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Microwave transmission is the transmission of information by electromagnetic waves with wavelengths in the microwave frequency range of 300 MHz to 300 GHz (1 m - 1 mm wavelength) 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 network. 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.
Although an experimental 40-mile (64 km) microwave telecommunication link across the English Channel was demonstrated in 1931, the development of radar in World War II provided the technology for practical exploitation of microwave communication. During the war, the British Army introduced the Wireless Set No. 10, which used microwave relays to multiplex eight telephone channels over long distances. A link across the English Channel allowed General Bernard Montgomery to remain in continual contact with his group headquarters in London.
In the post-war era, the development of microwave technology was rapid, which led to the construction of several transcontinental microwave relay systems in North America and Europe. In addition to carrying thousands of telephone calls at a time, these networks were also used to send television signals for cross-country broadcast, and later, computer data. Communication satellites took over the television broadcast market during the 1970s and 80s, and the introduction of long-distance fibre optic systems in the 1980s and especially 90s led to the rapid rundown of the relay networks, most of which are abandoned.
In recent years, there has been an explosive increase in use of the microwave spectrum by new telecommunication technologies such as wireless networks, and direct-broadcast satellites which broadcast television and radio directly into consumers' homes. Larger line-of-sight links are once again popular for handing connections between mobile telephone towers, although these are generally not organized into long relay chains.