CTIA show wireline angles: FMC and backhaul

Supercomm is on the move, which clears the spring of big trade shows at which you can expect to see both the top telco talent making the rounds and large numbers of important core telecom vendors exhibit, right?

Not so. While arguing for the significance of some smaller events on the docket, we also can't forget CTIA Wireless 2009, April 1-3 in Las Vegas. If you think it's just a wireless show-we'll, you're mostly right, but considering that the future of wireline is wireless, there should be plenty happening at CTIA that is worth paying attention to by telcos of all shapes and sizes.

For example, the chairman and CEO of the second-largest telco-who also happens to be the chairman and CEO of the second-largest wireless carrier, will kick off the show with a keynote speech. Verizon Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg will be in an interesting position to offer some updates on his company's attempt to take advantage of fixed-mobile convergence. The telco's Hub femtocell service will celebrate its two-month birthday on April 1, the day of Seidenberg's speech. We would love to hear some news about how many households have signed up for this service, which Verizon surely is hoping will help it take advantage of a trend that Verizon and every other telco have been unable to stop-the ongoing trend of consumers cutting their landline cords for wireless or broadband-based VoIP.

It's not clear that Seidenberg will share those numbers, but at the very least, he should paint a portrait of a multi-service telco whose present is more dependent on wireless than ever, and whose future, at some point will be completely defined by wireless inside the home and lots of fiber bandwidth leading right up to the front door.  

The concept of FMC in general could be one of the hottest topics at the CTIA event. AT&T may offer up more details of its own planned femtocell offering. Other major carriers Sprint and T-Mobile USA have been at the FMC game for even longer than Verizon, and T-Mobile USA President and CEO Robert Dotson also will be keynoting, so it will be interesting to hear what kind of progress his company's FMC service has made against landline.

Among other FMC attractions at the show:

  • There's a conference track called "The Blueprint of Convergence," featuring the plenary session "The Converged Network - How We Get There from Here." This is the sort of session that should have appeal for anyone working in the world of wireline or wireless networks today.
  • There are a number of exhibitors for whom FMC should be a hot topic: AirWalk Communications, Cisco Systems, Huawei Technologies, Ubquisys, Continuous Computing, Genband, Tatara Systems and Airvana are just some of the femtocell exhibitors on hand.
  • AirWalk will be showing its new enterprise femtocell, EdgePoint Pro, which has features that include support for multiple users, management of multiple femtocells and links to enterprise IP PBXs.
  • Kineto, which is not exhibiting, according to the CTIA exhibitor list, but is sure to be on hand somewhere, recently enhanced its own enterprise femtocell management scheme. Femtocells, it turns out, are not just a threat/future consideration for wireline teclos to deal with in the residential market-they're good for the corporate enterprise, too.
  • Back on the residential side, Airvana will be talking more about how its femtocell solution recently passed tests confirming its support for 3G broadband applications. It's been unclear thus far what role the femtocell will play beyond supporting voice, but if the device can support data and other broadband needs, it could become an interesting element in the broadband home.
  • Ubiquisys, AirWalk and Tatara all will be involved in Acme Packet's technology demonstration of its Net-Net Security Gateway and Net-Net Session Director supporting an IMS/NGN environment.
  • Continuous Computing will demonstrate the concept of adaptive traffic shaping for femtocells to improve the quality of femtocell coverage.
  • The Wi-Fi Alliance and ABI Research will announce new research related to FMC's outlook through 2014.
  • Wireless 2009 also is likely to feature updates on the new wireless efforts coming from telcos' main arch-enemies, the cable TV companies.

Aside from FMC, what else will be happening at Wireless 2009 that telcos should follow? Providing backhaul capacity for increasingly bandwidth-rich wireless networks should, like FMC, be another hot topic at the show.

Telcos have had the wireless backhaul market all to themselves for many years, but new competitors, such as the aforementioned cable TV companies and other types of competitive carriers, are starting to break into the game. Also, the backhaul technology menu is growing to include not just the traditional T-1s, but also Ethernet, Ethernet over copper, high-frequency wireless and microwave.

Verizon's Seidenberg may touch on the future backhaul plans of Verizon Wireless, as the carrier moves to LTE. Telephony recently reported that that the company will be migrating backhaul to Ethernet provided by sister firm Verizon Partner Solutions.

Meanwhile, IP backhaul solutions such as Ethernet will be the topic of a day-long conference on April 1 called "IP Backhaul: Getting more for less" from the folks at Telecommunications.

Still, the most interesting backhaul announcements made in connection with show exhibitors so far involve using wireless technology for wireless backhaul:

  • Bridgewave Communications has announced a new 80 Ghz radio, the FlexPort, which support aggregation of backhaul links from multiple base stations to the tune of 1.5 Gbps of capacity.
  • Exalt Communications recently announced a Gigabit Ethernet microwave radio solution for mobile backhaul needs, the EX-I series.
  • DragonWave has a variety of backhaul products that will be on display, including its Horizon Duo, Horizon Compact, AirPair and Pseudowire solutions.