UK service provider UK Broadband, which has been using Siklu 70-80GHz E-band millimeter wave equipment in its customers’ wireless solutions, is now putting those same systems to work in backhauling small cell traffic for its central London 4G network.
UK Broadband, the nation's largest commercial holder of radio spectrum suitable for 4G mobile services and fixed wireless solutions, has built a 4G network across central London.
That network uses a combination of macro and small cells, with fibre as the primary backhaul medium and microwave backhaul to connect the macro cell sites and the fibre drop points. Typically, UK Broadband uses a combination of 42GHz and 28GHz broadband, where the company owns spectrum.
The UK Broadband 4G network also incorporates small cells installed on street lighting columns, similar to lightposts, but thicker and with less sway. What UK Broadband needed was a cost-effective backhaul solution to be mounted on those columns that would take up very little space.
After ruling out standard microwave links because of their bulky dish size and weight, UK Broadband looked at the EtherHaul-1200 system from Siklu, an equipment provider in the E-band millimeter wave market. UK Broadband was familiar with EtherHaul's compact size, low cost, and low power requirements, and recognized its potential in small cell backhaul.
With space at a premium on the street lighting columns, the backhaul antennas must be as compact as possible. As Steve Hobbs, CTO of UK Broadband, pointed out: “Siklu’s dish is small and unobtrusive, and that was an important consideration.”
The EtherHaul system also features low power requirements, which can be delivered via Power over Ethernet (PoE) or direct 48-volt power from the small cell. Those power features keep operating costs low even as EtherHaul delivers the capacity necessary for the backhaul traffic.
“The cost of Siklu compared to standard microwave is very competitive," Hobbs added. "The equipment itself is lower cost, and installing it can be done simply and inexpensively as well. All you need is line of sight to your cell site."
In testing EtherHaul as a small cell backhaul solution, the equipment performed as expected, providing very stable throughput. UK Broadband is using both the TDD and FDD versions of EtherHaul, taking advantage of the strengths of each in different backhaul scenarios.
As the company continues to expand the 4G network, UK Broadband intends to use EtherHaul across all of their street light column sites where there is line of sight and a transmission distance less than one kilometre.
"This is one more application where EtherHaul is the ideal solution," said Andrew Westerman, Siklu's sales director for Western Europe. "We have been at the forefront of millimetre wave backhaul design for a number of years, and we continue to innovate to enable operators to deploy mobile backhaul solutions and keep their total cost of ownership low."