2019 Fellow: Our exclusive interview with Robert Macchi

Can you tell us a bit more about your background, how you got into Fixed Service (FS) radio communications?

It was actually due to several events. At secondary school, where I learnt mechanics, I was employed by GTE. After one year, restless for professional life, I joined Politecnico university to study electronics. Then I took a chemistry examination, the only exam I failed in my life, which confirmed that electronics was my way forward. When I returned, as a graduate, to GTE, I had the choice between production or R&D, I went for R&D…

You are considered THE reference for Fixed Service radio. How did standardization start in the radio industry?

In the late 70s, CEPT established TM4, which produced some recommendations. When ETSI was born in 1988, TM4 became the TM4 working group of ETSI TC ATTM, which I attended and became the Chairman of in 1997.

During the mid 90s, CEPT worked on recommendations and sharing/compatibility with other services for Fixed Services bands. Horizontal radio activities flourished in CEPT and ITU-R, and being involved in all of them enabled me to acquire some limited but professionally enriching expertise in other radio services.

And what was the role of ETSI in this area?

Before the first European radio directive (RTTED), ETSI ENs on Fixed Services were already recognized overseas thanks to the comprehensive Tx/Rx/antenna parameters. The new Radio Equipment Directive (RED) increased this visibility and ETSI European standards (ENs) gained worldwide acceptance and were subsequently implemented on national markets.

The ETSI TM4 group turned 25 pre-RTTED ENs into globally accepted standards with the EN 302 217 series. And the Harmonized Standard EN 302 217-2 has become a reference for point-to-point equipment for any application and any Fixed Service allocated band.

What is the status of Fixed Service radio today?

Up to the 80s, FS composed the bulk of fixed networks. The advent of more efficient and reliable fibre optic reduced the need for long-haul FS use; however, in the early ‘90s, the success of GSM networks revived interest in FS. The speedy deployment of base stations for territory coverage found the perfect match in FS links. With more efficient mobile networks, Fixed Service using wider channel bandwidth of millimetric bands, easily managed the increase of payload capacity.

Today an average of 70% of base stations are connected to a fibre optic network through one or more Fixed Service links, which the media tends to forget, being more focused on “xG Access” and “Fibre Optic” as leading technologies improving global communication and citizens’ welfare.

Based on that figure, I somehow indulge myself in dreaming (or better having a nightmare) about how communications might have evolved without Fixed Service…

With 5G coming up, how will fixed radio evolve and contribute network evolution?

From a FS perspective, solving challenges such as larger payload, improved performance, easier deployment should be within the reach of the industry.

5G topology suggests larger base-station numbers with reduced relative distances. The quicker and often cheaper FS deployment will still be advantageous. FS will also benefit from new FS frequency bands within the 92/174.8 GHz range.

Therefore, even if Fibre Optic increases its penetration rate in first backhauling levels, the absolute number of FS should remain equivalent and is likely to increase. FS technology will continue to evolve, as ever.

And 6G is just around the corner...