By Stephane Varin, Senior Product Manager
In an era of growing security threats from terrorism, border security and immigration, attacks on critical infrastructure and general public unrest, the issue of security in communication networks is more important than ever. The new generation of IP-based wireless technology is an enabler for applications such as mobile commerce, voice over IP (VoIP) and high-definition video delivery to smartphones, but it has also opened some sinkholes in the foundation that pre-LTE architectures and applications have established.
- January 29, 2015
- backhaul, Layer 2, Layer 3, microwave networking, microwave networks, Microwave Radio, MNOs, mobile network operators, regular routers, routers
Mobile network operators (MNOs) continue to reap the windfall of the widespread adoption of smartphones. Mobile data volumes spiked initially and still rise quarter over quarter. Along with the demand for more data throughput from their subscribers, MNOs have to accommodate the greater need for responsiveness closer to the network edge.
While regular routers are good at serving Layer 3 services to mobile users on fiber-heavy backhaul networks, they do not do a very efficient job of servicing mobile backhaul networks that primarily use microwave radio. As it turns out, the worldwide majority of mobile backhaul networks are still based on microwave technology, as regularly updated industry research shows.
What can an MNO with microwave backhaul do to bring Layer 3 functionality to its customers that will handle bandwidth constraints, unique aspects of translating router protocols across the microwave interface and failure detection and recovery, among others?
Aviat Networks has published an article in Mobile World magazine that looks at these challenges of regular routers when used in a microwave backhaul network and proposes possible solutions.
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.”
In an era of ubiquitous broadband communication at work and home, the issue of security in mobile backhaul is more important than ever. The new generation of LTE wireless technology is an enabler for applications such as mobile commerce, voice over IP (VoIP) and high-definition video delivery to smartphones, but it has also opened some sinkholes in the foundation that pre-LTE architectures and applications have established.
Impact of an Unsecure Mobile Network
Security incidents can have severe consequences for mobile network operators (MNOs). Short-term public relations hiccups can be dealt with, but over the long term, carriers are subject to subscriber churn, which can significantly influence profitability. Softpedia.com cited a study performed by Opinion Matters, whereby it was determined that 75 percent of smartphone users in the UK would likely change mobile providers if a security breach occurred on their current network.
In addition to subscriber churn, MNOs can face litigation and legal problems, especially when a security breach affects enterprise service. The economic impact can be several hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. In a report presented by McAfee at the World Economic Forum, it was found that more than half of 600 IT executives surveyed have suffered large-scale incidents that have associated downtime costs of over $6.5 million per day. For more on this topic, see the complete white paper below, which discusses the burgeoning need for security in mobile backhaul in terms of benefits to mobile network operators and society.