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China Unicom and Huawei Field Test the World's First 5G Microwave IBT Antenna Solution in Inner Mongolia

Sep 28, 2020

[Hohhot, China, September 28, 2020] China Unicom and Huawei completed the first 5G microwave IBT (intelligent beam tracking) antenna innovation test. This marks a breakthrough for E-band microwave deployment on shaky towers, which is typically very difficult to achieve. It solves the challenge of last-mile deployment of the 5G backhaul network on shaky towers, facilitating fast rollout of 5G.

E-band microwave, which works on 80 GHz, is ideal for 5G backhaul, featuring 20 Gbps high bandwidth, low latency, and short time to market. However, its high operating frequency requires antennas to form small beam angles. As such, towers need to be very stable to deploy large-diameter antennas (0.6 m or above). In Inner Mongolia, towers, particularly those built on single pipes, tend to shake or warp in the region's strong wind or after extensive exposure to sunlight. This deteriorates the performance of E-band microwave links.

To address this issue, China Unicom and Huawei came up with the innovative IBT antenna solution. The solution monitors towers for shaking and automatically stabilizes signal beams to prevent offset caused by tower body deformation. This ensures the stability of the microwave transmission link.

5G Microwave IBT Antenna Solution

Huawei 5G microwave IBT antenna deployed in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia

To test the solution, China Unicom and Huawei deployed two parallel microwave links between two test points, one link with standard and the other with IBT antennas. The result showed that, the IBT link resisted the impact of tower shaking. On the link using standard antennas, the received signal level (RSL) attenuation reached 35 dB, significantly reducing capacity and potentially risking disconnection. In contrast, the RSL of the IBT link remained stable, keeping the link at its maximum capacity and without impacting services.

RSL comparison

RSL comparison (standard antenna vs. IBT antenna)

"We are all reaching for 5G. 5G microwave can facilitate fast 5G backhaul deployment in some scenarios. Together with Huawei, we have been able to solve E-band microwave deployment on shaky towers. This is great news, as it will further accelerate 5G construction," said Mr. Zhou Xu, Director of the Network Department of China Unicom Hohhot.