May 29, 2019

Reach Tables as a Tool for High-Level Microwave Planning


Written By Andrew Shaver – Director of Product Line Management

There is no substitute for a proper microwave path design using professional planning tools. Along with a field line of sight survey, this is a mandatory step prior to deploying any microwave equipment to ensure that the link is dimensioned to meet the required performance criteria.

However, sometimes site details might be unavailable or not finalized yet, and a rough estimate of link performance is enough for initial planning purposes. This is where a (region-specific) reach table can come in handy to provide some high-level performance expectations ahead of a more detailed round of planning.

Each microwave path is unique, with varying geographic factors that will affect link performance. A 1-mile link in Miami will have a different annual predicted availability than a nearly identical path planned in Las Vegas, so it is important to understand how certain links will behave in different markets.

With a little up-front work, a reach table can be prepared that shows the achievable link distances under different scenarios. For example, you could show and compare typical reach distances using different frequencies and antenna sizes at different target capacities and annual availabilities.

The example below shows 1 Gbps options at a 99.995% availability, across different frequency, antenna size, and channel bandwidth options, in the Austin, Texas region.


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Based on this example, you could quickly estimate that for links requiring 1 Gbps at 99.995% that are less than 2.5 miles, you could reasonably budget based on 18 and 23 GHz, while longer links should consider 11 GHz (or potentially 6 GHz). This is particularly useful in heavily congested regions where 11 and 6 GHz channels may be more difficult to obtain, and focusing on 18 and 23 GHz might reduce design and coordination iterations.   

Proper path-specific designs using professional planning tools are a must, but for high-level planning purposes, whether that be as a sales aid or to quickly dimension a large network in a short amount of time, reach tables can be a very useful tool to help understand expected microwave performance.

Future Technologies has 20 years of experience planning, building, and maintaining wireless broadband networks, working with several leading equipment vendors, with in-house planning expertise. We would be happy to discuss your requirements and to help assess any link options you might be considering, or to help generate a reach table for an area of interest!

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Taylor Juska