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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

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

We recently spoke to The Mobile Network about some of the novel approaches our customers are taking to building next generation backhaul.

Just as application-specific physical servers in the data centre are becoming a thing of the past, at CBNL we think that application-specific networks are starting to go the same way. 

By re-using the same physical infrastructure to run multiple virtual network applications, our customers are making significant savings and creating additional benefits, such as lowered end-user churn.

Taking advantage of powerful, in-built QoS-aware scheduling and soft service definitions, CBNL’s VectaStar platform transforms a previously inflexible and costly part of the network. 

Multiple virtual networks are easily defined and new requirements like small cell backhaul can be added when needed.

The figure below shows data from one of our customers who are back hauling 3G, LTE and enterprise access across a high capacity VectaStar network at 26 and 28GHz. 

The network already comprises almost 5,000 links. Despite the mobile data traffic trebling in less than two years, there is plenty of room for further growth not just in the raw number of links, but also by adding completely new backhaul applications, such as small cell.

The feature can be found on pages 30-33 of the latest edition of The Mobile Network.

If you’re in Barcelona next week, please come and visit us at the CBNL stand - Hall 5, Stand 5H27

We’ll be running a live demo of the new VectaStar wideband platform showing how a high capacity mobile cell site can be backhauled within the same sector as an enterprise access customer with a custom QoS profile.

We hope to see you there.

CBNL stand location at Mobile World Congress 2014

Hall 5, Stand 5H27