The drive for a mobile society, whether by the users themselves or the carriers and manufacturers profiting from the trend, is straining the current networks carrying our calls, applications and video streaming experiences. To combat this strain, service providers are pushing toward the deployment of small cells, in the midst of the challenges inherent in this technology. The biggest challenge is the cost of the backhaul. Without a cost effective approach in the backhaul, small cells are too expensive to deploy.

Attempts are being made to try and address this challenge, including extensions to macro-cells, such as point-to-point line-of-sight microwave and millimeter wave technologies, fiber and other wireline technologies and point-to-point microwave solutions. Each has been proven to reliably deliver on the necessary performance expectations. The challenge that remains, however, is whether or not such technologies will allow the operator to deploy the small cells in a volume projected to handle demand.

With cost as the prevailing challenge in the widespread deployment of small cells, operators are exploring their total options in terms of the wireless backhaul. Cost elements must be considered, including whether or not spectrum should be purchased, if poles should be leased and other elements that can impact the business case for small cell deployment. Overall, non-line-of-sight solutions win in terms of cost, yet wireless operators are not using this approach simply because the design and deployment is fundamentally different from current wireless backhaul solutions in place.

Couple this reality with the fact that little consensus in the wireless industry exists in terms of performance metrics of small cell backhaul. To truly realize the low costs necessary to support small cell deployments, new technologies have to be considered or a viable business case may remain out of reach. And, because small cells serve a unique function in the overall wireless network, it is often viewed separate from that of the macro-cell, which can complicate the process.

To turn the tide, operators and their decision-makers need to gather more information on technologies that are either not in current use or vary from traditional deployment methods to clearly understand their options. This includes learning more about the different techniques available with wireless backhaul, such as line-of-sight (LOS), non-line-of-sight (NLOS), point-to-point (PTP) microwave and millimeter wave and POS point-to-multipoint (PMP) backhaul. By evaluating each approach and the subsequent costs of deployment, the operator is better equipped to make a qualified decision moving forward.

BLiNQ Networks offers “Small Cell Wireless Backhaul Business Case”  to explain the different challenges that exist with wireless backhaul and small cell deployment and the technology options operators can consider to make their own business case to expand network capacity.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman