PRESS RELEASE: Since 2019, the global 5G development speed has far exceeded people’s expectations. Microwave has played an important role in accelerating 5G and has helped the first wave of 5G markets quickly complete backhaul network upgrades. Now, 5G construction in Africa has entered an acceleration period. According to the GSMA forecast, the 5G penetration rate in Africa will reach 17% by 2030. At the same time, LTE construction is still in full swing. How can microwave help African operators quickly enable wireless backhaul network reconstruction and ensure smooth network evolution and on-demand investment during LTE upgrade and 5G acceleration?

During AfricaCom (Africa’s largest technology conference and exhibition), which recently took place in Cape Town, South Africa, Giulio Cavalli , Senior Microwave Expert in Huawei Microwave R&D Competence Center delivered an insightful keynote regarding this topic.

Giulio Cavalli , Senior Microwave Expert in Huawei Microwave R&D Competence Center

In the past, microwave has always been the most important technology for wireless backhaul.

From the first hop of microwave in 1931 to the current 5G backhaul, microwave technology has been serving people’s communication for nearly 100 years. Up to now, 5G has been deployed for four years. More than 60% of the world’s base stations still use microwave backhaul. In Africa, the proportion is as high as 80%. Continuous technological innovation is the most critical factor for microwave to maintain long-term vitality.

What are the key deterministic trends in the African mobile backhaul market towards 2030?

Trend 1: Backhaul traffic will increase by 2 to 5 times.

To cope with LTE and 5G construction, the capacity of backhaul networks will be upgraded by two to five times. In some densely populated areas, the capacity of aggregation sites in urban areas may reach 10 to 20 Gbit/s. In addition, microwave is an important element of the backhaul backbone network in Africa. Whether the capacity of the backbone microwave network can be expanded is critical to whether the network can support more users.

Trend 2: To cope with traffic upgrade, backhaul spectrums are moved up and full-band pooling becomes a trend.

In general, the higher the frequency band, the larger the channel bandwidth, the higher the backhaul capacity. On the access network side, spectrum upshift and flexible spectrum pooling have become mandatory. First, E-band has become the golden spectrum for 5G backhaul. Microwave intermediate frequencies (18/23/32/38 GHz) are migrated or shared with E-band. In addition, for long-distance links, low frequency bands are still the only choice. A single frequency band cannot meet capacity requirements. The combination of multiple frequency bands becomes a mandatory requirement, and full-band pooling becomes a necessity.

Trend 3: Connectivity is still the typical requirement in Africa

As at 2022, 15 percent of Africa’s population about 180 million people have no Internet connectivity . It is difficult to supply power to remote areas, and the cost of building standard communication towers is high. Macro base stations only cover a small number of people. Therefore, how to quickly and cost-effectively enable internet coverage in remote areas is the common responsibility of the whole society. Huawei, as a vendor, has been working hard to help operators fulfil this mission through technological innovation.

In the face of deterministic trends and uncertain changes in evolution, how can carriers ensure technological leadership and investment efficiency through technological innovation?

1. Full-band evolution is oriented towards multi-T and multi-R, meeting capacity growth and ensuring hardware simplicity.

In urban areas, Huawei’s LR E-Band solution enables large-scale deployment of E-Band using the innovative Intelligent Beam Tracking Antenna (IBT). In suburban areas, the carrier aggregation technology with wider IBW enables a single RF channel with four channels to cover capacity requirements in most suburban areas. In the backbone network, the full series of innovations enables operators to save 75% of hardware and achieve higher performance indicators.

2. The new full-band platform meets the requirements of moving up frequency bands and flexible spectrum combination, meeting operators’ requirements for smooth evolution in different phases and protecting their investment.

The new MagicSwave microwave platform supports convergence evolution to a maximum of 24 directions in the whole frequency band of 6-86 GHz. For example, traditional frequency bands are reconstructed into E-Band or Super Dual Band links. In addition, smooth capacity expansion is supported in different network development phases. Capacity requirements can be met through software expansion or the addition of sub-cards. This minimizes the possibility of upgrading and replacing baseband signals on towers and supports smooth evolution from LTE to 5G and 5.5G in the next 10 years.

3. The pioneering RuralLink enables operators to quickly and cost-effectively construct networks without BBUs, backhaul links and cabinets through joint site and microwave innovation.

To address the pain points of difficult fiber to site (FTTS) and high construction costs, RuralLink uses the unique microwave fronthaul technology to extend RRUs remotely, greatly reducing site construction costs. It shares baseband resources of existing base stations, eliminating the need for BBU deployment and reducing the power consumption of the entire base station. To address the pain point of power supply difficulties, four to five solar panels are used to meet the power supply requirements of the entire site, and the problem of lack of stable mains power in remote areas is solved in a cost effective manner. To address the pain points of difficult installation, the RuralLink adopts a simplified design. All devices at the site are installed on poles, eliminating the need for fences and concrete pouring. This greatly reduces the difficulty of site construction, transportation, and civil work, and shortens the delivery time to only three days. In addition, RuralLink supports all-RAT services from 2G to 5G, laying a foundation for network experience upgrade.