Speaking at Mobile World Congress 2014, Sub10's chief sales and marketing officer Frank Pauer detailed recent developments in millimetre wave (MMW) technology, why this technology is being deployed in the Middle East and North Africa, and what sub-Saharan Africa may gain from it
Millimetre waves are extremely high frequency radio wavelengths, at between one and 10 millimetres. Compared to lower radio bands, MMW is short range and has been used typically for communications over a distance of a kilometre or less. Such point-to-point communications are cost-effective and operationally efficient - notably, with respect to frequency reuse. However, signal propagation of typical MMW deployments can be affected by atmospheric gases, rain, humidity and temperature.
Pauer confirmed to Communications Africa/Afrique that the MMW solutions offered by Sub10 have been developed to the point where its point-to-point links can carry telecommunications over a distance of four kilometres - that's four times more than conventional MMW deployments. Sub10's equipment is also much less affected by climatic factors. Pauer offered the example of a Sub10 deployment in MMW in Moscow, where its links operate in extreme temperatures without loss of performance.
MMW's primary advantage is its huge bandwidth potential. MMW solutions can offer multiple gigabits of data capacity in a single link. Lower frequencies simply cannot generate the same data rates.
Sub10 was formed in 2010 to open up the possibilities of extremely high frequency connectivity.
Pauer said, "Our intention was to serve with microwave, point-to-point wireless, to invest our time in developing something with much higher bandwidth."
Essentially, MMW operates in undeveloped space. It can be used to deliver a broad range of new products and services - including high-speed wireless local area networks and broadband Internet access. MMW deployments are also beneficial to extending and enhancing network coverage in markets where ARPU is relatively low, and where operators' budgetary constraints are particularly acute. Some markets in Africa are already benefitting from MMW's solutions, and those of its competitors. One obstacle to further deployment is a lack of clear regulatory direction on MMW.
There are communities of communications service providers - particularly in Nigeria and South Africa - which are keen to adopt point-to-point high frequency technology, as their counterparts in the Middle East have done. And the South African communications regulator is leading the way to dealing with regulatory obstacles. However, there is still some ground to cover to overcome regulatory issues.