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Solving the Mobile Backhaul Bottleneck

Are you ready for the next bandwidth crunch? All of a sudden, the low-profile topic of mobile service provider backhaul network infrastructure has quickly moved to the forefront of telecom industry dialogue. Why all the fuss? Two words -- data explosion.Pent-up demand for data services has created a sense of urgency. While 3G radio technologies such as HSPA have already driven enormous data growth, 4G technologies LTE and WiMAX will exacerbate the problems. Therefore, to help U.S. wireless carriers stay ahead of the growing demand for high-bandwidth wireless services, Verizon has begun offering its advanced fiber-optic network to provide backhaul links between cell towers and mobile switching offices.

Verizon says that they will enable wireless carriers to provision innovative mobile applications and services at ultra-high-quality levels that deliver compelling user experience to enable the new wave of mobile applications. Two key factors need to be considered in addressing the RAN backhaul chokepoint:

  • Wireless operators need to consider the latest backhaul architectures and transport network technologies, and how they can be adopted in their own backhaul network transition planning.
  • Wireline SPs need to better understand wireless backhaul service level requirements, and associated bandwidth intensive rich-media applications, and thereby select best-fit technologies that can enable them to reach the cell site at a cost-effective price point and deliver a rock-solid user experience. Different physical layer technologies (Microwave, fiber) can be easily combined based on geography and availability, as operators are driving down the cost per megabit of transport with a graceful migration from legacy TDM/ATM to all IP transport solutions.

The incentives for action are clear and obvious. Still not convinced? As an example, consider the scenario where AT&T customers converged upon the recent South by Southwest event in Austin, and used their iPhones in record numbers at the convention center. Fortunately, AT&T acted quickly, and was able to recover from this incident. Mind you, AT&T’s competitors aren’t gloating. In fact, it was likely a wake-up call to anyone who previously questioned the predictions contained within Cisco’s latest Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast. Nobody knows for sure just how quickly adoption will ramp-up in each market. However, the question is not if, but when, all providers will need a detailed plan of action to scale their RAN backhaul.

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