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September 2011

Small cells, big picture

Small cells, big picture

Small cells have been the hot topic for 2011. They have regularly been paraded on the catwalks of industry events as the saviour of networks struggling under the strain of mobile data growth. But the underpinning backhaul solution is not as clear cut.

A scene has consistently been painted where thousands of femto, pico and WiFi based ‘small cells’ are deployed in urban environments – a vision likely to turn into reality (albeit long term) as mobile operators look to deliver highly targeted capacity to their customers.

But providing a backhaul solution to the small cells may not be as clear cut as originally thought. There is a bigger picture to consider, where a solution may take a variety of forms. It is in this space that a clear pecking order is starting to develop.

The most likely scenario, and one that appears to be most under discussion, is some form of multipoint microwave. This may take the form of ‘line of sight’ (LOS) or ‘non line of sight’ (NLOS) as both solutions have the ability to aggregate traffic efficiently from a number of small cells.

The NLOS solutions might seem attractive at first, but because they are using narrow spectrum allocations the capacity available is limited and potentially restrictive. Existing LOS solutions (as discussed in the last infocast) can be fast and cost effective to deploy and provide the required capacity improvements. We may also see LOS solutions modified to develop a smaller access terminal form factor and to bring the cost down to an even lower level ready for widespread implementation.

And of course we can’t discount fibre. The capacity it can offer is boundless – however it mustn’t be forgotten that the associated CAPEX is sufficiently high enough to prohibit widespread adoption.

The speed it takes to deploy fibre may also work against it. Although fibre may be considered for the macro layer, the pace at which small cell networks need to be deployed favours a wireless solution.

So we think the small cell backhaul pecking order may look something like this - fibre where available, wireless LOS solutions if fibre isn’t possible for the majority of sites and NLOS if lower capacity will suffice.

However it is still early days and each solution has to prove itself to be economically viable and deliver the same reliability demanded of current backhaul networks.

CBNL climb the Tech Track 100

CBNL climb the Tech Track 100

CBNL has been named 38th in the Sunday Times Microsoft Tech Track 100. This is the fourth year we have been included in the league table of the fastest growing technology companies in the UK. It’s also a climb of 21 places on last year’s ranking.

Having won the award outright in 2004, this year’s ranking is based upon growth which has seen CBNL reach sales of £27.8m in 2010.

"Being recognised as one of the fastest growing UK companies three times is certainly a proud achievement. Being recognised for a fourth time and to see ourselves climb up the table is a testament to the dedicated and skilled team at CBNL," said Graham Peel, CEO, CBNL

"With operators starting to deploy LTE networks now and looking to deploy small cell networks, we’re witnessing a wholesale change in mobile network technologies. This represents a new challenge and market opportunity for CBNL that will see us continue to develop innovative and alternative solutions for mobile network backhaul."

The recent Tech Track ranking comes only a week after CBNL were listed in the 'Telegraph 1000' – the Daily Telegraph's celebration of Britain’s brightest businesses.

LTE Backhaul Traffic Estimation

LTE Backhaul Traffic Estimation report cover

CBNL has authored a white paper for the NGMN on “Guidelines for LTE Backhaul Traffic Estimation” which describes how a model is developed to predict traffic levels in transport networks used to backhaul LTE eNodeBs.

The paper describes how backhaul traffic is made up of a number of different components of which user plane data is the largest, comprising around 80-90% of overall traffic. The impact of IPsec encryption and the particular traffic patterns of data services are also taken into account. The result is that the aggregated traffic volumes allow better resource sharing than voice carrying networks – a detailed guideline for link capacity estimation is also provided.

Read the white paper here.

New study reveals Total Cost of Ownership of backhaul solutions

CBNL in Africa conference

A new study from Senza Fili will be published in October which will reveal the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comparison among point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, E-band and fibre backhaul solutions. The study, sponsored by CBNL, presents a financial analysis based on a TCO model that compares capex and opex of different backhaul options for sample LTE, 3G, and small cell networks configurations over a period of five years. The results will provide guidance to mobile operators as they compare different solutions for their escalating backhaul needs driven by the unprecedented growth in traffic.

Events diary


9-10 November 2011

Africa Com

CBNL will be at this year’s Africa Com, joining 5,000 of Africa’s leading telcos in Cape Town. Call 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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