AT&T enriches its fiber-based wireless backhaul diet

AT&T may have finally completed the upgrade of its high-speed packet access (HSPA) network, but it comes with the price of adding more wireless backhaul capacity to its cell sites.

A typical AT&T cell site used T1 (1.5 Mbps) circuits. And while T1s were sufficient when AT&T began rolling out UMTS services, they will create bottlenecks as the operator upgrades its network to support higher bandwidth services. However, according to a Telephony article, the backhaul network problems aren't anything new as the wireless operator began seeing backhaul problems in the initial 3.6 Mbps version of HSPA.

AT&T's solution to the bottleneck problem is quite simple: bring more fiber to its cell sites. Beginning last month, AT&T started to bring fiber-to-the-cell site in six cities, including Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami. Going forward, AT&T plans to deploy fiber throughout the bulk of its 3G wireless network footprint and then upgrade the remainder of its system by the end of 2011 as it begins its long-term evolution (LTE) deployment.

As we surmised in our FierceTelecom top five predictions, AT&T's fiber to the cell site requirements reflects the trend that wireless wholesale backhaul capacity will continue to rise up in 2010. And since AT&T itself can't bring fiber itself to every cell site it has, the company will find a willing group of existing incumbent (Qwest and Verizon) and emerging alternative players (cable MSOs, backhaul specialists, and even VNOs) happy to fulfill their backhaul needs.   

For more:
- Telephony has this article

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FierceTelecom 2010 Prediction: Wholesale wireless backhaul demand will rise
Wireless backhaul - A wholesale provider bonanza
AT&T boosts its quarterly dividend - FierceTelecom
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