85 Microwave Operators tell us their Biggest Backhaul Challenge

England-Campion-Hills-communications-mast-with-microwave-antennae-Aviat-Networks-blog-30July13

England: Campion Hills communications mast with microwave antennae. Photo credit: David Stowell [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The general mobile industry sentiment has typically been that the capacity bottleneck is the biggest challenge in backhaul. Thus, the focus has been on adding more capacity to address the surge of 3G and now 4G traffic. So you might think that this concern would rank first, particularly among microwave-centric operators, who are often looking to maximize their network throughput. We recently commissioned the experts at Heavy Reading to do a custom survey to get some quantifiable data to clarify this key question and a few others.

85 mobile operators were selected and surveyed globally, including a good cross-section from both developed and emerging markets. The respondents were screened to ensure that they all had a stake in microwave-specific backhaul: 93 percent had deployed microwave and the rest had plans to deploy it. In fact, 45 percent were categorized as heavy microwave users—those where more than 50 percent of their cell sites were served by microwave backhaul.

So we asked this select group, which consisted of mostly planners, engineers and strategy leaders, “What is the biggest challenge your company faces regarding the future development and deployment of microwave backhaul?” 

The results were interesting in that “total cost of ownership” actually eclipsed “increasing capacity” as their biggest challenge, as shown in the pie chart of survey responses below.

Read More


Diverse Wireless Network Topologies Cost Savings

To compare how different wireless backhaul network topologies perform under the same operating scenario, let’s analyze how a traditional hub-and-spoke and a ring configuration compare in connecting the same six sites (See table below). For the hub-and-spoke configuration, each cell site is provided 50 Mbps capacity in 1+1 protection. With five links and no path diversity, full protection is the only way to achieve five nines reliability. In this configuration, 10 antennas are employed, which average a large and costly 5.2 feet in diameter. Total cost of ownership for this six-site network is close to $700,000 for five years.

TCO Comparison by Topology

TCO Comparison by Topology

For a ring design for the same six sites, throughput of 200 Mbps is established to carry the traffic for each specific hop and any traffic coming in that direction from farther up the network. Designed to take advantage of higher-level redundancy schemes, the ring configuration only requires antennas that average 2.3 feet in diameter, which are much lower in cost compared to the antennas in the hub-and-spoke configuration. And even though the ring configuration requires 12 antennas and six links, its overall TCO amounts to a little under $500,000 over five years—30 percent less than TCO for the hub-and-spoke design for the same six sites.

This comparison is based upon deployments in the USA, where most operators lease tower space from other providers.

Gary Croke
Senior Product Marketing Manager
Aviat Networks

 

Related articles

Read More


Microwave Backhaul Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) pt. 2

How Important is Initial CAPEX?

Are we seeing the forest or the trees?

Based on microwave Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) model posted earlier, the most significant contributor to total cost is ongoing OPEX.

We see an increasing trend of operators making decisions on backhaul solution based mostly (sometimes solely) on price (or initial CAPEX). While initial CAPEX is important, if the goal is lowest cost, this can be problematic approach as initial CAPEX it is not the most significant contributor to total cost.  Ongoing OPEX is key.

Perhaps a better approach would be to focus on features most impacting lowering total costs.  For instance, adaptive coding and modulation can lower antenna sizes – which can reasonably reduce 10 year TCO by as much as $48,000 (which is 2-3x more than initial CAPEX).  Deploying ring architectures with high layer (L2/L3 or packet-based) failure recovery techniques can enable lower per hop reliability and smaller antennas – further lowering costs.

Microwave Backhaul Total Cost of Ownership

Gary Croke

Product Marketing, Aviat Networks

Read More


Aviat Networks Speaking at the CTIA Tower Technology Summit

CTIA is always an interesting event especially the Tower Technology Summit. Today,  I sat on a CTIA panel session to discuss the topic of “Microwave Backhaul Gaining Momentum”, along with two other colleagues from other microwave companies. The purpose of the session was to  discuss the proposed changes to FCC Part 101 rules listed in 10-153 for fixed microwave links. Sounds pretty dry? Not really, as the proposed changes being considered by the FCC are intended to ease some of the restrictions placed on microwave links operating in the lower frequency bands, and also to enable more flexible use of technologies like Adaptive Modulation. In short, good ideas to make microwave even more cost effective for operators.

Each panelist gave a short talk on updates to the new proposed changes and what these changes mean for microwave backhaul.  At the high level, there was clear agreement that the current rules are pretty old, outdated, and need modification to support the industry’s migration to all IP. However, there was broad recognition that changes probably won’t happen overnight!

The panel had a heavy focus on total cost of ownership (TCO) for microwave solutions, and how smaller antenna sizes can play a significant factor in reducing costs.  I presented our view of a TCO model (that we recently presented in more detail on a recent Strategies for Lowering Your LTE/4G Backhaul Bill webinar with the WCAI ), and discussed technology and network design approaches to utilize smaller antennas. You can download a copy of the presentation slides here. Aviat Networks’ CTIA Tower Technology Summit Presentation

LTE backhaul capacity requirements and backhaul options for small cell architectures were also topics of discussion.  Our perspective on this is that LTE backhaul capacity requirements are often over-hyped and overstated, leading to poor backhaul decisions, which seemed to garner a lot of “head-nods” from attendees.  There was also general agreement from the panelists that new backhaul solutions were needed to address the small cell backhaul challenge and a “one-size-fits-all” product would surely not meet the needs.

We are just touching on the tip of what will become a hot topic of discussion in the months and year ahead. For more on this topic check back next week for my follow up post to Microwave Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Pt. 1.

Gary Croke

Product Marketing, Aviat Networks

Read More


Microwave Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Pt. 1

When choosing the right backhaul technology, total cost of a microwave system is a critical, often overlooked, consideration. TCO is not widely understood today. Lack of understanding of microwave TCO can lead to poor decisions about choice in backhaul technology and obscure the relative importance of features. Features that lower critical components of TCO are often not given enough attention.

A summary of a TCO model for a mobile operator in North America is shown below. Clearly, ongoing OPEX resulting from tower leases represent largest contributor to total cost.  These lease costs include tower space for antennas and cable runs, shelter/cabinet space and power, and ongoing move/add/change fees regularly paid to tower companies. The largest portion of this tower lease is related to the antenna size. Microwave products and features that enable smaller antennas sizes, less indoor space, and fewer cables are most important for operators.

10 Year Microwave Total Cost of Ownership

*Note: for private network applications (like state/local governments, public safety organizations, and utilities) who generally own towers, initial CAPEX is often higher, leading to an overall reduction in ongoing OPEX and TCO.

Make sure to check back next week for post #2 ” How Important is Initial CAPEX?” where I breakdown the true costs of initial and ongoing CAPEX.

Gary Croke

Product Marketing, Aviat Networks

Read More


Subscribe to our newsletter