Backhaul and bandwidth-on-demand are discussed with Rob Casey, Director of Product Management at CENX. How would you assess the overall mobile backhaul situation in Europe currently?

Rob Casey: European backhaul is in a transformational stage. Ethernet backhaul (EBH) is being more widely deployed with the number of connected cell sites growing rapidly. The European market stands to benefit from systems that can accelerate the transition from Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) to Ethernet and reduce cost through automation.

What is bandwidth-on-demand and why are we starting to hear about it?

Bandwidth-on-demand, or “Just-in-time bandwidth management”, is the most efficient approach to effectively manage bandwidth, proactively identify capacity exhaust points, and align the capacity investment timeline to access vendors’ (AVs) order lead times. It allows service providers (SPs) to:

  • Only provision the amount of bandwidth they really need when they need it, which reduces OPEX and defers CAPEX investment.
  • More effectively manage network assets, which ensures customer dissatisfaction due to congestion is avoided.
  • Reduce the risk of running out of capacity before an inter-carrier ordering process is complete.

We’re hearing more about bandwidth-on-demand because SPs are starting to see bandwidth utilisation increasing almost exponentially, thus, increasing their leased line costs.

When SPs transitioned their networks from TDM to Ethernet, they had little experience and historical data with respect to bandwidth utilisation across their backhaul circuits. When they built out their EBH circuits they over-provisioned their capacity to ensure they had sufficient bandwidth to handle the forecasted traffic for the next two to three years. Without the automated tools to upgrade the circuits and monitor the bandwidth, SPs continue to do blanket upgrades every two to three years.  

For example, assuming bandwidth utilisation is increasing by 50 percent every year and SPs are upgrading their circuits every three years, then a 50MB circuit would have to be upgraded to approximately 170MB to ensure it has sufficient bandwidth to handle the traffic in year three. In year one, when you only needed 75MB of bandwidth the SP would be paying for 95MB of extra bandwidth per circuit.

In year two, they would be paying for approximately 60MB of extra bandwidth per circuit, which equates to hundreds of millions of dollors of extra AV leasing costs every year.  
Which type of operators should be looking at bandwidth-on-demand as an option?

Any SP that is leasing AV circuits would be a prime candidate. Leased lines create a high opex because of the manual processes (or no process) to manage their capacity.
What are the main challenges operators will need to look out for when selecting a vendor for bandwidth-on-demand?

First, operators should look to see whether vendors have experience in the Ethernet and Service Orchestration domain.

Second, they should look for a solution that can effectively integrate capacity utilisation, analyse historical data and integrate that with data about access vendor lead times (ie. how much time do they need to update/activate a service).

That will allow them to generate a forecast or “Time to Saturation” report. Essentially, the vendor solution needs to integrate all the inputs and factors to determine if and when network circuits need to be upgraded.

Finally, operators should look for a solution that automates the provisioning of the network and automates service turn-up.

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