Small Cells, DAS & Het-Nets

U.S. Front/Backhaul Market Forecast, 2016-2021: Fiber in a 5G Diet

LTE is giving way to LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro. 5G looms over the network strategies of mobile operators, as does the ongoing move toward CRAN, SDN and NFV. All of this – along with many other factors – drives the need for reliable, scalable and cost effective fronthaul and backhaul.

While most macrocells have been upgraded to fiber, getting fiber to small cell sites can be expensive and difficult. Because small cell deployments can and will vary so greatly in type and location, no single backhaul solution is best for them. Although fiber has been the preferred solution for small cells to date, wireless backhaul solutions offer many advantages.

The main advantages for wired backhaul, fiber in particular, are: high throughput, low latency and substantial throughput scaling over time. But there are two significant challenges with fiber: it is not always where it is needed and it is relatively expensive to deploy. However, once fiber is in place, the incremental cost of adding new capacity is relatively low. On the other hand, the main advantages for wireless backhaul, as compared to fiber, are: lower cost, faster (and easier) deployment and sufficiently scalable throughput (depending on the use case and technology chosen).

This market study discusses the wireless and wired front/backhaul technologies available and the main market drivers for each type of backhaul to support macrocells and small cells. It also presents iGR’s U.S. forecast for wired and wireless front/backhaul to support the radio access network (RAN) over the next five years.


Key Questions Answered

  • What is the anticipated growth of front/backhaul in the U.S. through 2021?
  • What is the difference between fronthaul and backhaul?
  • How is the type of front/backhaul split between fiber, wireless and copper?
  • What is the forecast for front/backhaul to support outdoor small cell deployments?
  • What are the major concerns of the mobile operators with regard to each type of backhaul and how can these concerns be addressed?
  • What is the role for wired and wireless front/backhaul in small cell architectures?
  • How is wired and wireless front/backhaul deployed?
  • How do PTP, PMP, NLOS, millimeter wave and traditional microwave solutions differ?
  • How do fiber (point to point and passive), VDSL2 and coaxial (hybrid fiber coax) differ?
  • How does wireless backhaul compare to fiber backhaul?
  • How does wireless fronthaul compare to fiber fronthaul?
  • What is CPRI and how may it change?

Who Should Read

  • Mobile operators, particularly those servicing the U.S. market
  • Mobile backhaul providers, including telcos and cable MSOs
  • Wired and wireless backhaul vendors and solution providers
  • Mobile OEMs, particularly those servicing the U.S. market
  • Wired and wireless infrastructure vendors, particularly those servicing the U.S. market
  • Financial analysts and investors.

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Executive Summary
    • First choice is Fiber, but wireless has a place
    • Backhaul concerns and issues
    • U.S. Front/Backhaul Forecast
  • Methodology
  • Basic Mobile Operator Network Architecture
    • Location
    • Key Front/Backhaul Requirements
  • Impact of LTE and 5G on Backhaul Requirements
  • Wired and Wireless Backhaul Options
    • Copper
    • xDSL
    • Coaxial cable / HFC
    • Fiber
    • Fiber Deployment Options
    • PON and PTP
    • Carrier Ethernet
    • Wireless Backhaul
    • Typical Mobile Backhaul Topologies
    • Point to Point (PTP)
    • Point to Multipoint (PMP)
    • Non Line-of-Sight (NLOS) vs. Line-of-Sight (LOS)
    • Licensed vs. Unlicensed Wireless
    • Briefly: Millimeter Wave versus Microwave
  • The Case for and Against Wireless Backhaul
    • Strengths
    • Weaknesses
    • Summary
  • CPRI
    • What is CPRI?
    • Why Use CPRI / Fronthaul?
      • eCPRI
      • NGIF
  • Front/Backhaul Related News
    • AT&T
    • Sprint
    • T-Mobile
    • Verizon
    • Crown Castle
  • U.S. Front/Backhaul Forecast
    • Major Assumptions
    • U.S. Cell Sites Deployed
    • Bandwidth Required
    • Front/Backhaul by Type
    • Macrocell Front/Backhaul Forecast
    • Outdoor Small Cell Front/Backhaul Forecast
  • Mobile Front/Backhaul Vendor Profiles (Wireless and Wired)
    • Cisco
    • Ericsson
    • Fujitsu
    • Huawei
    • NEC
    • Nokia Networks
    • ZTE Corporation
  • Wired Mobile Front/Backhaul Vendor Profiles
    • Accedian Networks
    • Actelis Networks
    • ADTRAN
    • ADVA Optical Networking
    • Brocade Networks
    • Calix
    • Canoga Perkins
    • Celtro Communication Ltd.
    • Charter Communications / Spectrum Business
    • Ciena
    • CommScope
    • Coriant
    • Crown Castle
    • DASAN Zhone Solutions
    • ECI Telecom
    • ExteNet Systems
    • Fibrolan
    • GENBAND
    • Infinera
    • IPITEK
    • Juniper Networks
    • Level 3 Communications
    • Lightower Fiber Networks
    • MRV Communications
    • PalmettoNet, A Spirit Communications Company
    • Positron Access Solutions
    • RAD Data
    • SOLiD
    • TE Connectivity
    • Telco Systems
    • Wilcon
    • Windstream Communications
    • Zayo
  • Wireless Mobile Front/Backhaul Vendor Profiles
    • Airspan Networks
    • Aviat Networks
    • BridgeWave Communications
    • Cambium Networks
    • Cambridge Broadband Networks Limited (CBNL)
    • Communication Components, Inc. (CCI)
    • CCS
    • Ceragon Networks
    • DragonWave
    • E-Band Communications
    • EBlink
    • Exalt Wireless
    • Fastback Networks
    • Intracom Telecom
    • LightPointe Wireless
    • MAX4G
    • Proxim Wireless
    • RADWIN
    • Siklu
    • Tarana Wireless
    • Vubiq Networks
  • Definitions
    • General
    • Device Types
    • Services
    • Network Technology
  • About iGR
    • Disclaimer

List of Tables

  • Table 1: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Cell Sites, 2016-2021
  • Table 2: North American Bandwidth to be delivered per month (TB), 2016-2021
  • Table 3: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Cell Sites by Type, 2016-2021
  • Table 4: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Macrocells, by Type 2016-2021
  • Table 5: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Macrocells, by Type 2016-2021 (%)
  • Table 6: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Small Cells, by Type, 2016-2021

List of Charts and Figures

  • Figure A: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Cell Sites, 2016-2021
  • Figure B: U.S. Cell Front/Backhaul Forecast, 2016-2021
  • Figure 1: Simple View of Backhaul and a Mobile Operator’s Network
  • Figure 2: Mobile Network Architecture with Fronthaul and Backhaul
  • Figure 3: Cell Front/Backhaul Capabilities and Use Cases, Wired and Wireless
  • Figure 4: Simplified Example of an All Fiber PON
  • Figure 5: Simplified Example of a PTP Fiber Network
  • Figure 6: Wireless as a Mobile Backhaul Solution
  • Figure 7: Typical Mobile Backhaul Deployment Configurations
  • Figure 8: Possible Small Cell Backhaul Topology, Dense Urban
  • Figure 9: PTP Microwave Configuration
  • Figure 10: Typical PtMP Configuration
  • Figure 11: Millimeter Wave vs. Traditional Microwave
  • Figure 12: CPRI at the Macrocell and as Small Cell / CRAN
  • Figure 13: CPRI System & Interface Basics
  • Figure 14: Functional Split in CPRI, Version 1
  • Figure 15: Functional Split in CPRI, Version 2
  • Figure 16: Dimensioning CPRI Links
  • Figure 17: NGIF Diagram
  • Figure 18: Splitting the Processing
  • Figure 19: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Macrocell and Small Cell Sites, 2016-2021
  • Figure 20: North American Bandwidth to be delivered per month (TB), 2016-2021
  • Figure 21: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Cell Sites by Type, 2016-2021
  • Figure 22: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Cell Sites by Type (Log), 2016-2021
  • Figure 23: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Macrocells, by Type 2016-2021
  • Figure 24: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Macrocells, by Type 2016-2021 (%)
  • Figure 25: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Small Cells, by Type, 2016-2021 (Log scale) Figure 26: Front/Backhaul Links Deployed to U.S. Small Cells, by Type, 2016-2021 (%)
  • Figure 27: Nokia Mobile Anyhaul Mobile Transport Solution

For additional information on the U.S. Front/Backhaul Forecast, 2016-2021: Fiber in a 5G Diet market study, please contact Iain Gillott, at (512) 263-5682 or by email.