Category Archives: Backhaul

Power, Backhaul Keys to Hurricane Recovery — T-Mobile’s Coltrain

By J. Sharpe Smith

Power and Backhaul can be the two biggest challenges to restoring wireless networks, Chris Coltrain, T-Mobile manager, engineering operations, told the audience during the AGL Local Summit in Fort Worth last week.

Coltrain had just come back from three weeks living on a barge in Puerto Rico, working on bringing the carrier’s network back online when he spoke on the panel, “The Carriers Talk Back: How Can You Better Serve Them?”

He served on the carrier’s strike team going into Houston for Hurricane Harvey and deploying into Miami for Hurricane Irma, as well as spending three weeks in Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria. Coltrain was among dozens of T-Mobile experts on the island, whose specialty is to fix communications systems after natural disasters. Additionally, 100 members of T-Mobile’s Emergency Volunteer Team were deployed to help with recovery efforts.


“The storms in the season this year are like nothing I have ever seen before. Puerto Rico’s hurricane was like a 500-mile wide tornado that wiped the island clean.” Chris Coltrain, T-Mobile.


Carriers had problems keeping their towers up and running after Harvey because the flooding forced them to use boats to get fuel to the generators.

“Hurricane Harvey was two storms in one. You had the wind event that damaged some aerials and some towers, and then you had the flooding that took place in Houston,” Coltrain said. “We could get sites on the air. We had backhaul, but we couldn’t readily get fuel to them.”

The major problem experienced after Irma was a large power outage but the electric companies got the lights back on fairly quickly, he said.

Upon landing in Puerto Rico, Coltrain was presented with a situation with massive power outages, which wasn’t going to go away as quickly. Exacerbating the problem, there was a minimal number of generators and a severe shortage of diesel fuel.

“Puerto Rico brought in new challenges. Everything we needed was either a half-million-dollar plane ride or 14 days away,” he said.

Since then 130 portable generators have been deployed on the island fueled by thousands of gallons of fuel that have been delivered to the island. A total of 12 freight aircraft brought supplies and personnel to the island. Additionally, multiple barges brought trucks, cells on wheels (COWs), cells on light trucks (CoLTS), RVs and diesel trucks.

Another big problem was backhaul. T-Mobile and the other carriers all depended on an aerial fiber provider, which lost 90 percent of its lines.

“Every carrier has to rebuild their AAV [alternative access vendor] tower backhaul networks,” Coltrain said. “We are using any type of technology we can find, from RADWIN hops to licensed microwave hops to Gilat and VSAT, which is extremely limited. The network in Puerto Rico is going to be limited to voice and text for some time.”

So far, T-Mobile engineers have restored service at more than 220 sites including San Juan, Guaynabo, Toa Baja, Bayamón, Ponce, Carolina, Ceiba, San Germán and Rio Grande.

As of Oct. 20, AT&T said it had deployed 17 mobile cell sites, five emergency communications portables and nearly 600 generators. Further, as of Oct. 26, coverage had been restored to 65 percent of the population, and 13 million calls and 6.5 million texts a day week were being processed on the AT&T network.

By Oct. 11, Vanu had three satellite-based cell sites up and running for AT&T in Puerto Rico with 30 soon to be set up.

“All the carriers have been good at getting coverage where we need to get coverage, but there were people that are still out of touch,” Coltrain said.

The ordeal in Puerto Rico is far from over. It is expected to take 18 months to restore electricity to the entire island, because of the 1950’s technology that is in use there. Until the power comes back, 45,000 to 50,000 gallons of diesel will be burned a week to keep the towers running. With diesel costing up to $5 a gallon, the price of communications will be high.

Coltrain advised the tower companies at the conference that they should provide generators at every site to be used on a shared basis by the carriers.

“You can provide us with shared generators,” he said. “During a disaster, you have to have power and you have to have backhaul.”

Beyond getting the networks back online, carriers are helping the people on the island financially.

T-Mobile has pledged $10,000 to Team Rubicon, a veteran-run disaster relief organization, for hurricane recovery efforts, for every Major League Baseball postseason home run, and an additional $1 every time consumers tweet using #HR4HR. Beginning with Game 1 of the World Series, T-Mobile upped its pledge $20,000 for every home run. Coincidently, the teams had slugged a World Series record 24 out of the park for a $480,000 donation.

Verizon increased its support for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well, from $1 million up to $5 Million, as the magnitude of recovery and relief efforts became clear, according to Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam.


J. Sharpe Smith is a Senior Editor for AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.

SON Backhaul Connects London Observation Wheel’s Wi-Fi Service

By J. Sharpe Smith

UK wireless operator O2 has selected Cambridge Communication Systems to provide the backhaul for the new Wi-Fi system serving the Coca-Cola London Eye, a high-profile, cantilevered observation wheel. A Metnet self-organizing network (SON) microwave backhaul will provide backhaul connections to the tourist attraction’s thirty-two closed capsules as the rotate above the London skyline.

The high-tech Farris wheel is a novel communications challenge, but it is as a good showcase for the use of SON and mesh architecture in the backhaul of wireless signals. The 28-GHz network, using eight CCS nodes installed around the edge of the wheel, connects to 16 Cisco Wi-Fi access points, which provide coverage across the thirty-two capsules. The CCS nodes connect back to two nodes at the central hub, which connect back to the network of Merlin Entertainment, which owns the wheel, and the internet.

CCS developed a new antenna system for the project, giving 360-degree coverage when it rotated around the wheel. The CCS SON algorithm detects the best possible configuration while managing self-interference, and the internal sync mode helps to distribute stable GPS to the other moving nodes.

Metnet Lays Foundation for Backhauling 5G, Smart Cities

CCS is positioning its Metnet nodes to be the backbone of the 5G small cells and the smart cities of the future.  Earlier this year CCS began the deployment of a Wi-Fi network in the City of London’s financial district, known as the “Square Mile.”

The network comprises more than 400 small cells deployed on lampposts, street signs, buildings and CCTV columns to provide service for the 400,000 city workers and 10 million annual visitors.

The Metnet system operates in a single frequency channel with no radio frequency planning required. Each node has a wide 270-degree field of view and supports multiple connections, so there’s no need for manual alignment.


J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. 

DragonWave Enters Receivership

By The Editors of AGL

DragonWave has entered receivership, appointing the Ontario Superior Court of Justice of KSV Kofman as receiver.  Peter Allen, Claude Haw, Cesar Cesaratto and Lori O’Neill have resigned from the company’s board of directors.

The Toronto Stock Exchange and NASDAQ have delisted the company’s common shares and suspended them from trading.

All Court materials filed in the Company’s receivership proceedings are available on the Receiver’s website at: http://www.ksvadvisory.com/insolvency-cases/dragonwave-inc/.

DragonWave is an OEM that makes carrier-grade point-to-point packet microwave systems that transmit broadband voice, video and data for service providers, government agencies, enterprises. Applications include small cell backhaul, leased line replacement, last mile fiber extension and enterprise networks.

DragonWave’s corporate headquarters are located in Ottawa, Ontario, with sales locations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America.

A Sluggish Start–But Wireless Backhaul Will Grow Ten-fold by 2020

December 15, 2016 — Mobile Experts has released fresh numbers and analysis that explain why the wireless backhaul market has started out slow, then how it will rise over the next four years. Fixed Wireless Access is also covered in the annual Mobile Experts breakdown of backhaul, fronthaul, and midhaul for small cells.

To create estimates and forecasts for the Small Cell market, the Mobile Experts analysts rely on direct input from more than 55 industry sources, with an array of mobile operators contributing to the overall analysis. The goal achieved in this latest report is a detailed, global view of the market. Mobile Experts has built a “top down” forecast based on this direct input from mobile operators and based on trends in end-user demand for mobile services, and a “bottom up” forecast through discussions with OEMs and semiconductor suppliers in the supply chain.

According to the Mobile Experts report, by 2021, 28 percent of all small base stations shipped will use wireless transport—an increase from only 3 percent in 2016. This change stems from split-baseband RRH units that will take over the small cell market with lower throughput requirements, which will allow wireless midhaul to come into play instead of fiber fronthaul.

The report explains how non-line of sight (NLOS) wireless systems will account for 70-80% of wireless transport in the 2016-17 timeframe, but operators with 5G plans will start to move decisively toward LOS solutions with higher throughput in the 2019-21 timeframe.  In related news, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) has emerged as a significant market for very similar solutions, with enterprises and service providers growing tired of waiting for fiber. Mobile Experts predicts that FWA is likely to be bigger than the small cell market in driving demand for wireless PTP and PMP links.

“In the end, the wireless backhaul/fronthaul market will get healthier than it has been, but fiber is still king,” says Madden. “With 5G deployment looming, operators are concerned with deployment of any link that isn’t future-proof for 5G. Fiber network development will be the primary focus for most operators.    We have used this report as an opportunity to illuminate the Fixed Wireless Access market to show an alternative path for wireless backhaul vendors.”

The Backhaul Report offers detailed charts and figures illustrating the extensive data illuminating the extent of wireless adoption and the future of the market.

Vubiq Networks to Develop E-Band Broadband Solution

November 29, 2016 — Vubiq Networks is developing a full-duplex 10 Gbps E-Band connectivity solution to broaden the company’s existing millimeter wave wireless radio portfolio.

By expanding its product portfolio to include E-Band radios, Vubiq will be even better positioned to meet all the backhaul needs of the marketplace. Using modular integrated waveguide (MIW) technology that separates the digital components from the analog components, the company is able to develop millimeter wave radios for high-speed wireless broadband applications.

Millimeter wave silicon is becoming available at significantly lower costs and higher performance due to technology innovations in the market. “Our product architecture leverages these new technologies because we have kept the millimeter wave radio modular and independent from the baseband and network portions of the design,” concluded Mike Pettus, Vubiq founder CTO.