airMAX - Which product should I use?


Overview


This article provides some guidance on what products are ideal for different purposes. airMAX and airFiber both have different product options to cover a multitude of different outdoor wireless scenarios. 

NOTES & REQUIREMENTS:
Don't forget to see the Data Sheets, Quick Start Guides and User Guides for more in depth information about features, specs, and other characteristics. These are available for download at the bottom of each product page, conveniently linked in the device names in this article. The airMAX official page also has a lot of helpful, graphic information.

Table of Contents


  1. Introduction
  2. Point-to-Point (PtP) Links
  3. Point-to-Multipoint (PtMP) Links
    1. Base Stations
    2. Customer Premises Equipment (CPE)
  4. Frequency Options
  5. Antenna Types
  6. Related Articles

Introduction


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In fixed outdoor wireless communications there are two primary deployment methods used for distributing wireless: Point-to-Point (PtP), and Point-to-Multipoint (PtMP).

  • Point-to-Point (PtP): Connects two locations, usually at a distance of multiple km, essentially forming an Ethernet bridge.
  • Point-to-Multipoint links (PtMP): Connects three or more locations, using one Base Station (or Access Point) and multiple CPE devices (Stations) connected to the Access Point.


Point-to-Point (PtP) Links


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The following suggestions are based on reference distances. Real results depend on environmental interference, Line of Sight, EIRP limits and other factors. The products that follow are sorted by distance; shortest to longest.

Short distance (0-5 km)


  • NanoBeam 5AC-G2: Recommended for short links, superior performance thanks to the latest airMAX AC technology able to deliver up to 450Mbps of throughput.
  • NanoStation 5AC Loco: Good for short distance links. Lowest cost PtP solution with airMAX AC technology.
  • NanoStation 5AC: Very popular product for short links, frequently used for video surveillance due to its dual-Ethernet port capability, also with airMAX AC technology.
  • airFiber5X+AF-5G23-S45: 5GHz band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 500Mbps aggregate throughput using only 50MHz, up to 1million pps processing power, latency around 2ms. Supports Jumbo Frames.
  • airFiber 24: 24GHz band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 1.5Gbps aggregated throughput (750Mbps+ Full-Duplex), up to 1million pps processing power, latency below 1ms. Supports Jumbo Frames.
  • airFiber 24HD: 24GHz band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 2Gbps aggregated throughput (1Gbps+ Full-Duplex), up to 1million pps processing power, latency below 1ms. Supports Jumbo Frames

Medium distance (5-15 km)


  • LiteBeam 5AC-23-G2: Recommended as CPE for most cases, superior performance thanks to the latest airMAX AC technology able to deliver up to 450Mbps of throughput.
  • PowerBeam 5AC-G2: Recommended as CPE for long distance links, or medium-distance PtP links. Superior performance thanks to the latest airMAX AC technology able to deliver up to 450Mbps of throughput.
  • PowerBeam 5AC ISO:  Very similar to PowerBeam 5AC but suggested for high-noise environments.
  • airFiber5X + AF-5G30-S45: 5GHz band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 500Mbps aggregated throughput using only 50MHz, up to 1million pps processing power, latency around 2ms. Supports Jumbo Frames.
  • airFiber5/5U: 5GHz band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 1.2Gbps aggregated throughput (620Mbps Full-Duplex), up to 1million pps processing power, latency below 1ms. Supports Jumbo Frames.
  • airFiber11FX+Antenna: 11GHz Licensed band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 1.3Gbps aggregated throughput (680Mbps Full-Duplex), up to 1million pps processing power, latency below 1ms. Supports Jumbo Frames. Licensed band.

Long distance (15+ km)


  • Rocket 5AC + RocketDish LW: Excellent choice for long distance high-performance links. Up to 450Mbps TCP/IP throughput using 80MHz. Distances of 100+ km.
  • airFiber5X + AF-5G34-S45: 5GHz band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 500Mbps aggregated throughput using only 50MHz, up to 1million pps processing power, latency around 2ms. Supports Jumbo Frames.
  • airFiber11FX+Antenna: 11GHz Licensed band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 1.3Gbps aggregated throughput (680Mbps Full-Duplex), up to 1million pps processing power, latency below 1ms. Supports Jumbo Frames. Licensed band.

High-Performance Backhaul


  • airFiber 24HD: For extreme performance, the airFiber 24HD can deliver up to 2Gbps of actual throughput at distances of 2+ km in the 24GHz band, and up to 1.4Gbps in links below 9KM. However, under certain circumstances, you can use it up to 20 km.
  • airFiber 24: For superior performance, the airFiber 24 delivers up to 1.4Gbps of actual throughput at distances of 5+ km in the 24GHz band. However, under certain circumstances, you can use it up to 13 km.
  • airFiber 5 and 5U: Ideal superior performance in the 5GHz band, the airFiber 5/5U delivers up to 1.2Gbps in the 5GHz band. Under certain circumstances, it can be used for links up to 100KM.
  • airFiber5XHD+Antennas: 5GHz band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 1Gbps aggregated throughput, up to 2 million pps processing power, latency around 2ms. Supports Jumbo Frames.
  • airFiber2X+Antennas: 2.4GHz band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 500Mbps aggregated throughput using only 50MHz, up to 1million pps processing power, latency around 2ms. Supports Jumbo Frames.
  • airFiber3X+Antennas: 3.XGHz band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 500Mbps aggregated throughput using only 50MHz, up to 1million pps processing power, latency around 2ms. Supports Jumbo Frames.
  • airFiber4X+Antennas: 4.7-4.9GHz Licensed band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 500Mbps aggregated throughput using only 50MHz, up to 1million pps processing power, latency around 2ms. Supports Jumbo Frames. Ideal for Public Safety since it operates in 4.7-4.9GHz band.
  • airFiber11FX+Antenna: 11GHz Licensed band. Ideal for high-performance links with up to 1.3Gbps aggregated throughput (680Mbps Full-Duplex), up to 1million pps processing power, latency below 1ms. Supports Jumbo Frames. Licensed band

Point-to-Multipoint (PtMP) Links


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PtMP performance depends on both sides of the link, so if the goal is long distances, it is imperative to choose the right Base Station and the right CPE for each case. There is backwards compatibility: with the release of airOS 6 (for M devices)and airOS 8 (for AC devices), you can now upgrade your entire M sector by just swapping the M Access Point for an airMAX AC Access Point.  

NOTE: Mixed mode is only supported when using an airMAX AC radio as an Access Point.

 High_MAC_Efficiency.jpg


Base Stations


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Usually located on the top of a tower, building or mast. The height will determine maximum coverage. When planning the Base Station, it's usually ideal to plan for an antenna with the smallest coverage that still covers the desired area. Antennas with a wider beamwidth, covering a wider zone reaching more stations, may be more susceptible to interference, resulting in decreased scalability and performance.

 

Low Capacity and Short distance Base Stations


User Tip: These are ideal for starters in areas with low interference.
  • Rocket M + airMAX OMNI antenna: up to 60+ concurrent stations when all devices are airMAX capable. Highly susceptible to interference and recommended only for very rural areas. (Only M clients can connect.)

High Capacity & High-Performance Base Stations


  • Rocket 5AC PRISM G1/G2 + airMAX AC Sector Antenna: Carrier-grade system for highest performance Base Stations. Eight 45° antennas for 360° coverage. 800+ stations per Tower. Takes advantage of the airPRISM technology which significantly reduces co-adjacent noise.
  • Rocket 5AC Lite + Titanium Sector Antennas: High-performance solution for medium-high density areas. Variable beamwidth (60-120°) antennas for scalable growth. 500+ stations per tower. Uses latest airMAX AC technology.
  • LiteBeam5AC-16-120: Ultra-lightweight airMAX AC sector + radio with incredible performance and disruptive pricing. 120° coverage.
  • IsoStation5AC: High isolation horn sector.  Ideal for hi-density urban deployments or micro-POPs.  Comes with 45°/15dBi horn sector w/ options 30°,60° and 90° horn sector.
  • PRISMStation5AC: High isolation horn w/ active PRISM RF Filtering and GPS allow for improved co-location, noise rejection and up to 500Mbps. 

Customer Premise Equipment (CPE)


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NOTE: 
The Ubiquiti UniFi product line offers many benefits when installed with airMAX Customer Premise Equipment, including centralized SDN management, hotspot/guest portal, advanced SSID/WLAN configuration, routing & switching and more!

Short distance (0-3 km)  

  • NanoBeam 5AC-G2: Slightly greater range than the NanoBeam 5AC-19 M and more directive

Medium distance (3-7 km)

  • LiteBeam 5AC-23-G2: Low-cost CPE, very narrow beamwidth, and MIMO technology. It's the new industry-standard for airMAX AC CPEs.
  • PowerBeam 5AC-G2: Highly directive CPE, better range and lower noise.

Long distance (7+ km)

  • PowerBeam 5AC-500/620: Higher power device, super directive antenna, better range and lower noise, aesthetically pleasing compared to bulky dishes.
  • Rocket 5AC-Lite + RocketDish LW: Best performing option, higher cost than integrated designs, can be unsightly as a CPE and supports IsoBeam accessory for better isolation, which comes with RF chokes. 
User Tip: It is fine to use higher performing devices for shorter distances. As an example, the NanoBridge M will likely outperform the Loco M for short range links due to the antenna properties.

Frequency Options


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Each frequency has different characteristics due to physics and utilization. Lower frequencies have better propagation characteristics than higher frequencies, and may work better in environments where Line of Sight is obstructed (by trees for example). However, these bands may also have higher levels of noise and interference, so it's important to select the frequency that works best in your situation.

900MHz (M900) - Advantages & Disadvantages


Better tolerance for trees and small obstacles vs. higher frequencies.

Usually higher noise levels

Only 26MHz bandwidth

Not unlicensed worldwide

2.4GHz (M2) - Advantages & Disadvantages


Worldwide unlicensed

Only three non-overlapping 20MHz channels (1, 6, 11)

It’s a very crowded band; there’s a lot of interference from cordless phones, SOHO Wireless Router, other WISPs, etc…

40MHz channels not recommended

3.x GHz (M3-M365) - Advantages & Disadvantages


300MHz bandwidth in countries where 3.4-3.7GHz band is available

Noise-free in most areas

Only 25MHz bandwidth in countries where 3.65GHz can be used

Requires license

5 GHz (5AC/AF5/AF5X) - Advantages & Disadvantages


Worldwide unlicensed

Higher EIRP limits allow higher gain antennas, and long distance links

Large amounts of spectrum available, easier to co-locate nearby devices

Weaker propagation vs. lower frequencies when obstacles are present (trees, walls, etc.)

10 GHz (M10) - Advantages & Disadvantages


Noise-free in most cases, very useful when the 5.8GHz band is crowded.

Very small Fresnel zone

Only available in a few areas

Licensed band

Requires perfectly clear Line of Sight

11 GHz (AF11FX) - Advantages & Disadvantages


Noise-free in most cases, very useful when the 5.8GHz band is crowded.

Very small Fresnel zone

Only available in a few areas

Licensed band

Requires perfectly clear Line of Sight


Antenna Types


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High gain antennas play an important role in high performance outdoor wireless for two main reasons. They provide high gain amplification of the signal power resulting in higher signals and better link quality. And they are highly directional, which gives them spatial filtering characteristics that can help to block noise. This is especially important in noisy environments.

Antennas fall into these categories:

  • Yagi: Directive, used for PTP and CPE applications. Frequently used in low frequencies, such as 900MHz, due to size
  • Grid: Directive, used for PTP and CPE applications. Great wind-loading properties. However, this type only works in one polarity (1x1), so lower performance than 2x2 antennas (Dish, Panel, etc.)
  • Panel: Directive, used for PTP and CPE applications. Compact design is very attractive in situations where dishes are not preferred.
  • Dish: Most Directive, highest performing airMAX antennas for PTP applications. Usually larger and heavier.
  • Omni: Provides 360 degrees of horizontal coverage (omni-directional). Ideal for low capacity and wide-coverage AP / Base Station applications)
  • Sector: Ideal choice for high performance Base Stations. Offer higher gain and directivity than omnidirectional antennas. Usually offered in 45, 60, 90, or 120 degree options.

The links above are just some examples, you can find current airMAX antennas on this page by scrolling down to the antenna section.


Related Articles


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airOS 6 User Guide

airOS 8 User Guide

airMAX - Plan an Outdoor Wireless Link

airMAX - How to Configure a Point-to-Point Link (Layer 2, Transparent Bridge)

airMAX - How to Configure a Point-to-Multipoint (PtMP) ISP-style Access Point


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