LTE network expansion across different regions is driving the acceleration of LTE mobile adoption worldwide. According to ABI Research, in 2014, the global LTE subscriber base increased threefold from 2013 to 628 million. “Increasing LTE adoption combined with growing adoption of smartphones, tablets, and bandwidth hungry applications is continuously putting pressure on the capacity of backhaul networks across different markets,” comments Jake Saunders, VP and Practice Director of Core Forecasting.
In many countries, telecommunication regulators are considering efficient allocation of spectrum for mobile backhaul. Many are in the process or have completed the consultation with telecom operators for spectrum planning for mobile backhaul. The selection of backhaul network solution, whether it is fixed or wireless and the topology and spectrum bands for the backhaul links, vary market to market based on the several conditions and the capacity requirements by each market.
While fiber-optic is an attractive medium to support high capacity backhaul links, it is not the best solution in a number of scenarios, due to its cost and time required to install. “Microwave spectrum bands are still the most widely used for backhaul links and equipment vendors are also providing various solutions to enhance the capacity of microwave backhaul links. Based on ABI Research’s backhaul spectrum data analysis, microwave spectrum bands will remain the important option for mobile backhaul links,” says Khin Sandi Lynn, Industry Analyst.
Spectrum bands in the sub 20 GHz bands are increasingly experiencing congestion—a number of countries have taken steps to make the spectrum in the higher bands available for backhaul use. Millimeter waves, which include the V-band (60 GHz) and the E-band (70 / 80 GHz) bands are proving of interest to operators for small cell backhaul deployment. ABI Research expects a combination of fiber-optic and MMW will represent approximately half of total backhaul links in 2019.
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