4G World Poses Five Questions about Small Cell Backhaul

The Portage Lake Michigan shore looking across...

In Chicago, the waves on Lake Michigan were nearly as big as the controversy surrounding the topic of small cell backhaul at the 4G World show it hosted. (Photo credit: Pedco via Wikipedia)

4G World struggled a bit due to Hurricane Sandy, but went on as planned. Unfortunately, some speakers and attendees were not able to get to Chicago due to travel cancellations. I have to admit that watching surfers ride the big waves on Lake Michigan was an added bonus for the week!

Back at the show, small cell was the focus and backhaul was its No. 1 topic. Everyone has heard the concerns over technologies, costs, etc. The soapbox was available for anyone to jump on and espouse the potential benefits of their products. I believe that companies are selling their product capabilities, not addressing mobile operators’ real needs. Why? The biggest issue is that mobile operators, in most cases, really do not know what they need. The complexities of implementation are so diverse in small cell, that it is taking operators a long time to draw conclusions about their best path forward. Enter the fog of vendor technology pitches!

I believe that the real issues to be resolved center around implementation and OPEX control not technology. A few technologies could help, but they are not ready to provide the Carrier Class performance that the operators need. They will only have marginal effect on the final solution, in any event. What we need are answers to questions such as:

  • Who can climb which poles in the city and to what heights?
  • What are the power restrictions and cost of power on these poles?
  • What size enclosure is allowed to be on the poles and on the ground?
  • What are the aesthetic requirements for such an enclosure?
  • What attachment height is needed to architect the best network for both access and backhaul?

Most people think fiber is a slamdunk—that is not the case. You need to read the fine print and ask:

  • How plentiful are existing fiber onramps in the metro core area?
  • What’s the cost of putting a new onramp in place and stringing fiber from below street level up poles to small cells?
  • What piece of the action are municipalities going to demand for all this new telecom construction?

My recommendation: keep an eye on the technology evolution but focus on the real issues at hand. Partnerships with companies that have proven skills will be critical as these problems are best handled by a team of diverse thinkers. Look for ones that have a history in the business and have demonstrated innovation in all its facets. They are the partners who will get you through these very difficult problems.

Randy Jenkins
Director Business Development
Aviat Networks

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Utilities Must Work Closely with Wireless Vendors on Smart Grid

At the UTC Telecom 2012 show, Aviat Networks was able to meet with utilities regarding their networking needs. Bottomline, utilities must work closely with their wireless backhaul and other solution providers in order to implement smart grid capabilities.

UTC Telecom 2012 is the annual show of the utilities industry in North America. New technologies and products were displayed to help the industry with its latest challenges. Also various utilities shared their experiences in implementing new networks to deliver leading edge smart grid capabilities.

The show was extremely well attended with a myriad of vendors including many consulting firms. The key message that I took away was the need for utilities to work very closely with their equipment vendors—especially wireless backhaul solution providers—and consultants to implement next generation networks capable of handling the multitude of applications associated with smart grid.

It was interesting to hear from AltaLink about the findings from its extensive lab testing and network implementation:

  • How far do you drive MPLS into the network?
  • How do you “tweak” the MPLS settings to accommodate microwave radios adapting in modulation?
  • What kind of MTU sizes need to be passed and how well do vendor capacities relate to the particular MTU sizes?

BC Hydro talked to the two critical issues it is struggling with: end-to-end management and security across the entire network. Balance the needs/wants of the IT dept., the communications dept. and various internal administrative groups is a real task! Some people think that only the commercial mobile networks must deal with overzealous users demanding unlimited bandwidth to address their video/gaming/voice applications…what happens when all the utilities’ departments find out that there is bandwidth available?!

Aviat Networks’ Eclipse Packet Node radios and skilled network engineers can help you find the right solution for your smart grid implementation. Whether your utility is just starting to look at the issues or ready to buy the critical components of the network, Aviat Networks is able to help.

Randy Jenkins
Director of Business Development
Aviat Networks

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