As mobile operators look to offer faster mobile data speeds and better quality of experience to subscribers, carriers could see a significant rise in the costs of running their backhaul network, according to Cambridge Broadband Networks.
The Cambridge, UK-based manufacturer, which provides multipoint microwave access and backhaul solutions, believes this is down to the introduction of outdoor small cell networks that will require many new backhaul connections potentially exposing them to higher transport costs for mobile broadband traffic.
Small cells increase the number of base stations available to each subscriber, bringing the mobile broadband capacity closer to the customer, which in turn means a better quality data connection per mobile device. Small cells will typically be deployed in close proximity across a given area, providing better reception at street level. This is opposed to larger areas covered by today’s macro-cellular networks, which may have hundreds, even thousands of subscribers scrambling for the available data capacity.
For operators ,however, the number of small cells required to offer true 4G speeds and sustain those speeds across a large area, could see annual costs rise considerably. Necessity dictates that a significant investment is needed and certain aspects of the networks are beyond the control of the operators, such as equipment, installation, spectrum licensing and rental costs for the radio access network (RAN).
Building a small cell RAN is also only half the challenge. Backhauling each of these small cells back to the ‘Point-of-Presence’ (PoP) and to the core network will offer operators one of the biggest challenges, yet the greatest opportunity to reduce and manage costs.
‘Backhaul still remains one of the most important elements of any mobile network, particularly when you’re increasing the number of cell sites in the RAN,’ commented Lance Hiley, VP marketing at Cambridge Broadband Networks. ‘Which backhaul solution an operator chooses can have a significant impact on the total cost of running their small cell network.’
Hiley said there are three fundamental requirements for small cell backhaul operators should take on board:
• Coverage - the backhaul must be able to reach the small cells in difficult locations.
• Capacity - backhauling ten small cells requires a system with significantly greater capacity than each small cell.
• Cost - small cell backhaul needs to have many more connections than a macrocell network.
‘The cost per connection needs to be lower,’ said Hiley. ‘The obvious selections may not yield the best return on investment and the cost to carry a Mbps of traffic is a crucial parameter if small cell networks are to quickly become profitable.’
Hiley also warned operators that it’s not just ‘which technology to choose’ that operators need to take into consideration. As outlined in Cambridge Broadband Networks’ Easy Small Cell Backhaul whitepaper, implementation aspects such as form factor, quality of service and time to deployment are equally as important in the decision process. The whitepaper, Easy Small Cell Backhaul, is available to download for free.