Microwave transmission is the transmission of information by microwave radio waves. Although an experimental 40-mile (64 km) microwave telecommunication link across the English Channel was demonstrated in 1931, the development of radar in World War II provided the technology for practical exploitation of microwave communication. In the 1950s, large transcontinental microwave relay networks, consisting of chains of repeater stations linked by line-of-sight beams of microwaves were built in Europe and America to relay long distance telephone traffic and television programs between cities. Communication satellites which transferred data between ground stations by microwaves took over much long distance traffic in the 1960s. In recent years, there has been an explosive increase in use of the microwave spectrum by new telecommunication technologies such as wireless networks, and direct-broadcast satellites which broadcast television and radio directly into consumers’ homes.
Uses of Microwave
Microwaves are widely used for point-to-point communications because their small wavelength allows conveniently-sized antennas to direct them in narrow beams, which can be pointed directly at the receiving antenna. This allows nearby microwave equipment to use the same frequencies without interfering with each other, as lower frequency radio waves do. Another advantage is that the high frequency of microwaves gives the microwave band a very large information-carrying capacity; the microwave band has a bandwidth 30 times that of all the rest of the radio spectrum below it. A disadvantage is that microwaves are limited to line of sight propagation; they cannot pass around hills or mountains as lower frequency radio waves can.
A parabolic satellite antenna for Erdfunkstelle Raisting, based in Raisting, Bavaria, Germany
Microwave radio transmission is commonly used in point-to-point communication systems on the surface of the Earth, in satellite communications, and in deep space radio communications. Other parts of the microwave radio band are used for radars, radio navigation systems, sensor systems, and radio astronomy.
The next higher part of the radio electromagnetic spectrum, where the frequencies are above 30 GHz and below 100 GHz, are called “millimeter waves” because their wavelengths are conveniently measured in millimeters, and their wavelengths range from 10 mm down to 3.0 mm (Higher frequency waves are smaller in wavelength). Radio waves in this band are usually strongly attenuated by the Earthly atmosphere and particles contained in it, especially during wet weather. Also, in a wide band of frequencies around 60 GHz, the radio waves are strongly attenuated by molecular oxygen in the atmosphere. The electronic technologies needed in the millimeter wave band are also much more difficult to utilize than those of the microwave band.
Wireless transmission of information
- One-way (e.g. television broadcasting) and two-way telecommunication using communications satellite
- Terrestrial microwave relay links in telecommunications networks including backbone or backhaul carriers in cellular networks
Wireless transmission of power
- Proposed systems e.g. for connecting solar power collecting satellites to terrestrial power grids