You are here

Backhaul Blog

Published 08 October 2018 in Backhaul
Tags: Africa 5G mmWave FWA
Lionel Chmilewsky, CEO, addressing CBNL team in Nigeria

The CBNL Team

CBNL team in Nigeria

A blueprint for connectivity in Africa

Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit some of our customers and staff in West Africa. While these trips are always important, this one held particular significance for our business. CBNL started working in Africa as far back as 2006, initially with MTN in South Africa. The continent has been of paramount importance to our business ever since.

During my visit, I caught up with some of our customers based in Nigeria, namely Vodacom Business Nigeria, MTN Nigeria and Airtel Nigeria. I took the opportunity to hear their thoughts on how business in the region is shaping up, where they see their businesses growing in the next twelve months and taking the time to learn about the latest innovations in their product lines.

I also shared an update on CBNL’s plans in Africa and our latest R&D that will continue to extend our portfolio through 2019 and beyond. Of course, my main focus was on how we can better service them: our customer base.

CBNL has been a long-term player in Africa, developing wireless solutions to cater for the demand in data growth, which has happened exponentially in recent years. But our work is not over and there is much more to do. We continue to explore ways of penetrating the African market more deeply, building on our existing footprint and developing new and innovative products for our customers in this part of the world.

It has been well documented that there is a digital divide between the different nations of the world. The United Nations’ most recent exploration of the state of global broadband suggests we face a “digital chasm” in the disparity of connectivity between wealthy and poorer nations, many of which are in Africa.

It is so often said that Africa faces a unique set of challenges that get in the way of it ever having internet access for all. Poor infrastructure, vast distances and power shortages are just some of these, along with low average revenues per user (ARPU), which can make infrastructure investment unviable.

But other continents face similar difficulties – such as remote parts of Asia, for example. This is where cost-effective, easily deployable approaches with low operating costs and upfront CAPEX, such as Point-to-Multipoint (PMP) communications, can work well. Indeed, our very own PMP networks and turnkey services now support 25 customers across 17 African countries and act as key infrastructure for the region’s leading operators.

Our experience in Africa is vast. It includes deploying high-capacity fixed wireless networks using high frequency bands such as 26GHz for businesses in Angola with Unitel. Additionally, working with Expresso telecoms Group, we have built a major wireless network that distributes high-capacity broadband from the ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) submarine fibre system to key urban and business regions in Guinea. Consequently, we know what it takes to deploy Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) services in mmWave across Africa, and we believe we have the blueprint for African operators looking to unlock the power of mmWave for the next iteration of backhaul, enterprise access, residential broadband, 5G, and the smart city applications that come with it.

With the UN predicting that by 2050 urban areas will house 68 per cent of the global population, municipalities will need to be creative in their approach to building liveable and sustainable environments. Connectivity is a key aspect of this. And nowhere is this situation more apparent than in Africa, where the population is expected to double by 2050, reaching 2.5 billion people, with the “megacity” of Lagos predicted to double in its current size to be home to 42 million inhabitants.

This kind of population growth, paired with the shift in our way of living, means smarter cities will soon be paramount. The good news is, from a technical standpoint, companies like CBNL can support smart city applications on the same infrastructure as the existing mobile backhaul. This lowers the barrier to entry for operators who want to be partners to municipalities because there is no longer an enormous cost assoctiated with adding these applications. We’ve deployed exactly this kind of solution in Poland, where a local city authority adopted an agile PMP mmWave solution to allow for more efficient orchestration of its network resources and greater flexibility to deliver a range of services over a single, common physical network.

Given our current position working alongside many operators in Africa to leverage the power of mmWave, there is every reason to believe that this kind of network can be emulated in cities like Lagos in the near future.

Local presence is key to us in Africa as having a foot on the ground, we believe, shines through in the levels of service and support we can provide. Like with any other continent, there is no “one size fits all” approach that will work in this market, which is why we have dedicated CBNL offices in Johannesburg, Lagos and Nairobi. From these hub locations we provide training locally and develop partnerships with regional value-added resellers. As a result, we offer technical support, maintenance, installation and other services, all in the local timezone and with a full understanding of local conditions. This support is essential.

In Lagos, at our Centre of Excellence, and from our hub office in Johannesburg, we frequently help operators apply best practice to maximise the profitability of their own network. Why? Because often vendors are focused on technical performance, but the purpose of a network is both to provide a service to customers and a financial return to its owners. Once a good service is secured, then operators can reap the financial benefits.

In summary, and at the risk of stating the obvious, the African continent is vast. There is a wealth of growth potential for our business that is yet to be explored. With the advent of smart cities and the proliferation of 5G, CBNL hopes to be at the forefront by helping our African customers to innovate and take advantage of these technological changes. We have the blueprint to do it, so if you need our help just get in touch or come and see us at AfricaCom in November.

Lionel Chmilewsky
Chief Executive Officer
CBNL

Published 10 July 2018 in Events
Tags: mmWave 5G FWA
The crucial role of mmWave

The CBNL Team

Last month, I joined the Wells Fargo Securities Research team in New York to speak at their 2018 Telecom Forum. Entitled ‘Fast & Furious to 5G’, this year’s event sought to cut through the noise around 5G.

We were delighted to accept the invitation to share the knowledge we have gained deploying mmWave, pre-5G- fixed access networks over the last 10 years. We are proud of our field-work in this area and privileged to be amongst speakers such as AT&T’s CEO as well as the CTOs of Verizon and Sprint.

FWA evolution
Unlike previous mobile standards, 5G will be a gamechanger for non-mobile use cases such as fixed wireless access services. Jennifer Fritzsche, Managing Director of the Equity Research group at Wells Fargo Securities asked us how our customers were seeing the 5G opportunity. We explained how our customers are always on the look-out for higher capacities, better QoS, shorter time to market and lower TCO. 5G is seen as one way to stay competitive in their markets and to continue delighting their customers.

However, at CBNL we see the shift to using 5G standards for fixed access as an evolution of what we are already doing. We have long seen the huge advantages offered by mmWave spectrum in providing the power needed for 5G capacities. And we started out in life developing the technologies to build out wireless networks in these bands.

Very high-speed, high-throughput wireless networks built around a point-to-multipoint topology offering TCO savings of up to 50% and with the ability to provide individual traffic streams with dedicated QoS is what we do at CBNL.

mmWave under the spotlight
The market interest in 5G has put mmWave under the spotlight. For the first time the industry is putting significant focus on this high frequency spectrum and specifically how to build point-to-multipoint topologies at such high frequencies. But for us it’s an area in which we’ve been working for over 10 years.

As the industry looks at mmWave bands to support the shift to 5G and in particular to support FWA, and other non-mobile applications, we are able to bring the direct experience we have of deploying point-to-multipoint networks in these bands to bear.

We don’t say this lightly. To date CBNL has shipped over 150,000 units purpose-built for the job of creating carrier grade networks in mmWave. These are in active use with 7 of the world’s top 10 operator groups.

Jennifer also asked us whether we were seeing any urgency by operators wanting to get pre-5G FWA services to market. The answer is an emphatic yes: fast-moving operators are already building first-mover advantage. And needless to say, every operator is studying how 5G will change the economics of a variety of use cases. We are using our field-proven modeling tools to show what real-world designs might look like.

Given we already support spectrum bands from 10GHz right through to 40GHz we bring a lot of flexibility that can allow operators to build momentum. These bands include former LMDS A1, A2 and B bands as well as 39GHz. We have additional developments ongoing in other bands as part of our bespoke, customer-specific engineering service.

The 5G business case
It’s not just mobile operators with whom we’re talking. Fixed players as well as non-telcos such as utilities and government organizations such as smart city projects are also interested and many need support to navigate the minefield of spectrum and use case whilst marrying both with an appropriate technology. It comes down to the business case and the ability to monetise spectrum quickly in the form of services that their customers want.

Our live deployments in the field tell us that mmWave spectrum works really well for building carrier-grade networks. We’ve deployed many dense networks of 5000 sites or more in climates and environments all over the world and our proven field work shows us that hundreds of Mbps are achievable up to ranges of 5 miles: much greater range than some people envisage when they see ‘mmWave’.

Our solutions today support up to 1.3Gbps with a range of up to 5 miles. Each 90˚ sector supports up to 63 sites from a single hub with high speed connectivity. All from a 4kg, 6 litre form factor.

All said and done, Wells Fargo Securities’ 2018 Telecom Forum was a unique opportunity to meet the voices shaping the future of connectivity across the globe. I was delighted to discuss the role that mmWave plays in building 5G networks – and I look forward to returning to the summit in the future.

Published 04 May 2018 in Research
Tags: 5G, Connectivity, testbed, collaboration
CBNL's Dr John Naylon, CTO & Founder

Dr John Naylon, CTO & Founder CBNL

 

In March, UK5G launched in London with the aim of providing impartial, expert advice to shape the future of UK connectivity. As part of the unveiling, UK5G announced an Advisory Board to offer guidance, support and recommendations to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on plans for managing and implementing 5G network technology in the UK. It’s an honour for me to join other leaders in 5G on the Advisory Board, working side-by-side with technology providers, regulators and vertical industry partners.

UK5G will bring together the constituent parts of the UK 5G ecosystem to help drive the deployment of next generation network technology in the UK. This will create a community of users, operators, vendors and academics, in conjunction with the public sector, which can evangelise and articulate the benefits of digital development and 5G services.

The UK5G Advisory Board aims to act as a forum for sharing knowledge from emerging 5G R&D activity, enabling collaboration between industry players and the identification of key developments in the 5G space. As we approach the implementation of 5G technology in the UK, it’s encouraging to see the government work with the private sector to share best practice, provide information and build a network for communication and collaboration with key stakeholders. UK5G is a unique opportunity to link industry players, research and the public sector to help promote the development of 5G.

By offering a framework for initiating testbeds, funding trials and network support projects, the project will help cement the UK’s position as a world leader in technology. It’s heartening to see so many influencers and innovators in the 5G space join together to help make sure that the UK continues to lead the pack in the development and deployment of network technology. 

Here at CBNL, we are part of the world-renowned Cambridge technology cluster, but we also have extensive international experience, currently operating in over 50 countries. We will be bringing our international perspective and the knowledge gained in building over 150 networks to bear on UK5G’s mission, as well as our unique expertise in millimetre-wave networking.

The future of UK connectivity rests on this kind of effective transfer of knowledge to ensure we build future-proofed networks that can underwrite innovation, productivity and growth now and in the future. I’m delighted to join my fellow industry leaders and key players in Britain’s 5G ecosystem to advise the government. By working with a broad cross section of academics, vendors and end users, UK5G can help deliver the next generation of connectivity in this country.

 

About UK5G:

UK5G is a consortium partnership between Cambridge Wireless (CW), Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and TM Forum. It also has the Digital Catapult and Real Wireless as associate partners.

www.uk5g.org

Published 05 December 2017 in Research
Tags: 5G, fixed wireless, UK Enterprise Broadband Index, Ofcom

Dr John Naylon, CTO and founder, CBNL

CBNL was recently joined by leading experts in the field of 5G for a roundtable chaired by Emeka Obiodu (Strategy Director at the GSMA) to explore the status and future of UK enterprise broadband. 

With me on the panel were: Jonathan Dann (Managing Director of Telecom Research at RBC Capital Markets), Mischa Dohler (Professor of Wireless Communications at King’s College London) and Nick Lane (Chief Analyst at Mobilesquared).

Meeting in London, we discussed today’s connectivity landscape, the evolution of operator business models, and the role of new technology in the evolving pre-5G ecosystem. 

Supplementing the panel was the announcement of the ‘UK Enterprise Broadband Index.’ 

The survey, commissioned by CBNL, revealed that all UK businesses have experienced some issues with poor broadband services in the last two years. 

The most significant of these pertain to slow, or slower-than-advertised, broadband speeds, and substantial periods of network downtime. 

However, more than half of these businesses have not acted on these problems, instead choosing to remain with the same broadband provider.

With 89% of companies stating they would consider moving to wireless broadband, the research highlights the changing market perceptions towards this technology. 

In all likelihood, this is driven by the universal reliance of people upon mobile broadband, and their generally good experiences with it.

This striking statistic, and others within the index, provided a framework for a discussion of the current challenges facing the UK enterprise broadband market. 

The very high acceptance of wireless technology highlights the potential for disruptive wireless service providers to reconcile the digital divide and shape the future of connectivity.

The market status of UK enterprise broadband

The burgeoning demand for increased connectivity in the UK and the simultaneous acceptance of poor connectivity was a paradox my co-panelists unanimously acknowledged, and most had experienced directly.

This anecdotal evidence is supported by CBNL’s survey, which indicated that whilst 83% of businesses surveyed said that their connectivity requirements were being met by their broadband provider, 47% admit they are not receiving the broadband speeds advertised, 35% have been negatively impacted by slow broadband speeds, and 34% have experienced significant periods of downtime. 

With penetration of fixed wireless in the UK below many comparable regions of the globe, it’s plausible that a lack of exposure to alternative broadband solutions is contributing to the UK market’s acceptance of poor connectivity. 

To facilitate economic growth, the UK should seek to augment the range of technologies available to consumers with an emphasis on scalable solutions which can effectively meet growing demand.

The evolution of operator business models

Quickly moving from problem to opportunity, we proceeded to discuss the market opportunities for disruptive carriers seeking to leverage alternative solutions, such as fixed wireless.

Despite businesses looking for faster and more reliable broadband, when asked why they were opting to remain with their current provider, 32% of survey participants said they wanted to avoid disruption. 

Reflecting on this, Nick Lane commented: 

“The rapid deployment of fixed wireless solutions will be fundamental to improving the connectivity ecosystem, and as such needs to be a key focus for investment.”

“Operators leveraging these wireless solutions for enterprise can also benefit from their efficiency to build a more attractive business case to meet consumer demand, which at times is outpacing the capabilities of some of today’s legacy broadband services.”

Significant advances in millimetre wave have also meant that modern high-capacity wireless technologies have a clear path to quickly scale networks to multi-gigabit speeds, a capability that appears increasingly attractive for under-served UK businesses.

With such a clear and attractive business case, fixed wireless is presenting operators with a lucrative prospect for investment and establishing itself as a vital part of a diversified connectivity ecosystem.

New technology and the future of UK connectivity

Looking to the future, it is clear that recent advances in wireless sit alongside a significant market opportunity for operators.

Although fixed wireless is not as prevalent in the UK as fixed line, there was no dispute amongst us that the market’s perceptions of new technology is growing warmer. 

Underpinning this, the CBNL Enterprise Broadband Index revealed that 89% of businesses would consider moving to wireless services if the speed and reliability was comparable to, or greater than, their existing broadband.

Ofcom’s recent call for inputs to inform their programme of work to make millimeter wave spectrum bands available for 5G is also a significant indication of the value of high-capacity wireless in the UK market.

Increasing availability of millimetre wave, such as the 26GHz band, will be vital to unlock investment in enterprise broadband, allowing operators to benefit from the full potential of high band spectrum and catalyse the regeneration of a more diverse marketplace.

With the potential of these new technologies uncapped, panellist opinion was unified in its agreement that wireless innovation can bridge the gaps in the UK broadband market and pave the way for the next generation of connectivity.

Published 20 February 2017 in Backhaul
Tags: 5G, fixed wireless, UK

Dr John Naylon, CTO and founder, CBNL

Ofcom has set out its timeline for spectrum allocation and anticipated deployment of 5G, which is an enormous step forwards in accelerating the next generation of connectivity in the UK.

According to the plans, the UK is expected to see pre-commercial networks as close as 2018, ahead of a 2020 launch.

The proposal outlines plans to utilise 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz, which are already cleared by public sector organisations, and will be auctioned later in 2017.

Spectrum in the 26GHz band will also play a pivotal role, with Ofcom launching a consultation process for this in the second half of 2017.

26GHz undoubtedly holds huge potential to provide bandwidth far in excess of today’s typical “fibre broadband” speeds that many homes and businesses receive.

As a result, we’re likely to see 5G fixed wireless emerge as the first 5G use case in the near term, followed by a wealth of new and exciting 5G use cases, including automotive, IoT and mobility.

This model closely follows the US market, where the FCC recently opened up vast amounts of flexible use, high frequency spectrum in the 28, 37 and 39GHz bands as part of its 5G Spectrum Frontiers proposal.

Over the last year, we’ve already seen many thousands of homes and businesses in the US receiving 100Mbps+ pre-5G fixed wireless services through adjacent bands to 26GHz.

Ofcom are adopting a highly progressive strategy, allowing operators to combine the complementary properties of both low and high band spectrum.

The superfast carrier-grade bandwidth of 26GHz is coupled with the wider coverage of 3.5GHz, creating a harmonised strategy to offer a more economically feasible strategy to connect the many homes and business across the UK that still don’t receive adequate broadband services.

As we have seen in recent news, there are many businesses, even in large cities like London, that can’t get timely access to the connectivity needed for modern commerce.

This move therefore holds enormous promise to provide a significant boost to the UK economy.

With the wireless technology already in place to utilise these frequencies, UK mobile operators and ISPs are perfectly placed to deliver an immediate uplift in connectivity to their customers once this spectrum becomes available.

 

Just one week to go until MWC...

If you are interesting in finding out more, I'll be speaking at the 5G Beyond the Hype: Value And Building Blocks seminar at Mobile World Congress a week today (16.00, 27 February, Hall 4 Auditorium 4).

We will also have a live demonstration of our VectaStar solution on display at CBNL’s booth in Hall 5 (5H27) during the show

For more information on booking a meeting with CBNL, visit our event page.

I hope to see you there.