Better less, but better: airFiber 5X - the new generation of radio channels, or Lutz * for your radio line - now at retail

    * Lutz - (chatl.) Fuel for pepelats.

    We didn’t have time to properly try out the Ubiquiti ac solutions , we didn’t install airFiber 5 / 5u anywhere we lacked the capacity of conventional communication channels , and our beloved manufacturer already delights us with another new product - and the new product promises to be faster than Rocket AC, cheaper than airFiber 5 , and work with greater distances than both of these solutions.
    Let's see what they offer us.

    Until today, Ubiquiti, for the construction of long-range point-to-point spans, essentially had two competing equipment ranges: airMAX and airFiber. AirFiber 5 / 5u possessed unsurpassed capacity (up to 600 Mbps duplex), better real sensitivity, and a lot more batch performance. AirMAX, on the other hand, was a solution at times lower cost and, what is even more important, with higher gain antennas - however, these solutions have limited packet performance (about 18 thousand packets per second in normal and about 70 thousand packets per second in AC option).

    Also, AirFiber 5 / 5U within the Russian Federation had a certain problem with the legality of use: in these ranges we are allowed to use only broadband TDD with one frequency band up to 40 MHz inclusive. Thus, it was possible to legally receive only 450 Mbps of simplex from airFiber, which is not so interesting anymore, especially considering the cost of airFiber (about $ 2,000 per flight).
    Thus, a problem arose, which was aptly described in Kin-dza-dza, “They don’t sell Luts in parts,” followed by pushing the gravitaps over long distances by constructing a trunk channel on airMAX.
    Today we are meeting a novelty - a system that combines the best of two lines: airFiber 5X (AF-5X (EU)).

    The case of the device resembles an elongated Rocket case and can be installed on the corresponding antenna, the back wall of the device is a needle radiator.

    Cable configuration is familiar with airFiber - a gigabit traffic transfer port and a 100 Mbps control port.

    Technical parameters of airFiber X in comparison with airFiber 5 / 5U, airMAX:

    FamilyairFiber XairFiber 5 / 5URocket AC / PowerBeam ACRocket / PowerBeam
    Frequency ratings, MHz5150-59255470-5950 / 5725-62005150-58755150-5875
    Channel capacity max (duplex)245500 (640 at 256QAM at short distances)300 at 256QAM at short distances90
    MHz frequency bands
    TDD / FDD
    Available ModesPtpPtpPtp / ptmpPtp / ptmp
    AntennasExternal: 24.30.34 dBi23 dBi built-in30.31.34 dBi external
    27 dBi built-in
    30.31.34 dBi external
    27 dBi built-in
    Power, dBm (16/64 / 256QAM)24/22/2024/22/2027/27/23
    27/24 / no
    Sensitivity, dBm (16/64/256 QAM)-78 / -71 / -64-78 / -71 / -64-90 / -83 / -69-87 / -79 / no
    Power (complete source)24V 1A50V 1.2A24V 0.5A24V 0.5A

    Please note that airFiber X can be operated with airMAX parabolic antennas - that is, it can be used to upgrade existing PtP spans built on airMAX equipment. For new installations, however, specialized -45 antennas are recommended. Unlike airMAX antennas, the polarization of new antennas is slant, which provides a smaller dispersion of signal levels across polarizations in the event of signal reflections and / or partial violation of radio visibility as well as some isolation from equipment operating in H and V polarizations (the manufacturer introduced antennas with amplification 24, 30, 34 dBi).
    As a solution in this situation, the manufacturer offers a set of modernization of old antennas, changing their polarization:

    As we can see, technically airFiber X is a greatly reduced version of airFiber 5 with connectors for external antennas.

    Miniaturization losses

    First of all, the declared capacity is “more than 500 Mbit / s”. In fact, this is a consequence of the rejection of support for the FDD mode - now the system works in only one frequency band.
    The second victim was a convenient signal level indicator - instead of it is now a series of LEDs traditional for airMAX.
    Table for translating the status of LEDs into signal level in comparison with the airFiber 5 indication

    As a reference level, a level sufficient to operate at maximum modulation is used.

    Incomplete list of benefits

    • At times less than that of airFiber, the cost;
    • The ability to use external antennas, including antennas of the airMAX series (via an optional interface unit);
    • Batch performance is many times higher than the line of airMAX and airMAX AC;
    • Better than airMAX and airMAX AC sensitivity (real);
    • Support for the 5150-5470 MHz sub-band, unlike airFiber 5.

    Range, Speed, Settings

    We calculate the dependence of range on speed for airFiber 5, airFiber X, Rocket AC using the real sensitivity of the equipment (you can read about the method of measuring real sensitivity in our previous article ):

    The result is impressive.
    In fact, the airFiber X solution provides a range not only more than the senior airFiber, but also than airMAX AC - this is due to significantly greater sensitivity. For airFiber 5 / 5u they say only the ability to work at frequencies above 5850 MHz and greater maximum performance due to the ability to work in FDD mode - however, remember that installations in this mode cannot be legalized, and it would be very hopeful to find a free pair of 50 MHz ratings optimistic: in practice, most installations in FDD mode in the CIS do not have such an air resource and operate in 30 by 40 or 50 by 30 MHz mode.

    An example of a real spectrum from a dominant height:

    It is clearly seen that the wide frequency bands on the air of the upper 5 GHz are no longer there.

    From the point of view of tuning, the system repeats airFiber 5, so we will consider only the most significant options.

    Radio channel settings: here you need to highlight the TX / RX time slot distribution setting, the available options are 25/33/50/65/75% - this is not possible in older airFiber models: it seems that we have found another advantage of the new device.

    Advanced tab: when turning on the inband control, you need to remember to turn on the multicast filter here:

    And, in fact, the result of the setup is a high-capacity legal radio channel using existing airMAX antennas:

    Of the additional, albeit controversial, capabilities of the system, I would like to mention the possibility of TDD transceiver in different frequencies. This mode can be useful in conditions of asymmetric interference and the absence of a free face value on both sides of the channel, which is already found in highly populated communication facilities. In this situation, you can choose a different frequency of transmission reception, achieving the optimal signal-to-noise ratio on each side of the channel.

    The practical work of the mode on the spectrum analyzer - each channel is occupied half the time:

    Sensitive subject

    At the end of the material, I again have to mention a sore subject - the issue of grounding equipment.
    Pay attention to the manufacturer's requirements: The ground wire should be as short as possible and no longer than one meter in length.
    And voiding your warranty for electrical damage: Failure to properly ground your airFiber radio will void your warranty.
    Manufacturer's recommended wiring diagram ( Ubiquiti lightning protection overview ):

    Ground terminal on the device case:


    • Solution airFiber X in performance significantly exceeds airMAX, including airMAX AC;
    • Under real air conditions, the use of airFiber 5 in most cases has no advantages over airFiber X;
    • The ability to use external antennas, including the airMAX line, allows you to build airFiber X channels with a length of more than 100 km with high performance and upgrade previously deployed airMAX channels;
    • The disadvantage of airFiber X is that it is powered by 24 volts rather than 802.3at, which when using third-party switches can lead to the inability to control the power from the switch (the high consumption of the device is also noteworthy - it exceeds the capabilities of TOUGHswitch \ EdgeSwitch, forcing to use the complete power injector).

    And, of course, the most important information: the price for one airFiber X device in CompTek will be $ 440 .

    Addition: the manufacturer confirmed the ability to power airFiber 5X from TOUGHswitch and EdgeSwitch switches

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