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July 2010

Green is the new black!

Did you know that every day in the U.S. enough rubbish is produced to equal the weight of the Empire State Building? And London alone currently generates around 44 million tonnes of carbon per year?

These are the sorts of statistics we are continually bombarded with, as the world becomes more environmentally aware. Rising carbon taxes, social pressures and steep political-driven targets to slash emissions have placed the ‘Green’ issue at the forefront of product developers minds all over the globe.

When considering the rapid evolution of mobile networks, it is imperative that providers do not lose sight of the environmental and CSR issues that operators face, while expanding networks to successfully cope with the rapid increase in demand for capacity.

We know that mobile broadband demand is continuing to grow exponentially, as a recent report from Analysys Mason confirms. This report states that as revenue from traditional mobile voice and messaging services declines or stagnates, mobile broadband will be one of the primary revenue drivers for European operators in the next five years. So, solutions that tackle both the need for an increase in capacity as well as maintaining a green stance can only be a good thing, right?

When looking at microwave backhaul in this context, Point-to-Multipoint (PMP) offers a significant reduction in carbon footprint that operators simply cannot afford to ignore, when compared to alternatives such as Point-to-Point (PTP). It does this while offering the capability to cope with the capacity increases of the future. Over the next 3 issues of Infocast, we will look a little more closely at exactly how PMP can help settle the green conscience.

PMP, and more specifically a network built using CBNL’s VectaStar solution, requires half the number of radios for deployment compared to an equivalent PTP microwave network. This huge reduction in radio requirement coupled with the technical advancements in the unit results in substantial benefits throughout the entire product lifecycle. Half the radios means half the amount of raw materials required for unit production, saving both the resources themselves and the energy required to produce them.

Follow the backhaul leader

After deployment, as half as many radios are required as for the operation of an equivalent PTP network, a VectaStar backhaul network reduces energy consumption by 50% eliminating in excess of a staggering 354,030 tonnes worth of CO2 per year during the manufacturing and installation process alone. And not only that but, due to the all-outdoor zero footprint configuration, the network eliminates 100% of the energy consumption associated with the cooling of the units too.

We will move onto the figures associated with the usage of a PMP network after deployment in the next issue, but to conclude Graham Peel, CEO of CBNL, made the observation that:

“we already know that large operator groups such as France Telecom select their future telecoms technologies and suppliers based on minimising their environmental impact”

as confirmed by Telecom TV last week. Proving that green really is
the new black.

Backhaul to the future

There’s a great deal of discussion taking place amongst the ‘great and good’ of the global mobile industry about coping with the exponential rise in demand for data services. It isn’t going to stop soon either – Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, said recently that his company is activating 160,000 mobile phones a day, iPhone 4 has just launched and a whole new class of mobile data enabled consumer devices (touch screen tablets) promises to add significantly to the load. The iPad is just the start.

Smartphones and tablets are unlike other data enabled mobile devices. Until relatively recently the data capabilities of your average phone were used only occasionally but these new devices positively encourage daily, or even hourly consumption of multiple megabits of data. It’s no surprise then that AT&T in the US and O2 in the UK have thrown in the towel and abandoned their unlimited data packages and are capping use. Their networks simply can’t cope with the demand.

This is good news for the femtocell and WIFI sectors as we have seen recently in the press. If the network can’t cope, it looks very attractive to offload the data by hooking into the user’s fixed broadband connection. But this certainly isn’t a complete solution and it doesn’t address data use outside of the home (we are talking about mobile devices after all). The painful truth is that mobile network operators are facing a monumental upgrade issue, both for the radio access and backhaul components.

Around the world we can expect to see a great many upgrades of existing cell sites and a rapid increase in their total number. The capital and operational investment is unavoidable and the industry will have to carefully consider the environmental impact.

That leaves the backhaul component and here the industry has new options in the form of next generation point-to-multipoint (PMP) microwave.

Next generation PMP is designed specifically for mobile backhaul, providing 150Mb/s + cell site capacity. It is now being adopted with some enthusiasm around the world. That is particularly true in developing markets where operators are much more likely to consider new technologies. They are unencumbered by legacy network equipment and their design methodology and working practices aren’t as established – choosing the same old technology because “that’s what we’ve always used” isn’t an option.

The result of this new approach to backhaul is that PMP microwave now supports, for instance, the world’s busiest HSPA network (in the Middle East) and one of the world’s first and largest all-IP networks (Africa).

PTP versus PMP

Unlike legacy point-to-point microwave technology (PTP), PMP uses a fundamentally different architecture. Instead of the simple one-to-one relationship inherent in PTP networks, it utilises a ‘broadcast’ format to link a single hub to multiple cell sites and intelligently shares and manages the available capacity. Roughly half the number of radios is required.

The net outcome is much greater capacity, less complexity, rapid installation and deployment and as a result, an approximate 50% saving in both capital and operational expenditure. Furthermore the effect on the environment, measured in terms of visual impact, production and maintenance resources and energy savings, is considerable.

These factors have driven the adoption of PMP in developing markets but the data crunch means operators in developed markets are now facing similar issues and the traditional options aren’t providing the answers. Optical fibre might seem the obvious solution. It provides almost limitless capacity but in most instances the capital and environmental impacts aren’t worth thinking about, particularly in the current climate. Traditional PTP microwave is old technology and is heavy on CapEx and OpEx. It is resource hungry and the constraints of the architecture waste spectrum resources and limit throughput. PMP now offers developed market operators the ideal balance between capital and operating expenditure and goes a long way to addressing the environmental impact of the expected growth in cell sites and hubs.

It is new technologies that are driving the demand for data amongst mobile users and it is new technologies that need to be adopted to meet the demand. Femtocell and WIFI offload will continue to be adopted but the core network, and the backhaul network in particular, needs the same innovative approach.

CBNL Reporting


by Ross Shand, Senior Customer Support Engineer

Ross reports on CBNL’s new training centre in Kuala Lumpur

Hi all! As some of you may be aware, I have just arrived back to the UK after spending a couple of weeks in Malaysia in our KL office, helping Customer Support Engineer, Sia, build the training centre out there.

The trainer's eye view

The new training centre is being built as a result of the regions rapid development in mobile broadband. We’ve seen a steep rise in the deployment of VectaStar, CBNL’s point-to-multipoint backhaul solution, since working with our first Malaysian clients back in 2006. To date, instruction and teaching has taken place on-site and in the UK and RSA offices, to meet the increasing demand for VectaStar training, we have ‘set-up camp’ locally and are now offering more accessible facilities to our Malaysian customers.

I’m happy to say the training centre build was a huge success as the accompanying picture shows. Building this training room is helping the company achieve its goals for training this year and I owe a huge thanks to Sia and many back in the UK team for their assistance during the two week period.

Update on Gateway Communications

by Paul Wright, Senior Technical Consultant. Based in Nigeria, Paul reports on CBNL’s contract with Gateway Communications to create the world’s largest point to multipoint microwave access network.

I have done a couple of trips to Abuja now. Abuja is the capital of Nigeria and the third city in the country in which VectaStar is being deployed. Travelling domestically around Nigeria has had its challenges, as it’s the rainy season now, so getting around places is harder due to flash floods. However, in general Abuja is a good place to work doing commissioning/integration trouble-shooting in comparison with some other locations in Africa, as the road networks are excellent and it is one of the safest metropolitan cities on the continent.

I’m pleased to report that here in Abuja the VectaStar deployment has been running smoothly, although the task in hand is no mean feat! We’re running a project with Gateway Business and Mobax to provision 130 hubs and 5000 terminal stations that will deliver mobile broadband connections across Nigeria. An epic task! But, working side-by-side gives us a great opportunity to learn from each other both technically and operationally.

Work has been progressing well, with Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja being the first of 10 Nigerian states that will go live this year. We have our work cut out, with another 14 states scheduled to go live next year. But what a project to be part of! A project like this will revolutionise the way mobile broadband is used in Nigeria, bringing huge benefits to the region economically and socially

Before I left Abuja I invited a few of the Gateway Business field guys out for drinks and to watch the England vs Algeria game. That idea went down extremely well and we all had a good night out! There’ve got to be some perks to the job! (shame about the result though).

I feel that it’s been a real benefit to CBNL to be able to work so closely with partners in this way. Likewise, I can see the benefits that we are bringing to teams that we are working alongside, like Gateway Business and Mobax. In my view, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the more we work together, the more effective and efficient our partnerships become.

Three more cities are now being site-surveyed and staged. There are always challenges to starting new deployments from scratch, but with a solid team and experts from CBNL and partnership companies, we’re confident we’ll roll these networks out quickly and efficiently. That’s what we do best!

Follow the backhaul leader

Follow the backhaul leader

Mobile operators are currently facing some very immediate challenges. Arguably, the biggest of these is how to cope with the exponential growth in data traffic that is leading to capacity constraints and backhaul limitations. But it could be as easy as ‘follow the leader’, if European mobile operators looked to learn from the world’s developing countries when strategising for their future networks.

CBNL took this theory and presented it to the audience at the recent Future of Wireless International Conference in Cambridge last month.

Download the accompanying slides.

The explosion in mobile data traffic, combined with the heavy investment in legacy infrastructure, shareholders demands for profits, and the careful balancing act between CapEx and OpEx has created a ‘perfect storm’ of conflicting requirements that needs to be addressed in the European markets. But how can mobile operators tackle these problems effectively in this high-risk and competitive marketplace?

A brief examination of the African mobile broadband market tells us more. The market conditions for mobile networks in Africa show that the demand for mobile broadband is immediate and considerable. However there is generally very little in the way of fixed line, backbone infrastructure. The distances involved can be vast and the financial resources required to build a traditional mobile backhaul network in that environment are restricted. As a result, many African markets are turning to innovative new approaches to the construction of wireless networks.

As reported in the previous issue of Infocast, MTN Ghana, Africa’s mobile giant, has done exactly that; offering customers the widest coverage and the highest network reliability available. Using CBNL’s VectaStar to backhaul these high speed networks MTN has slashed OpEx, by reducing the number of radios, mast space and power consumption of equipment. While the equipment’s ability for quick deployment enables unparalleled rapid generation of revenues and ROI.

So, as also reported in Telecom Redux could this be the ‘backhaul to the future’ and if so, should European operators be taking notes?


Honoured with a ‘Stevie’!

CBNL is delighted to announce that it has been recognised as a distinguished honouree at this year’s International Business Awards – nicknamed the ‘Stevies’ for the Greek word ‘crowned’.

We were honoured in the ‘Best New Product or Service of the Year for Telecommunications’ category and withstood tough competition as the company and product were put through two rounds of rigorous judging from professionals worldwide.

The International Business Awards are the only global, all-encompassing business awards programme recognising great performances in business and we are proud of this achievement.

Please take a look at the press release for more details on the awards.

Events calendar

North Africa Com

North AfricaCom

North Africa Com will again be held in Cairo later this year, and Cambridge Broadband Networks will be taking along an exhibition stand – so please do get in touch if you would like to meet us at the event!

Africa Com


Cape Town’s Africa Com follows shortly afterwards, in November, where we will once again be manning an exhibition stand.

If you would like to book a meeting with the team at the event then please email the events department.

NGMN Industry Conference Review

As reported in the last issue of Infocast, CBNL took a team along to the third annual NGMN Industry Conference and Exhibition in Shanghai last month where we took part in the grand demo night, putting the LTE-ready VectaStar zero-footprint mobile backhaul solution under the spotlight.

With NGMN being heralded by some as the ‘roadmap for the next 20 years of backhaul’ it makes sense that any backhaul vendor meets its requirements and we were proud to be part of this event.

The event, now established as a key conference for the mobile industry, attracted 400 senior management attendees, press representatives and analysts from companies across the mobile ecosystem, with an outstanding line-up of speakers and panellists, offering first-hand insights into technology challenges and future strategies for the industry.

Previous editions