Microwave Transmission - Microwave Radio Relay - Planning Considerations

Planning Considerations

Because of the high frequencies used, a quasi-optical line of sight between the stations is generally required. Additionally, in order to form the line of sight connection between the two stations, the first Fresnel zone must be free from obstacles so the radio waves can propagate across a nearly uninterrupted path. Obstacles in the signal field cause unwanted attenuation, and are as a result only acceptable in exceptional cases. High mountain peak or ridge positions are often ideal: Europe's highest radio relay station, the Richtfunkstation Jungfraujoch, is situated atop the Jungfraujoch ridge at an altitude of 3,705 meters (12,156 ft) above sea level.

Obstacles, the curvature of the Earth, the geography of the area and reception issues arising from the use of nearby land (such as in manufacturing and forestry) are important issues to consider when planning radio links. In the planning process, it is essential that "path profiles" are produced, which provide information about the terrain and Fresnel zones affecting the transmission path. The presence of a water surface, such as a lake or river, in the mid-path region also must be taken into consideration as it can result in a near-perfect reflection (even modulated by wave or tide motions), creating multipath distortion as the two received signals ("wanted" and "unwanted") swing in and out of phase. Multipath fades are usually deep only in a small spot and a narrow frequency band, so space and/or frequency diversity schemes would be applied to mitigate these effects.

The effects of atmospheric stratification cause the radio path to bend downward in a typical situation so a major distance is possible as the earth equivalent curvature increases from 6370 km to about 8500 km (a 4/3 equivalent radius effect). Rare events of temperature, humidity and pressure profile versus height, may produce large deviations and distortion of the propagation and affect transmission quality. High intensity rain and snow must also be considered as an impairment factor, especially at frequencies above 10 GHz. All previous factors, collectively known as path loss, make it necessary to compute suitable power margins, in order to maintain the link operative for a high percentage of time, like the standard 99.99% or 99.999% used in 'carrier class' services of most telecommunication operators.

The longest microwave radio relay known up to date cross the Red Sea with 360 km hop between Jebel Erba (2170m a.s.l., 20°44'46.17"N 36°50'24.65"E, Sudan) and Jebel Dakka (2572m a.s.l., 21° 5'36.89"N 40°17'29.80"E, Saudi Arabia). The link built in 1979 by Telettra allowed to proper transmit 300 telephone channels and 1 TV signal, in the 2 GHz frequency band.

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