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.