Small Cell backhaul is the transmission link between the small cell and the mobile network operator's core network. This can take many forms:

For residential and many enterprise small cells, this can be almost any broadband internet service, including DSL and Cable. Sometimes mobile operators mandate that only their own fixed broadband service can be used with their residential small cells, but at least 50% don't. The performance of the broadband link can affect the quality of service, but residential femtocells have been found to work with as little as 256kb/s broadband throughput. Sometimes, a benchmarking performance test is conducted during the online sale of a residential small cell, to ensure this will be adequate. In live operation, small cells monitor the bandwidth available and restrict their own capacity to handle calls where there is insufficient available - for example, limiting to one or two concurrent calls rather than multiple.

For metrocells, deployed in streets and other public areas, a combination of wireless (for the last few hundred metres) and fibre seems ideal. A wide variety of technologies are being considered or adapted for this purpose, and we explain how a toolkit approach to metrocell backhaul is most likely. In particular, the last few hundred metres from a remote metrocell to the nearby hub will be a wireless link, and this (dubbed "fronthaul" or "streethaul") has attracted the most attention.

For rural small cells, an existing broadband wireline service can also be used. However, for the more remote locations, satellite backhaul is now a cost effective option. A related use case involves dealing with natural disasters, where satellite connected small cells can quickly restore service.

ThinkSmallCell resources for Small Cell Backhaul:

In addition to the articles outlined further below, you may find some of these specific links worthwhile:


 

Jaime Fink, CTO Mimosa, unlocks unlicensed spectrum in unusual ways

Mimosa antennaWe’ve heard of how the cellular industry plans to invade unlicensed spectrum by adapting LTE for the purpose. Mimosa is a Wi-Fi vendor choosing to modify that technology for best effect in both unlicensed and licensed bands. Jaime Fink, their CTO, explains their chosen market segment and why he thinks their technical approach will win out financially in the long run.

Delivering faster Enterprise Small Cell backhaul over CAT5e Cables

NBASE TData rates are getting faster all the time. Enterprise Wi-Fi and Small Cells typically use 1Gbps Ethernet backhaul over standard Cat5e cable, but that's insufficient for the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi and LTE-U small cells. Aquantia has designed chips that achieve up to 5Gbps over existing cable, using a new technology called NBASE-T which should be more than enough to meet demand. Commercial products are already available although standards have still to catch up.

KUMU aim to bypass urban small cell backhaul

KUMU NetworksHow do you introduce really innovative new wireless technology into a well-established ecosystem without needing to rip-and-replace billions of dollars of infrastructure? KUMU Networks reckon they have come up not only a radical method to double network capacity, but also a novel approach on how to introduce it efficiently.

 

Andy Sutton, EE, walks the talk on Small Cell Backhaul

Andy Sutton EEIn this second of two articles, Andy Sutton, Principal Network Architect at EE, walked around central London with me. He pointed out the practicalities of Small Cell backhaul for our urban streets. As the network densifies, more street-level small cell sites will be needed. Andy explains how these will be connected back into the network, and clarifies the technical requirements for this rollout.

 

Should we be aiming for gigabit Small Cell backhaul speeds?

 

gigabitWhat bandwidth should operators allocate for a typical urban small cell? Too little, and they may throttle the capabilities that 3G and LTE can provide both now and in the future. Too much, and it could impact the cost significantly.

Several small cell backhaul vendors have told me in the past that 100 Mbps is perfectly adequate for individual urban small cells, even including the latest multi-mode 3G/4G/Wi-Fi products. While macrocell backhaul links are increasing to 1Gbps or more, this has been seen as overkill for individual on-street units. But is this the right choice when equipment lifetimes are budgeted for 5 years or more? A few backhaul vendors are offering higher speed products that may satisfy both bandwidth and budget.

Using unlicensed spectrum for Small Cell Backhaul

Multiple shared transmissionsWi-Fi is growing in popularity despite (or because) it operates in unlicenced spectrum. LTE-U (using LTE technology in the Wi-Fi spectrum bands) has become another recent hot topic.

Taking things a step further, several backhaul vendors are proposing use of unlicensed (Wi-Fi) spectrum to connect Urban Small Cells or remote radio heads back into the network. Is this a sensible fit with delivery of consistent and high quality cellular service?

60GHz chipsets expected to drive down costs of outdoor small cell backhaul

microchipOne of the critical factors for the success of outdoor/urban small cells is low cost wireless backhaul. Various technologies at different frequency bands are being actively proposed, with the lightly licenced 60GHz V-Band being a popular early choice. One way of assessing whether the industry is on-track to achieve that lower price point is to examine investments and progress being made today by RF silicon vendors.

Here, we can clearly see a couple of associated applications that should accelerate development of this specific technology generally, enabling lower costs in the longer term.

Revisiting Free Space Optics: A low power, low cost approach for small cell backhaul

Free Space Optical Small Cell BackhaulThere are many technologies contending for use in outdoor Small Cell Backhaul today, and one thing is certain – none of them is suitable for all scenarios and the industry consensus is that a mix of different technologies will be needed. We've seen free space optics (using infra-red beams) being proposed before, but it's often dismissed out of hand. A Norwegian company is setting out to change that perception, with a novel approach to reduce cost and improve effectiveness.

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    Residential

    Residential

    A significant number of users continue to report poor mobile coverage in their homes. There will always be areas which are uneconomic for mobile operator to reach. They range from rural areas

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    Enterprise

    Enterprise

    The term Enterprise addresses any non-residential in-building including hotels, convention

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    Metrocells

    Metrocells

    Metrocells are compact and discrete mobile phone basestations, unobstrusively located in urban areas. They can be mounted on lampposts, positioned on the sides of buildings or found indoors in

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    Rural

    Rural

    A rural small cell is a low power mobile phone base station designed to bring mobile phone service to small pockets of population in remote rural areas. These could be hamlets, small villages or

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