The latest version of the standard, which is known as ETSI Harmonized Standard EN 302 217-3 ("Fixed Radio Systems; Characteristics and requirements for point-to-point equipment and antennas"), was published at the end of July and adds new frequency bands to those specified in earlier versions of the document.
Microwave links are typically used for backhauling cellular radio networks such as UMTS, LTE and WiMAX as well as for private links for very high point-to-point data capacity, including Multi-gigabit Wireless LAN Extensions (MGWS-FLANE) applications. Given that such networks are evolving to provide greater and greater broadband access to end users, it is clear that the associated backbone networks have to accommodate massive increases in high speed data and voice transmissions. Most network operators use microwave links to support this demand. The availability of the frequency bands covered by this Harmonized Standard ensures that network operators will have enough backbone capacity to cope with the broadband demands for well into the future.
The standard now covers microwave links that operate in the frequency bands 57 to 59 GHz, 59 to 64 GHz, 64 to 66 GHz, 71 to 76 GHz and 81 to 86 GHz. Much of this is completely new spectrum, therefore providing genuinely additional capacity.
ETSI is responsible for the preparation of Harmonized Standards in support of the European Commission's Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment (R&TTE) Directive (Directive 1999/5/EC). Harmonized Standards are a special class of European Standard, produced in response to "Mandates" from the European Commission, that enable providers of equipment and services to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the Directive, and thus be able to sell, deploy and operate them within the European Union. Specifically, this Harmonized Standard covers the provisions of article 3.2 of the Directive which concerns the efficient use of radio communications spectrum.
Under the terms of the Directive the frequency allocation authorities in each European member state are required to make the relevant spectrum available if they have not already done so. Frequency allocation in Europe is managed nationally but within a pan-European regulatory framework.
With the updated Harmonized Standard in place, operators may use the new spectrum as soon as it has been made available in the European member states. Equally, manufacturers wishing to put the relevant equipment on the market are able, if they so wish, to apply the Harmonized Standards route outlined in the R&TTE Directive, thus avoiding alternative, more complicated and more costly, ways of demonstrating compliance with the Directive.