Three Elements to IP/MPLS Success in the Microwave Access

Three Elements to IP/MPLS Success in the Microwave Access

In microwave communications—as in all electronic communications mediums—operators trend toward the latest technologies (e.g., IP/MPLS). They all have conditioning to think that newer is better. And by and large that’s right.

However, when it comes to IP/MPLS—one of the most advanced packet technologies—you need to handle this concept with care. Especially in a mixed infrastructure that includes microwave, fiber and other potential backhaul transport.

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SDN in the Backhaul: All About Reducing OPEX

 

SDN-reduces-backhaul-OPEX

Figure 1: SDN will not significantly reduce microwave CAPEX costs.

Software-defined networking (SDN) promises to drastically simplify how transport networks deploy, operate and get serviced. Reducing OPEX remains a significant factor for implementing software-defined networking. Automating service creation, traffic and bandwidth control, and network management as well as reducing maintenance complexity of routing protocols remain areas where it will simplify backhaul and lower OPEX. The only questions seem, “When will this happen?” and “How much will it save?” And what about CAPEX? Can we expect reduction in purchase price of microwave backhaul based on such a migration?

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SDN in the Backhaul: 4 Takeaways for a 5G World

Ola Gustafsson SDN backhaul expert for Aviat Networks.

Aviat Networks Chief Product Officer Ola Gustafsson talks about SDN 5G backhaul during AfricaCom 2016.

The most pressing business need in many networks deals with delivery of new services.The biggest evolution today in the backhaul network is the trend toward integration of IP/MPLS intelligence into microwave. Software-defined networking (SDN) remains another more recent trend in backhaul. However, as we’ve posted many times, integration of IP/MPLS intelligence into microwave systems provides a number of benefits. These include lower cost, fewer boxes to buy/deploy/maintain and better network performance overall such as lower latency and better reliability.

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How an Integrated Microwave-IP/MPLS Solution Reduces Latency

How an Integrated Microwave-IP/MPLS Solution Reduces Latency

The point of this post is to determine the amount of latency reduction possible with a one box integrated microwave router solution when compared to a two-box (separate router + microwave) offering. By how much does the one box solution improve latency?

Latency is important to all network operators. The lower the end-to-end delay the better it is for all types of applications.

For example latency is critically important to mobile network operators (MNOs) for LTE Advanced features like coordinated multi-point (COMP) and MIMO, which require extremely tight latency. CRAN architectures are also demanding tighter latency from the backhaul.

In addition, for latency sensitive applications like Teleprotection, SCADA and simulcast in private markets such as public safety, utilities and the federal government will greatly benefit from lower latency network performance. For other customers, lower latency is critical for synchronization and HD video transport.

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Sprint Opts for Microwave Radio over Fiber for Backhaul

Sprint-opts-for-microwave-over-fiber-in-backhaul-Aviat-Networks-March-10-2016In late January and into February 2016, a big tumult ensued when Sprint announced that it would begin to move its mobile backhaul strategy from one based on leased fiber to another based on owned microwave radio. The story first ran in technology news site Re/code and quickly got reposted with additional commentary by FierceWireless, Wireless Week and others, and which was reiterated this week in RCR Wireless.

While the breathtaking headlines about reducing costs by $1 billion caught most people’s attention—primarily through reducing tower leasing costs and not using competitors’ networks—lower down in the copy came a potent reminder from Sprint about the economic benefits of microwave radio. It also highlighted the fact that backhaul has entered a transitional period (see article end for more on that).

Most of that $1 billion that Sprint seeks to save comes by way of moving away from AT&T and Verizon fiber backhaul networks. You might think that Sprint would build its own fiber network instead. But that would take too long and still have an exorbitant price tag associated with it. It’s a function of both out-of-pocket capital costs and embedded lost opportunity costs. Bottom line: laying fiber connections is expensive and slow. Putting up a network of high-speed, broadband microwave relay towers is quicker and easier.

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Case for IP/MPLS Routers at the Small Cell…but not Just any Router!

Case for IP/MPLS Routers at the Small Cell…but not Just any Router!

With the goal of a hyper-meshed 5G street level network, clearly today’s small cell deployments represent just an interim phase in a progressive network densification—pushing the network outward. This means today’s small cell sites will become tomorrow’s macrocells, or hub sites.

Future-looking mobile operators have planned for this eventuality. In the developed world, small cell and the Internet of Things (IoT) drive mobile network densification. However, in the developing world the primary goal of enterprise connectivity spurs network densification, due to lack of wireline infrastructure to business buildings. The end result of network densification is the same.

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IP/MPLS: Coming to a Village near you

Aviat-Networks-Hearts-MPLS-February-06-2015

I Heart MPLS. Photo credit: swirlspice / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Whether the local police department responding to a burglary call or firefighters putting out a blaze in the historic district, first responders across America rely on mission-critical communications infrastructure to provide timely, reliable and secure voice, video and data services to do the job.

In our data-infused, mobile and Internet-connected world, public safety agencies have come to realize that upgrading infrastructure to IP/MPLS technology is the best way to lower costs and provide rich services in a scalable way, while enabling effective communication with peer local, state and federal organizations. Access to high volumes of data and the ability to share it with key stakeholders allows public safety professionals to make rapid decisions and speed up actions.

IP/MPLS and Microwave: Better Together
At Aviat Networks, we have blazed a path to IP in privately operated networks with our hybrid IP/TDM microwave radios, which efficiently converge packet-based traffic with legacy TDM. This solution gives public safety network operators a concurrence of technology while migration decisions and investments are made.

Recently, Aviat introduced the term “microwave routing” with the launch of its CTR platform. At its core, microwave routing is about integrating IP/MPLS capability into the microwave layer to increase transport intelligence while decreasing cost and complexity. As part of its portfolio, Aviat features the highly resilient CTR 8611 microwave router, which has been designed to meet the needs of public safety agencies today and tomorrow—addressing a future that is sure to include LTE/LTE-Advanced technology and a vast new buildout of advanced networking infrastructure ushered in by the FirstNet initiative.

IP/MPLS in Action
One example of IP/MPLS in public safety networks can be found in the Northeastern United States, where a major statewide public safety agency recently adopted IP/MPLS functionality in its backhaul. This deployment is based on the CTR 8611 and ProVision network management system (NMS). ProVision, with its new INM package, provides a smarter end-to-end, point-and-click IP/MPLS service management solution.

Aviat-Networks-Hearts-MPLS-coffee-cup-February-06-2015

I Heart MPLS (the coffee mug). Photo credit: emma trithart / Foter / CC BY-ND

Armed with these tools, this public safety agency turned up a complete IP/MPLS solution for its mission-critical networks, which includes microwave radios, microwave routers and network management. Aviat supports the agency with turnkey services to simplify the network design, install and commission equipment and provide post-deployment support.

IP/MPLS for Everyone
Since 1999, IP/MPLS has been deployed in the mainstream of networking. Until now, its implementation has largely been the domain of wireline telephone companies and more recently mobile operators. However, we now see private network operators adopt IP/MPLS technology because of its superiority and economic benefits. Although IP/MPLS is not something that is perceptible by the ordinary citizen, its positive impact on our daily lives is significant. We Heart IP/MPLS!

Louis Scialabba
North America Marketing
Aviat Networks

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Positively Sold on MPLS at the Cell Site

MPLS at the cell site via microwave routers will positively supercharge service revenues for mobile operators. Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomgehrke/9656826700/">Thomas Gehrke</a> / <a href="http://foter.com">Foter</a> / <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)</a>

MPLS at the cell site via microwave routers will positively supercharge service revenues for mobile operators. Photo credit: Thomas Gehrke / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Mobile industry enthusiasts have been warned at length about the proliferation of LTE devices forcing backhaul to become markedly different than it is today, especially in terms of capacity delivery. Other challenges for the service provider include rising cost of capital, increasing network complexity and the ability to gracefully accommodate future technology shifts such as SDN, NFV and SON—Software-Defined Networking, Network Function Virtualization, Self-Optimizing Networks. A Layer 3 IP/MPLS topology has addressed many of these goals so far in the aggregation and at the service provider edge of the network. MPLS, Multiprotocol Label Switching, in particular, has offered converged service delivery, fast failure recovery and advanced Quality of Service.

So what’s next? The fundamental transformation needed next is at the cell site, which is evolving from its basic role of housing a base station to the new reality of enhanced service delivery hub. Why is this important? It’s simple: MPLS allows operators to offer enhanced revenue-generating services while simultaneously enriching the consumer experience and feeding an entire mobile ecosystem.

Battling rising costs by monetizing new services
The day of reckoning for operators is predicted to come with the confluence of rising costs and shrinking ARPUs, leading to unsustainable losses. Additional revenue sources are the key to profitability, provided they could be enabled swiftly and seamlessly. Fortunately, MPLS is available as a steppingstone to new services. As high capacity and scale infiltrate the end-to-end network, the traditional macro site can be considered the new point-of-presence for revenue generation. MPLS-enabled services include Layer 3 VPNs (L3VPN), Layer 2 VPNs (L2VPN) and Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS). L3 VPNs are attractive to customers (e.g. enterprises, government) who want to leverage the service provider’s technical expertise to ensure efficient site-to-site routing. L2 VPNs are attractive to customers who want complete control of their own routing. Finally, VPLS makes the service provider’s network look like a single Ethernet switch from the customer’s viewpoint, effectively making their WAN look just like their local campus.

For the mobile provider, the backhaul topology changes have already started to take shape, with Small Cell as one example of how cell sites will evolve, essentially becoming aggregation nodes as small cells (i.e., cloud RAN, IP, wifi) are added to network. This leads to a tangled web of complexity in a modern, heterogeneous network.

Technology flexibility to alleviate network complexity
To date, MPLS-enabled routers are the only proven solution to cost effectively converge multi-service interfaces onto a single low cost IP transport platform. The multitude of devices at the cell site includes legacy interfaces such as TDM, ATM and even Frame Relay. With its ability to decouple protocols from their physical transport medium, MPLS provides a single converged transport solution for all access technologies. As MPLS is generally deployed in core networks, adding it in the access is just an extension of the existing network transport architecture.

Beyond multiprotocol capability, the current hype of SDN, NFV and SON ushers in new challenges that are intended to optimize, virtualize and control the network—albeit with a significant operational learning curve. The capabilities of MPLS align with each of these goals, when they come. MPLS enables vendors to offer solutions that simplify management and protocols, provides fast adaptation for new services and eases the burden on personnel for general network turnup and maintenance—including tasks such as new base station provisioning, debugging, troubleshooting and performance monitoring

Benefits of IP/MPLS at the cell site
The benefits of IP/MPLS at the cell site are numerous, especially for LTE and LTE-A deployments. When compared to flat Carrier Ethernet networks, routers can scale to vast numbers of nodes. MPLS enables a scalable X2 network design. (X2 is the LTE interface used for Handover, Load Management, Mobility Optimization, Network Optimization and LTE-Advanced CoMP eNodeB coordination.) With eNodeBs on different subnets, routing is required between Layer 2 domains for a complete X2 solution.

MPLS-Traffic Engineering (MPLS-TE) provides operators with capability to steer traffic across backhaul networks, thereby increasing overall capacity and lowering latency for latency sensitive traffic flows—this is an important requirement for LTE-Advanced. MPLS-TE can increase backhaul capacity by 50 percent when compared to L2 networks.

How to Add IP/MPLS to the cell site
Introduction of IP/MPLS into the access network can be easily accomplished with networking platforms such as the Aviat CTR microwave router. The CTR 8540 is the industry’s first purpose-built microwave router—a unique concept that merges the functionality of an indoor microwave radio and a cell site router into an integrated solution, simplifying IP/MPLS deployments and creating a better performing network. The Aviat CTR helps operators avoid the investment of expensive standalone routers, translating to overall fewer boxes to buy, deploy and maintain. See more information on Aviat’s IP/MPLS solutions.

Louis Scialabba
Senior Manager of Marketing
Aviat Networks

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Transforming to the ‘Layer 3’ Connected Mobile Cell Site

Cell-sites-will-begin-transitioning-to-Layer-3-IP-services-and-will-need-an-integrated-solution-to-supply-it-Aviat-Networks-blog-March-16-2014

Cell sites will need to begin to transition to Layer 3 IP services. Photo credit: zdenadel / Foter / CC BY-ND

The entire wireless industry is on the cusp of a transitive time where Layer 3 IP services will be needed in the access portion of the network. And the backhaul will be needed to provide them.

Under the pain of restating the obvious, we have all seen the explosive growth of smartphones, tablet computers and other radio-frequency-loving gadgets like e-readers. All these new-fangled high-tech contraptions need Layer 3 IP/MPLS services in the access and backhaul in order to deliver a satisfying, seamless user experience—especially for enterprise services. The question is how will the mobile network operators (MNOs) be able to deliver these services from their thousands or tens of thousands of cell sites?

Typically, the answer would involve deploying a regular router for IP services at each and every cell site. But have you seen the prices of routers lately? Cisco didn’t get to where it is today without having some heavy pricetags attached to all the heavy iron it’s shipped over the last 20-odd years. Suffice to say, it would be a pretty penny if MNOs equipped all their cell sites with their own dedicated routers. So what else can be done, you query?

It just so happens that Aviat Networks’ director of corporate marketing, Gary Croke, has posted an article at RCR Wireless going over what to do in these types of situations. But we’ll give you a hint: the IP router function should be folded into a single multi-service, multi-layer cell site device. Read the rest and let us know what you think.

Related articles
Come Fly with Me: Aviat Microwave Over-the-Air at U.S. Landmarks (aviatnetworks.com)
The Rise of Tower Sharing in Africa (aviatnetworks.com)
How 2 Microwave Networks Survived Superstorm Sandy (aviatnetworks.com)
What Does it Take to Get the Most out of Your Wireless Backhaul? (aviatnetworks.com)

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