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August 2011

Invaders of the last mile

Invaders of the last mile

Following on from our article on small cells in the last issue of infocast, these critters have certainly been invading the media in a big way and there’s no surprise that backhaul is high on
the agenda.  

It’s been obvious for a long time that the data wave will crucify those operators that aren’t prepared and yes, many are addressing it with LTE. Yet it’s clear that additional ‘densification’ of the radio access network is also needed, something we’ve been saying for the past three years - small cells are the latest solution and one that looks very attractive.

Small cell strategies might incorporate a range of options including outdoor picocells, metrocells and carrier-grade enterprise femtocells but the challenge for operators is that this fundamental change in network architecture requires a fundamentally different backhaul solution; a solution that can support the number of deployments and a variety of different small cell technologies. 

Existing technologies may play some role in small cell backhaul but there are some glaring obvious problems for widespread adoption. Wi-Fi might work for low-value data traffic but as more operators look to monetise their high-value data traffic in an attempt to increase ARPU, they need transport networks where they control the quality of service.

If operators want to take full advantage of LTE, using the additional speed and capacity to satisfy mobile user demand and even ‘stealing’ business from fixed line providers, they need a technically and economically viable backhaul solution. Multipoint microwave is clearly the obvious solution and it’s for that reason that we are seeing tier 1 operator’s trialling the technology in Europe. Whichever technology is adopted, it’s important that we remember that mobile services are now considered as important as power, gas and water for many and any backhaul technology needs, like VectaStar, to be trialled, tested and proven comprehensively
in the field.

Hiley out and about – The Femto World Summit

Lance Hiley speaks at the Femto World Summit

InfoCast catches up with VP of Marketing, Lance Hiley, as he returns from The Femtocells World Summit 2011.

“At last month’s Femtocells World Summit in London I witnessed operators professing the benefits of small cells and how they would deliver higher capacity, increased coverage and greater customer satisfaction. With data revenues on the verge of surpassing voice revenues on many networks, for an increasing number of mobile operators, it is the packet data business that they are in now – not mobile phones! As a result the industry focus on small cells continues to gather momentum.

“Innovative solutions were in abundance at the event. Dr Alan Law of Vodafone Group discussed the ‘Metrozone’ concept, which provides extra network capacity for data offload in dense urban areas and consists of metrocells being deployed on street furniture and buildings.

“Colt Telecoms’ Peter Agnew, who discussed Femto-as-a-service (FaaS) and self-organising networks, proposed that in working with a fixed line operator, mobile operators will have an ally in femtocell deployment, aiding connectivity, quality of service and increasing access to enterprises.

“Contending with rumbling stomachs, Cisco’s Mark Grayson took the pre-lunch slot to discuss dealing with bursty data traffic peaks and suggested using converged Wi-Fi/femto architectures for macro offload
of indoor traffic.

“The innovative solutions on show in London may well provide an answer to overcrowded networks, however they have one thing in common if they are to be successful - they need to be connected back to the mobile network. The challenge for operators will be to do that quickly, cost effectively and without compromising the shape of the traffic from customer devices.

“Recent research from Dr John Naylon, Head of Research and Development at CBNL, demonstrated data changes dramatically depending on the number of devices in the cell and what they are doing. Cells containing fewer devices have a higher peak-to-mean ratio of their aggregated traffic because there is less ‘averaging out’ of the individual users’ data demands.

“This is very similar to what operators will experience when they densify their networks by adding small cells. Their networks will see a widening of the peak-to-mean ratio due to fewer devices contending
for the resources.

“This change in shape of traffic poses a challenge to operators – how to backhaul provision to the small cells. Make it too low and the traffic will be truncated according to the performance of the backhaul. The net result? Capacity and coverage improvements but not a step-change in performance.

“Enter multipoint wireless backhaul. Here at CBNL we’ve been saying for a while that mobile broadband networks need more cells to deliver a better quality of experience to mobile subscribers. Given the challenge to roll-out hundreds of outdoor small cells quickly, operators should be considering point-to-multipoint wireless backhaul as a fast and cost effective way to provision backhaul to those sites.

You can hear more about this at our webinar ‘Backhaul overhaul for the age of mobile data’.

Internet ready? How Africa is getting online

For the Western World, the internet is an everyday utility that we use almost without thinking. In fact internet companies have even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary. And with smartphones and connected devices, we’re never more than a few feet away from internet access.

Yet for the majority of the world’s population, internet access is somewhat a luxury. This is no truer than in the African nations where a lack of fixed line infrastructure means access is both limited and expensive to use. 

However, that is all set to change with the introduction of 3G, as Graham Peel, CEO of Cambridge Broadband Networks explained in May’s edition of Communications Africa.

For Africa’s 1 billion residents, 10.9% access the internet, of which half access it via a mobile phone. Due to the expense and lack of fixed line infrastructure, for many African’s mobile devices offer the most affordable way to access the internet, quite often for the very first time. However, with African’s having far less access to mobile broadband networks when compared to Europe for example, the march towards having ubiquitous internet access in African’s urban areas still has far to go.

This is leading many operators in the region to migrate to 3G-evolved technologies such as HSPA and LTE in order to extend their coverage and increase capacity, offering faster internet access to mobile users in urban areas. To do this, in addition to upgrading the radio access network, operators must assess their backhaul networks for 3G and LTE. The data transmission requirements are significant and legacy technologies aren’t equipped to cope. So what are the most viable options?

Graham’s article (page 47) explains further.

CBNL celebrate as market leaders

CBNL in Africa conference

CBNL celebrated being the world’s point-to-multipoint (PMP) microwave market leader as teams from across the globe descended on Cambridge, UK for the annual mid-year
staff conference.

Teams spanning Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East joined staff from CBNL Head Office in Cambridge to look back on a successful first half of 2011, which has seen VectaStar deployed as the ideal microwave backhaul solution by network providers across
international markets.

The conference on 13 July provided the perfect stage for CBNL to continue building a successful and focused organisation where teams were unified in their ambition to meet the needs of mobile operators around the world.

As the world’s fastest growing microwave company and the PMP market leader, CBNL is in the ideal position and ready to take on this challenge in the second half of 2011.

Events diary


12-14 September 2011

Future Com

CBNL is a sponsor at this year’s FutureCom, the largest and most qualified event of the Communications Sector in Latin America. Come along and hear CBNL’s Dr John Naylon talk about ‘Next generation thinking for the age of mobile data’. CBNL have an exhibition stand: C135. Why not come along and meet the team or email us to book an appointment:


9-10 November 2011

Africa Com

CBNL will have an exhibition stand at this year’s Africa Com, joining 5,000 of Africa’s leading telcos in Cape Town. The conference agenda has doubled and over 250 international solutions providers will be showcasing their latest products. Pop by our stand – P64 – to see us and our working technology demo where you can chat to the team about the latest solutions to backhaul the networks of the future. Email us at

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