From the boxes to the real 4G highways

Elias Aravantinos, Senior Backhaul Anaylst, Maravedis, rounds up the major mobile backhaul related announcements and news from the show.

Aggressive competition, smashing capacity and modulation records, in combination with interesting product announcements, defined this MWC. The message was clear, non-fibre supported sites will be covered by a wireless-based solution, preferably microwave. All vendors realised that they need to take care of the new 3 Cs triple play, Connectivity, Coverage and Capacity over the wireless interface.

Telefonica was a great host, building one of the smartest networks with Alcatel-Lucent’s assistance and its new platform in order to cover the event. The network, deployed in the 2.6Ghz frequency band, providing download speeds of 100 Mbps, and between 40-60Mbps on upload.

Continuing with Telefonica, its recent agreement with Ceragon raised anxiety amongst some vendors — specifically about the carriers’ criteria when selecting from a single-source specialist. In this specific case, a Tier 1 selected a specialist after a few months of negotiations and evaluation across all levels. Ceragon managed to convince with its turnkey capabilities and particularly by promising short time to revenues, offering an easy product to deploy, along with its experience in network deployments.

Dragonwave acquired NSN’s mobile backhaul product line a few months ago and things are kind of quiet now, expecting to pick up as soon as the deal clears out. Dragonwave is expected to take advantage from NSN’s various sales points across the globe. Dragonwave offers small-sized antennas in high frequencies, ready to identify the right technology when deploying or backhaul small cells. As Alan Solheim, VP of Corporate Development, stated, ‘one technology doesn’t fit all cases and the bet today is to take the right approach and solution to build the appropriate network that fully responds to carrier’s needs.

Ericsson and Belair were exhibiting in separate booths, but as one team when it came to presenting WiFi as an easy alternative for mobile backhaul and offloading. Ericsson was ready to play soccer with its conceptual spherical equipment: white balls to backhaul small cells, along with white cables, mounted up in the street level mainly light poles, were looking very impressive. All the other boxes are lacking aesthetics yet, but if Ericsson really develops its concept, then the municipalities would not really have any space left for complaints or objections regarding equipment’s ugliness. Belair, WiFi consistent, after a recent change in the VP of Product Management, is ready for large scale networks deployments with about 100,000 Access Points, providing the right tools for real time monitoring and analytics. And there was a strong belief that WiFi will play a major role in mobile backhaul as the easiest solution to deploy.

Another experimental solution to be deployed with a small cells angle was presented from Huawei. The Atom cell, that includes baseband, RF and power amplifier supporting up to 4 receivers and spectrum reuse will be used to backhaul LTE-TDD or support cost-efficient Point-to-multipoint solutions. It will be used in general in hotspots, where operators need to increase the capacity of macrostations reaching high throughputs (600Mbps) as part of the Huawei’s Giga-site.

Cambridge Broadband Networks Ltd announced it had signed up for another two trials in Europe, and said it expected that 40% of operators will act on small cells within 2012. Its direct competitor Intracom Telecom announced the new competitive OmniBAS-8W for PmP that covers 8 radios in 1024QAM, supporting up to 4Gbps aggregated capacity.

Bridgewave on the other hand, although it was working with Provigent on chipsets for the past 2 years, identified the need for a more specialized chipset solution into the 80GHz product arena, announcing its collaboration with IBM Research. The joint agreement with IBM is a critical step in turning 80GHz products into a better value proposition over the 38GHz products for short distance links. Once the price gap is minimized, 80GHz will offer 4 times more capacity than 38GHz with lower OPEX in most countries. The new product, targeting the lightly licensed bands that are less crowded than 38GHz, should be available within 2012.

One of the leading announcements was NEC’s commercial achievement of 2048 QAM modulation. Practically in the 56MHz the radio link could maintain a 99.5% gain for 7-8 kms, which is overall 9% better than the 1024QAM. So far expectations around modulation have mainly been around 1024 QAM, but NEC decided to take the extra step in performance. However, regarding the small cells backhaul case, Dejan Bojic, Senior Product Manager, was clear once more that the 60GHz frequency band’s products will backhaul the small cells in a really high percentage of close to 60%, where the rest will be covered from 80GHz and possibly Non-Line-of-Sight solutions.

The migration from the TDM to the IP continued to present a real challenge. Ola Gustaffson, Head of Product Line Microwave, Ericsson, argued that building networks with the right architecture, could minimize delay a lots. Today’s long chain ring structures should be transformed into shorter chains, bringing delay down below the 10msecs cutoff.

Bluwan released a TCO paper that revealed its analysis of millimeter wave PmP and PtP over a five-year period. Lastly on the small cells from a backhaul perspective, BlinQ Networks and Taqua completed several trials with carriers with multiple NLOS links, chasing the future NLOS need in high density areas.

Source. Mobile Europe, Digital Special Issue of MWC 2012

Related Articles: