Part Three of AGL Magazine’s Backhaul Series
Available options help backhaul providers give their customers service-level agreement reports and help them to optimize their backhaul systems
Network performance is the single most important quantifiable measure, or metric, of customer experience for wireless system operators, according to a statistic from Mobile Europe cited by Sergio Zvebil, a product marketing manager with InfoVista in Brazil.
Wireless system operators have to fine-tune the balance between performance and cost, and Zvebil said with infinite money, resources and time, they would build a perfect backhaul network in fiber, fully redundant. “But that’s unfortunately not possible,” he said.
Zvebil’s works in operational support systems at InfoVista. He said the company believes that a good network performance and a cost-effective network begin with a good design and good planning. The company offers planning tools for the radio access network (RAN) and for backhaul to help operators define and discover where their resources need to be installed. “Because you can have fiber, but if it’s in the wrong place, it’s not going to help you,” he said.
To be competitive, a mobile network has to deliver a high quality of service, adequate throughput and satisfactory latency, and Zvebil said an operator can’t deliver what it can’t measure, so monitoring becomes necessary. InvoVista has performance management options for the RAN, the backhaul, the core access point and the data center. With backhaul, it monitors fiber, microwave, carrier Ethernet or IP-only LAN service (IPSL) and combinations of them. He said with the explosive growth of data traffic on mobile networks, the backhaul is going to be under pressure. Zvebil spoke at the Tower & Small Cell Summit session “Macro Tower Backhaul Solutions” led by Jennifer P. Clark, vice president of research at 451 Research, a New York-based market research and consulting company.
The coming fifth-generation (5G) cellular technology will further add traffic to backhaul and will challenge the backhaul system’s latency, which is the interval between initiating a transmission and receiving or detecting the result. For carriers that operate their own backhaul, performance management options help the backhaul team prove how well its backhaul network is performing. Backhaul providers can use performance management to provide their customers with service-level agreement reports and to optimize their backhaul systems.
Zvebil brought a global perspective to the subject because InfoVista sells to 400 communications service providers in 120 countries. “In developing country emerging markets, we still have 2G and 3G cellular,” he said. “In Africa, operators mostly are using 2G. Some operators have old time-division multiplex (TDM) networks and are beginning to use interplanetary Internet, multiprotocol label-switching (MPLS) and Ethernet. They hardly ever speak about dark fiber.” Dark fiber is fiber leased by individuals or companies to use in establishing connections among their own locations. In the United States, its use for backhaul is growing.
When it comes to how operators are making use of service-level agreements with backhaul, Zvebil said that in the early days of cellular, performance reports consisted of a spreadsheet or another type of basic document. “In today’s world, this is not enough,” he said. “Operators want consolidated executive reports on SLA metrics (quantifiable measurements), typically for traffic and latency. They want it in real time and online. They want to open a portal and see whether their SLAs are being met.”
According to Zvebil, it’s important for backhaul providers to find a way to give customers an online portal that fits whatever criteria they use to calculate metrics, which sometimes can be highly complex. “Each carrier has its own way to measure things, and the backhaul provider has to be able to use the network’s instrumentation. Sometimes we obtain data from the devices themselves. Sometimes it comes through element management systems, if the backhaul uses Ethernet. We detail the microwave and fiber conditions and create executive reports. If there is a problem, we focus on it to show the particulars. This allows the backhaul provider to show that it’s working on the problem and that it’s on top of it. It’s pretty simple. You have to deliver, you have to measure, and it must be online.”
Network analytics has a role to play, according to Zvebil, because wireless carriers are concerned about capacity over their current links and how they should plan their future investment for scaling up the links. Network analytics highlights where capacity is short. He said how to address scaling up is another discussion, but the first step is to identify any bottlenecks and then obtain either wireline or wireless equipment that resolves them. The roll out of 4G equipment will make any existing bottlenecks more aggravating.
In conclusion, Zvebil said that as their mobile networks evolve, it would be key for operators to have operational support systems that keep up with the changes to maintain quality of service cost-efficiently.
Sergio Zvebil, product marketing manager, InfoVista, at the Tower & Small Cell Summit. Photo by Don Bishop