Small cell model in for revolution

Esteban Monturus/Wireless Watch
16 Oct 2012

But as “wireless backhaul” increasingly harnesses several different technologies, mobile operators must manage many different types of backhaul equipment, increasing the challenges for maintenance and repair. And out of all the base station form factors, metrocell backhaul is the one posing the greatest challenge for operators, since practically all backhaul types are applicable to these small public access cells.

This has led some firms to tout the concept of a “transformer,” a single unit which can act as different types of backhaul connection to increase flexibility.

Given the large number of metrocells which will be deployed, compared with base station volumes in the existing macrocell world, the mobile industry will have to take advantage of low-cost consumer electronics radios and adapt them to carrier grade applications, in order for small cells to be economically viable.

Metrocell backhaul equipment is going through the same evolution, whether integrated with the metrocell radio or manufactured as a separate unit. Such cost optimization implies it will not be practical to repair metrocell equipment onsite, but instead malfunctioning devices will have to be replaced with spares and taken back to lab.

In order to minimize service degradation, mobile carriers will have to ensure efficient stock management and quick physical installation. SON (self-organizing networks) and remote configuration will do the rest of the work.

As always in technology, there is no single winning solution for metrocell backhaul, since the main alternatives available - namely point-to-point or point-to-multopoint microwave, NLOS and millimeter wave – all have their pros and cons. This is why the industry is reaching the consensus that there will not be a definitive metrocell backhaul solution, but a bunch of alternatives that will be combined depending on the particular conditions of each deployment.

But, would it be possible to have a single backhaul device capable of “transforming” into any of those alternatives?

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