Keeping service quality with next-gen backhaul

Juan Prieto
15 Mar 2012

The mass adoption of advanced mobile devices and the growing popularity of bandwidth-devouring websites and applications are fueling an explosion in mobile data traffic. At the same time, wireless service providers (WSPs) have committed to 3G+ / HSPA+ and 4G / LTE amid their desire to improve margins by reducing the cost per bit of carrying voice and data traffic from cell sites. This combination is driving WSPs to migrate to Ethernet backhaul and to take advantage of the scalability, flexibility and cost advantages it offers.

However, as they rush to deploy more carrier Ethernet bandwidth and expand backhaul network capacity to keep up with the rapid growth in mobile data traffic, WSPs are realizing that managing the performance of this new transport technology is more complex than for its legacy counterpart. This is largely due to the high quality-of-service (QoS) demands associated with the various types of services traveling over new-generation wireless networks, and the multiple technical options available to deploy the new network infrastructure and its wider array of classes of service.

As a result, WSPs are struggling to monitor and assure the same level of end-to-end service quality. Also, despite the intrinsic benefits of carrier Ethernet, they are missing out on the opportunity to realize large CAPEX and OPEX savings due to their lack of familiarity in efficiently managing the performance of these transport networks. To overcome this next-generation backhaul assurance challenge and turn carrier Ethernet into a competitive advantage, WSPs require real-time, end-to-end visibility into the performance of their new network entities and the logical virtual services carried over them.

The primary challenge is the heterogeneity inherent to this technology and its interoperability with existing infrastructures. Today’s backhaul networks can carry carrier Ethernet, but their underlying infrastructures are an amalgam of new and old transport technologies. At the same time, the physical infrastructures capable of supporting carrier Ethernet services are composed of multiple medium types, which can be deployed in multiple physical as well as logical topologies. To make matters worse, different equipment vendors can be deployed to meet various cell-site transport requirements.

Combine that with the possibility of leasing certain portions of the backhaul network from one or more wholesale providers and WSPs can end up with a mind-numbing number of carrier Ethernet scenarios to monitor. Being able to operate, maintain and assure performance of this infrastructure is daunting - failure to effectively manage this overwhelming complexity can not only drive up WSPs’ OPEX, but also result in poor QoS - a critical driving factor of customer churn and revenue loss.

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