Network operators seeking high-bandwidth backhaul links soon will have new options available after the FCC released an order that could double the potential bandwidth for long-haul microwave systems operating at 6 GHz and 1 GHz.

Under the order that was released last Friday, the FCC ruled that the maximum channel width for microwave systems operating in the 6 GHz band will move from 30 MHz to 60 MHz, which will support throughput up to 350 MB/s, according to Mark Davis, senior director of product marketing for microwave vendor Exalt Communications. The FCC also took similar action in the 11 GHz band, where the maximum channel bandwidth was increased from 40 MHz to 80 MHz, which will allow 500 MB/s speeds, he said.

“What the ruling does is expand that maximum channel over which a single radio carrier can operate,” Davis said during an interview with Urgent Communications.

By having potentially wider channels, it should be more economical for network operators to use long-haul microwave technology at 6 GHz and 11 GHz to meet the ever-increasing backhaul requirements of broadband networks deployed in areas where fiber deployments are not a cost-effective option, Davis said.

“You need to carry more traffic—in the case of rural and suburban areas, you need to carry more data traffic over longer distances,” he said. “So, this combination of wider channels at 6 GHz and 11 GHz essentially means you can do that more easily.

“Specifically, you can do that without any significant increase in your capital-equipment cost. That was always the sticking point—you could always add more radios … but that’s expensive.”

The new microwave rules will become effective 30 days after the order is published in the Federal Register, so they likely will be in place in less than two months, Davis said. Exalt is positioned well to help customers take advantage of the new rules, because the company is shipping several products that are capable of operating at the wider channels approved by the FCC, Davis said.

“We’re really excited; we’ve actually been planning on this for a long, long time,” he said. “So, this is something that we anticipated long, long ago, and the radios that we have to support this have been available for a year and a half.

“We knew it would be coming at some point, and we’ve had a couple of major customers … that have already designed their networks with the expectation that they would be making use of these attributes when the FCC did exactly what it did last Friday.”