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David Williams
Global Director of Sales, Research
David Williams
Global Director of Sales, Research
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Ethernet-Capable Mobile Base Stations
There is huge interest across the wireless industry in packet-switched transmission networks, but most mobile networks remain ill-prepared for data and hamstrung by their reliance on voice-oriented TDM transport over E1/T1 leased lines. With the move to packet now widely seen as inevitable, Ethernet and IP RAN capability has emerged as critical to mobile operators' base-station purchasing decisions.

Taking maximum advantage of IP/Ethernet economics requires not just an upgrade to mobile backhaul networks, but also the emergence of compatible cell-site equipment. Cell sites can be Ethernet-enabled using specialized gateway equipment a fairly common strategy today. However, in the near to medium term, operators will require base stations that present an Ethernet port to the network.

The first Ethernet-capable base stations with support for native IP RAN protocols appeared on the market in 2007, with a small number of forward-looking Asian operators deploying the technology in live, commercial networks during the second half of the year. These are still isolated early adopters, however, and not yet reflective of the industry mainstream.

This report provides a systematic overview of equipment-supplier strategies for adding Ethernet capability to 2G and 3G base-station products. Broadly speaking, the addition of Ethernet ports to mobile base stations enables three new transmission models:

Hybrid backhaul via data offload: In this scenario, best-effort data traffic is split out from the delay-sensitive signaling and data traffic and sent over a lower-cost transmission link.
Ethernet backhaul using pseudowire encapsulation for ATM and TDM: This is used where the base-station transport module has an Ethernet interface (and pseudowire capability) but doesn't support IP RAN protocols.
Ethernet backhaul of native IP RAN traffic: This scenario involves transport of the Abis and Iub over IP and is the long-term target architecture for 2G and 3G operators.
Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (uni1207_2_toc.pdf)
Leased lines are a suitable backhaul technology for mobile voice services, but high prices make it unsustainable when applied to flat-rate data services. The table below shows an estimate of how backhaul requirements could evolve. For a high-demand 3G site in a city center, it assumes three sectors and three carriers are deployed by 2012, supporting peak throughput of 4 Mbit/s per carrier.
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The table below summarizes the current Ethernet capability of each supplier's mobile base-station equipment. It also notes when key features will be generally available if not currently supported (company names obscured).
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Companies covered in this report include: Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU); Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC); Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; OTC: FJTSY); Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.; Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT); NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY); Nokia Siemens Networks B.V., a joint venture of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE); Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE: NT); and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763).
Total pages: 16
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