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Backhaul Redux – Are We There Yet?
Signals Research Group, LLC, August 2010
This issue provides an update to the publisher's first next-generation backhaul report that they published in 2007. Specific topics include the following:
What it means to be Ethernet. Operators all recognize that they will need to deploy some form of an Ethernet backhaul, but what does it really mean to use an Ethernet backhaul, what underlying physical medium is best positioned to deliver that capability, what are the pros and cons for the various solutions that are being proposed, and what are the various network architectures that are being considered?
Layer 3 or Layer 2/1. In addition to analyzing the various ways in which Carrier Ethernet can be implemented, including IP/MPLS, SONET, OTN, PON, etc., the publisher also looks at the debate surrounding whether or not to implement Carrier Ethernet at Layer 2/1 or at Layer 3.
Fiber or Microwave. In reality, most operators will take a two-pronged approach and use a combination of both solutions. Even within microwave radio itself, there are options to consider, including the use of PtP or PMP architectures or even emerging solutions which leverage innovative mechanisms to support in-band backhaul, DAS, or NLOS – a critical component when providing backhaul to cell sites which fall below the clutter (e.g., picocells, public access femtocells, etc).
The Complexities. Packet-based backhaul solutions also introduce numerous complexities, including how timing/synchronization is provided – a necessity for voice traffic – and security, in particular with the introduction of LTE. And with respect to LTE, the flattening of the RAN, with the RNC functionality collapsed into the eNodeB, leads to the creation of a brand new interface, called the X2 interface. The direct communications between eNodeBs may improve certain KPIs, such as latency, but it also introduces its own set of backhaul problems that operators must address.
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