Legacy microwave radios, such as the Alcatel-Lucent MPR 9500, are becoming obsolete as the Ethernet radios become more common in business telecommunications networking. However when your company has a working system in place and repairs for microwave radios
are needed, there are steps to take to ensure the longevity of the equipment.
Image Source: Alcatel-Lucent
Radio technicians are being trained more and more to handle a host of technical challenges, much of them in telecommunications and a lot them with microwave radios. Before, an intimate knowledge of how the radios worked was all it took but as the system networks increase and improve, knowledge of the systems integration and configuration, along with high level troubleshooting and radio programming, become crucial. The ability to perform component level repairs is no longer important, except where legacy equipment is no longer serviced by vendors.
Conversely, with the increase in system complexity, the ability to troubleshoot at the network level is very important.
Virtually all electronic boards are built with surface mount devices, rendering them unserviceable except in highly specialized settings. Therefore, the scope of repairs that can be performed in the field is systematically decreasing. Fields repairs are usually limited to the replacement of antennae, knobs, switches, displays boards, speakers and microphones. All of the other repairs require factory based parts and can be expensive and time consuming. Usually, in the case of legacy equipment, unless your company has a supply source of key parts or highly skilled electricians, a third party repair servicer is highly recommended. This reduces time, cost and long term maintenance concerns. Whether you’re your own techs or a third party repair service, ensure that a 24/7 availability customer service system is in place, or a comprehensive warranty/liability contract is established. For legacy radios, repair is often undesired over replacement and you need to make sure your vendors can handle the task should replacement not be a viable option.
Upgrading hardware and software
Upgrades are a necessary evil of using networked systems and system administrators try to avoid it as much as they can, due to the time and potential for further issues are always a concern. Most microwave radios are built to last, limiting as much need for upgrading as possible. However, if it is necessary, it’s important to know the implications of doing so (or not, as the case may be):
- Interoperability with support equipment and customer/client systems
Compatibility with other network components
- The impact of using a potentially obsolete operating system on your upgrade plans
- The ever present advantages of upgrading to a new system with new feature and new functions.
- When upgrading software, the best approach is to test it on a dummy system through a local vendor before it’s rolled out into your network. You don’t want to have to roll it back at all, leaving your network exposed while the issues are resolved.
There is a big difference between having weekly structured checks and have a fully reactive approach to systems issues. The best, safest and least costly recommendation is to schedule thorough maintenance checks for your microwave radio
. Based on where the radios are located geographically and, if they’re outside, by the weather.
- Run regular tests and reports on your microwave system. Microwave links will typically have the means to check their operation on site, so your maintenance technician can measure and record parameters and reset the equipment.
- For backhaul networks designed for automatic switchover, you should simulate failure conditions to test switchover functions periodically.
Electronic hardware is becoming more and more reliable. Systems with appropriate environmental controls can manage with annual checks, but systems working at high capacity or in difficult environments should be checked more often. Maintenance for any base station should include thorough examination of the receiver, transmitter and, above all, the antenna system.