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March 05, 2008

Wireless Backhaul Trends

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor


Currently, the wireless backhaul market is undergoing a period of change. This is because a variety of new technologies and techniques are emerging to replace the use of leased T1 lines for wireless backhaul. (T1 represents about 95 percent of backhaul facilities in the U.S., although this is changing.)
While T1 has served the backhaul market well, it has two major drawbacks: cost and rigidity. T1 lines are expensive and generally not very flexible in terms of what they can be used for. These two drawbacks are at odds with the way the wireless industry is developing, namely in an unpredictable way with periods of very fast growth. To keep up, providers need less expensive technologies that enable them to keep up with growing bandwidth demands.
One technology that’s emerging as a clear leader in the backhaul market is Ethernet. Ethernet is less expensive than T1 and is also more flexible. Thus it is appealing to service providers, especially as many of them are looking more and more toward peering arrangements and the leasing of lines rather than owning all their own network infrastructure.
Many providers, in fact, are getting out of the network business because owning networks is no longer the game-winning strategy it used to be. There is lots of infrastructure out there, and providers mainly care about how they can differentiate themselves. Ensuring coverage by building out networks may simply be too expensive; instead providers seek to win customers by offering new, cutting edge services delivered over networks that often are owned by—and leased from—other companies.
Switching to Ethernet for wireless backhaul gives providers the freedom to easily and quickly add bandwidth on demand for revenue-generating applications (e.g. video, data, voice). The focus now is on the network core and radio connections necessary for delivering the type of next-generation services providers must offer to stay in the game.
With more and more customers deciding to ditch their landline phones in favor of having only a wireless phone, service providers need to compete on both features and price while delivering next-generation services. Wireless backhaul using Ethernet is an ideal technique for doing just that.
Mae Kowalke is an associate editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.
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