How to get smart about wireless backhaul

June 08, 2011 // By Shai Yaniv, Ceragon Networks
How to get smart about wireless backhaul
Prior to the iPhone launch in mid 2007, AT&T hurried to rollout a major upgrade of its 3G mobile data service, in anticipation of a tenfold increase in network traffic. Appetite for mobile data and the number of smartphones and data-centric devices has only increased since then. In fact, data traffic over cellular networks is expected to grow almost 40-fold till 2015, and UK firm Coda Research anticipates that in the US, mobile video will account for over 60 percent of all mobile data usage. But can backhaul networks support such staggering capacities?

Network operators, utility companies, public safety organizations and enterprises are all struggling to meet the immense demands for data that are required by today’s applications. At the same time, they must plan and prepare for the continued growth.

Fiber where you can – microwave everywhere else

When examining the wireless versus wireline alternatives, fiber’s nearly unlimited capacity immediately stands out. However, the fiber option is not always practical. Whether due to deployment restrictions (rough geographical terrain) or regulatory restrictions (dense metropolitan areas) laying out fiber infrastructure may be too costly and time consuming. In such cases, wireless, or more accurately — wireless backhaul based on point-to-point microwave, emerges as the best solution.

Microwave backhaul solutions are capable of delivering high bandwidth, carrier-grade Ethernet and TDM services. Microwave is suitable for all capacities up to several Gbps over a single link — and may be scaled up to multiple Gbps using aggregated links techniques. Unlike fiber, wireless solutions can be set up quickly and are much more cost efficient on a per-bit basis from day one.

The end of the fat pipe era

Today microwave backhaul offers much more than fat pipes connecting two endpoints. Microwave has evolved over the years and has accumulated advanced service features such as service and network topology awareness — features that until recently were only available using expensive external boxes for switching and routing traffic.
As networks become more complex, and user experience and quality of service become major differentiators between operators, the role of microwave systems within those networks is changing. Microwave backhaul should be much more than a “dumb pipe.” It must be smart.

The capacity characteristic of today’s traffic requires different attributes from the legacy install based backhaul. One example could be the peak-to-average ratio. A 4:1 peak-to-average traffic ratio is not uncommon in backhaul networks. The microwave solution must be traffic aware in order to manage multiple applications with differentiated quality

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