For years, I have told people that cell phones cannot be served by satellites for two reasons:
First, the signals from satellites are too weak for cell phones to receive, and signals from cell phones are too weak for satellites to receive.
Second, the inability of satellites to confine their signal coverage to a small area the way a ground-based tower does makes frequency reuse in reasonably sized geographic areas impossible.
“The issue of signal spread can now be addressed with encryption,” Ernest Worthman, the executive editor of Applied Wireless Technology, told me. “Also, receiver front-end sensitivity has improved significantly over the years. That helps solve the weak signal issue, plus they are closer to Earth, anyway.”
Whether the current technology of low-Earth-orbit satellites overcomes the hurdles for serving cell phones, it apparently works well for providing wireless internet service. Worthman said that there is some talk that the satellites may carry voice communications from smartphones.
UbiquitiLink, a Falls Church, Virginia, company, has plans to orbit thousands of satellites that will be able to connect with stock smartphones. Sometimes the connection will support only low-data-rate text messages, and sometimes, perhaps voice. The company expects to have 24 to 36 satellites in orbit in 2021 that will provide connectivity at least once every hour, according to information published by the company.
According to a Bloomberg report by Todd Shields, Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies plans to launch 11,943 satellites into orbit for its Starlink fleet, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon plans to launch 3,236 internet-beaming satellites into low-Earth orbit. Already, 1,338 satellites occupy the low-Earth orbital space.
By the way, many astronomers whose instruments use both light and radio waves to make observations have concerns that sunlight reflections and radio emissions from the planned thousands of low-Earth-orbit satellites will interfere with their work, perhaps in substantial ways.
“We will have to learn how to operate our electronics to detect weak cosmic signals in the presence of satellite signals at other frequencies that will be millions of times stronger,” Harvey Liszt, spectrum manager with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia, told Bloomberg’s Shields. A statement from the International Astronomical Union said the sunlight reflections can be detrimental to the sensitive capabilities of large ground-based astronomical telescopes.
Outer space is not the empty place the early astronauts explored, anymore.
5G is going to require a massive number of cell sites to achieve the low latency and high speeds envisioned. New sites will include everything from macro sites to small radios hung off of buildings or lamp posts in dense urban environments. And with these sites, additional fronthaul and backhaul will be required.
iGR’s new market study, Global Front/Backhaul Build Spending Forecast, 2018 – 2028: Connecting 5G around the globe, presents a summary of fronthaul and backhaul options for 5G and includes a ten-year forecast of front/backhaul build spending in the U.S., Europe and Asia Pacific between 2018 and 2028. The study also includes a discussion of global operators’ progress towards 5G and profiles of dozens of front/backhaul vendors.
“Fronthaul and backhaul will be critical to support a variety of planned 5G use cases,” said Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR. “And as our cost model shows, mobile operators around the world will have to invest significantly to provide the fronthaul and backhaul that will be necessary.”
iGR has created a network build cost model based on the amount of data the network is expected to be able to support and deliver. The cost model includes three major components: RAN (base station equipment and small cells), core (LTE EPC and 5G new core), and front/backhaul. The front/backhaul spending component is presented in iGR’slatest market study.
Ericsson and Deutsche Telekom have consistently topped 100 Gbps in a microwave trial using a link over a little less than a mile. Conducted at the Deutsche Telekom Service Center in Athens, the joint innovation project achieves more than 10 times greater throughput speeds than current commercial solutions on similar 70/80 GHz millimeter wave spectrum.
Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom, said the trials will be a big change in solutions for future fronthauling capabilities.
“Advanced backhaul solutions will be needed to support high data throughput and enhanced customer experience in the 5G era,” Choi said. “This milestone confirms the feasibility of microwave over millimeter wave spectrum as an important extension of our portfolio of high-capacity, high-performance transport options for the 5G era. In addition, it Apart from confirming the potential of microwave technology over millimeter-wave spectrum (70/80 GHz and above) as a 5G-and-beyond fronthaul and backhaul solution, the trial showed the importance of applying spectral efficient techniques, such as MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) on wireless backhaul technologies to address upcoming 5G radio access demands.
Per Narvinger, head of Product Area Networks, Ericsson, said, this trial proves that microwave can provide of capacities equal to fiber. “This means that microwave will be even more relevant for communications service providers in creating redundant networks as a back-up for fiber, or as a way of closing a fiber ring when fiber is not a viable solution. By carrying such high capacities, microwave further establishes itself as a key transport technology, capable of delivering the performance requirements of 5G,” he said.
Key technological advances included an 8×8 line-of-sight MIMO with cross polarization interference cancellation setup using commercial MINI-LINK 6352 radios and a 2.5 GHz channel bandwidth in the E-band (70/80 GHz) able to transmit eight independent data streams over the radio path. This corresponds to a breakthrough spectrum efficiency of 55.2 bps/Hz at peak.
During the mid-April trial, transmission rates measures were consistently above 100 Gbps, with telecom grade availability (higher than 99.995 percent), with peak rates reaching 140 Gbps.
In late 2018, Ericsson and Deutsche Telekom broke the 40Gbps barrier fully using commercial equipment including Ericsson’s MINI-LINK 6352 solution, which currently provides 10Gbps capacity over a 2000MHz channel. To raise throughput by more than 10 times, this trial used a 2500MHz channel and pre-commercial baseband and MIMO processing equipment in addition to MINI-LINK 6352 radios.
As networks become densely packed with small cell base stations, all geared to cater to future 5G services and the millions of additional devices needed to be connected, the task of installing and configuring a backhaul infrastructure is becoming more complex and more time-consuming. Innovation is essential in the fast-moving and highly competitive market of telecommunications. Service providers of all types are not only facing the challenge of competing with low-cost virtual network operators (VNOs), but also coming under constant pressure to find innovative ways to reduce operational expenditures yet improve service quality and availability of broadband networks.
The operators must also take into consideration significantly higher bandwidth provisions for increasing numbers of customers, which ultimately requires technologies that deliver scalable capacity, long reach, low latency and ease of use. Independent research showed that 56 percent of all operators consider backhauling to be one of the greatest bottlenecks and challenges they will face in most future platforms. A large number of installed small cell base stations simply do not have either the luxury or possibility of a wired backhauling solution. To overcome these challenges, wireless vendors such as InfiNet offer a range of backhauling solutions to cater to the growing needs for bandwidth, coverage and mobility, all achieved reliably and cost-effectively.
Simplifying the Network
Backhauling solutions have a variety of definitions, yet the challenges invariably remain the same: They are required to transmit data between the end-users and the central network infrastructure, all achieved with the highest reliability and lowest latency possible. For mobile operators specifically, their main challenge, along with the harsh competition and declining average revenue per user (ARPU), is the vital need to reduce network costs while delivering robust, high-quality services. Backhauling traffic from high-capacity cell sites is one of their biggest challenges, just as it is for wireless vendors.
Regarding the physical design of the solution, operators are aware that the different types of small cell base stations will require various forms of backhaul infrastructure, mostly influenced by where they are deployed and the availability of legacy networks in their vicinity. Ultimately, this means the physical design needs to be different for each backhaul solution, affecting operational expenditure costs.
Coverage problems resulting from the location or harsh weather are also a challenge for operators. They require stable and reliable solutions that can guarantee smooth connectivity, with no adverse effect on service quality and coverage.
Bandwidth Consumption Growth
Recent figures show data-driven smartphones had been expected to grow from just over 50 percent of all devices in 2014 to almost 70 percent in 2018. As the number of users using smartphones rockets, so too do the bandwidth consumption and capacity demands placed on the network. This is coupled with bandwidth-hungry content being consumed for longer periods, creating the perfect storm for bandwidth consumption growth.
Any serious backhauling infrastructure should therefore be fully dimensioned to support the peak traffic times on the network while still being able to have enough room for growth to accommodate future growth and statistical variations. In wireless backhaul networks, the available sites and radio spectrum have a direct influence on the ultimate backhauling performance.
Operational expenditure can be lowered if in-built automation to the network is deployed, speeding up deployment and controlling costs. Backhauling contributes to a substantial share of the overall small cell cost, so operators will be trying to bring backhaul costs down as an absolute priority. Ultimately, operators need to simplify their networks and implement carrier-grade IP backhaul networks to guarantee higher throughput and reliability.
Mobile operators work in a world of stiff competition, and this has created a vital need to reduce network costs while delivering robust, high-quality services.
Operators need to begin to change their mindsets and move toward installing solutions that are easily scalable and cost-effective. With 5G just around the corner, customers need solutions that can deliver high-capacity applications while supporting the current 4G and LTE standards to provide reliable, high-quality voice, video and data services. Solutions that can guarantee higher throughputs while not allowing coverage to dip are key for a bright future. These types of solutions can be found on the marketplace. They are cost-effective, they can provide capacity of up to 1 Gbps over long distances in both line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight conditions, and they can offer a wide selection of performance and features.
The benefits of using point-to-point and point-to-multipoint solutions include better coverage, which enables the provision of broadband wireless access services to previously unserved customers. This increases revenue opportunities for both operators and service providers. Reduced operation and installation costs are a further benefit that can be reaped with this type of solution, thanks to the faster and simpler installation procedures.
Ultimately, various solutions for small cell backhaul networks are being deployed that have the ability to provide a high throughput of around 10 Gbps with low packet loss and strong interference mitigation. Flexibility is key. With this feature, all end-user demands for increased bandwidth, coverage and mobility are met with ease, meaning that the new network infrastructure will be future-proofed to meet tomorrow’s growing requirements.
Looking to the Future
As mobile operators try to meet the growing bandwidth demands while trying to keep their operational costs down, they are now taking a serious look at wireless solutions in various frequency bands as reliable alternatives. By using solutions that are scalable, flexible and reliable, operators will find their backhauling challenges will become much less daunting, and success for the future will be imminent. Organizations must work with the environment in which they are based, rather than using outdated, inflexible and inoperable networking infrastructure. Backhaul planning is essential for appropriate small cell backhaul performance.
Kamal Mokrani is global vice president at InfiNet Wireless. Visit www.infinetwireless.com.
In a joint project, Ericsson and Deutsche Telekom have demonstrated a millimeter wave link with a data transmission rate of 40 Gbps at the Deutsche Telekom Service Center in Athens.
The test was a 4X increase compared to today’s 10 Gbps speeds using current commercial millimeter wave solutions. It proves the commercial viability of future wireless backhaul technology, according to Ericsson.
The test also focused on the stringent latency requirements in 5G network architecture to support low latency or ultra-low latency use cases. The round-trip latency performance of the link tested was less than 100 microseconds.
“A high-performance transport connection will be key to support high data throughput and enhanced customer experience in next-generation networks,” Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom, said. “While fiber is an important part of our portfolio, it is not the only option for backhaul. Together with our partners, we have demonstrated fiber-like performance is also possible with wireless backhauling/X-Haul solutions.”
The live trial was completed at the Deutsche Telekom Service Center in Athens over a hop distance of 1.4 kilometers in the millimeter wave (E-band) spectrum. Technical setup included the use of Ericsson’s latest mobile transport technology including Ericsson’s MINI-LINK 6352 microwave solution and Router 6000.
“Microwave continues to be a key technology for mobile transport by supporting the capacity and latency requirements of 4G and future 5G network,” Per Narvinger, head of Product Area Networks, Ericsson. “Our joint innovation project shows that higher capacity microwave backhaul will be an important enabler of high-quality mobile broadband services when 5G becomes a commercial reality.”