Checkout Aviat Networks in this video at Mobile World Congress 2011. Visit our booth #CY08.
There is an old saying in some places with words to the effect that “the future is now.” We believe the future of mobile backhaul is microwave and that future is now. At the risk of stretching the point of a seeming paradox, let us explain. The focal point for much of Mobile World Congress 2011 will be on Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G cellular services.
Even with all the hype for LTE, its demand on the backhaul network will probably not exceed 200Mbps, and it will likely settle somewhere in the range of 150Mbps to 200Mbps for the typical LTE macro cell site. This figure is well within the throughput capabilities of modern IP/Ethernet microwave backhaul radios. We will be explaining more about this at our MWC courtyard pavilion #CY08 in the Fira de Barcelona during the week.
For a more detailed look at what Aviat Networks has planned for the week, let us elaborate. Aviat Network presenters will outline the company’s vision for the future of backhaul networks, focusing on the key challenges faced by mobile service providers around the world including:
1. 4G/LTE Backhaul—A Dose of Reality. The requirements for 4G/LTE backhaul capacity are being overhyped, leading to operators wasting potentially billions of dollars by running fiber to cell sites. Understand how microwave is exceeding the true backhaul capacity needs of 4G/LTE with high reliability—and much more cost effectively.
2. Simplifying Mobile Backhaul Evolution. The evolution of mobile network infrastructure to all-IP is potentially risky and complex, giving operators many confusing options. Learn how Aviat Networks is developing solutions that will help simplify and lower the cost of this evolution.
3. Small Cell Backhaul—Challenges and Opportunities. There is a growing consensus in the industry that operators will need to deploy a new “underlay” network of small, micro-base stations to provide the needed capacity and coverage for 4G. Find out how microwave is uniquely positioned to provide the backhaul for this new class of base stations.
In addition, you can see the latest Aviat Networks microwave solutions, which we will be introducing in person at MWC:
4. Aviat WTM 3000. A fully functional Carrier Ethernet transport node in a true zero-footprint package, the WTM 3000 includes for the first time advanced radio, modem and Ethernet networking functions all in a compact outdoor unit, unlike other “all-outdoor” packet radios that require an indoor unit or a separate switch/router to provide important networking advanced radio features.
5. Eclipse IDU GE3. An ultra-compact indoor unit (IDU) that combines the very latest Carrier Ethernet networking and advanced radio features for hybrid TDM/Ethernet or all-Ethernet/IP wireless transmission. The Eclipse IDU GE3 enables the deployment of cost-effective wireless tail-end cell-site connections and standalone point-to-point links.
6. Eclipse DAC GE3. A new plug-in interface module for the Eclipse Packet Node platform, theDAC GE3 provides the most advanced Carrier Ethernet switch subsystem available in microwave backhaul today. Featuring higher capacity and an impressive breadth of new capabilities, this third-generation design sets a new benchmark for resilient wireless access and aggregation networks.
For more information visit our booth at Mobile World Congress or our website Aviat Networks.
By now, you have seen the blogs, read the tweets and perhaps watched a YouTube video about “4G” mobile networks. In these postings, various claims and counterclaims have been made for what really defines 4G wireless. Further down in the industry dialogue, debate has been swirling among the ITU, IEEE 802 and various telecom analysts and pundits about what constitutes 4G. The technical acronyms LTE, WiMAX, HSPA+ and perhaps others have floated through the ether, creating more confusion than clarity.
All this happened when ITU let the genie out of the bottle in late 2010 and loosened the technical definition of what is truly 4G. The answer had been mobile technology capable of 100 Mbps+ downloads. However, ITU seems to have given mobile operators and others with vested interests enough leeway to define 4G as any mobile broadband technology that is faster than “3G,” which enjoyed a similar hype and uncertainty when it debuted in the early 2000s. And so began the public’s conditioning to equate more Gs with faster throughput.
Of course, all these Gs only refer to the generation of mobile technology, currently in its third generation in most places, with some limited availability of fourth generation technology. For the record, 4G technology in ITU’s strictest sense only refers to Long Term Evolution (LTE) Advanced and WiMAX 802.16m. Even current LTE and WiMAX 16e installations do not qualify. They are evolutionary steps on the road to 4G. And though HSPA+ is a fast download technology, it is still a third generation mobile telecom technology. Still, some HSPA+ carriers are achieving 21 Mbps downloads—faster than the 12 Mbps of early LTE carriers. With a software upgrade by the end of 2011, HSPA+ carriers can conceivably get up to 42 Mbps—but that is the theoretical maximum. Someday, LTE operators could hypothetically top out at 300 Mbps, but that day is not in the immediate future.
What is immediately apparent and most important is what 4G means to the end user. Most people cannot be bothered to dive into the technical details of mobile broadband technology, even if they are capable of grasping its intricacies. What they can grasp is faster mobile video loads with a minimum of latency and lack of jitter. What they can get is the mobile Internet displaying web pages with images in place and not red Xs or empty pictureholders. What is important is delivering content to the end user—wherever she is—faster than she expects, however many Gs it takes….
Now’s not the time for operators to be quiet and conservative. In the US, the leading network operators are all engaged in a vigorous battle to prove who can deliver the fastest data downloads, with the best coverage. Any pretense over complying with the ITU’s original definition of 4G have now been dropped in the marketing campaigns from each company, with now LTE, WiMAX 802.16e and even HSPA+ now being aggressively promoted as 4G (more about this in a future post). Nowhere else in the world are three mobile technologies slugging it out for dominance.
These efforts have been reinforced by discussions (and even demonstrations) of LTE download speeds of 50, 80, 100 Mbit/s and more. A slew of new LTE-capable devices were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month. Eleven new LTE networks have been launched, with 147 operators committed to LTE at the end of 2010. There’s little wonder that predictions of cell-site backhaul capacity of many 100’s of megabits and even gigabits are not uncommon.
Fiber Solves Everything?
With the focus on download speeds, the market appears to have forgotten the past issues associated with backhaul. Or perhaps, the assumption is that they have all been solved. Operator difficulties associated with the introduction of the iPhone in 2009 appear to be well behind us, but the reality is that backhaul remains one of the biggest headaches.
Operators have largely fended off further scrutiny of potential backhaul problems by talking up how they are rapidly deploying fiber throughout their networks, or deploying 100’s of thousands of new leased lines. This has led some commentators to declare that only fiber can support the backhaul needs of LTE. Fiber to every cell-site means no more capacity issues. Problem solved!
Unfortunately the reality is not so tidy. Capacity is just one of the issues that face operators when preparing their backhaul networks for 4G. Since backhaul can represent up to 50% of a network operators costs, any poor decisions made there can seriously affect the bottom line.
Instead, backhaul is a multi dimensional puzzle, balancing network capacity, cost, complexity and coverage. Next post I will explore the real backhaul needs of 4G, based upon a bottom’s up technology assessment, that paints a very different story.
Director of Marketing, Aviat Networks