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Harnessing the big potential of small cells

Karl Horne, Chief Technology Officer, Asia Pacific, Ciena | March 26, 2015
While deploying small cells, plan for the backhaul requirements too.

Operators generally prefer to use fiber for their backhaul networks but since small cells are deployed in varied settings, like atop telephone poles, lampposts, and other structures meaningfiber-based access will not always be feasible. Additionally, the cost of deploying fiber just for small cells may prove prohibitive in some situations. In such a scenario, a microwave wireless backhaul solution could be used instead of a fiber-based solution, although this is often more costly and complex to deploy with less available capacity.

The backhaul network must not only be able to cope with increased wireless traffic,but also enable seamless transfer of traffic to and from data centers, where most of the content being accessed resides. At the same time, the backhaul network must be carrier-grade to ensure that the expected quality of service is not adversely affected by our growing reliance on mobile connectivity.

Ethernet-based connectivity has emerged as the preferred choice of MNOs to upgrade the backhaul network due to its affordability, simplicity, and scalability. Packet-over-optical networks also enable seamless traffic transfer from one point to another given the growing ubiquity of Ethernet-based networks in all areas of the global network infrastructure.

A small cell network needs to be designed for rapid and reliable scalability as the demand for mobile data surges. This is possible only with rich packet Operations, Administration and Management (OAM) tools, which enable MNOs and wholesalebackhaul service providersto quickly resolve issues proactively and reactively to maintain the expected high quality of experience. In the absence of such integrated automated tools, network maintenance and troubleshooting costs will soar and the end-user quality of experience will suffer.

OAM is critical to gain visibility and assure appropriate levels of service delivery in a backhaul network.Since some MNOslease backhaul services from third party wholesalers, they need to ensure transparent and effective monitoring of the network's health. Ethernet offers a rich set of OAM tools that guarantees carrier-grade backhaul services.

Small cells are poised to increase in significance as the world moves towards increased adoption of web-scale architecture.Since small cells enhance coverage and capacity, they further accelerate wireless access to web-scale data centers, which have emerged as storehouses of applications and content.

With a flexible and scalable backhaul network, mobile operators can effectively take advantage of small cells technology to accelerate the delivery of wireless capacity, coverage and quality of experience. 


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