You are here

Backhaul

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 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.

 
Published 05 November 2015 in Backhaul, Events
Tags: AfricaCom, digital dividend, tower sharing, Backhaul, LTE

Dr John Naylon, Chief Technology Officer, CBNL

One of the pleasures of attending AfricaCom is gaining insight into the most recent innovations in network architecture, and particularly in understanding how the business case for a mobile network can be improved by technical innovation.

The macroscopic telecoms environment features exponentially growing customer demand for data, delivered within a flat-to-declining ARPU envelope. 

This is particularly the case in Africa, and is driving a number of phenomena in all parts of the modern mobile network.

One example is tower sharing, whereby operators can reduce their capex and opex by amortising the costs of infrastructure across their combined subscriber bases.

Another example is the use of so-called ‘digital dividend’ ex-broadcast spectrum at 700 and 800MHz to create LTE coverage across wide areas more cost effectively. 

The physical propagation characteristics of these low frequencies mean that a given LTE base station can provide coverage to a larger radius. 

In turn, that means more subscribers are served by a single base station.

These approaches help in delivering services more cost effectively because they both increase the degree to which infrastructure is shared amongst subscribers. 

The neat part is that this increased sharing does not compromise the user experience in any way. 

This is because users’ data demands in mobile networks are statistically mutually asynchronous. 

In other words, it doesn’t matter how many other subs might use a given set of network resources throughout the day, only the number using those resources at a precise instant.

In the backhaul segment of the network, another example of a technology which can enhance network ROI is PMP microwave. 

Just as in the previous two examples, PMP microwave increases the amount of sharing of infrastructure that occurs. 

In this case, a single hub radio and its RF channel is time-division multiplexed amongst amongst multiple 3G or LTE base stations, avoiding the need for dedicated hub backhaul hardware for each base station. 

Again, because of the statistical asynchrony of backhaul requirements, there is no difference in the service delivered to the base station or end user. 

Using efficient technology in this way can create TCO savings of nearly 50% for the backhaul network.

African mobile operators are world leaders in adopting all three approaches described above, and in making a virtue of the necessity to do so. 

Because the growth in data demand shows no sign of abating, creating a relentless need to deliver more bits for the same cost, these techniques are becoming increasingly relevant in all regions of the world.

As in previous years, the CBNL executive team will be attending AfricaCom 2015 and look forward to meeting our customers and media from across the continent.

If you are attending AfricaCom and would like to meet us at the event, please email Chris Wright, CBNL’s Marketing Director, at cwright@cbnl.com who will be happy to schedule a meeting for you at the CBNL suite. 

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

At first it doesn’t seem like modern transmission technology and accommodation booking would have many similarities!

In the abstract, however, they do share one key characteristic: the ability to dynamically reallocate resources according to demand.

In a PMP system the resources are units of time (of the order of microseconds) on a radio frequency carrier; in Airbnb the resources are units of time (in days this time) of occupancy of a room or apartment.

Why do we want to allocate resources dynamically in these two cases?

The answer is that we wish to increase the utilisation of the underlying asset: the RF carrier in the PMP case, and the room or apartment in the Airbnb case.

In a PMP system, if one link in a sector is instantaneously using less capacity than its “fair share”, then the system can reallocate those resources to another link that may have excess demand at that instant.

Likewise, if I am on holiday for two weeks, and so not using my apartment, then I may choose to rent it out while I am away.

In both cases, a resource that would have been idle - carrying no traffic, or sitting empty - is now utilised beneficially.

More importantly, this is not just a theoretical plus, but also translates into a financial benefit.

In the Airbnb case, the owner of the asset has extra income to pay for the purchase and maintenance of the asset. 

In the PMP case, overall spectrum requirements to carry a given volume of data across numerous links are reduced, and so is the financial cost of renting that spectrum from the regulator (we cover this reduction in much more detail here).

It’s this financial benefit that is driving the adoption of PMP, and also the uptake of platforms like Airbnb.

The same underlying characteristic is common to a number of other platforms and technologies; for instance Uber (like Airbnb dealing with physical resources), cloud computing and server virtualisation (like us dealing with intangible resources).

Incidentally, here at CBNL we often use Airbnb to meet our business travel needs, and we’ve stayed in some great and colourful places as a result!