Cambridge Broadband Networks Ltd (CBNL) chief executive Lionel Chmilewsky discusses the latest mobile backhaul trends

Eurocomms.com: What key trends are impacting the business case of modern backhaul networks?

Lionel Chmilewsky: There are two: increase in demand and raised consumer expectations.

We have recently seen a rapid and heavy surge in demand for connectivity. If you add all of the new methods of communication to a whole host of machine to machine communications, you end up with a situation where the capacity of networks have to scale greatly to meet this new demand.

The perfect example of this is that in an average house previously you would have had one internet connected device - a PC - now you have a smartphone for every person, a family tablet, a connected TV and a computer all demanding high speeds and high-quality content. Increasingly people have the same expectation of connectivity outside the home.

The reason all the content must be of a high quality reinforces the second trend we are seeing – an increase in customer expectations. Gone are the days when a customer would be happy waiting 30 seconds for an image to load, they have been sold the image of “superfast internet” and the ability to get what they want when they want it by operators.

Therefore, operators now have to scale infrastructure to meet the promise that they have made, whilst keeping costs at a manageable level. 

How should operators adjust their backhaul strategies to ensure they deliver this?

The need for increased global capacity and connectivity will necessitate a change in operator strategy. This demand has caused the adoption of new technologies such as network specialised small cells to ensure that consumer expectations are met.

The cost of mobile backhaul is a paramount factor in running and launching services and there is a need from operators to run this at a much lower cost, achieving a higher ROI – especially at a time where revenues are under threat. There is no point in providing the best service in the country if the operating costs drive your business into the ground.

The three things that an operator requires are a high quality of service, quick time to market and a low Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Luckily as the needs increase so does the technology that can address these needs. Point-to-Multipoint (PMP) technology, for example, can drive costs down and offer 50 per cent TCO savings over other forms of backhaul.

If things stay static, operators will lag behind their competitors. There needs to be an opportunity to upgrade the technology and continue to innovate, with cost savings obtained by increased efficiency and utilisation of resources rather than sacrificing performance or features.

You mentioned PMP; why should operators being looking at this technology rather than Point-to-Point (PTP) microwave systems?

Many companies already use and trust PTP systems, and, as with anything convincing people to embrace the next step in the evolution takes a bit of time and research.

PMP is easier to deploy as it requires less transmitters and instead concentrates traffic in a central hub which reduces initial outlay. Similarly, the evolution of PMP technology has reduced the skills and time needed for deployment, enabling operators to reduce costs and get their services to market quickly. Sector coverage provides the flexibility to backhaul new sites quickly by a single installation team, without a visit to the access point or the need for additional spectrum.

PMP can also reduce exorbitant spectrum rental expenditure by a reduction in the overall spectrum needed to deliver equivalent services to its old-style PTP counterpart. It can optimise spectral efficiency by 40 per cent over PTP, which leaves more capacity open for growth and can alleviate congestion in addition to the cost reduction.

This will only become more important as bandwidth and spectrum space becomes more and more precious to mobile operators trying to handle the heavy demands being placed upon them. It will also become more crowded and more expensive as more connected systems come online. Therefore over other forms of backhaul, PMP will enable operators to reduce churn by providing a consistent service as technology changes, maintain revenues and market strength and ultimately increase profitability.

What does the future hold?

The future will see a closing of the digital divide. There is a great demand for increased connectivity in the developing world and as we see this demand addressed the nature of the global telecoms market will change. Cisco recently predicted that by 2017 global mobile data traffic will reach 11.2 Exabytes per month, up from 885 Petabytes per month in 2012. Once these people have achieved that level of technological interaction, they will never want to go back, so the trend can only increase from there. 

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