Wireless Backhaul is Not Dead Yet

Wireless Backhaul is Not Dead Yet

By Stuart Little, Director of International Product Line Marketing, US

This Halloween, zombies aren’t the only thing coming to life. Evolutions in e-band and multi-band mean wireless will play a crucial role in the rollout of 5G.

5G is coming (and hopefully it won’t be accompanied by White Walkers) and will bring with it tremendous challenges for network operators, and no less critical will be backhaul, where needed capacities will grow from the hundreds of Megabits to multiple Gigabits. In their latest Microwave Outlook (from December 2017), Ericsson forecasts that by 2022 the typical backhaul requirement for a high-capacity radio site will be in the around 1 Gbps, increasing to as much as 5 Gbps towards 2025.

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The Truth about Designing Cell Phone and Other Networks

Boston Marathon Finish Line.1910. Author: Unknown.

Things at the Boston Marathon Finish Line in 1910 were much calmer—and simpler—than the 2013 edition sans cell phones and other wireless devices. Author: Unknown. (Image credit: Wikipedia).

As was demonstrated by the tragic events in Boston April 2013, cell phone networks cannot accommodate every potential caller or texter using a mobile access device in times of peak load usage—such as during a crisis occurring in real-time on television and social media. Erroneously, some pundits at the time ascribed the outage to a co-conspiracy to take down the public wireless networks. Or an action by the civil authorities to thwart additional remote control saboteurs as has happened in Spain and other places. However, the simple truth is that demand far outstripped capacity for a time in Massachusetts due to the fact that mobile phone networks are designed to function with a typical level of subscriber activity—calls, text, mobile web, etc. When virtually everyone in the vicinity of the finishline of the Boston Marathon unlocked their iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smartphone and started to communicate the unfolding story to the outside world, it came as no surprise to network designers at the mobile operators that the infrastructure slowed to a crawl then ceased to work for a time. But this was news to the general public.

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State-Wide Microwave Network Case Study: Extra High Power Radios

State-Wide Microwave Network Case Study: Extra High Power Radios

This large western US state had a longtime relationship with a microwave radio vendor and would have continued buying from them if their radios and support evolved with the State’s needs. However, over time its needs changed and it had to have more capabilities from its communications network. But it did not want to unnecessarily build new sites and erect costly new towers.

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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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2G to 5G: Evolution of Microwave Backhaul

2G-to-5G-Evolution-of-Microwave-Backhaul

5G mobile phone photo credit: cszar via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Without becoming reality, 5G mobile communications have already captured the imagination of operators and technology providers. So can the general public catch up with the hype soon? We’ll see. Meantime, behind-the-scenes mechanics of prepping for 5G continue, building on prior technologies. At each step of the evolution of backhaul infrastructure, different challenges cropped up.

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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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AfricaCom Demos! Come See the All-outdoor Microwave Router

Aviat-Networks-Demos-CTR-8380-at-AfricaCom-17-19-November-2015Aviat Networks We’re taking appointments for a limited number of demo slots. Sign up now before they’re all gone!

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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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