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Backhaul – The Backbone of Small Cell Technology
The mobile operators are considering the small cell technology to efficiently manage the Long Term Evolution (LTE) spectrum and offload 3G data. The operators are focusing on monetization of data traffic and densification of mobile network to deliver enriched user experience and reduce customer churn. With carriers moving to 4G/LTE networks and introducing Heterogeneous Networks (HetNet), the adoption of small cells is expected to proliferate. Backhaul redefines spectrum efficiency complementing the small cell deployments to address the increase in demand for mobile broadband services. The purview of the small cell backhaul solutions is not only limited to supporting bandwidth needs but also encompasses delivery of robust traffic transmission, improved spectrum utilization, network optimization, and support for various radio access technologies.
Upgrading the network by only deploying small cells does not suffice the operators’ need to expand network for capacity requirements; there arises the need for reliable, efficient transportation of traffic. For this, backhauling is the solution. Small cell backhaul refers to the link providing connectivity between the small cells and the core/centralized network node (mobile telephone switching office or internet service provider). Deployment of well-suited small cells with appropriate backhauling provision has become a priority of operators to mitigate traffic load accommodating high voice and data usage. Different technology alternatives are available for small cell backhaul making the complex backhauling associated with small cells affordable and flexible, tailored to address the needs of small cell deployment scenario.
Traditionally to connect cell towers and other long range high power nodes, wired technology was used. But, the capital expenditure required for wired transmission medium is higher compared to the wireless. Hence, where a fiber-network already exists or is easier and cost-effective to build, operators are leveraging the wired technology or are opting for the wireless backhaul solutions to reinforce their strained networks. Considering the heterogeneous networks, operators use a mix of wired and wireless technology for backhauling depending upon the existing macro network spread, small cell location, and capacity and coverage requirements.
Along with backhauling equipments, services play a vital role in the small cell backhaul market as they create the foundation for planning, designing, deployment, and optimization of the backhaul solutions. These services help operators to efficiently upgrade their existing networks by designing solutions to suit their requirements, plan, and streamline the deployment cost-effectively. In the vibrant small cell backhaul ecosystem, the market players are investing in acquisitions and new technologies to offer innovative value additions to their existing services portfolio.
Though the adoption of these solutions is gradual, due to concerns about total cost of ownership, small cell deployment location, trained labor, and spectrum availability, these solutions are destined to witness wide acceptance across the globe. The convenience of small form factor, street level coverage, and increased capacity provisioning that the small cell technology solutions provide is expected to bring more demand for these solutions. The small cell backhaul solution providers are leveraging on their partner channels such as system integrators, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and network infrastructure providers to enrich their product portfolio to deliver greater value to the customers.
Operators are building cost-efficient and flexible small cells network by leveraging the technological advances to employ appropriate backhaul solutions. MarketsandMarkets forecasts the small cell backhaul market to grow from $587.5 million in 2014 to $2.08 billion in 2019, at a CAGR of 28.8% during forecast period.
Small Cell Backhaul Market by Access Technology Generation (2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE), by Backhaul Technology (Copper, Fiber, Millimeter wave, Microwave, Sub-6 GHz, and Satellite) - Worldwide Market Forecasts and Analysis (2014 – 2019)
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