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Microwave, Satellite & E-Band Backhaul: Growth Prospects
Cellular traffic backhaul remains one of telecom's most challenging and lucrative markets. Data services are taking off and consuming more end-user bandwidth. The access and core networks can deliver that bandwidth, but network architectures and technologies in the backhaul layer are under increasing scrutiny. In the cellular space, the n x T1/E1 leased-line approach to backhaul from base stations and aggregation nodes is becoming unsustainable particularly as it is a model where operational expenditure (opex) scales with capacity, while carrier revenues do not.

Furthermore, the type of traffic that needs to be transported is evolving from TDM voice to a mix of TDM and packet data, and ultimately to all-IP. Backhaul must be able to support an operator's specific mix including the 100 percent IP traffic of WiMax operators. One major consequence has been the move toward Ethernet in order to enable capacity to be more closely matched to requirements than is possible with traditional leased lines using E1/T1 links and PDH/SDH.

Microwave seems well placed to step into the backhaul market or, in most of the world outside North America to continue its already dominant position. Some vendors claim that once the benefits of microwave are recognized in North America, new opportunities for out-of-region remote enterprise connection to fixed networks might take off and that may even be a bigger market than cellular backhaul.

Established and new-entrant microwave vendors offer a wide range of radios, and are working hard to increase the capacity of those radios, using techniques ranging from the basic (putting multiple radios in one box) to the sophisticated (such as adaptive modulation techniques). New vendors specializing in radios that carry native Ethernet traffic have emerged, and established vendors have responded by adding such capabilities to their equipment increasingly integrating networking functionality into the box, and, in many cases, offering support for mixed traffic types through modular design and multiple interfaces. All this means a shift away from simple, point-to-point communications links and toward a view of microwave backhaul as a network.

But for even higher link capacities those of 1 Gbit/s or above there is another option, at least for short-distance links: millimeter-wave (also known as E-band) equipment. These short, fat pipes, traditionally used for local-area network (LAN) extension in private campus networks, might be valuable in dense urban cellular networks at the access or possibly aggregation layers, though not everyone agrees their multiple gigabit capacity will be needed any time soon or that their inherent limitations on link distance and poor-weather performance can be adequately overcome.

Meanwhile, as cellular operators seek their next billion subscribers for data and voice services satellite backhaul technology has had to evolve, too. It might not challenge microwave for the bulk of the market, but its advocates can see continuing opportunities for its use as a backhaul option, even as bandwidth requirements rise: Certainly some of the technologies developed for satellite transmission are finding their way into terrestrial solutions.

Microwave, Satellite & E-Band Backhaul: Growth Prospects analyzes recent developments in microwave, millimeter wave, and satellite backhaul technologies. It discusses the market opportunities for the technologies and shows how vendors are responding to specific customer needs, particularly in relation to increasing demand for cost-effective bandwidth and flexible deployment. The report also profiles ten leading vendors from across the market and compares their offerings.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents(uni0709_toc.pdf)
The following excerpt shows the ways that the three types of backhaul technology conventional microwave, typically in the 2.4GHz to 52GHz bands; millimeter wave (or E-band) in the 60GHz to 90GHz bands; and satellite compare in terms of suitability for requirements on bandwidth and backhaul distance. The capacity of conventional microwave can be increased by various techniques, and its effective distance can of course be increased through the use of multiple microwave hops, generally when used for long-distance transmission.
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Vendors profiled in this report include: Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU); BridgeWave Communications Inc.; Ceragon Networks Ltd. (Nasdaq: CRNT); DragonWave Inc.; Ericsson Inc.; Gigabeam Corp. (OTC: GGBM); Harris Stratex Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: HSTX); Hughes Network Systems LLC, a subsidiary of Hughes Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: HUGH); iDirect Technologies Inc.; and NEC Corp. (Pink Sheets: NIPNF).
Total pages: 21
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