[Podcast: Packet Pushers] Ceragon Delivers Open Routing Solutions for Wireless Transport

By Erez Aviv 31 min read

Open Routers promise to deliver new levels of freedom and flexibility to Network Operators, Communication Service Providers (CSPs), and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The ability to pair the perfect hardware with the ideal software will enable new heights of network efficiency.  Utilizing wireless transport until fiber can be properly deployed, alongside fiber for added redundancy, or instead of fiber in geographies where fiber is cost prohibitive, can be an important tool to speed up Time To Market (TTM) and reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of your network. 

Source: Heavy Wireless 006: Building Sustainable, Efficient Backhaul Networks With Ceragon Networks

Full video transcript:

Host | Keith Parsons (00:00:00) – Hello. Welcome to Heavy Wireless. My name is Keith Parsons, and in this week’s episode, we have topic a special topic. And today’s topic is on building sustainable and highly efficient backhaul and routing networks. And we’ve got some special guests who will help explain that topic to us. And again, today is a sponsored episode with Ceragon networks. And I have with me Dani and Erez. Dani, can you give us a quick overview, a little elevator pitch, if you will, of what is Ceragon Networks?

Dani Kiryati (00:00:30) – So Ceragon is one of the known companies in the world, I would say, in Transport Solutions. So, transport is our expertise and we have an emphasis on Point-to-Point wireless backhaul and Open Routing. Our customers are mostly service providers of all sizes from large mobile operators, all the way to small and medium ISPs and wireless ISPs. We also provide solutions to private networks in different verticals things like utilities, energy companies, government, defense, public safety, those kind of private networks. What we do for our customers in a nutshell, is help them deliver connectivity everywhere they need it, even the most challenging environments and geographies.

We help them connect between their access networks and their core networks. And our products and services are all based on our own innovative technology. We developed in-house our chipsets, and we’ve been doing that for almost three decades. And, you know, maybe last thing to say is that our team is spread globally because our customers are spread globally. So we have more than 1,000 people, skilled professionals all over the world.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:01:54) – Very good. One of the terms you used in your elevator pitch was backhaul. What kind of challenges do your customers find with backhaul? You mentioned some very, you know, unique, difficult challenges. Can you tell us some of those?

Erez Aviv (00:02:07) – So talking about backhauling is more or less after the Radio Access network when you are just picking up your cell phone and just trying to talk what’s really happening in the background. And you need in the end to gather all the information and move it towards the Internet toward the core, and this is exactly where the problem starts and all the challenges starts and this is where Ceragon is trying to solve it.

We’re talking about all the transport in between the end user in between the radio access up to the core. And speaking of challenges, it can be huge amount of them. We’ll start maybe with everything that’s related to the 5G. You know, in the past few years, the 5G is rising and with this rise, there are a lot of services that come with the 5G and which requires the Operators, which requires so much more, I would say, different services. And the first one of them is the enhanced mobile broadband that needed.

So you need to deal with huge amount of capacity. You need to deal with much lower latency, you need to deal with much more customers and much more connected people and all of it over the same physical network. And to overcome these challenges, there are plenty of things that you need to do. So, it comes that now all the operator trying to put fibers everywhere that they can do it, but it’s not always that you can do it.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:03:39) – So your solution is a complement to fiber or is it a replacement for fiber?

Erez Aviv (00:03:46) – It can be both, so we can complement it. So from the point there is no point of presence to the fiber and still you have a distance to go towards your consumer, towards the customers, then you will use the wireless.

But also, if you want to have a redundancy to the fiber or you want to not invest that much in the fiber, the first plans or and then you will use the wireless. And this is how the wireless transport really helps operators to take much more customers because the time to market to connect an area, a city, a place to the Internet with wireless transport, is like ten times more efficient than going and digging and putting fibers, and then to do the connectivity.

You just need to raise an antenna and a wireless radio and that’s it, you are connected. And we can do it like from 1 to 3, four kilometers, up to 250km to connect areas. And this is exactly what Dani said. We can connect everything everywhere, no matter the terrain, what the distance is, and this is more or less what we are doing in the past 25 years.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:05:01) – Very good. So when you’re putting up these radio networks to connect cell towers together, you said ten times faster than a fiber dig, What would a normal install be if you just needed a point to point, say, ten kilometers apart? How many days would that take?

Erez Aviv (00:05:18) – I would say that in average t’s like a day or two. And I’m and sometimes it can be like even less than a day, assuming that you have all the equipment with you and you have the authorization to put antennas, then a Point-to-Point microwave link or millimeter wave link can be like within less than a day. And if you have an experienced and very trained engineers that can do the installation, you can even put several cell sites within a day. So, comparing to digging fibers, it can take like a month or two weeks or I don’t know. It really depends on the terrain and everything.

But the main thing about wireless, is the flexibility. So first of all, you can just connect this area as soon as you can, give these people the connectivity, while when the fiber will be there, you can just uninstall your wireless equipment and then move it to the next place.

So operator has the flexibility, even to start with wireless and then take it, shift it to another place and another and another one. But in this time, they are getting time of market.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:06:28) – Great. I appreciate that. Our audience is very much wireless focused. They understand RF and spectrum and frequencies. What frequencies and protocols are you running on your backhaul wireless that you’re using?

Erez Aviv (00:06:41) – I would say that up until a few years back, I would say maybe up until ten years back, all the industry was speaking about the traditional microwave, which is in between 6GHz to 42GHz. This is the licensed band.

And in the past three years, in the past few years, we saw the rise of the millimeter wave, the rise of the E-band and putting the V-band in the unlicensed side. We’re talking about the double-digit E-band growth over the years and the millimeter wave in between 71GHz to 86GHz.

This is a key growth engine for the wireless market. So, if I accumulate everything, it’s in between 6GHz up to 86GHz. This is with the E-band. And Dani mentioned that we are doing our chip in-house. So, everything that we are doing right now, we are looking ahead like within 2 or 3, four years ahead. And we are also working about the W and D-band, which is up to the 170GHz spectrum. For this boat we already have in place, like the demo platform. So

W-band will come in the coming two years and right afterwards the D-band, which allow us to reach to 100Gbps over the air. This is our target.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:07:59) – So Ceragon is involved in the transport network, what kind of steps do you need to take to make sure that’s as efficient as possible?

Dani Kiryati (00:08:03) – You know, Erez mentioned several challenges that service providers are facing when laying out their transports, specifically wireless transport and really the key to build and operate a highly efficient transport network relies in what we call open transport concept, which brings together two domains, the wireless transport on one hand, and the IP transport on the other hand.

It really gives the answer to network densification and the fact that you need to install a lot more cell sites, and a lot more transport links to support them with ultra-high-capacity links. And it brings it into a unified solution to this exact massive growth challenge.

So, on one hand you’re looking at what we call the fastest way to get ultra-high capacity. Those are the enhanced E-band, the millimeter wave connectivity that Erez mentioned, along with traditional wideband microwave. And sometimes we mix them together in multiband solutions.

And on the other hand, you have the routing part, the IP part. uh, That’s where we came up with this disaggregated open routing and this is really about, you know, disaggregation, you know, by definition is about separation into components.

So, in recent years, there’s a move towards disaggregation of routers. And it means that that customers get the freedom to choose different solutions from different vendors depending on their particular requirements and mix and match them together. So that gives them, again, a lot of flexibility.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:09:47) – You use the term disaggregated router. For anyone who’s not up to speed on what is a disaggregated router, I mean, you mentioned it’s just you can put stuff in. Does this mean we’re using white box routers?

Erez Aviv (00:10:00) – Generally when you are talking about disaggregation is like the idea of how you are separating all the solution into components and you are separating the networking hardware. And there is one part of the networking hardware and there’s another component of the networking software. And maybe there is another part which is actually gluing everything together with the wireless.

So what we did, us as Ceragon, we took all of our experience and expertise in the wireless transport space and we applied it into the routing space. And by this we in the past 20 years, we’re listening to most of our customers complaints and their challenges. And we came into an approach that the disaggregation, disaggregated routing solution will be the easiest and the most efficient to our customers.

So what does it mean? Yes, you spoke about white boxes. Yes, we can implement our solution with white boxes, but we also have our own in-house hardware as our box that our operator can use. We have an open software. This is another separated component. So, it’s free to choose for the operators.

Do you want to choose your hardware? No problem. We can bring our software and we can do the integration altogether. Do you want to use our in-house hardware with our in-house software? It can be done as well. By the way, do you have wireless in your network, and you want that the router will be connected to the radios? We have the glue; we have the radio open networking.

And this is a third component that we can combine all together. So, in the end, it’s like Lego, and we are bringing back power to the operators to choose. To choose which hardware you want, which software you want. Are you using it all as a standalone router? Are you connected to wireless? We can do all together.

So, this is more or less the idea.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:12:06) – What’s the benefit of having your software glue compared to just using someone else’s router that they’ve already been using for a long time?

Erez Aviv (00:12:13) – When you’re connecting a wireless radio towards a router, not always the router knows exactly what’s going on within the radio.

So, if there is a degradation and the capacity that the radio can carry because of a lot of weather problems or any kind of interference, the router will not know about it. So assuming that you have a radio that can transfer one 1Gbps and now it has a degradation to 500Mbps, the router will still continue to send 1Gbps towards the radio and 500Mbps will drop immediately only on the entrance of the radio.

But if you will have a glue that, or something, a kind of a magic that will tell the router, listen, it’s not 1Gbps anymore, it’s 500Mbps, so the router knows how to act. He will send only 500Mbps or we will do a reroute towards the alternate path to transfer the 1Gbps.

And this is the idea. The idea is to take all our expertise and experience from the radio, all our knowledge from the radio and share it and actually expose it to the router. So we will do the actual and the appropriate actions which benefit to the entire network. And we are talking here about network efficiency. In the end, you want that you will be using the network as much as possible and you want that the end-customer will have a, what we are calling quality of experience within this network. So we don’t want to see kind of disruption with everything that is doing.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:13:48) – So your glue is radio aware, it knows what’s there.

Erez Aviv (00:13:52) – Yeah.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:13:53) – And so your software layer of that routing can be applied either on your own hardware, white boxes or anyone else’s hardware as well.

Erez Aviv (00:14:00) – Yeah, it’s a great one because this is something that pops up over, for most of our customers. So we are not going to change the world, and going to the operator and saying, look, all the routers, the routers that you have right now, just remove them and put ours. No, we are saying we are going to leverage your existing install base. If you have currently a router and you are using the microwaves, we can be just the glue, the glue in between. If you want a full turnkey solution, we can do it. We can give you the hardware, the software and the glue. But the radio aware is a docker that can be implemented in each and every router. And by this you are giving the

existing router all the capabilities and all the knowledge that it needs to know what’s going on within the radios.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:14:53) – Is that based on the max capacity or current capacity or some combination? I mean, when you’re configuring that little glue that to make it radio aware, you’re setting the max first of what that the radio link can do? And then how does it know that, I guess that’s your secret sauce. How does it know what the current status of that radio is?

Erez Aviv (00:15:15) – Well, we know how to know like every second what’s the actual capacity and what’s the max capacity that the radio can carry. So we can really transfer it and to bring like a bandwidth notification towards the routers, and by this it’s, it will be solved. But it’s not just about what’s the capacity about the radio. One router can carry many wireless radios, and each radio set of radio needs to have an external IP address.

The idea of this radio aware is also to eliminate the need for a lot of external IP address. So it also a single point to all the radios connected. So it’s a single IP address. It gives you the actual throughput that the radio can carry and it manages all the radios in one place. So you have a component that really controls the radios connected with the routers, and it’s like a virtual indoor unit for those who know what it split mount. It’s like a virtual indoor unit for all the radios connected to the routers.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:16:27) – It’s aggregating radios together and routing them.

Erez Aviv (00:16:31) – Aggregating the radios together from the essence of managing them. Yeah, it can manage all of them together from a single point. It can control them having a single IP external IP, and then all the radios that connected are the IP are internals and are not exposed to the network and it tells to the router what exactly the bandwidth that each of the radio can carry. Right.

Dani Kiryati (00:16:57) – Can you give us a real-world example? What’s a scenario that someone might have implemented this process and how did it work out for them?

Erez Aviv (00:17:05) – So there are several use cases that I can think of. Maybe the first one related to the last question that you asked. We have a Tier 1 operator in Europe that really has already installed the, its own white box and now he’s in touch with us and we are working on integrator, integrating our radio well within these boxes. So I can give you this is the first one. They were really impressed about the way, that how the network, their network become much more efficient when you while you are installing the radio aware. Well and maybe we have another really nice use case that I can think of where we were asked to build the next generation 5G network.

And the idea was that we will do all the transport, we will have the DCSG, the Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway, but also the aggregated routers and all of this, what we suggested is our solution. We have our own routers set, but also for the aggregation router we used the open box and then we put our software on top of it. And this network was built in a way that it was a very challenging place in Bermuda with a lot of interference.

And still we were using wireless because this was the only way to implement it. And this radius was very connected to our routers on the edge side with the DCSGs and on the aggregation point with the bigger routers, but also these big routers and were implemented Radio Aware and our own network operation system.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:19:00) – You mentioned something earlier which I liked that you might put in a radio solution temporarily until the fiber gets pulled. We all love fiber, then copper, then radios like third choice. But sometimes it’s the choice you have. If you put in your disaggregated routers with your radio aware glue and they replace that link with the fiber, is there’s still a benefit there.

Erez Aviv (00:19:24) – In the end, you will not use the wireless radio. Still, you have a state of the radio router and this router, I don’t know if we mentioned, what we are, what Ceragon is doing is we are cooperating with IP Infusion and IP Infusion is the best network operation, Layer three network operation system in the market. And by having this it means that we have the full set of the layer 3 capabilities within our own radio. It means that we know how to implement any feature needed and mainly specifically for the 5G. When you’re talking about 5G and we talked about the challenges, there are a lot of services that needs to be deployed and you need to have much more capacity. You need to reduce the latency and there will be much more cell sites, and in the end you have your own physical network, but you need to slice it logically into different slices to support different services. For example,

you need a lot of bandwidth, for example, the eMBB, so you don’t care about whether the latency will be a big or low.

You don’t care about the latency. But if you’re talking, for example, on a V2X vehicle to any, IOTs or drones or this kind of services, then the latency is very critical, it’s very critical. And therefore you need to slice the physical network into logical slices. The way to do it is with segment routing. And segment routing is a very powerful feature within the layer three and using the segment routing is giving you two things. One, it simplifies the layer three network because you don’t need several protocols, such as the LPP or RSVP to carry the labeling of the MPLS. But the second thing is that segment routing gives you the option to do the network slicing, and this is something that we implemented within our own routers. So you have a very cost effective routing box that can be used for the wireless radios, but it can also be a standalone router to any kind of any choice. So if the fibers will be there, they will be connected to the routers without the need for the wireless.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:21:52) – Well, good. You’d mentioned disaggregated routers. I’d heard that this is a TIP standard. Yeah.

Erez Aviv (00:21:58) – A few years back there was a community called Telecom Infra Project, also known as TIP, and we are members of the Telecom Infra Project, the TIP, and we are contributing there. We are the first ones to add the radio aware, you can find a lot of information about what we are doing with the radio aware as well. And our own router was designed and built according to the specification of the TIP. And we are the only vendor that got recognition from the TIP for our radios, for our networking software and for our networking hardware. So when you are looking at all the three components that we discussed about the disaggregation, we got the recognitions from Telecom Infra Project and we are contributing there and we are very pleased with all the work that we are doing with them.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:22:52) – Well, Dani, can you fill us in a little bit, how would customers get information about this desegregated router and where do you see the market for that entire thing going?

Dani Kiryati (00:23:07) – So, you know, the research from research companies show that disaggregated routers, DCSGs, they already accounted for around 10% of cell site gateways already back in 2021 and the projection, and it’s moving forward, so the projection is by 2024, which is next year, you

know, almost 25% of cell site routers are going to be disaggregated. So in other words, disaggregated routers are here to stay. They’re getting traction.

Now, we also wanted to hear it firsthand from our customers and potential customers. So we recently conducted a survey among hundreds of service providers. And all those people were either CTOs or network engineering or operations people. And we asked them about disaggregated routing and what we found out, the results were that 70% of them were familiar with disaggregated routers, and out of those, 60% were already evaluating or actively deploying disaggregated routers in part of their network. Now, we also asked them about the top motivations for doing that, and we found out that flexibility, and we talked about flexibility, was the number one reason. Uh, because, you know, they get the freedom to choose different solutions from different vendors, uh, depending on their particular requirements and they can mix and match them together. The number two reason that they noted was, you know, reduction in, in cost, especially reduction in capital expenses, which really resonates with, you know, with the special kind of DOR, that we talked about, the radio aware DOR, which is kind of like a 2 in 1 solution, a cell site router and an indoor unit for the radios.

And then the number three reason was, was the ability to launch new services and increase revenue. And this relates to the fact that with open routers they have more leverage when they want these vendors to build a solution that addresses their specific needs.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:25:14) – Thanks for your explanation. Great. Well, thanks for sharing this information about not only disaggregated routers, but how you’re putting the whole thing that’s radio aware together. If someone wanted to follow up with you, Dani or Erez, where would they track you down?

Dani Kiryati (00:25:30) – First of all, you can find us on Ceragon.com and over there we have a blog, very active one, where we post on a weekly basis new stuff. You can find Erez and myself on LinkedIn and approach us directly over there. And you know, there are some several white papers that you can check out on our website on DCSG and the disaggregated routing, E- band and so on.

Host | Keith Parsons (00:25:59) – Well, thank you. We’ll definitely put in the show notes links to both your LinkedIn as well as your white papers. I read a bunch of those great information there to learn how it’s working.

Well, thanks for your time today. You can find this in many more fine free technical podcasts along with the community blog at Pocket Pushers Net. You can follow us at Twitter at of Pushers. Find us on LinkedIn and hear us on Spotify and make sure to rate us on Apple Podcasts. Again, this has been heavy wireless and look forward to seeing you in the next episode.


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