Tropospheric scatter, also known as troposcatter, is a method of communicating with microwave radio signals over considerable distances – often up to 500 kilometres (310 mi) and further depending on frequency of operation, equipment type, terrain, and climate factors. This method of propagation uses the tropospheric scatter phenomenon, where radio waves at UHF and SHF frequencies are randomly scattered as they pass through the upper layers of the troposphere. Radio signals are transmitted in a narrow beam aimed just above the horizon in the direction of the receiver station. As the signals pass through the troposphere, some of the energy is scattered back toward the Earth, allowing the receiver station to pick up the signal.
Normally, signals in the microwave frequency range travel in straight lines, and so are limited to line-of-sight applications, in which the receiver can be 'seen' by the transmitter. Communication distances are limited by the visual horizon to around 48–64 kilometres (30–40 mi). Troposcatter allows microwave communication beyond the horizon. It was developed in the 1950s and used for military communications until communications satellites largely replaced it in the 1970s.
Because the troposphere is turbulent and has a high proportion of moisture, the tropospheric scatter radio signals are refracted and consequently only a tiny proportion of the transmitted radio energy is collected by the receiving antennas. Frequencies of transmission around 2GHz are best suited for tropospheric scatter systems as at this frequency the wavelength of the signal interacts well with the moist, turbulent areas of the troposphere, improving signal to noise ratios.
Previous to World War II, prevailing radio physics theory predicted a relationship between frequency and diffraction that suggested radio signals would follow the curvature of the Earth, but that the strength of the effect would fall off rapidly and especially at higher frequencies. However, during the war, there were numerous incidents in which high-frequency radar signals were able to detect targets at ranges far beyond the theoretical calculations. In spite of these repeated instances of anomalous range, the matter was never seriously studied.
In the immediate post-war era, the limitation on television construction was lifted in the United States and millions of sets were sold. This drove an equally rapid expansion of new television stations. Based on the same calculations used during the war, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) arranged frequency allocations for the new VHF and UHF channels to avoid interference between stations. To everyone's surprise, interference was common, even between widely separated stations. As a result, licenses for new stations were put on hold in what is known as the "television freeze" of 1948.
Bell Labs was among the many organizations that began studying this effect, and concluded it was a previously unknown type of reflection off the tropopause. This was limited to higher frequencies, in the UHF and microwave bands, which is why it had not been seen prior to the war when these frequencies were beyond the ability of existing electronics. Although the vast majority of the signal went through the troposphere and on to space, the tiny amount that was reflected was useful if combined with powerful transmitters and very sensitive receivers. In 1952, Bell began experiments with Lincoln Labs, the MIT-affiliated radar research lab. Using Lincoln's powerful microwave transmitters and Bell's sensitive receivers, they built several experimental systems to test a variety of frequencies and weather effects. When Bell Canada heard of the system they felt it might be useful for a new communications network in Labrador and took one of the systems there for cold weather testing.
In 1954 the results from both test series were complete and construction began on the first troposcatter system, the Pole Vault system that linked Pinetree Line radar systems along the coast of Labrador. Using troposcatter reduced the number of stations from 50 microwave relays scatted through the wilderness to only 10, all located at the radar stations. In spite of their higher unit costs, the new network cost half as much to build as a relay system. Pole Vault was quickly followed by similar systems like White Alice, relays on the Mid-Canada Line and the DEW Line, and during the 1960s, across the Atlantic Ocean and Europe as part of NATO's ACE High system.
The propagation losses are very high; only about one trillionth (10×10−12) of the transmit power is available at the receiver. This demands the use of antennas with extremely large antenna gain. The original Pole Vault system used large parabolic reflector dish antennas, but these were soon replaced by billboard antennas which were somewhat more robust, an important quality given that these systems were often found in harsh locales. Paths were established at distances over 1,000 kilometres (620 mi). They required antennas ranging from 9 to 36 metres (30 to 118 ft) and amplifiers ranging from 1 kW to 50 kW. These were analogue systems which were capable of transmitting a few voice channels.
Troposcatter systems have evolved over the years. With communication satellites used for long-distance communication links, current troposcatter systems are employed over shorter distances than previous systems, use smaller antennas and amplifiers, and have much higher bandwidth capabilities. Typical distances are between 50 to 250 kilometres (31 to 155 mi), though greater distances can be achieved depending on the climate, terrain, and data rate required. Typical antenna sizes range from 1.2 to 12 metres (3 ft 11 in to 39 ft 4 in) while typical amplifier sizes range from 10 W to 2 kW. Data rates over 20 Mbit/s can be achieved with today's technology.
Tropospheric scatter is a fairly secure method of propagation as dish alignment is critical, making it extremely difficult to intercept the signals, especially if transmitted across open water, making them highly attractive to military users. Military systems have tended to be ‘thin-line’ tropo – so called because only a narrow bandwidth ‘information’ channel was carried on the tropo system; generally up to 32 analogue (4kHz bandwidth) channels. Modern military systems are "wideband" as they operate 4-16 Mbit/s digital data channels.
Civilian troposcatter systems, such as the British Telecom (BT) North Sea oil communications network, required higher capacity ‘information’ channels than were available using HF (high frequency – 3MHz to 30MHz) radio signals, before satellite technology was available. The BT systems, based at Scousburgh in the Shetland Islands, Mormond Hill in Aberdeenshire and Row Brow near Scarborough, were capable of transmitting and receiving 156 analogue (4kHz bandwidth) channels of data and telephony to / from North Sea oil production platforms, using frequency-division multiplexing (FDMX) to combine the channels.
Because of the nature of the turbulence in the troposphere, quadruple diversity propagation paths were used to ensure 99.98% reliability of the service, equating to about 3 minutes of downtime due to propagation drop out per month. The quadruple space and polarisation diversity systems needed two separate dish antennas (spaced several metres apart) and two differently polarised feed horns – one using vertical polarisation, the other using horizontal polarisation. This ensured that at least one signal path was open at any one time. The signals from the four different paths were recombined in the receiver where a phase corrector removed the phase differences of each signal. Phase differences were caused by the different path lengths of each signal from transmitter to receiver. Once phase corrected, the four signals could be combined additively.
The tropospheric scatter phenomenon has been used to build both civilian and military communication links in a number of parts of the world, including:
|Tower ID||Location||Staffing unit||Mainland station||Notes|
|TT-1||Cashes Ledge off New Hampshire coast||Not built|
|TT-2|| Georges Bank off Cape Cod ||762d Radar Squadron||North Truro Air Force Station||decommissioned 1963|
|TT-3|| Nantucket Shoals ||773d Radar Squadron||Montauk AFS||decommissioned 1963|
|TT-4||off Long Beach Island, New Jersey ||646th Radar Squadron||Highlands Air Force Station||collapsed (1961)|
|TT-5||Browns Bank south of Nova Scotia ||Not built|
As well as the permanent networks detailed above, there have been many tactical transportable systems produced by several countries:
The U.S. Army and Air Force use tactical tropospheric scatter systems developed by Raytheon for long haul communications. The systems come in two configurations, the original "heavy tropo", and a newer "light tropo" configuration exist. The systems provide four multiplexed group channels and trunk encryption, and 16 or 32 local analog phone extensions. The U.S. Marine Corps also uses the same device, albeit an older version.
Microwave is a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from about one meter to one millimeter corresponding to frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz respectively. Different sources define different frequency ranges as microwaves; the above broad definition includes both UHF and EHF bands. A more common definition in radio-frequency engineering is the range between 1 and 100 GHz. In all cases, microwaves include the entire SHF band at minimum. Frequencies in the microwave range are often referred to by their IEEE radar band designations: S, C, X, Ku, K, or Ka band, or by similar NATO or EU designations.
In telecommunications, a repeater is an electronic device that receives a signal and retransmits it. Repeaters are used to extend transmissions so that the signal can cover longer distances or be received on the other side of an obstruction. Some types of repeaters broadcast an identical signal, but alter its method of transmission, for example, on another frequency or baud rate.
A transmission medium is a system or substance that can mediate the propagation of signals for the purposes of telecommunication. Signals are typically imposed on a wave of some kind suitable for the chosen medium. For example, data can modulate sound, and a transmission medium for sounds may be air, but solids and liquids may also act as the transmission medium. Vacuum or air constitutes a good transmission medium for electromagnetic waves such as light and radio waves. While material substance is not required for electromagnetic waves to propagate, such waves are usually affected by the transmission media they pass through, for instance, by absorption or reflection or refraction at the interfaces between media. Technical devices can therefore be employed to transmit or guide waves. Thus, an optical fiber or a copper cable is used as transmission media.
Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with the longest wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum, typically with frequencies of 300 gigahertz (GHz) and below. At 300 GHz, the corresponding wavelength is 1 mm ; at 30 Hz the corresponding wavelength is 10,000 km. Like all electromagnetic waves, radio waves in a vacuum travel at the speed of light, and in the Earth's atmosphere at a close, but slightly lower speed. Radio waves are generated by charged particles undergoing acceleration, such as time-varying electric currents. Naturally occurring radio waves are emitted by lightning and astronomical objects, and are part of the blackbody radiation emitted by all warm objects.
Ultra high frequency (UHF) is the ITU designation for radio frequencies in the range between 300 megahertz (MHz) and 3 gigahertz (GHz), also known as the decimetre band as the wavelengths range from one meter to one tenth of a meter. Radio waves with frequencies above the UHF band fall into the super-high frequency (SHF) or microwave frequency range. Lower frequency signals fall into the VHF or lower bands. UHF radio waves propagate mainly by line of sight; they are blocked by hills and large buildings although the transmission through building walls is strong enough for indoor reception. They are used for television broadcasting, cell phones, satellite communication including GPS, personal radio services including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, walkie-talkies, cordless phones, and numerous other applications.
Anomalous propagation includes different forms of radio propagation due to an unusual distribution of temperature and humidity with height in the atmosphere. While this includes propagation with larger losses than in a standard atmosphere, in practical applications it is most often meant to refer to cases when signal propagates beyond normal radio horizon.
Radio propagation is the behavior of radio waves as they travel, or are propagated, from one point to another in vacuum, or into various parts of the atmosphere. As a form of electromagnetic radiation, like light waves, radio waves are affected by the phenomena of reflection, refraction, diffraction, absorption, polarization, and scattering. Understanding the effects of varying conditions on radio propagation has many practical applications, from choosing frequencies for amateur radio communications, international shortwave broadcasters, to designing reliable mobile telephone systems, to radio navigation, to operation of radar systems.
Super high frequency (SHF) is the ITU designation for radio frequencies (RF) in the range between 3 and 30 gigahertz (GHz). This band of frequencies is also known as the centimetre band or centimetre wave as the wavelengths range from one to ten centimetres. These frequencies fall within the microwave band, so radio waves with these frequencies are called microwaves. The small wavelength of microwaves allows them to be directed in narrow beams by aperture antennas such as parabolic dishes and horn antennas, so they are used for point-to-point communication and data links and for radar. This frequency range is used for most radar transmitters, wireless LANs, satellite communication, microwave radio relay links, and numerous short range terrestrial data links. They are also used for heating in industrial microwave heating, medical diathermy, microwave hyperthermy to treat cancer, and to cook food in microwave ovens.
Henryk Władysław Magnuski was a Polish telecommunications engineer who worked for Motorola in Chicago. He was a primary contributor in the development of one of the first Walkie-Talkie radios, the Motorola SCR-300, and influenced the company's success in the field of radio communication.
Non-line-of-sight (NLOS) radio propagation occurs outside of the typical line of sight (LOS) between the transmitter and receiver, such as in ground reflections. Near-line-of-sight conditions refer to partial obstruction by a physical object present in the innermost Fresnel zone.
The White Alice Communications System was a United States Air Force telecommunication network with 80 radio stations constructed in Alaska during the Cold War. It used tropospheric scatter for over-the-horizon links and microwave relay for shorter line-of-sight links. Sites were characterized by large parabolic, tropospheric scatter antennas as well as smaller microwave dishes for point-to-point links.
The AN/TRC-97 Radio Set, or TRC-97, is a radio set that has 12 multiplex channels (later expanded to 24 channels and 16 telegraph channels connected to an analog radio. The radio set is a mobile terminal that can transmit up to 40 miles straight line-of-sight at up to 1 watt, using a traveling wave tube amplifier, or 96 miles in tropospheric scatter at up to 1 kilowatt, using a tunable klystron amplifier, at a frequency range of 4.4 to 5 gigahertz and 1.2 to 2.2 gigahertz. The set has been manufactured by RCA, Camden, N.J.
Microwave transmission is the transmission of information by electromagnetic waves with wavelengths in the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Microwave signals are normally limited to the line-of-sight, so long-distance transmission using these signals requires a series of repeaters forming a microwave relay. It is possible to use microwave signals in over-the-horizon communications using tropospheric scatter, but such systems are expensive and generally used only in specialist roles.
The AN/TRC-80 Radio Terminal Set was a United States Army communications system that provided line-of-sight or tropospheric scatter voice and teletypewriter communications between Pershing missile firing units and higher headquarters. Commonly known as the "Track 80", it was built by Collins Radio and first delivered in 1960.
Radio is the technology of signaling and communicating using radio waves. Radio waves are electromagnetic waves of frequency between 30 hertz (Hz) and 300 gigahertz (GHz). They are generated by an electronic device called a transmitter connected to an antenna which radiates the waves, and received by another antenna connected to a radio receiver. Radio is very widely used in modern technology, in radio communication, radar, radio navigation, remote control, remote sensing, and other applications.
This is an index to articles about terms used in discussion of radio propagation.
Tropospheric propagation describes electromagnetic propagation in relation to the troposphere. The service area from a VHF or UHF radio transmitter extends to just beyond the optical horizon, at which point signals start to rapidly reduce in strength. Viewers living in such a "deep fringe" reception area will notice that during certain conditions, weak signals normally masked by noise increase in signal strength to allow quality reception. Such conditions are related to the current state of the troposphere.
The North Atlantic Radio System (NARS) was a chain of 5 tropospheric scatter communication sites. It was an expansion of the former Distant Early Warning Line. NARS has been built for the United States Air Force (USAF) by Western Electric (AT&T) and its sites were maintained under contract by ITT Federal Electric Corporation. All NARS stations were supervised and controlled by the USAF, by agreement with the Canadian and Danish Governments.
Pole Vault was the first operational tropospheric scatter communications system. It linked radar sites and military airfields in Greenland and eastern Canada by telephone to send aircraft tracking and warning information across North America. The line stretched from Thule Air Force Base in northern Greenland, to Baffin Island and then along the eastern coast of Labrador and Newfoundland to St. John's for connection into existing commercial telecommunications networks.
Although AT&T had dozens of similar communications bunkers across the country, the one in Chatham was part of a heavily armored and heavily guarded group of just five that went by the deceptively bland name of "Project Offices," said Albert LaFrance, who runs two Web sites dedicated to Cold War infrastructure. Unlike the more common AT&T communications bunkers, the Project Offices were apparently designed to shelter high-level government and military officials as part of a plan to preserve at least a skeletal national government in the event of a nuclear attack, LaFrance said. These “Continuance of Government” facilities would need communications capability, but communications wasn't their main mission, he said.
A major segment of the Department of Defense communications network in Europe was activated July 19 (1966). The new system went into operation as part of the ET-A ( European Tropo-Army ) network that spans a number of nations in Western Europe. The system ties in communications from Leghorn, Italy, through the Italian Alps to Bremerhaven, Germany, and from Heidelberg to within a few miles of Paris, adding more than 1,200 channel miles to the US Army Strategic Communications Command’s world-wide communications complex.
Sever tropospheric-scatter radio relay line (TRRL Sever) is a former Soviet communications line system designed for establishing communication with the remote regions of the country. The line was 13200 km (8200 miles) long and consisted of 46 tropospheric radio relay stations (TRRS) located mostly along the coasts of the Arctic and the Pacific oceans and major Siberian rivers: the Ob, the Enisey and the Lena.
The Peace Ruby program added AC&W radar sites and communications to the south of Iran, it supplemented the Spellout system to the north which provided radar coverage along the Russian boarder from Mashad to Tabriz. A later project, Peace Net, fully integreted these two systems into a state of the art air control and defense system.
Failures of the antenna, antenna mounts, or transmission lines have been observed to contribute a major portion of system unavailability. Such outages have been observed on the Scope Com system in Germany, the ETA system in Germany, the Phil-Tai-Oki system in Taiwan and most recently, on the DEB Phase I in Italy.
1960 – Tropospheric scatter radio link established between Barbados and Trinidad. 1965 – Tropospheric scatter system extended south to Guyana via Trinidad and North to Tortola via St. Lucia and Antigua.
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