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Small cells

Chris Wright, Marketing Manager, CBNL

Mary-Ann Russon, Deputy Editor at Mobile Europe, recently interviewed Dr John Naylon, CTO at CBNL, at the Small Cells World Summit to understand the latest trends in small cell backhaul.

Interview one focuses on small cell backhaul market status and the cost considerations service providers should be aware of when deployming backhaul networks.



Interview two looks at how small cell backhaul trends differ acoss developed and emerging markets and the effect this has on the technologies deployed.

Julius Robson, Wireless Technology Specialist, CBNL

Julius Robson, Wireless Technology Specialist, CBNL

In my capacity as Vice Chair of the Backhaul Group at the Small Cell Forum I was fortunate enough to chair an afternoon session at the recent TNMO event in London.

The session covered many small cell and microwave backhaul themes of the day and came to some interesting conclusions.

This included the common agreement that TCO is likely to drive small cell site sharing and that wired and wireless technologies will live together in the world of small cell backhaul.

Here’s more details and some of the other notable themes from the day...

TCO to drive site sharing

Will operators share small cell sites or retain exclusivity for competitive differentiation?

This was the question asked of groups discussing commercial models and multi-operator small cells.

Interestingly a similar conclusion was reached by both: Sharing of the sites and backhaul would be needed in order to drive down total cost of ownership (TCO).

We’re yet to see how this will play out, however I suspect local authorities may also have a view on sharing.

It may seem unfair to only allow one operator exclusive use of publicly owned assets, only benefiting part of the local population.

Local authorities may lay down regulations that sites under their control (lamppost, etc) must be shared.

Although site sharing and backhaul may be likely, the groups at TNMO firmly believed the small cells themselves would remain operator specific to enable freedom of technology choice and spectrum.

Wireless vs. wired

The key conclusion from TNMO was both technologies will play a key role for small cell backhaul and that wireless would be used in a complementary fashion with wired solutions.

Fibre is going to be extremely expensive to get to the exact location operators may require, even if they have existing fibre nearby.

A likely scenario is to complement a fibre backbone with wireless technologies which can quickly link up those hard to reach small cell locations.

Backhaul not a barrier

I presented an update on the Small Cell Forum’s recently completed backhaul white paper, defining small cell use cases, backhaul requirements and the solutions available.

The conclusion (and great news) is that the solutions currently available meet all the use case requirements and that backhaul is not a barrier. I discussed this in my blog post last month.

LTE-A and small cell to get Carrier Ethernet specifications

There was interesting news from the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) as they presented plans to extend their Carrier Ethernet specifications for LTE-A and small cells – expect to see something in 2014.

If you attended TNMO (or even if you didn’t) I’d love to hear your thoughts on the themes discussed in the comments below…

Published 09 April 2013 in 5G FWA, Small cells
Tags: Spectrum availability, Small cells, Economics

Dr John Naylon, Chief Technology Officer, CBNL

My colleague Julius Robson has previously written about the relative amounts of spectrum available in the sub-6GHz or ‘NLOS’ (non-line of sight), bands and the usual microwave and millimetre wave bands used for backhaul. 

In summary, above 6GHz there is more than twenty times as much backhaul spectrum available as below, with the obvious consequences for the relative cost of bandwidth above or below this division.

For this reason, we see LOS (>6GHz) microwave solutions as becoming the mainstay of small cell backhaul, just as they have been for macro backhaul for many years now. 

Of course there is a place for sub-6GHz solutions as we illustrate in the following chart - it’s just that the relative shortage of spectrum makes it uneconomical to use in the majority of cases.

So I was very interested to read Ericsson’s recent paper non-line-of-sight microwave backhaul for small cells which compares the throughput of 28GHz and 5.8GHz backhaul systems in various NLOS configurations. 

Their conclusion is that “contrary to common belief … microwave backhaul in bands above 20GHz will outperform sub-6GHz systems under most NLOS conditions”

The Ericsson results closely match our experience using VectaStar at 28GHz to backhaul a small cell network for O2 in London.

It seems then, that we can extend the use of high frequency microwave solutions even further into the adverse location part of the small cell distribution curve. 

This is great news for operators because multipoint microwave solutions offer compelling TCO benefits, resilience and solution maturity combined with capacity that far outstrips sub-6GHz systems.

We’ll return to this topic in a couple of weeks when we’ll see how multipoint microwave lets us exploit the statistical properties of backhaul traffic to maximise efficiency in our backhaul network.

Published 20 March 2013 in 5G FWA, Small cells
Tags: Small cells, Small Cell Forum, Latency, NGMN
 Julius Robson, Wireless Technology Specialist, CBNL

Julius Robson, Wireless Technology Specialist, CBNL

 Julius Robson, Wireless Technology Specialist, CBNL

The Small Cell Forum has just published Release One, the first in a series which aim to provide “all you need to know” packages to help operators deploy small cells, and for solution providers to understand technology trends and requirements.

Although the main focus of this first release is the ‘Home’ environment (i.e. residential femtocells), it does also cover other types of small cells, namely enterprise, rural and most importantly for us, metro. 

As Vice Chair of the SCF’s backhaul SIG, CBNL has been heavily involved with the compiling of the Forum’s Backhaul white paper, which covers use cases, requirements and an in-depth discussion of the different types of solutions. 

Being such a hot topic, there was intense interest and contribution from a wide range of viewpoints, so the paper has ended up being a weighty 80 page reference, rather than a brief overview. 

That said, the key message is quite clear: backhaul is not a barrier to small cell deployment. 

By looking in detail into the characteristics of the different wired and wireless solutions, it is found that used together, they can meet the needs for the different use cases envisaged.  

The work draws on the NGMN’s operator view of ‘Small Cell Backhaul Requirements’, and adds to this detailed descriptions of the different solution categories. 

Highlights for me would have to be a new discussion on latency requirements, and the section on how we split the wireless solutions into different categories – based largely on the different combinations of carrier frequency and spectrum licensing arrangement.  

A wealth of information is then available on each type of solution, but summary tables are included to concisely show how each one matches up to key requirements.

This paper should help operators in selecting appropriate tools from the famous backhaul toobox.


See below for some links to this and other essential references for your small cell backhaul reading list.

[1] “NGMN Alliance Small Cell Backhaul Requirements”, NGMN Alliance, Jun 2012,

The operator consensus view of requirements for small cell backhaul

[2] “Backhaul Technologies for Small Cells, use cases, requirements and solutions”, Small Cell Forum, Feb 2013,

SCF’s new reference paper, builds on NGMN requirements adding detailed description of the different solutions’ characteristics.

[3] "Five ways to deploy small cells and the implications for backhaul”, CBNL, Aug 2012,

Describes how different operator motivations to deploy small cells (Capacity, QoE, Coverage) lead to different deployment styles, which in turn point to different choices from the backhaul toolbox.
[4] “Small Cell Forum release structure and roadmap”,  Small Cell Forum, Feb 2013,

Describes the thinking behind the SCF’s release programme the topics addressed and future plans

Published 24 October 2012 in 5G FWA, Small cells
Tags: Small cells, 3G, LTE

Chris Wright, Marketing Manager, CBNL

We’ve just announced our latest webinar which will be focusing on 3G/LTE multi-mode small cell deployment and the backhaul options available.

We’ll be joining David Chambers from ThinkSmallCell and Todd Mersch, Director of Product Line Management for Software and Solutions at Radisys who will explore the four stages of multi-mode small cell evolution and the feasibility of network sharing arrangements.

Julius Robson, Wireless Technology Specialist here at Cambridge Broadband Networks will be examining the backhaul options for multi-mode small cells.

The webinar will take place on Wednesday, November 7 from 4:00PM - 5:00PM GMT.

Find out more and register here.