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Small cells

Dr John Naylon, Chief Technology Officer, CBNL

With just under two weeks until Small Cell World kicks off, the industry is gearing up to see the latest and greatest small cell technologies and hear from operators on their deployment strategies.

Despite news earlier this year that over ten million small cells have been shipped, the industry is still very much in the early stages of outdoor, ‘urban’ small cells.

Backhaul will be central to every small cell network. As a result, operators’ decisions on backhaul technology will prove critical to their success.

Although close to their macro counterparts, small cells have somewhat different backhaul requirements which Infonetics recently summarised as: “Operators continue to look for smaller form factor, lower power, and lower cost backhaul equipment to help them drive forward the business case”.

These challenges bring into sharp focus the need for operators to create a compelling business case and a highly effective deployment strategy for small cell investment.

Operators are therefore turning to established carrier-grade wireless technologies for small cell backhaul, to deliver the high capacity services that are in such high demand by customers across their networks.

Key to a strong business case is a fast time to market and the ability to integrate small cell backhaul with existing macro networks.

This integration provides an incrementally low-cost means of adding small cells to the network and is the focus of the presentation I’ll be giving on the backhaul track at Small Cell World (14:40 on Wednesday 1 June for those that may be attending).

By removing the perceived need to deploy a wholly new, untried, backhaul solution for small cells, existing macro infrastructure can be leveraged, eliminating operators’ number one barrier to small cell deployment.

This is likely to see tried and tested backhaul become highly attractive to operators compared to completely new solutions.

We believe this to be so important that it played a key role in the development of our own PMP microwave small cell backhaul solution.

VectaStar Metro 600 small cell backhaul platformOur latest VectaStar Metro 600 small cell backhaul platform offers operators seamless macro integration, providing a field-proven business case and the ability to deliver up to 600Mb/s backhaul to each small cell.

PMP microwave saves valuable spectrum and equipment by aggregating backhaul traffic from multiple nodes to a single hub location.

By reducing hardware installs, operators are provided with a very quick time to market and total cost of ownership savings of up to 54% compared to fiber or point-to-point.

The underlying maturity of microwave backhaul has the added benefit of providing operators with a field-proven technology which is tried and tested the world over.

I look forward to exploring this further at the event and discussing our technology first hand with customers at our stand. I hope to see you there.

Dr John Naylon, Chief Technology Officer, CBNL

The forthcoming Small Cell World Summit will again bring together leaders from across the industry to discuss the latest trends and technologies in this space, along with operator’s deployment strategies (a particular point of interest for almost all delegates).

Last year we focused on total cost of ownership for small cell backhaul (see the slides here) which coincided with the launch of our first VectaStar Metro product

With the World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) set to take place in 2015, we thought it was timely to shine a light on the opportunities for backhaul in various frequency bands and how future spectrum availability may affect operator’s backhaul choices.

High capacity and low total cost of ownership continue to dominate the list of requirements for small cell backhaul and spectrum can play a major role in this.

I anticipate the WRC may designate more low frequency spectrum for LTE RAN services next year.

If they do we’ll see even more traction for technologies operating in the 6-42Ghz band as backhaul is displaced out of the sub-6GHz space.

Backhaul products operating between 6-42Ghz will play a central role in creating the low TCO we demonstrated last year for our own small cell multipoint product, whilst at the same time having the ability to deliver the essential capacity requirements.

Of course there’s the question of how to maximise spectrum resources once they are acquired.

The bursty data profile of small cells (whether LTE or Wi-Fi) lends itself especially well to multipoint backhaul.

Multipoint can realise huge efficiency gains in the network by aggregating data from several small cells, saving equipment costs and reducing the capacity operators need to provision.

By utilising licensed frequency bands, multipoint also offers seamless quality of service between macro and small cell layers.

We firmly believe ‘backhaul is backhaul’ and if customer satisfaction (and retention) is to be achieved, the user should always see great availability, reliability and speed whether connecting via a small cell or a macro node.

I’ll be discussing this in more depth at the Small Cell World Summit when I join Deutsche Telekom on the “Opportunities for backhaul in various frequency bands” panel session – 14.40 - Wednesday 11th June.

We’ll also look at how spectrum availability is dictating backhaul choices across the globe and if there is a balance to be met with licensed and unlicensed strategies.

I hope to see you at the event – please read our events page for more information and to schedule a meeting with the CBNL team.

Chris Wright, Marketing Manager, CBNL

CBNL recently joined TeleSemana, AT&T, the Small Cell Forum and Alcatel Lucent to discuss the latest small cell trends.

Filmed at Mobile World Congress and facilitated by Rafael Junquera from TeleSemana, the discussion focused on the following themes:

  • What is the small cell market status?
  • What small cell plans are operators making?
  • Is LTE-A a key factor for small cells due to eICIC and CoMP and how do they impact deployments?
  • What have we learned from implementations and trials about deploying small cells in the different scenarios?
  • Is interoperability an issue?
  • How close are we to plug and play?

Watch the film

Dr John Naylon, Chief Technology Officer, CBNL

M2M communications are transforming the world into one where everything and everyone is networked and connected.

The GSMA and Machina Research predict that the number of connected devices is set to double over the next eight years to 50 billion globally.

If that’s correct communication between these connected devices will explode.

But what does this mean for the operator and the consumer?

How will the proliferation of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications affect mobile data traffic and how can operators develop the next generation networks which will ensure that they are ready for the connected device explosion?

Debate in the industry has been centred on whether mobile operators and their network infrastructure can actually cope with the data demand that is expected with a critical mass of M2M applications.

Despite migration to 3G and LTE base stations, the proliferation of mobile connected devices continue to drive demand on networks and is challenging operators’ strategies to increase capacity and connectivity.

However, from an operator’s perspective, M2M communications is just another step in the inevitable modernisation of next generation networks.

It is imperative that operators deliver every bit of data at the lowest possible cost to not only increase capacities but to lower TCO and maintain profitability.

The best strategy to achieve this requirement is not always so clear.

Innovative next generation solutions such as small cells are the types of technologies that operators need to be considering to meet this challenge.

As always, the cost of mobile backhaul is a paramount consideration in running and launching new services, and indeed small cell backhaul equipment is forecast to expand very dramatically.

Whilst the challenge of providing high-capacity, carrier-grade backhaul to outdoor small cells has been much discussed, it is no longer seen as a barrier by forward thinking operators.

A range of efficient and flexible wireless technologies, including point-to-multipoint (PMP), is providing more cost-effective carrier-grade networks for operators than traditional backhaul techniques. 

For instance, PMP saves spectral resources and equipment through aggregating backhaul traffic from multiple cell sites.

This innovative use of wireless technology creates up to 50% TCO savings whilst delivering guaranteed quality of service over licensed spectrum.

Ultimately, M2M communications are designed to enable products and services that powerfully enrich peoples’ lives.

Current operator networks, built for voice and data transport, are already creaking under the weight of mobile data traffic and that’s even before your car checks the traffic along your route and uploads its maintenance data!

However the rate of innovation in architecture and technology in all parts of the mobile network is truly remarkable.

With wireless technologies coming to the fore, consumers can look forward to a more intelligent and connected world with networks that live up to their demands.

Chris Wright, Marketing Manager, CBNL

Whether maximising the use of software defined networking, optimising transmission circuits, or introducing innovative new business cases – driving efficiencies in backhaul was centre stage at this year's Packet Microwave and Mobile Backhaul Forum.

With LTE and small cells often the backdrop, the event provided an insight as to how operators can exploit new solutions to cost effectively manage the rising tide of new applications traffic.

As event sponsors, CBNL played a leading role in discussions and have provided our event highlights on two short films.

Packet Microwave Forum 2013, Day 1: SDN for efficient backhaul and highlights

Packet Microwave Forum 2013: Day 2 highlights