By Bernard Breton, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, InfoVista
Small cells have been embraced as an effective method of expanding network capacity in order to handle ever-increasing data traffic volumes. How cost-effective they prove to be, however, is largely dependent on the solutions mobile operators use to properly plan their small cell deployments and strategies, since backhauling and the actual small cell installation represent the highest CAPEX investments.
This is the central topic I and several industry colleagues explored as part of the recent Flexible Backhaul for a New Generation of Public Access Small Cells panel. The panel was part of Light Reading's eighth annual Backhaul Strategies for Mobile Operators conference, which took place on June 25, in New York City.
I was joined on the panel by Jeffrey Valley, senior director in the IP Division Competency Center at Alcatel Lucent, Udy Kashkash, VP of business development for Ceragon, Jay Clark from Cox and Eric Vallone, director of product management at Cisco. The discussion was moderated by Patrick Donegan, a senior analyst with Heavy Reading.
One of the core issues we discussed was that, while most mobile operators see the use of small cells as inevitable and once they begin to roll them out “en masse,” they will spread very quickly, and there will still be a lot of details to iron out. Ultimately, mobile operators need to see deployment costs in line with their business models before they fully embrace small cell technologies. That's why network planning and optimization solutions that minimize CAPEX investments while maximizing ROI are so critical for successful small cell deployments of any scale. The issue is not if small cells will be used by mobile operators, but at what pace they will be rolled out. Failure to properly plan out their deployment may render small cells less cost-efficient than macro cells.
Other key takeaways from this event included the following:
- The backhaul transition from Ethernet is far from over. Roughly 60 percent of the backhaul is still legacy TDM, particularly in developing nations
- Layer 3 of the backhaul is seeing very strong growth
- 25 percent of cell sites are currently being “service assured,” which bodes well for potential market growth worldwide
- Microwave is and will continue to be the predominant physical layer for the backhaul, although in many cases, links will need to be upgraded to support LTE data rates
- With backhaul wholesaling, which is particularly popular in the United States, there is an increased need for service assurance.
To learn more about small cell technologies, network performance and optimization solutions, and the roles they will play in the future of the telecom industry, I invite you to contact me here.