Small Cell Backhaul to Shift Away from Copper and Fiber toward Wireless Backhaul

Oyster Bay, New York - 22 Sep 2011

​While outdoor small cells have received a lot of attention lately, small cell backhaul has yet to see the spotlight. The reason has been twofold – first, there hasn’t been any significant outdoor small cell deployment yet, and second, operators are still in the process of trialing and testing small cell backhaul technologies, especially the newer contenders.

Due to its unique characteristics, there are numerous considerations that need to be taken into account for a small cell backhaul solution. These include product footprint, range, cost, Ethernet/IP support, and capacity. By 2016, an estimated 58% of outdoor small cells will be backhauled using wireless techniques.

While fiber, copper, and traditional microwave are currently being used to backhaul rooftop micro base stations, the emergence of wireless technologies like NLOS OFDM (sub 6 GHz), MMW (60-80 GHz) and also Wi-Fi backhaul solutions are likely to find preference due to their flexibility, low cost and ability to use point-to-multipoint (PMP) and point-to-point (PTP) techniques to backhaul clusters or rows of small cells.

“Small cell backhaul space is still in its early days, with a number of small vendors positioning their solutions, especially on the wireless backhaul side,” says Aditya Kaul, practice director, mobile networks. “While the majority of small cell backhaul activity is concentrated in OFDM NLOS sub 6 GHz and to some extent in the MMW 60-80 GHz space, the cost of these solutions will need to come down to allow operators to make a favorable small cell business case.”

ABI Research’s new study “Mobile Backhaul for Small Cells” discusses various types of small cell backhaul technologies, how small cell architecture is leveraged to reduce backhaul equipment costs, what kinds of backhaul technologies fit different scenarios, and why. Forecasts include a breakdown of small cell backhaul links by backhaul type for 2011 and 2016.

It is part of the Femtocell and Small Cell Research Service, which includes other Research Reports, Market Data, ABI Insights, Vendor Matrices, and Research Surveys.

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