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Small Cell World Summit

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.

Julius Robson, Wireless Technology Specialist, CBNL

Small Cell Backhaul RequirementsWe were delighted to announce the release of the latest NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Networks) Alliance white paper on ‘Small Cell Backhaul Requirements’ at last week’s Small Cells World Summit, after editing it in our capacity as Co-Lead of the NGMN Backhaul Evolution Project.

But why is this significant? This is a big step forward in the world of small cells as the output of the Alliance is signed off by 18 operators that collectively represent over half of the entire worlds’ mobile subscribers.

We are talking about some of the biggest industry players here which is quite a feat and one the NGMN have executed gallantly.

Backhaul – the key challenge

So back to the white paper. Backhaul is increasingly cited as a key challenge for small cells, but there is uncertainty on the requirements and which solutions are most suitable.

In our capacity at the NGMN, we led a group of operators and vendors with the aim of gaining consensus on the specific needs for this emerging area of backhaul technology.

The white paper published the results which focus on operator deployed, open access small cells and the ‘last mile’ of the backhaul.

Small cell standards

As we so frequently hear, operators are considering the deployment of small cells as a complement to macrocell networks to improve coverage at ‘not-spots’ and ease congestion at ‘hot-spots’.

Many of the backhaul requirements for small cells are the same as those for macro sites, however there are some differences:

  • Cost per small cell backhaul connection must be lower than for macrocells, but user Quality of Experience cannot be sacrificed.


  • There is however scope to relax some aspects of the offered Quality of Service:
    • Backhaul availability may be relaxed for capacity sites at hot-spots.
    • Capacity provisioning may be relaxed for coverage sites at not-spots.
  • Small cells dictate the following new requirements for backhaul:
    • Coverage down to street level sites with sufficient QoS.
    • Security, small form factor, and low installation cost.

An initial consideration of several types of wireless and wired backhaul solutions shows that whilst each may be strong in one type of requirement, no one solution meets all requirements.

We therefore concluded that operators must address diverse small cell deployment scenarios with a ‘toolbox’ of backhaul solutions.

The white paper contains more information and is free to download from the NGMN website via this link.

I hope this white paper is as well received as previous NGMN publications which I have seen referenced by Operators at a range of industry events - proof the Alliance has been successful in standardising requirements.

Here's a video from the Small Cells World Summit where I provide more information. Small cells, here we come.

Dr John Naylon, Chief Technology Officer, CBNL

At Small Cell World Summit last week, it was interesting to see Ubiquisys discuss their ‘Smart Cell’ solution.

This can take the pressure off small cell backhaul in certain cases by caching popular content in the small cell itself.

When another user accesses the same content, it is served from the small cell and does not have to traverse the backhaul and the rest of the operator network.

At CBNL we are basically backhaul geeks so anything like this is really interesting to us.

By eliminating repeated backhaul data, the Smart Cell concept reduces the mean load on the backhaul – but for optimal user quality of experience the backhaul still has to be able to deliver peak bandwidth to the Smart Cell on demand. 

This is needed for content not yet cached, social content, or content in the ‘long tail’ of the distribution, for example. 

In other words, the peak-to-mean ratio of the traffic is increased. 

That increases the benefits of multipoint microwave over point-to-point as we’ve discussed previously (data centric backhaul presentation, slides 21 – 26).

It’s really interesting to see how innovation in one part of the network (the RAN, in the case of the Smart Cell) can complement innovative backhaul techniques, like multipoint microwave.

Both these techniques are concerned with the stochastic behaviour of users and networks, and the efficiencies that can be derived by exploiting this behaviour. 

You can read more about efficiency in backhaul in my paper The Effect of System Architecture on Net Spectral Efficiency for Fixed Services.