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?
- November 2, 2012
- 4G, backhaul, Business Development, Carrier Class, Chicago, Lake Michigan, Mobile network operator, mobile operators, OPEX, pole climbs, small cell
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.
Director Business Development
- June 15, 2012
- Africa, backhaul, capex, East Africa, EDGE, GSMA, High Speed Packet Access, Latin America, Mobile network operator, network simplification, OPEX, W-CDMA (UMTS), WiMAX
Total African Mobile Connections and Penetration Rate (million, percentage penetration). Source GSMA Africa Mobile Observatory 2011
Throughout Africa a wind of change is blowing as mobile network operators ponder, and in many cases implement, a wave of network modernization. The trigger for this is multi-faceted. Booming subscriber growth, introduction of new data services and arrival of new undersea fiber optic cable links are combining to strain existing network infrastructure to the breaking point.
Booming Mobile Subscriber Growth
According to the GSMA , as of September 2011 Africa has overtaken Latin America with 620m mobile connections, making it the second largest mobile market in the world after Asia-Pacific. The number of connections has more than doubled over the past four years, with growth expected to continue at the fastest rate of all global regions over the next four years.
First Voice, Now Increasingly Data
Most networks across Africa were built many years ago to serve the initial rollout of 2G/GSM mobile networks that were designed to provide basic voice services. Many operators have since introduced data services using EDGE, 3G WCDMA, and, more recently 3G HSPA, putting an incredible strain on these networks. These data services can be vital for the operator, as they are often supporting premium, prepaid subscribers or new fixed line data services being offered for small and medium-size businesses.
One example of network modernization in action is in East Africa, where a mobile network operator saw subscriber numbers increase 9 percent in 2011, with 3G customers increasing more than 85 percent. This operator was also offering fixed data services to private and corporate customers through the deployment of WiMAX base stations collocated with the existing mobile sites. All this new data traffic was growing exponentially and fast outstripping the legacy backhaul network capacity. The operator also had to ensure that existing voice traffic was protected.
Priorities Driving Network Upgrades
Today, several priorities are driving network operators to upgrade their networks including the need for:
- Increased capacity
- More efficient use of backhaul spectrum resources
- Support for increasing volume of Ethernet/IP-based traffic
- Network Simplification
- Reduction in Capital and Operational Expenses
These five priorities are closely interrelated. For more details, download the complete article.
Stuart D. Little
Director Corporate Marketing