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The race is on
The UK’s communications regulator recently announced the largest ever single auction of additional spectrum for mobile services in the UK.
The release of the additional spectrum for fourth generation (4G) mobile is “fuelled by the growth of smartphones and mobile broadband data services such as video streaming, email, messenger services, mapping services and social networking sites.”
Of course, as we all know, the spectrum release only solves half the problem – all that data has to go somewhere once it hits the base station.
Backhaul capacity in the UK market is becoming a very big issue, just as it is in the rest of the developing market as operators struggle to keep pace with demand.
Addressing the issues requires some fresh thinking and the traditional approaches aren’t producing the answers.
Plugging in more fibre might seem the obvious solution but if you ask your average mobile operator CTO to do so, he or she will tell you that it’s a little more complicated.
When you start ‘densifying’ the network you quickly find that the fibre just isn’t available where you want it.
Getting it there is not only a huge commitment of capital resources, it’s also fiendishly complex, incredibly disruptive and very time consuming.
You have to ask if the resources (cash and people) are available in a sector in which margins are under constant pressure.
“OK, but what about point-to-point (PTP) microwave”, I hear you say.
A fine idea on the surface but it’s a legacy technology that suited the ‘big voice/small data’ environment of old but is much less capable when the position is reversed to ’big data/small voice’.
Today each individual PTP microwave link has to be specified to cope with the maximum potential capacity.
That is enormously wasteful of increasingly scarce spectrum resources – you can’t make new spectrum so it’s important to use it efficiently.
“Fine, I’ll try WiFi or femtocell offload“
Well, these are technologies that have been around for some time now and they certainly have application, but there’s a reason the market hasn’t been flooded with femtocells and dual mode phones.
The fundamental problem is inherent in both technologies. For the operator it means handing off traffic, the family jewels, to a third party network over which it has no control and for which reliability is often questionable.
It’s for these and other reasons that we are seeing increasing interest in Cambridge Broadband Networks’ VectaStar point-to-multipoint (PMP) microwave solutions in the developed markets.
The core technology is much more efficient in the way it uses spectrum resources, requires half the radios and the platform is designed to handle gigabit throughputs, more than enough for predicted demand.
Coupled to that, a single hub provides 360 degree coverage so that phased upgrades are significantly simplified.
Need more capacity in a sector? Then simply add another VectaStar terminal where you need it and point it at the hub.
In this industry we are more used to seeing technology transfer from developed to developing markets. In the move to LTE backhaul the opposite is true – a backhaul technology that ‘cut its teeth’ in developing markets (unencumbered by legacy technologies) is now proving very attractive in mature markets.