Not long ago, a recent study was conducted by ABI Research (News - Alert) that took a look at some of the biggest disruptive influences in the technology sector. While several different technologies were included in the lineup, one of the biggest potential disruptions came from cellular radio access networks (RAN), which showed up not only as third in overall disruption but also as first in time to disruption and in the highest probability of acting as a disruption overall. Evidence that that part of the study may have been more right than anyone expected comes from EXFO (News - Alert), who recently announced that it was running a fiber-to-the-antenna (FTTA) test for some of its product line with the idea of accommodating RAN in mind.
The FTTA test was run on two parts of the EXFO product line, specifically, the FTB-700G and the FTB-800 NetBlazer series of devices to see how the fiber and the common public radio interface (CPRI) worked out. Reports suggest that the tests involved speeds up to 9.8 Gbit/s, and represented just one step toward major improvement of the network in light of rapidly-expanding demand for mobile broadband access. This is being accomplished by several key points, but one of the biggest is a change from copper-to-the-antenna (CTTA) to FTTA infrastructure overall, which should help open up both new capacity and new coverage ranges in LTE (News - Alert) service. Moreover, network providers are also turning to things like small cell deployment and distributed antenna system (DAS) networks in a bid to help augment the coverage. CPRI protocol is routinely tapped as the interface of choice between the base station and the DAS head-end, as with CPRI, there's a major reduction in deployment cost as well as in the amount of space necessary.
By doing this now, reports note, EXFO is doing its part to stay ahead of critical trends that have begun to appear in the marketplace. Not only is there a clear move toward RAN in the network space, but there's also a clear increase in demand for mobile broadband access. The combination of the FTB-1 handheld platform and the NetBlazer's ability to not only offer the best in transport testing but also offer up OTDR and iOLM capabilities suggests that a variety of tools—from optical to Ethernet and beyond—can be put to use in spurring better connectivity.
EXFO's vice president of the transport and service assurance division, Claudio Mazzuca, offered up a bit of a comment around the move, saying “Significant investments are being made worldwide on expanding the fronthaul networks to deliver better spectral efficiency and capacity. By adding CPRI rates, EXFO is future-proofing its technology to meet the requirements of next-generation, fibre-based remote radio networks.”
Indeed, there are many more demands being placed on the mobile network. Leave aside the growth of entertainment options like streaming video sources and gaming alternatives, the growth of the business use of mobile devices has also skyrocketed. With videoconferencing and collaboration tools being used as part of an ever-increasing mobile workforce, mobile tools—including mobile networks—must likewise advance to keep up. While perhaps the residential market can be mollified by cries of poverty and “bandwidth cap”, enterprise users are demanding much better service. Fiber service is forcing the entire market to step up its game. It will be exciting to see just where this market goes, but as more mobile providers embrace things like the RAN and LTE Advanced, it's likely that the consumer is about to have many more options that previously noted.
Edited by Maurice Nagle