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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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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