appurtenances, primary power), equipment redundancy, protected antenna feeder systems, ring (“route diversity”) protection, adequate battery life with generator or solar backup. Rare and perhaps unavoidable events: Cataclysmic geoclimatic incident (flood, fire, earthquake, tornado, hurricane), vandalism, terrorism, human intervention error, interference,

AVAILABILITY (TRAFFIC “UPTIME”) OBJECTIVES
While the Bell System had, and the ITU-R has, such availability objectives as 99.995%/hop or 1600 sec/yr downtime for a trunk, they are widely varied for long-haul, short-haul, and access links and thus may or may not be suitable for some telephone, utility, and public safety networks. These may demand much higher availabilities – some even approaching 100% uptime/yr, a costly objective likely requiring a more robust infrastructure and increased redundancy. For other services, dramatically lowered path availabilities may be acceptable, even approaching 99.99% or about 1 hour downtime/hop per year,

PERFORMANCE PARAMETERS AND CONSIDERATIONS
As stated above, error performance (EFS – errorfree seconds, RBER – residual BER, SESR - shortterm “severely errored second ratio” outage probability, outage sec/yr, path reliability, etc.) in digital microwave links is predicted, and then measured or monitored, only during periods when the microwave link is acceptable for subscriber use, i.e. is “available” for close to 100% of the time.
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WHITE PAPER MICROWAVE PATH AVAILABILITY AND ERROR PERFORMANCE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Error performance and availability are therefore like oil and water – they simply don’t “mix”. It is therefore inappropriate to add the numbers of shortterm multipath fade outages that do not materially disturb traffic to long-term rain fade outage, Figure 3. Performance and availability time classifications and typical objectives for a digital wireless path

Error performance and link availability are therefore like oil and water – they simply don’t “mix”. It is therefore inappropriate to add the numbers of short-term multipath fade outages that do not materially disturb traffic to long-term rain fade outage, sec/yr, that triggers an unavailable period that drops traffic.

EQUIPMENT ERROR PERFORMANCE (ESR, RBER, BBER ERROR BURSTS)
Modern radio transmission systems, which implement complex modulation schemes, powerful error correction codes, adaptive equalizers, etc., tend to perform errorfree over very long periods of time, -13 even during frantic fade activity in optimally configured digital radio links. A typical radio hop’s 10 -13 6 RBER spec translates into 10 x 155x10 x 3600 x 24 = 1 dribbling ES/day, a value some 10-100X greater than that typically expected in the field. It is from this manufacturer’s value and its transport bit rate that the errored second ratio (ESR) for PDH - plesiochronous digital hierarchy – radios and block BER (BBER) for SDH - synchronous digital hierarchy – radios are derived. Burst errored seconds (ES), those 10 RBER and 10 BER/LOF events that do not cause a loss of frame (LOF) or in SDH radios loss of pointer (LOP) synchronization are considered unacceptable In all wireless hops and typically suggest that maintenance action is necessary.
-6 -3

PATH ERROR PERFORMANCE (SHORT-TERM OUTAGE, PATH RELIABILITY)
As discussed earlier, the effects of long-term and short-term system outage on circuits are very different. Highly predictable short-term “unreliability” outage events typically do not disconnect circuits nor reduce (in most circuits) data or Ethernet/IP packet throughout, while a long-term “unavailability” event likely will cause both traffic disconnect and loss of data throughput.
Even if the maximum possible reliability and availability objectives are established and a path or a system is engineered to the state of the art, the probability of outage can never be eliminated but only reduced to a very low value.

The calculation of predicted numbers of short-term multipath fade outages in wireless links over a “worst month” in ITU regions or for over a year in North American digital radio hops is best done with either the Arvids Vigants or ITU-R P.530-13 (or earlier) mathematical models that derive somewhat similar but not exactly identical results.

SHORT OUTAGES VS. LONG OUTAGES
As discussed above, a distinction should be made between communication circuits for which an outage of a few seconds or a few minutes is just a nuisance or an inconvenience and circuits for which such an outage might result in danger to life, great economic loss or other catastrophic consequences. The suitability or unsuitability of deploying millimeter wave hops that are not loop (UPSR ring) protected in a rain-affected band such as 18 or 38 GHz could differ widely for these two situations. Even if the maximum possible reliability and availability objectives are established and a path or a system is engineered to the full limit of the state of the art, the probability of outage can never be eliminated but only reduced to a very low value. It is imperative to make important services such as public safety, homeland security and electrical utility protection as fail-safe as possible against a loss of the communications or control channel. Therefore, regardless of the degree of reliability, a system should be engineered so that if an outage does occur it can be tolerated or at least its effects are kept within acceptable bounds.

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WHITE PAPER MICROWAVE PATH AVAILABILITY AND ERROR PERFORMANCE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

In several respects, rain outage is somewhat benign. If fade margins are kept high and paths are not stretched too much, even in less advantageous areas number of outages per year should not be large.

It seems that in some cases—perhaps many cases—a more relaxed attitude might be taken toward rain-induced outages than toward multipath outages or even equipment outages. In several respects, rain outage is somewhat benign in nature. If the fade margins are kept high and the paths are not stretched out too much, even in less advantageous areas the number of outages per year should not be very large and the length of individual rain outages on a hop should only rarely exceed five to perhaps 10 minutes.

CLEARING/CORRECTING OUTAGES
Short (less than 2-second duration per event) microwave outages, common in typical longer diversity or shorter non-diversity digital microwave hops with adequate fade margin, will not drop any telephone or data lines. Such outages quickly clear (“self-healing”) with all circuits remaining connected and little note taken of these transient events. Critical real-time, non-repeatable control or data blocks are usually sent over data circuits that have X.25, X.35, etc. error detection, which requests a resend of interrupted data from far-end buffers, and Ethernet/IP packets are typically re-sent via ARQ automatic retransmission of “lost” packets. Longer outages associated with low fade margins, rain, etc. disconnect all subscribers and may block access to the digital hop for at least 10 seconds after each long-term outage event. Such traffic disconnects are unacceptable to most users (Figure 2). These more vulnerable hops clearly require diversity or ring protection. For high reliability hops, (usually in long-haul systems with many hops in tandem), the per-hop objective may approach or exceed 99.9999 percent, allowing only 20-30 seconds per-hop outage per year. Short-haul systems, up to about 10 hops, often have a per-hop design objective of about 99.9995 percent for 160 SES/yr outage. Spur legs or short systems with 2-5 hops may be designed for something on the order of 99.999 percent per-hop path reliability equating to 320 SES (5.3 minutes) outages per year.

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