THE Mobile Marketplace: Towers, Small Cells and Backhaul

CTIA: The Wireless Association held its annual show in Las Vegas, May 21-23, 2013. Photo credit: @jbtaylor / Foter.com / CC BY

CTIA: The Wireless Association held its annual show in Las Vegas, May 21-23. Photo credit: @jbtaylor / Foter.com / CC BY

This week, Aviat Networks participated in the very well attended CTIA 2013 wireless and mobile trade show in Las Vegas. The theme for this year’s event was “THE Mobile Marketplace” with various areas of focus dealing with applications, devices and, of course, infrastructure. LTE, backhaul and small cells were once again important infrastructure-related topics during the event.

Aviat was a Platinum Sponsor of the Tower & Small Cell Summit—a sub-conference program composed of presentations, panels and case studies on wireless backhaul, mobile video, Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), small cells, 4G and residential tower builds. I spoke on a panel at this event and shared our views on small cell evolution, including our thoughts on the migration of the mobile network to the Cloud Radio Access Network (C-RAN) architecture—if interested in this topic, please register for our upcoming webinars: North America or Europe, Middle East, Africa.

In addition, this show also paid significant attention to FirstNet—the nationwide public safety LTE network here in the United States. Aviat’s Ronil Prasad shared Aviat’s perspective on FirstNet, options for network sharing to reduce costs and best practices for building mission-critical backhaul networks for public safety LTE (with our 60-year history in public safety and our deployments in some of the largest LTE networks in the world, we are uniquely qualified to talk on this topic).

In addition, Aviat’s meeting facility experienced a constant flow of customers, industry analysts and partners, which kept Aviat staff on its toes for the entire event. Overall, it was a great show and Aviat was happy to participate to share our views on some of the most exciting new topics in mobile networks in the U.S.

Gary Croke
Director, Marketing and Communications
Aviat Networks

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Public Safety Voice Legacy vs. LTE Broadband Future

Aviat-at-IWCE-public-safety-LTE-broadband-microwave-backhaulIWCE 2013 (International Wireless Communications Expo), March 13-14, was a tale of two different but related stories. The first was the continuing enhancement of legacy P25 voice-centric products/features/ applications and the second was discussion of the LTE broadband data-centric network plan/products/ solutions of the future.

P25 continues to be the only source of mission-critical voice, and the consensus is that will not change for maybe 10 more years—or longer. We saw really cool product enhancements from Motorola and Harris. Clearly, there is plenty of investment continuing in P25, and vendors believe they will get a return on that investment. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done on going from analog to digital systems and wideband to narrowband.

In contrast, LTE broadband will probably take another 1.5 years just to get to the stage of RFQs. However, we did see a lot of innovative technology and interoperability demonstrations. Who would have thought that Harris handheld radios would be located in the Alcatel-Lucent booth and Motorola in the Raytheon booth?

There were many talks on FirstNet strategy and planning. Chief Dowd said FirstNet would announce a general manager within a couple weeks…let’s hope it is a public safety professional with many years of experience in setting up mission-critical networks. Of course, the industry pundits were there to discuss their view of this enormous challenge…unfortunately it appears the thinking is still very divergent…which can only mean that someone is going to be disappointed by the decisions FirstNet will make.

Many provider-based discussions were also held. For example, Aviat’s own Gary Croke gave a presentation on the considerations that any organization must make for high-speed backhaul and how microwave fits into those.

Lastly, we heard some excellent talks on engineering this network. Skilled network designers like Bob Shapiro gave us some insight into how the LTE network will look different from P25 networks (e.g., number of basestations, capacity of traffic, complexity of design). Good news is the industry is developing some excellent design tools to aid in designing the network.

The signs are positive for the public safety industry. IWCE show attendance was good, vendors showed up with real innovation and investment in new products, the Public Safety Broadband Network continues to move ahead…cannot wait for APCO in the fall!

Randy Jenkins
Director Business Development
Aviat Networks

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Critical Role of Microwave in LTE and Small Cell Backhaul

Mobile backhaul has become one of hottest and most contentious subjects in telecommunications ever since LTE cellular phone technology started to ramp up. One much overlooked aspect of deploying LTE lies not in the capacity required to backhaul cell site traffic but the effort required to build out the required sites. It is really about site surveys, frequency coordination, engineering, planning and installation. Aviat Networks’ chief technology officer (CTO), Paul Kennard, addressed this dichotomy and others related to LTE in his presentation to the IEEE’s Communications Society.

Although, Paul did have plenty to present regarding capacity. For example, with proper use of rings, overbooking, QoS, XPIC and other techniques and technologies, microwave backhaul can provide 400 Mbps-plus throughput. Compare this to the realistic throughput demands of a typical LTE site that max out at about 100 Mbps.

He also delved into the emerging backhaul category for Small Cells—designed to supplement traditional cellular infrastructure. The fact is that traditional techniques of deploying cellular macrocell basestations will be insufficient to provide broad enough coverage for this LTE wireless technology. To augment macrocell coverage for LTE mobile telecommunications providers have been investigating, trialing and, in some cases, deploying one or more of several small cell technologies (e.g., picocell, microcell, femtocell). Consequently, new methods will be needed to backhaul traffic from Small Cell sites.

Fiber backhaul may not be available at all small cell sites and when it is it could be very expensive to trench long distances. Regular line-of-sight (LOS) microwave with its parabolic dishes could prove aesthetically unsuitable for many Small Cell locations and/or difficult to install. Non-line-of-sight (NLOS) microwave and millimeter-wave point-to-point and point-to-multi-point wireless may have their applications, but their latency of 5-10 ms may be too much for real-time applications and voice—not to mention licensed spectrum is costly and unlicensed spectrum is very risky due to interference issues.

 

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Big Promise for Small Cell Mobile Backhaul

Small cell backhaul spectrum considerations

Spectrum above 6 GHz is much more available for small cell backhaul than spectrum below 6 GHz.

A different solution to handle the burgeoning demand for mobile broadband capacity will be needed. More spectrum coupled with more spectral efficiency will not be sufficient. A clear solution is more sites, but deploying more macro-sites in urban and dense urban areas (where most of the traffic will be needed) will not be feasible.

Small cells promise a new “underlay” of outdoor and indoor, low power micro-cells that are deployed on public and private infrastructure within the urban clutter, are seen as seen as a likely solution. Sites being considered include:

  • Pole tops (e.g., such as street lighting, traffic light systems, electric utility poles, telco poles)
  • Bus stops
  • Building walls
  • Building rooftops

These new sites will need to be compact, simple to install, energy efficient and incorporate an organically scalable and tightly integrated backhaul solution. As a result, there will be many more sites—some projections estimate that up to 10 small cells will be deployed for every macro-site. Small cells hold out the promise of great gains for the end users but massive challenges for the operators.

Small cell deployments so far have mainly been concentrated in Europe (3G) and the USA (LTE). 3G small cells may also be deployed in other regions as a means to avoid the difficulties in obtaining planning approval for larger macro-cell sites.

It’s Still Early
Today, as far as wireless small cell backhaul (SCBH) solutions are concerned, there is evidence of product immaturity and hyperactivity in equal measure.

There is profusion of aggressively hyped solutions, including many that are a rehashing existing/niche solutions and at the opposite extreme some very new and unproven technologies. In practice, these solutions are jockeying for position while operators grapple to understand the formidable planning and infrastructure challenges being thrown up by their small cell ambitions. It is apparent that few appear that they will fully satisfy the anticipated and emerging requirements in terms of performance (i.e., capacity, latency, availability), size/shape, ease of deployment and most importantly, total cost of ownership. For the complete article, download the PDF.

Stuart D. Little
Director, Product Marketing
Aviat Networks

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On LTE Around the World

Back in October, mobile research firm Yankee Group held a very interesting webinar on the state of LTE around the world. The webinar, still available in replay, notes that, with the exceptions of Japan and Korea, North America is very far ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to implementing LTE. The LTE vanguard is based on North America, Japan and Korea having the greatest CDMA legacy.

Yankee Group analysts note the commonly known LTE driver in the form of worldwide proliferation of the iPhone and other smartphones has led to greater demand for high-speed connectivity. Overall, the webinar explores the LTE landscape from Asia to Europe to North America.

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Zain Tech Conference: Tomorrow is Now

Zain Group held its Zain Technology Conference in early November 2012 for its suppliers in order to better align its technology investments for the future.

Last week, I travelled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates with my colleague, Steve Loebrich, to attend and present at the Zain Technology Conference. That brought together senior technical staff from the Zain Group of mobile operator companies from eight countries across the Middle East and North Africa, including Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan and Sudan. This was the second time this pioneering mobile operator has held this conference since 2009. Zain launched the first mobile network in the Middle East in 1983 and now serves more than 41 million subscribers.

At the conference, Zain announced its new initiative “Ghanduna Zain” (Zain Tomorrow), which is a new strategy to bridge its technology investment plans with the future. Like mobile operators all around the world Zain is working hard to support the booming demand for mobile broadband data as well as providing basic voice and data services, through high-speed 3G technology and now with the impending launch of LTE services in its Kuwait network.

In the words of Zain Group’s CTO, Hisham Allam, “The purpose of our conference is to facilitate the exchange of the latest industry expertise, and given we have vast areas of growth in the fields of voice and data services, such trends pose both an opportunity as well as a challenge in terms of managing the expansion in traffic efficiently.” Allam continued, “The rise in mobile data and the growth in the usage of smartphones to access content is a reality, with smartphones representing over 90 percent of all mobile devices sold in Kuwait at this point in time. The increasingly sophisticated nature of modern mobile-services consumers requires that we become fully aware of their needs and their expectations in terms of quality of services.”

During the conference, Zain’s vendor partners gave presentations on new technologies and highlighted their products and services. Aviat Networks participated along with our partner, Middle East Telecommunications Company (METCO), which has worked with Zain for the past 25 years in transmission and backhaul networks in countries such as Kuwait, Iraq and Sudan. During the breakout sessions, Aviat conducted two presentations covering Network Convergence and lowering the Total Cost of Ownership of microwave backhaul networks and an overview of technology options and challenges for providing backhaul for new Small Cells.

Overall, it was a great event and extremely well-organized by Zain, and I look forward to the next conference. You can view a short video of the conference on CNBC Arabia (in Arabic).

Stuart Little
Director Product and Regional Marketing
Aviat Networks

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Know Your Microwave Backhaul Options

If you look in the November issue of MissionCritical Communications, you will see an article by Aviat Networks director of marketing and communications, Gary Croke. In his article “Know Your Microwave Backhaul Options,” Gary covers:

  • Benefits of using indoor, outdoor and split-mount microwave radios in various scenarios
  • Rationale for choosing microwave over fiber (especially for LTE)
  • Deployability of microwave
  • Software-upgradeable capacity for “pay-as-you-grow” capex scalability
  • Cost contribution of towers over the first 10 years of LTE implementation
  • And more

You can read Gary’s article (on page-30) here—MissionCritical Communications—November 2012.

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It’s a Whole New World at 4G World

4G World October 29, 2012, ChicagoThe 4G World show is in 10 days in Chicago, Ill. Speaking of 4G, those of us at Aviat Networks are excited to see what LTE technology will be on display and its promise of 4G speeds for our mobile networks. Confusion will mount as vendors address the myriad capabilities of LTE and the challenges of implementing such an amazing network. Small cell access will be a key topic. Mobile operators need these outdoor-mounted, street-level smaller versions of their LTE basestations to offload some of the overwhelming demand for capacity in metro areas.

One of the critical small cell challenges is backhaul. Imagine the complexity of aggregating traffic from the numerous small cells deployed at key intersections in a big city. Fiber cannot be everywhere and is not economical to operate in most metro locations. There is a lot of buzz around unlicensed Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) Point-to-Multipoint (PMP) radios that take advantage of fewer installations than traditional Point-to-Point (PTP) microwave. But be careful of comparisons between PMP and PTP microwave…we hear a lot of hype, promulgated by confusion and relying on fear!

Unlicensed spectrum sounds good but suffers from serious interference issues. NLOS radio capacity drops significantly when trying to transmit around a building. You have to ask: Is the resultant capacity sufficient to serve this specific small cell backhaul need? There are also concerns over latency because LTE has strict delay requirements, and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) will really struggle if latency is not within specification. What about spectrum…is it actually available? Is there only 20 MHz of spectrum available when 40 MHz of capacity is needed?

What about good ol’ reliable and proven Line of Sight (LOS) PTP microwave? With the emergence of millimeter wave PTP radios, capacities up to 1Gbps can be achieved easily over 1-2 kilometers—certainly sufficient for metro small cell distances!

If you have a chance to attend the show, please take the time to ask some of these questions…or else you may be victimized by hype, confusion or fear.

If you would like to hear straight talk on this topic, tune into Aviat’s Small Cell Backhaul webinar. Stay tuned for future blog posts to read about spectrum, capacity, latency, FCC rule changes and technology evolution as the search for viable solutions to the small cell backhaul challenge continues!

Randy Jenkins
Director Business Development
Aviat Networks

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All-Indoor Microwave: LTE’s Best Backhaul Solution for North American Operators

Eclipse Packet Node IRU600 all-indoor microwave radio

Aviat Networks’ Packet Node IRU600 is an example of an all-indoor microwave radio, which is one choice wireless operators should consider for implementations in North America.

There’s a lot of buzz in the microwave industry about the trend toward all-outdoor radios, but those who haven’t been through LTE deployments may be surprised to learn that based on our experience deploying LTE backhaul for some of the world’s largest LTE networks, all-indoor is actually the best radio architecture for LTE backhaul.

We can debate today’s LTE backhaul capacity requirements, but one thing we do know is that with new advances in LTE technology, the capacity needed is going to grow. This means that microwave radios installed for backhaul will likely have to be upgraded with more capacity over time. Although people are experimenting with compression techniques and very high QAM modulations and other capacity extension solutions, the most proven way to expand capacity is to add radio channels because it represents real usable bandwidth independent of packet sizes, traffic mix and the RF propagation environment.

All-indoor radios are more expensive initially in terms of capital expenditures, but they’re cheaper to expand and (as electronics are accessible without tower climb) are more easily serviced. While an outdoor radio connects to the antenna with Ethernet or coax cable, indoor radios usually need a more expensive waveguide to carry the RF signal from the radio to the antenna. So you pay more up front with an all-indoor radio but as the radio’s capacity grows you save money. There are several reasons.

When everything related to the radio is indoors, you just have a waveguide and an antenna up on the tower. To add radio channels with an all-indoor radio you go into the cabinet and add an RF unit. With an outdoor radio, you have to climb the tower, which can cost as much as $10,000. Also, when you add a new outdoor RF unit you may have to swap out the antenna for a larger one due to extra losses incurred by having to combine radio channels on tower….(read the full story at RCR Wireless).

Gary Croke
Senior Product Marketing Manager
Aviat Networks

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Microwave Backhaul for Public Safety LTE

US Navy 031026-M-4815H-029 Fire fighters from ...

(Photo credit: Chance W. Haworth via Wikipedia)

Public safety agencies will soon experience a dramatic improvement in communications capabilities enabled by advances in technology. New broadband multimedia applications will give first responders and commanders alike far better situational awareness, thereby improving both the effectiveness and safety of all personnel charged with protecting the public.

The specific technology, now mandated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for all new emergency communications networks, is Long Term Evolution, or LTE—a fourth-generation (4G) broadband solution. The FCC has also allocated licensed spectrum to ensure the best possible performance in these new networks. These FCC rulings support the goal of achieving an interoperable nationwide network for public safety agencies.

The FCC chose LTE based on its proven ability to support voice, video and data communications at remarkably high data rates that were previously only possible with wired links. Although there will be some differences in a nationwide public safety network involving capacity and coexistence with Land-Mobile Radio communications, lessons learned from LTE’s deployment in large-scale commercial mobile operator networks will help ensure agencies are able to achieve the FCC’s goal cost-effectively.

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