Why Businesses Need to Consider Fixed Microwave Connectivity

By Nikita Appelman

Achieving reliable and high-speed internet connectivity for businesses can be challenging, especially when fibre installation is not readily available or feasible. While fibre is the preferred choice, it may take months to install or may not be accessible in certain areas. However, there is an alternative solution that can provide fibre-like connectivity: fixed licensed spectrum microwave.

It is important to note that not all fixed wireless services are equal. Fixed-LTE, although popular, tends to degrade during high load-shedding periods and is considered a best-effort service. On the other hand, fixed microwave, commonly recognized by its round dishes mounted on masts for line-of-sight connections, offers better performance during load-shedding due to superior power management on high sites. To ensure uninterrupted service, businesses using fixed microwave should have backup power for their equipment. Additionally, bespoke microwave solutions are ideal for rural areas requiring stable and reliable internet connectivity.

Nikita Appelman, Product Manager: Wireless [VOX Telecoms]

Open Vs. Licensed Spectrum

Distinctions exist even within fixed microwave services. Many Internet Service Providers [ISPs] offer connectivity services operating within Industrial, Scientific, and Medical [ISM] radio bands, known as Open Spectrum, primarily catering to residential users. However, this open spectrum leaves room for signal interference from other devices, resulting in a degraded user experience.

In contrast, licensed microwave services operate within dedicated spectrum bands, allocated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa [ICASA]. Although more expensive, these services provide superior quality and eliminate the possibility of interference, even in densely populated areas. Users benefit from low latency, high throughput, and significantly higher speeds, ranging from 5Mbps to 1Gbps, with special builds reaching up to 10Gbps. Unlicensed bands, in contrast, offer much lower speeds.

Fixed microwave offers numerous advantages beyond connectivity. Vox, for instance, ensures quick installation of customer premise equipment and provides customized solutions tailored to specific business requirements. Dedicated links come with service level agreements and 24/7/365 managed support. Furthermore, these links can include a dedicated VLAN for voice, ensuring quality of service [QoS] for additional voice needs and uncapped voice calling plans.

How Businesses Can use Microwave

South African businesses can leverage fixed microwave services in three main ways. Firstly, businesses located in areas with little chance of fibre deployment can utilize microwave as their primary connectivity option. Secondly, businesses in areas with fibre networks but lacking last-mile connectivity can opt for temporary microwave connectivity until their fibre installation is completed, saving them from months of waiting. Finally, businesses can employ microwave as a redundancy/failover for their primary connectivity, switching to fibre as the primary option once installed. Voice services can also be added to the dedicated VLAN.

Although licensed spectrum microwave may be more expensive than other fixed alternatives, the costs are primarily attributed to operating within dedicated spectrum and the required equipment, not the data costs themselves. Providers are offering more competitive pricing options, making fixed microwave an ideal choice for businesses without fibre access or as a redundancy solution for those already connected. It ensures premium, carrier-grade connectivity, unlike best-effort alternatives.

The author is the Product Manager: Wireless [VOX Telecoms]

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