As mobile broadband evolves to the 4G era, the backhaul landscape is under more pressure than ever. Part of that is, of course, due to the sheer amount of mobile data traffic being generated now and in the near future. According to Strategy Analytics, global mobile traffic has increased 13 times in the last five years, and will grow another five to six times by 2017 – and cellcos are struggling to keep up in terms of backhaul investment, to the tune of a $9.2 billion shortfall in four years time
Complicating things further is the topological shift from traditional macro cell architectures to small cells connected by increasingly heterogeneous access networks. It’s a hard slog to deploy small cells for a variety of reasons, from the capex costs and municipal regulations to problems with backhauling in dense urban areas.
An Infonetics survey found most cellos (86%) plan to backhaul small-cell traffic to nearby macrocell sites via a variety of locations, including buildings, streetlights, and traffic and utility poles, and while fiber is the preferred backhaul technology among respondent operators, that depends on availability and cost-effectiveness. More often that not, various forms of microwave (non-line-of-sight, standard microwave, and millimeter wave) will be deployed.
And that’s before you get into other challenges for next-gen mobile backhaul in the LTE age: low-latency requirements, all-IP evolution that supports legacy TDM and 2G/3G/4G, etc, dynamic bandwidth demand, end to end QoS, SLAs, and future-proofing for the inevitable LTE-Advanced upgrades.