MNOs ‘have underestimated’ tomorrow’s backhaul needs

Mobile network operators (MNOs) may have to rethink the investment they will have to make in backhaul networks to meet tomorrow’s customer needs, analyst firm Juniper Research has claimed.

A new report from the consultancy concludes that MNOs will, between them, need to spend $840 billion globally over the next five years on adding capacity and intelligently optimising backhaul assets to eliminate serious bottlenecks.

“As a result of the rapid uptake of subscriber data services, and advances in data capacity in the radio access network, operators need to rapidly reassess their mobile backhaul requirements and ensure that current or future backhaul network offerings fulfill those requirements,” said Nitin Bhas, Juniper Research analyst and author of the report. “As many operators are either deploying 3G or augmenting or upgrading their network to 4G, they need to simultaneously manage the upgrade of their backhaul networks with the upgrade of their radio networks.”

The report additionally concluded that microwave and fibre will dominate the backhaul market, with microwave likely to account for over 60% of global mobile backhaul capacity by 2016.

“The scale of the problem, as outlined by Juniper, is only now being fully appreciated,” said Mervyn Kelly, EMEA marketing director with equipment vendor Ciena. “This provides operators with a clear challenge. The growing demand for content and high-bandwidth applications can only be met if service providers' networks deliver the user experience consumers expect. For this to happen, carriers need to rethink their network strategy and look for more efficient ways to support data growth.”

“MNOs have been on a journey for the last four or five years, looking at cost reduction and infrastructure sharing,” commented Steve Haines, chief operating officer with BT Wholesale, which supports the backhaul needs of several mobile operators. “At the same time they’ve been waking up to the need to increase capacity too. All, to one degree or another, have been embracing the transition from TDM to Ethernet to achieve this. Have they done enough? Only time will tell.