- January 26, 2015
- 3.5G, 3G, 4G, convergence, emerging markets, enterprise services, fiber optic technology, IP, Layer 3, microwave networking, Microwave Radio, networking technologies, South Africa, tdm, Wireless Backhaul
In South Africa, as in many emerging markets, wireless backhaul has long been a proverbial bottleneck to network growth. Due to cost and logistics, fiber optic technology remains out of reach as a practical solution for most aggregation scenarios, save for urban applications where population density and shorter routes can justify the exorbitance.
Now with the advent of higher speed, higher throughput mobile phones and tablet PCs, higher-order networking technologies are being pressed into service. Standard microwave radio, while cost efficient and effective for crossing far-flung forests, monumental mountains and desiccated deserts with traditional payload such as voice calls and moderate data rate applications, was not designed for the connectivity and capacity requirements of Layer 3 services. Thus, the bottleneck has grown still narrower. Even to the point where standard microwave radio might be hitting its upper threshold for serving mobile broadband.
Technical marketing manager, Siphiwe Nelwamondo, recently sat down with Engineering News, to discuss these issues and the present and future of microwave radio backhaul in South Africa and across the continent. In addition, he delved into how microwave networking is bridging the radio-IP gap for Layer 3 services by running IP/MPLS protocols on converged microwave routers.
As more and more mobile services get pushed out to the edge of the access network, the imperative for Layer 3 will only grow. Even as 3.5G and 4G mobile users who depend on full-IP increase in number, a majority of second- and third-generation subscribers will continue to rely on circuit-based technology. Not to worry, Nelwamondo covers how TDM telephony will be supported in a converged microwave and IP environment.
The full article goes on to discuss how mobile operators will strategize providing enterprise services from the cellular base station with microwave networking, virtual routers and more.
Recently, telecom research firm Heavy Reading conducted a survey of mobile network operators (MNOs) from the around the world exclusively for Aviat Networks. The goal of the survey was simple: determine the sentiment of MNOs to provide fixed wireless services to enterprise customers.
Now that the growth rate of individual wireless subscribers has leveled off in many nations with mobile penetration rates near and even exceeding 100 percent, MNOs have begun to look very seriously at alternate sources of revenue growth. And one of those alternatives is fixed wireless enterprise services, which according to Heavy Reading, MNOs rank as a co-strategic priority along with their core subscriber business.
MNO Enterprise Services survey results infographic. Click to enlarge.
Enterprise services are all very well and good but how does an MNO deliver them? The answer is not as complex as you may imagine but somewhat more difficult in reality. While MNOs have robust infrastructure based on rock-solid microwave backhaul technology to the cell sites at the edges of their networks in the majority of cases, they do not have an easily deployable method of supporting fixed wireless services to enterprises. One such way would be via Layer 3. In the survey, Heavy Reading found that a supermajority, or 70 percent, of MNOs believe that Layer 3 (L3) capability from the cell site is “critical” or “very important” to enable new service delivery.
However, L3 capabilities are not the end of the story. Layer 3 services are packet-based and require IP/MPLS routing functionality in order to operate. Accordingly, the MNOs surveyed by Heavy Reading reflect this outlook by an overwhelming 75 percent stating that IP/MPLS is “critical” or “very important” for offering fixed wireless services to enterprises. In addition, 75 percent of MNOs also believe it is “critical” or “very important” that existing cell site equipment be made capable of delivering these fixed wireless enterprise services. The existing cell site equipment is quite capable of delivering Layer 2 (L2) fixed wireless services, but help is needed to go the next step up to L3.
“Whilst L2 can be used to deliver business services, our survey results suggests that most mobile operators are very interested in the additional benefits of L3 including MPLS,” says Patrick Donegan, senior analyst, Heavy Reading. “They also tend to value very highly the ability to deliver those business services from existing equipment at their cell sites.”
The mobile phone industry has been mature for some time. Around the world, most people who want and are able to use a cellular handset already have one—sometimes more than one. Even with innovations such as HSPA+, LTE and LTE-A becoming mainstream, average revenue per user (ARPU) continues to decline. Mobile operators may be at the crossroads. They are certainly at an inflection point. How to counter the trend is what operators must decide.
Cell sites will need to begin to transition to Layer 3 IP services. Photo credit: zdenadel / Foter / CC BY-ND
The entire wireless industry is on the cusp of a transitive time where Layer 3 IP services will be needed in the access portion of the network. And the backhaul will be needed to provide them.
Under the pain of restating the obvious, we have all seen the explosive growth of smartphones, tablet computers and other radio-frequency-loving gadgets like e-readers. All these new-fangled high-tech contraptions need Layer 3 IP/MPLS services in the access and backhaul in order to deliver a satisfying, seamless user experience—especially for enterprise services. The question is how will the mobile network operators (MNOs) be able to deliver these services from their thousands or tens of thousands of cell sites?
Typically, the answer would involve deploying a regular router for IP services at each and every cell site. But have you seen the prices of routers lately? Cisco didn’t get to where it is today without having some heavy pricetags attached to all the heavy iron it’s shipped over the last 20-odd years. Suffice to say, it would be a pretty penny if MNOs equipped all their cell sites with their own dedicated routers. So what else can be done, you query?
It just so happens that Aviat Networks’ director of corporate marketing, Gary Croke, has posted an article at RCR Wireless going over what to do in these types of situations. But we’ll give you a hint: the IP router function should be folded into a single multi-service, multi-layer cell site device. Read the rest and let us know what you think.
Come Fly with Me: Aviat Microwave Over-the-Air at U.S. Landmarks (aviatnetworks.com)
The Rise of Tower Sharing in Africa (aviatnetworks.com)
How 2 Microwave Networks Survived Superstorm Sandy (aviatnetworks.com)
What Does it Take to Get the Most out of Your Wireless Backhaul? (aviatnetworks.com)