The Battle for Bandwidth: Microwave Backhaul Provides Outstanding Cost Saving Advantages

By Chris Ramirez, Director of Business Development, Orange County, CA

The proliferation of mobile devices is creating huge demand for more bandwidth every day. To address those needs, mobile operators are switching from TDM to Ethernet-based backhaul solutions.

A microwave backhaul system provides wireless carriers, enterprise, municipalities, oil and gas, and transportation carriers with a reliable, flexible and cost-effective alternative to help address the exploding growth of IP-centric, multi-Gigabit data services. It also provides the ability to fully control the network while ensuring customer satisfaction and reaping cost benefits.

As wireless systems mature, carriers are looking for backhaul alternatives that offer more reliable service giving them greater control.

The TCO (total cost of ownership), while an admittedly big-ticket item, is well worth the buy-in:

Cost Savings: Microwave vs. Fiber

In regard to overall cost savings, the main backhaul battle today is between microwave and fiber.

But in the big picture, there is a huge ROI benefit in favor of microwave backhaul.

Here’s why:

  • Microwave equipment costs continue to steadily decline.
  • Non-microwave items−antennas, cabling, civil construction−constitute the largest portion of the initial capital outlay. But once it is live, there’s a low operating expense for maintaining a microwave system for the long-term. (Note: This is also a factor in a fiber environment. The difference is, fiber construction costs dwarf microwave construction cost and are more hindered by municipal regulations than microwave.)
  • In challenging geographic or environmental scenarios, microwave transport and installation is currently the safest and most efficient solution.

Worldwide Supply (WWS) provides engineering services, regulatory services, active and passive component supply, and our exclusive NetGuard post integration support to ensure an efficient, cost effective solution to meet your backhaul needs.


There is a perception that microwave backhaul is not as reliable as wired but field data has proven otherwise. With technological advancements in digital radios and microwave antennas, systems can easily be designed with 99.9999% availability rates — less than one minute of outage per year.

Conversely, wired solutions have demonstrated lower reliability rates, especially in rural areas.

Wired backhaul solutions lack the fundamental economic viability that today’s market demands.

But with microwave, carriers can ensure greater reliability through redundant system techniques–such as the utilization of hot standby configurations–which gives the carrier two operating systems, both utilizing the same antenna.

This technique also helps the end user to avoid additional monthly antenna lease costs.

Additionally, with advancements in IP radio technology, the user can enable the Adaptive Modulation feature on their radios to prioritize traffic and ensure the most valuable transmission maintains high reliability through periods of environmental degradation.


Using a microwave backhaul system, carriers can increase total capacity by simply increasing the number of circuits. As a result, the system allows carriers to build backhaul capacity based on their customer growth (basically, a pay-as-you- grow system).

Today’s radio platforms provide the user with both IP and TDM capability. Depending on which OEM brand is preferred, the user has the ability to enable traffic in the following ways:

  • Run IP traffic over native IP protocol
  • Run IP traffic over TDM protocol
  • Run TDM traffic over native TDM protocol
  • Run TDM traffic over IP protocol

The user will have the flexibility to plan for today’s capacity without compromising tomorrow’s demand by programming the radio with their immediate capacity requirement (i.e. 100 Mbps throughput) and scale with demand by loading a software key through a GUI interface (or at the NOC) to enable greater throughput.

Cost-efficient, next generation thinking prepares your company’s network strategy for today and tomorrow

Microwave backhaul networks continue to scale with increased capacity to meet the data demands end users are placing on networks. You need the right tools and the right partner to navigate the choppy waters ahead.

Worldwide Supply is a global OEM provider of network equipment and services in the U.S. specializing in end-to-end microwave solutions. Our clients value our ability to drive their backhaul requirements from planning through network implementation by utilizing our best in class products, services and maintenance programs.

Harris                        Exalt              Alcatel                       Adtran                       Proxim                      Aviat

Whether you’re preparing for a full turnkey project, in need of networking services or new or pre-owned equipment, we have what you need–at prices that will surprise you.

To learn more about Worldwide Supply products and services, visit or call us at 888.328.2266.

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