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APAC wireless backhaul to undergo makeover

Posted: 19 Jun 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Carrier Ethernet  LTE basestation  WiMAX  high-bandwidth 

Based on IDC's research on the Asia/Pacific carrier network equipment market, the market research group predicts that there will be over 30 lakh basestations and over 18 lakh cell sites by 2012, representing a growth of 24.3% and 10.7% respectively from 2008.

Approximately half of these sites will be connected to fibre through Carrier Ethernet. Urban 3G/HSPA basestations will be linked to fibre by 2011 in most markets in the region. IDC also expects that almost all urban WiMAX and LTE basestations will be connected to fibre by 2012. Non-line-of-sight (NLOS) microwave and fixed WiMAX will be used to provide up to 300 mbps backhaul in areas where fibre is not available.

"A number of leading mobile carriers in Asia/Pacific, in countries such as Australia, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Japan, Philippines, and Singapore, are already starting to connect parts of their metropolitan 3G/HSPA backhauls with Carrier Ethernet over fibre," said Bill Rojas, Research Director for IDC's APAC Telecommunications Research. "The main driver of this transformation is the need for mobile operators to provide scalable, high-bandwidth, web 2.0 video and audio content, and internet access services for both mobile and fixed users in incremental CAPEX outlays."

According to IDC, mobile operators in the region are faced with five key challenges that are driving the need for more bandwidth to the end-user devices (downlink and uplink):

1. Enhancing coverage spanning dense urban, suburban, and rural areas.

2. In markets where pre-paid services is dominant, value added data services need to be geared to lower-speed bandwidth while post-paid centric markets must typically target premium value added services.

3. Potentially exponential increases in data traffic once higher speeds are enabled will not necessarily translate into higher data average revenue per user (ARPU)

4. Declining voice ARPU means that data ARPU must be increased in the long-term

5. Network OPEX will need to be carefully contained so that it does not grow disproportionately with traffic demand growth

The combination of the third and fourth challenges means that operators need to offer scalable bandwidth but at tariff schedules that resemble a combination of flat-rate plateaus with specific usage caps. Without the scalable bandwidth in the backhaul, operators will not be able to balance OPEX and CAPEX, and could find themselves in the noncompetitive situation of not being able to offer new multimedia-rich wireless services because of incremental bandwidth constraints.

"Without such a transformation of the wireless backhaul, the promise of 3.5G and 4G systems such as LTE will not be feasible. The emergence of bandwidth hungry devices such as Apple's 3G iPhone and Google's Android-operating system based devices means that mobile operators need to begin the transformation to NGN in the backhaul urgently in order to avoid being branded as obsolete," Bill added.

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