More on E-band Backhaul: a Tale of Two Operators

Tight city spaces will need small E-band radios for microcell backhaul. Photo credit: La Citta Vita / Foter / CC BY-SA

Tight city spaces will need small E-band radios for microcell backhaul. Photo credit: La Citta Vita / Foter / CC BY-SA

The last time we were together, we discussed the prospects for urban backhaul in 2014. True, it will be a very exciting time in the 70 GHz and 80 GHz E-band frequencies. The promise of small cells is finally coming to fruition after the hype cycle had all but chewed and spit them out. Remember when you first heard of DSL and cable modem? By the time you could get one, the media had stopped talking about them for at least two years. But we’re digressing.

The point is that with cellular network subscribers actually able to connect to these microcell base stations, the need for a viable backhaul solution has come to a head. E-band to the rescue! And the need is not just with the established players to extend their mobile networks into the city cores backed by radio backhaul. By opening up the 70 and 80GHz frequencies to commercial backhaul applications, regulators have created an opportunity for new market entrants to move under the radar and grab share from the legacy carriers, who had previously discounted this spectrum.

With very aggressive pricing and novel tariffs that offer a bare minimum of 50 MB for data downloads and two hours of airtime for the equivalent of less than 3 dollars/month, as an example from Aviat research, a provider of mobile services such as these would need to be very creative capitalizing its backhaul requirements. As it turns out, on a per-link basis, an 80GHz nationwide backhaul license can be had for less than if the operator bought individual licenses everywhere it provides coverage—in one nation, in any event. At least, it would be true once a provider’s backhaul sites pass into four-figures territory.

Nonetheless, it’s a remarkable development made possible by the world shrinking figuratively and people living in closer quarters as never before. Brought to you by (the letter) E-band backhaul!

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Urban Backhaul with 70-80GHz E-band Radios

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Urban infrastructure for E-band radio. Photo credit: christine592 / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

For years and years, microwave and millimeterwave radio technologies have coexisted without very much overlap in either their markets or applications. Microwave radio served telephone company needs (e.g., long distance backhaul, mobile access aggregation) for the bulk of its implementations with some vertical deployments for oil and gas, public safety and utilities organizations. Typically, licensed bands in service ranged from 6GHz to 42GHz—with 11GHz and under popular for long haul; 18-38GHz trendy for short urban hops. Generally, millimeterwave radio is considered to be between the 60GHz and 80GHz bands and found its applications confined to those for intra-campus communication from building to building for universities, civic centers, other government conglomerations and large, spread-out (i.e., 1 to 5 miles) corporate facilities.

More recently, E-band has seen its profile rise, as mobile operators have had to “densify” their networks to service the more tightly packed populations moving into larger and larger cities around the world. This is due to at least two factors: the shorter distances between wireless sites in urban locations and the lack of available spectrum in the traditional microwave bands. E-band radios are now starting to be deployed to aggregate traffic from macro cell base stations in the Gotham-esque landscapes of the 21st century and the new small cell transceivers that venture where no full-size mobile base station can tread.

So into this brave new world of urban backhaul, next-wave E-band radios have been thrust. But small form-factors and spectrum availability are not going to be enough to ensure the success of this new generation of millimeterwave equipment. Additional features will be necessary. They will need capabilities such as:

  • Integrated antennas to enable quick installation, minimize visual impact on city dwellers and overall promote “community friendly” backhaul
  • Light weight for lessened load factors on light poles, street signs and other non-traditional metro wireless infrastructure
  • Wide channels up to 250MHz in size
  • Scalable capacity starting at 350 Mbps to 1 Gbps with room to grow

It is an exciting time in the E-band space in early 2014. We will share more as the year progresses. Check back regularly to stay apprised of developments.

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VPN Services for Mobile Networks and Beyond

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Photo credit: rfc1036 / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

VPNs are crucial for next-generation mobile networks as they enable 3G and 4G wireless to share a common IP infrastructure as well as support new services, according to Said Jilani, network solutions architect for Aviat Networks. And because Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can serve multiple sites, multiple applications and multiple customers simultaneously, Jilani believes that they will form the cornerstone for the great expansion of mobile services we are only now beginning to realize.

Serving as one of Aviat Networks’ resident IP experts, Jilani functions as an internal consultant for wireless network deployment and is able to leverage the experience working with different customers in different telecom verticals. And he has seen the impact that VPNs can have in all these markets—not just among mobile operators.

Multi Protocol Label Switching
The great revolution in VPN services for mobile networks is powered by Multi Protocol Label Switching, commonly referred to as MPLS, which offers mechanisms to provide scalable VPN networks, Jilani says. MPLS VPNs come in two main types: L3 and L2 “flavors,” as Jilani terms it.

L3 or IP VPNs, based on Internet Protocol, support very important functionality such as connecting customer sites by emulating a “backbone.” The service provider VPN connects sites in part by exchanging information with customer routers. Offering a robust solution, L3 VPNs easily handle traffic handoff from site to site such as is involved with LTE (Long Term Evolution).

More on L2 VPNs
In the video below, Jilani goes on to elaborate regarding L2 VPN emulation of edge routers and point-to-point Ethernet connections and how L2 and L3 VPNs can function together. Watch it for all the detailed information.