Infonetics: Wireless operators prefer Ethernet over fiber for small cell backhaul, but challenges remain

Offering an opportunity to quickly scale as traffic demands rise, fiber-based Ethernet has become the preferred method in the still developing small cell backhaul market, a new Infonetics report reveals.

Ethernet over fiber is also the most-used technology for in-building small cell deployments. Following fiber-based Ethernet are point-to-point microwave and millimeter wave technologies.

Although fiber-based Ethernet is the preferred method, the diversity of locations and topologies will drive an operator's decision of what technology they will use.

The small cell market may have yet to live up to the initial growth targets, but according to Infonetics, many wireless operators are making plans to transfer more of their traffic onto small cells in the next three years.

"Operators participating in our small cell backhaul survey have yet to scale their small cell deployments, but they are looking to place over 20% of their traffic from the macro network onto small cells by 2018," notes Richard Webb, directing analyst for mobile backhaul and small cells at Infonetics Research.

Webb added that despite their timeline, wireless operators report that they face a number of obstacles in deploying backhaul for small cells; specifically, "planning site acquisition, power and connection sourcing and cost models have impacted deployment timelines."

That's not to say that fiber-based small cell projects aren't going forward.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) employed Tower Cloud as its backhaul partner for its new 4G LTE small cell deployment in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park, for example. For that project, Tower Cloud built dark fiber into the park and to each of the 22 small cell nodes.

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
Dark fiber, small cells represent the next stage of the wireless backhaul land grab
Verizon Wireless taps Tower Cloud for its Atlanta small cell network deployment

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