Better LTE than never to address backhaul needs

If you feel like you have been hearing a lot about next-generation wireless network technology LTE, your senses are not deceiving you. ABI Research said recently that as many as a dozen wireless operators around the world (at least three in the U.S.) will be launching LTE during 2010. And with the jump to another "G" in the wireless world, the wireline network operators who provide most of the backhaul capacity are being put on notice: they need to make sure they can provide enough capacity to handle the bandwidth consumption enabled by LTE, but how much capacity they will need may be anyone's guess.

For the last couple weeks, FierceMarkets has been conducting a webinar series, "The Business of Backhaul," exploring issues such as the new backhaul business case and the role of alternative carriers in the market. (You can now listen to the first two webinars in our series on-demand, and the third and final episode, "Battling BYOB: Build Your Own Backhaul" will be presented live this Thursday.) During our second episode, "Enter the competition," Gary George, president of IP Networks, Inc., noted that the backhaul demand created by LTE could be anywhere from 300 Mbps to 1 Gbps per cell site.

That's a definite elevation from current requirements, but also an extremely broad range. It's simply not clear yet what the eventual effect of nascent applications such as mobile TV and video will be, or how a new generation of post-iPhone devices and trends toward open networks could influence matters.

The backhaul providers can't wait to let all the variables play out. Their capacity is key to the success of wireless carriers pursuing LTE, and while there currently are many different technologies and different ways of enabling the right backhaul links, the most important theme in the future may not necessarily be sheer capacity itself, but flexibility. They need to provide backhaul flexibility to wireless carriers, and their own networks need to be flexible enough to adapt to changing needs. That, in turn, means that IP will be important, and that wireline carriers participating in the backhaul market also do need to see it as a core business.

There is still time to adapt to the changing backhaul scenario, but the hour is getting LTE.

-Dan

For more:
- FierceWireless has more about ABI's forecast

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SK telecom last month pursued a wireline acquisition for its backhaul needs
The backhaul business is increasingly important to traditional telcos

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