As more and more people rely on cell phones, Wi-Fi internet, and satellite navigation, you can bet that wireless technology will continue to be an integral part of our lives for many years to come. The fact that individuals are able to communicate with each other via long distances, even from Earth to outer space, is an exciting and fascinating one. This is the ever-evolving world of telecommunication and it starts with something that has been around for decades.
Microwave Link Technology
Microwave link technology has been used in different forms for a number of years for long distance communication. As early as the 1930s, radar systems were developed using microwave technology in World War II. It involves a beam of radio waves between two locations on earth. You have already seen a similar form of this technology in action when listening to the radio or watching a show broadcast on television. Telephone companies have also used this knowledge in the past and still continue to use it to some degree; however, in recent years, they have switched to using fiber-optic cables for most of their services.
Just Like a Radio, But Different
Like all radio communication systems, a microwave link requires a transmitter, receiver, transmission lines, and antennas. However, microwave technology differs from that of traditional radio waves which operate at lower frequencies, or longer wavelengths. Microwave frequencies used in telecommunications are much higher. They consist of shorter wavelengths and can be applied in certain ways that lower frequencies cannot. Because normal wires and cables only handle lower frequencies, microwave beams with a higher frequency require the use of a directional parabolic antenna, or what is known as a “dish”, to focus the beam.
From Transmitter to Receiver
A microwave link begins when a transmitter produces a microwave signal with information – or input – to be communicated to a receiving device. The input consists of phone calls, radio programs, television, web pages, text, images, and videos – or a combination of several media types. Once the transmitter has generated the signal with the required frequency, it sends the signal down the transmission line. As the signal is carried through the transmission line, it reaches the receiving antenna and then the receiver at the end of the link.
Antennas are involved at both the transmitting and receiving ends. The transmitting antenna emits a signal into what engineers call “free space” – the void between the transmitting and receiving antennas. The receiving antenna collects the signal and sends it to the receiver.
Because of the high frequencies used, microwave signals are very narrow and are restricted to a line-of-sight (LOS) path. Buildings, trees, hills, and even the earth’s curvature are potential obstacles to LOS. When telecommunications engineers design a microwave path, they must consider not only existing obstacles but future ones as well. Any future building construction, growing trees, and foliage during the spring must be taken into account. Lakes and other water bodies can also reflect signals, causing interference – or multipath fading – at the receiving antenna.
As the World Communicates
The world of telecommunications and microwave technology is set to evolve as more and more wireless electronic devices come into play. Telecommunications play a huge role not only in day-to-day life but in vital functions such as the military and government. As people become more globally united, microwave technology will further bind our ties to each other.