Overcoming wireless backhaul challenges with less resources
Achieving more capacity in the last mile
At MWC 2017, we asked mobile operators to share their key wireless backhaul challenges on the road to 5G. The results weren’t surprising.
Forty-six percent said that their #1 challenge is the need for more capacity in the last mile!
This challenge is widespread, and it’s relevant to mobile operators, ISPs, triple-play service providers, and basically any operator that covers last-mile connectivity to its customers.
The reasons for this growing capacity demand depend on the services provided by each operator, but the common denominator is the strive for better end-user quality of experience, which in turn leads to enhanced competitiveness, higher ARPU and lower churn for the service provider.
TV and multimedia services
In the case of TV and multimedia services, the growing capacity demand is driven by several trends, all of which are aimed at improving the end-user’s viewing experience.
The first trend –personal-TV – involves a transition from linear programming to on-demand video forces, which means that TV providers need to move from broadcast and multicast video distribution architectures to specific unicast streams per customers. And this of course leads to the need for exponentially more capacity across the entire network.
This is also accompanied by higher resolution streams and the move from SD (Standard Definition) to HD (High Definition) and UHD (Ultra High Definition) 4K and 8K resolutions. In its recent VNI global traffic forecast, Cisco predicted a 51% CAGR for 4K connected flat panel TV penetration.
In addition, HDR (High Dynamic Range), WCG (Wide Color Gamut) and HFR (High Frame Rate) video technologies offer an extremely real viewing experience (commonly referred to as “looking through a window effect”). These too make video streaming significantly more demanding on bandwidth.
Moreover, multimedia is no longer a point-to-multipoint service. It’s become a mesh service as end users do not just consume content but also create and distribute content.
While new codec technologies such as H.264, Google’s VP9, HEVC (H.265) and the cross-industry, Alliance of Open Media’s AV1 (coming soon) aim to reduce the bandwidth required for video streaming, the abovementioned trends still lead to bandwidth explosion in the last mile.
Business-customer service providers
This is also true for business-customer service providers. Whether we’re talking about SOHO, SMB or enterprise customers, the infrastructure-outsourcing trend means relocating voice, multimedia and data HW (such as PABX servers) to off-premise locations – specifically at cloud or XaaS providers. This is a good option for customers who no longer need to manage, maintain and upgrade their own infrastructure, which requires a lot of professional labor resources.
It does, however, make last mile connectivity a much more critical element in the organization’s day-to-day operations. The reason for this is that the last mile now also needs to carry a significantly larger amount of traffic (including internal organization communications) and, for the same reason, has to be available and reliable as a mission-critical infrastructure element.
Last but not least, mobile operators are witnessing the demand for last-mile capacity as their radio access network becomes loaded and evolves from LTE to LTE-Advanced/LTE-Advanced-Pro and to 5G (initially fixed wireless access services and eventually full-blown mobile services). This move to 5G means more devices, more service consumption, more content creation and the need for more favorable tariffs – all of which drive mobile network capacity demand to grow exponentially.
The need for more capacity to each cell site, as well as for new, additional cell sites (especially as the 5G network grid gets significantly denser) makes the last mile challenge the #1 wireless backhaul challenge for all types of operators.
What’s the solution?
The challenge of providing more capacity for the last mile can be solved using a wide array of solutions. In addition to providing more capacity, these solutions also need to utilize fewer resources so that they fit into a viable business plan.
Solutions that answer both of these requirements include capacity-boosting techniques in standard microwave bands such as XPIC, 4x4 LoS MIMO, Advanced Frequency Reuse and Advanced Space Diversity; current mmW solutions in E-Band and V-Band (and future mmW solutions in W-Band and D-Band); and a combination of solutions from both bands (multiband).
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