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The Network Evolution to LTE Doesn’t End at the Base Station: LTE’s Impact on Microwave Backhaul

| July 27, 2011 | Mobile Access Infrastructure
| Analyst: Daryl Schoolar, Principal Analyst, Mobile Access Infrastructure

Click here to download report (100 KB PDF)

The coming of LTE will lead to large-scale changes within mobile operators’ networks. The most obvious and highly discussed of those changes are found at the base station. Infrastructure vendors, with an eye towards the future, have been marketing for several years the value of multi-mode solutions that can support different wireless network technologies (GSM, WCDMA and LTE) on a single platform. Base station architectures are also changing to better facilitate LTE, with increased reliance on remote radio heads and a stronger focus on small cells. Of course it goes without saying one of the big changes with all of these LTE base stations are their ability to support higher capacity levels. But when looking at the changes ongoing at operators’ networks as they prepare for LTE, the base station is just part of the story.

Networks are not a single “thing,” but rather a connection of “multiple things.” LTE base stations will not work unless they are connected to other things that will make them work. One of those things is backhaul.

As operators reengineer their networks for LTE, backhaul has become an important factor in their success. Higher base station capacity demands higher backhaul capacity. As operators consider deploying small cells to achieve the coverage and performance to support LTE service expectations, small cells mean more base stations, all of which require more backhaul connections to reach the core network. Network applications that look to capitalize on higher network capacities, such as streaming video, also demand improved latency performance. While there is no one solution for all of these backhaul issues, microwave-based solutions certainly appear capable of meeting many of them. But this will require changes within the microwave backhaul industry as well. Microwave backhaul vendors, hoping to best capture the LTE opportunity, will need to change up their solutions just like LTE has forced base station vendors to change theirs. This report looks at some of the changes LTE will drive in the microwave backhaul market.


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