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.
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.
November 15, 2016 — Facebook’s Connectivity Lab’s terrestrial point-to-point link in Southern California test has achieved a data rate of nearly 20 Gbps over 8 miles using a set of custom-built components.
“We are actively working to develop a variety of terrestrial and airborne technologies to help connect the world,” wrote Abhishek Tiwari of Facebook. “One of our goals is to provide connectivity in areas without traditional infrastructure and reliable power sources, so these technologies should be low-cost, energy efficient, and able to support a capacity of tens of gigabits per second over long ranges.”
The link used only 105 watts of total direct current power consumption at the transmitter and receiver. The transmission used a bandwidth of 2 GHz, resulting in an overall spectral efficiency of 9.8 bits per second per Hertz.”
The immediate goal is to use millimeter-wave technology to transmit bandwidth from the ground to solar-powered drones, which will be used to beam the internet to those on the ground.
“The technology we tested is applicable to a number of Connectivity Lab’s solutions. For example, it could be used as a terrestrial backhaul network to support access solutions like OpenCellular, or as a reliable backup to free space optical solutions such as the laser communications gimbal and optical detector in case of fog and clouds,” Tiwari wrote.
Facebook’s ultimate goal is drone-to-ground links to support capacities in excess of 30 Gbps over 18-31 miles.
For more information, go to http://tinyurl.com/hkyvwly
November 10, 2016 —
Crown Castle International’s acquisition of FPL FiberNet Holdings is the towerco’s third purchase of a fiber provider in three years, having picked up Quanta Fiber Networks (Sunesys) in April 2015 and before that, in 2014, purchasing 24/7 Mid-Atlantic Network. And it probably won’t be its last.
The $1.5 billion deal gives Crown ownership or rights to 11,500 route miles of fiber installed and under construction in Florida and Texas, including 6,000 route miles of fiber in top metro markets. As a result, Crown will own or have rights to 28,500 route miles of fiber.
A recent survey sponsored by Telecoms.com Intelligence and Commscope concluded that the best way to provide backhaul to a high density small cell network is through a converged fiber network, according a blog written by Werner de Wolf, SVP, global service provider solutions, Commscope.
“It’s clear that 5G and even 4G, in some respects, require densification of the cells so that is the other big thing we see happening is the convergence of wireline and wireless networks,” he said.
FiberNet provides Crown with a dense metro fiber footprint in South Florida from West Palm Beach to Holmstead, as well as Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg and Jacksonville, among others. In Texas, the network extends from Dallas, Austin and Houston to San Antonio and Laredo.
“The addition of FiberNet’s complementary footprint in top metro markets in South Florida and Texas bolsters our fiber available for small cells in markets where we see significant demand from our wireless carrier customers,” said Jay Brown, Crown Castle’s CEO. “As demand for wireless connectivity continues to grow, small cells are playing an increasingly important role in adding the network capacity and density needed to provide ubiquitous high-speed, high-capacity wireless services.”
Fiber Optic Deals Are Proliferating
Fiber optic deals in 2016 have been coming hard and fast. Earlier this year, CS&L purchased and merged fiber powerhouses PEG Bandwidth and Tower Cloud into Uniti Fiber, which spans 590,000 fiber strand miles. In March, Verizon bought XO Communications’ fiber network business, which spans 20,000 inter-city route miles and 13,000 metro route miles. Also earlier this month, Windstream and EarthLink merged in $1.1 billion transaction creating a national footprint spanning 145,000 fiber route miles.
CenturyLink’s purchase of Level 3 does not appear to have an immediate impact on small cell backhaul, because neither company is currently involved in this market. But, in the future, the company, which will have 450 thousand fiber route miles, could be a formidable small cell backhaul force.
The wave of consolidation of the fiber providers will result in more nationwide networks and more large-scale adoption of small cell backhaul, said Joe Madden, Mobile Experts, because network densification cannot be achieved without ample access to fiber optics.
“Fiber is the limiting factor in small cell deployment. If a big mobile operator wants to deploy thousands of small cells it is difficult for them to get fiber to the right places quickly enough to make it happen,” he said. “There is a lot of value in having fiber in the right locations, ready to go.”
A company like Crown Castle can succeed selling access to the fiber to multiple operators, because the business model is so similar to towers, according Madden.
“I think all the tower companies will follow this business model. It is a natural extension of the tower business model. Instead of renting space on a steel structure, they are renting space on a fiber,” he said.
Today’s 4G LTE small cell deployment will be tomorrow’s 5G radio unit, Madden said. Because fiber is the lowest latency, most future-proof solution, it puts the carrier or the tower company in position to hang 5G equipment later and provide higher bandwidth in the future.
“U.S. operators are thinking along the lines of preparing the network for higher throughput using 5G technology and they want to use fiber for any form of backhaul they have now,” he said.
October 13, 2016
In May of this year CS&L purchased PEG Bandwidth, and Tower Cloud was acquired on Aug. 31 by CS&L. Subsequently, the two fiber optics companies have been merged to become Uniti Fiber, a wholly owned subsidiary of CS&L. We sat down with George Townsend, SVP, strategic projects, Uniti Fiber, to get his take on the new ownership and merger of Tower Cloud and PEG Bandwidth.
What is the impact of the acquisition by CS&L and the subsequent merger on TowerCloud?
Townsend: We now have the funding behind us of CS&L, which was spun off from Windstream into a REIT. The REIT collects $650 million a year in annual rental payments from Windstream and they wanted to put that capital to use and grow it.
Tower Cloud was in four states, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. We were going deep and expanding, but PEG had a broader footprint in roughly 15 states, moving up the Northeast seaboard, Illinois and in the South Central United States. The combination of our footprints makes us a much stronger company.
Will you continue to grow?
Townsend: We have plans to expand to a nationwide network over time, so there will probably be more M&A activity as we go forward. Our scale will grow tremendously over the next two to three years. Our goal is to get as many infrastructure miles in terms of dark fiber, lit assets, number of building connections as we can to provide for the needs of our customers.
Who are your customers?
Townsend: Both PEG and Tower Cloud began as strictly fiber to the tower businesses and as our networks expanded we developed, over the past two to three years, additional verticals to sell into, such as large bandwidth wholesale and enterprise companies. We also provide much needed connectivity between rural markets and the larger metro areas. Today, towers account for approximately 80 percent of our revenue and wholesale/enterprise solutions account for 15 to 20 percent of the total. I think it will grow over time to a much larger percentage.
What does this merger mean to the tower companies?
Townsend: We are going to be able to provide more infrastructure, more customized solutions for them as they move from their current lit footprint to wanting dark fiber and C-RAN designs. We will have the capital at a lower cost to design more custom solutions, tie multiple markets together and provide a better over experience for them.
How excited are you about the growth of small cells and DAS?
Townsend: I think that is a huge upside opportunity for us and one that we are laser focused on. We have been looking at small cells for two years now. We built out a 22-node small cell system across the 22-acre Olympic Centennial Park in Atlanta for Verizon a couple of years ago. We just added the second tenant, AT&T, about a month ago.
How does the merger impact your small cell business?
Townsend: We are doing full turnkey small cell solutions for carriers today. We will continue to provide those solutions across these vast markets that we have now. And we think the denser footprint will allow us to be a better service provider for the wireless community. Our denser fiber footprint gives the RF teams more opportunities to design around the networks we have in place, or they can locate near enough to us that we can build to them.
Can you connect multiple carriers’ small cells on a single fiber optic run?
Townsend: It’s not uncommon for us to accommodate multiple carriers’ small cells on a fiber path, if we have enough fiber available or we overbuild it.
What is CS&L’s vision of the wireless future?
Townsend: I think CS&L’s leadership team is young, aggressive and well-funded. They are looking at acquiring ground leases and tower assets, and they are looking at us to provide our expertise in lit fiber networks serving both the wireless carriers and the wholesale and enterprise entities. We are looking at small cells as a key growth area for us. We are also looking at the internet of things, which is going to be a huge opportunity . With dense fiber assets and scale, we are going to be able to get to more and more locations as that technology develops. We are also connecting data centers to other data centers, as well as connecting wholesale and enterprise customers to data centers.