Wireless backhaul: A bountiful wireline opportunity

This week you'll notice a new feature in the newsletter and on the Fierce Telecom site: the launch of our very first eBook on wireless backhaul.

Having spent time in a previous life covering both the wireless and wireline sectors, it has only been in recent years that wireless backhaul has come to the forefront the wireless industry's mind. The reason quite simply is bandwidth-hungry applications, devices and services. According to one statistic I found about AT&T Mobility, the iPhone alone generated 50 percent of the traffic on their mobile backhaul network. What's interesting about this figure is that iPhone users actually represent only a few million of AT&T Mobility's total 78 million wireless subscriber base.

Okay, so why is the wireline guy writing about wireless, anyway?

Speaking from the wireline-centric perspective, I am seeing that the need for more backhaul solutions is creating new opportunities for both vendors and wholesale service providers alike. On the vendor end, there's of course the established guard (Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and Tellabs) that all were supplying wireless operators with traditional SONET and even T1 access gear long before it was a hip concept. Now, the emerging talk of the town in the backhaul world includes a mix of Ethernet, fiber and even microwave technologies to bridge the gap where a case for fiber-based network can't be proven out. Along with a group of new Ethernet players (Actelis, Extreme, and Hatteras), last mile players (Calix and Occam) have been touting their wares to fulfill wireless backhaul needs.

Case in point is Calix. The Petaluma, Ca.-based vendor won a deal to supply its Optical Network Terminal (ONT) to CenturyLink. CenturyLink is using the Calix ONTs as one of its tools to provide fiber-based wireless backhaul to other wireless providers. Just the same, traditional wireline operators have been supplying traditional T1 access and SONET services since the wireless industry began to take off in the 1980s. Ironically, the wireless operator would be renting these circuits from their direct competitor. Seeing more demand for higher bandwidth backhaul, Qwest and Verizon have stepped up to the plate by expanding their fiber reac into more cell sites and offering a new suite of Ethernet and hybrid TDM/IP offerings (Ethernet over SONET) that can satisfy older generation voice services that are very sensitive to any network latency.

But now the ILECs are getting company from both cable operators (Time Warner Cable and Cox) and what I like call wireless backhaul specialists (FiberTower and Telecom Transport Management). And while fiber is certainly the best medium for wireless backhaul, these wireless backhaul specialists are advocating a hybrid approach that complements fiber-based deployments with microwave. What all this activity tells me is that wireless backhaul presents a bountiful opportunity for the wireline industry to supply a cadre of options that go beyond expensive T1 circuits.   

I am interested in your opinion about this topic. When you get a chance, please give the eBook a read and let us know what you think.--Sean