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July 2009

Cambridge Broadband Networks
picks up prestigious Business Innovation award

Global Telecoms Business Award

As you may have seen in the press, last month we received the prestigious Business Innovation award at the annual Global Telecoms Business Innovation Awards 2009 in conjunction with leading pan-African service provider, Gateway Communications.

With companies like Cable & Wireless announcing that they have identified African countries as a high growth market, it seems that our views on the region’s potential are starting to catch on. Our operations in Africa started in 2003 and we’ve been working with great companies like Gateway Communications, MTN Group, Sentech, Neotel, Wana and Vodacom ever since. Together we have collaborated to make fast and cost-efficient mobile broadband and voice services accessible all over Africa.

It’s great to be recognised as a key player in one of the world’s most dynamic regions and we look forward to playing a part in its continued growth.

As the predicted flow of investments from diverse industries starts to drive up Africa’s requirement for telecommunications, we plan to continue providing the region with mobile broadband capabilities, in some cases for the first time. Not only to support the growing needs for high-capacity broadband in business, but also to provide the people of Africa with connectivity for education, employment and new opportunities.

Collecting the award, Graham Peel, CEO commented:

“The synergy of Gateway’s innovative edge and our world-leading, scalable platform, VectaStar, has helped make fast and cost-effective wireless broadband accessible across the globe. The solutions that we are developing together are designed to not only meet the requirements of today’s world-class operators, but the next generation networks they will build in the future.”

Both awards releases are available to download:

Why mobile operators are running out of runway

Are tactical backhaul decisions giving mobile operators more time to make strategic backhaul decisions?

Aeroplane ditched on the shore having exceeded the runway

Since the last edition of Infocast, the Digital Britain report has saturated the British media. Out with file-sharing and analogue radios and in with the 50p tax on copper lines. One issue that has been the source of much discussion is how much bandwidth is actually available and how it can be distributed.

Results from the Broadband Communications Authority, Epitiro, have shown that, on average, today’s UK household has access to less than 1Mbps. As Epitiro executive Iain Wood was quoted in a recent unstrung article:

“There’s not enough bandwidth to go around.”

This is largely caused by a lack of high-bandwidth fixed infrastructure, like fibre optic cables, linking the various cities, towns and countrysides to the global internet and each other.

Mobile operators operate within this limitation and have their own backhaul bottlenecks: Limited bandwidth on their mobile networks is exacerbated by the current combination of ‘dongle-data’ and voice traffic. Recently, operators have been furiously working at ways to separate the two types of traffic, to ensure the user experience of one is not badly affected by the other.

It is believed that the growth in demand for dongle-data will affect quality of service, which will create problems for the voice market. Voice traffic is relatively easy for network operators to predict and manage, so they can engineer this part of their network to ensure there are no delays or interruptions. But mobile data is not so susceptible to temporary quality issues. So, operators are taking a series of short-term, tactical decisions to offload their packet data traffic and handle it differently to their voice traffic that is stable and easier to manage. For example, we have seen operators moving their HSDPA traffic on to locally available ADSL lines. This delays CAPEX but adds to operating expenditure which is something that most operators are trying to reduce. This behaviour is predictable because many operators do not feel that they are ready to make the jump to all-IP networks using carrier Ethernet or MPLS due to some on-going concerns with standards.

A preferable approach would be to implement a longer term strategic solution that fits with the operator’s overall development strategy, while keeping control of OPEX figures.

One approach open to operators would be to use a technology like VectaStar to provide a packet-data backhaul overlay network in high traffic areas that would be able to quickly provide off-load backhaul using high-capacity microwave links that would easily scale from the HSDPA offload requirements today to the backhaul requirements of future mobile broadband technologies like LTE. Furthermore, VectaStar easily copes with the hybrid mixed-protocol environments found at many cell sites today whilst being ready to connect to all-IP Ethernet nedtworks when they are deployed. Therefore a modest CAPEX investment today dramatically reduces backhaul OPEX and meets long term investment return goals.

Operators are running out of bandwidth runway so should be considering their options to remain competitive. A strategic decision like a VectaStar overlay backhaul network for packet data offload means many operators could have the option to pull back on the stick and soar above their competitors.

Enabling the growth of Mobile Broadband in Malaysia

David Turner, Senior Technical Consultant, Cambridge Broadband Networks

David Turner

In a new report by Pyramid Research it has been suggested that Malaysia’s Mobile Broadband demand is growing faster than expected.

Having lived in Malaysia for 3 years now, and also being an early adopter of HSPA for mobile broadband, I have personally seen major demand for mobile and home wireless broadband, driven partly by consumers looking for an alternative to Telekom Malaysia, who are the incumbent and have a near monopoly share of last mile fixed broadband connections. With the four 3G operators (Maxis, Celcom, DiGi, and U-Mobile) aggressively competing with each other for business, consumers are enjoying a variety of mobile and home wireless broadband packages at very reasonable prices.

The PYR report further suggests that Mobile penetration has reached 98% in 2008 which is double the regional penetration of 47%, and that we could expect to see mobile data services accounting for 45% of an operators revenue by 2014. The main issue that operators have today is the cost effective backhaul of this exponentially growing data whilst maintaining their margins in a competitive market.

Due to the lack of cheap and quality fixed line infrastructure in Malaysia, the dominant backhaul solution for the operators continues to be Microwave. Even Celcom who were previously owned by the incumbent Telekom Malaysia, runs its own national Microwave network for the backhaul of its 2G and 3G cell sites. HSPA speeds on today’s networks in Malaysia have reached 14.4Mbps and operators have a roadmap to 28.8Mbps by the end of 2009. With faster speeds on the RAN, an increase in cell sites to provide umbrella HSPA coverage, and the introduction of IP enabled 3G NodeBs, operators are being forced to redesign their current last mile and core transmission networks to cope with the current and future requirements.

In dense urban areas such as the Klang Valley, Penang, and Johor Bahru operators are starting to look at alternative technologies which support TDM and IP, and are more scalable, spectrally efficient, cost efficient, and take up less mast space compared to traditional technologies such as point-to-point microwave. This has prompted operators to consider point-to-multipoint as a solution for backhaul. Maxis have been using a 10.5GHz VectaStar PMP network for the backhaul of some of the heaviest cellular traffic sites in Kuala Lumpur since 2007 with great success. The recent news that the local regulator, MCMC, has awarded five 28MHz 10.5GHz licenses means that there will be further PMP deployments in 2009 for the backhaul of these next generation cellular networks. It will be interesting to see how the transmission networks evolve which will include PMP networks to meet the demands of the operators and enable the growth of Mobile Broadband over the next 5 years.

This article first appeared on the backhaul blog.

Previous editions of Infocast

African Focus

Say hello!

We’re attending North Africa Com in October, and Africa Com in November.
Why not drop by and say hello?

North Africa Com

October 2009

North Africa Com

North Africa Com is in Cairo, in October this year. Senior Technical Consultant, David Turner, is speaking on a panel session discussing the challenges that operators face in launching broadband services.

Africa Com

November 2009

Africa Com

Cape Town’s Africa Com follows shortly, in November, where Neeren Ramharakh and Shaneel Ramanand will be amongst the Cambridge Broadband Networks team that will be available to meet and greet you. If you would like to book a meeting with Neeren or Shaneel, please email the events department.