ISPs that think they can support 3G and 4G standards using their current backhaul capabilities need to think again, said several experts at this week's CTIA Wireless event.
During a day-long seminar on next-generation mobile backhaul, Infonetics principal analyst Michael Howard identified five major factors that were fracturing mobile-architecture backhaul, including the growing number of subscriber numbers; increased data and video traffic; and upcoming 3G and 4G standards, such as WiMAX and Long Term Evolution (LTE).
"If everyone were just using voice, then it would be easy," Howard said. "The backhaul architecture wouldn't be strained, you'd just add new capacity as you get new subscribers."
But as T-Mobile's experience with deploying High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) technology over its European network has shown, mobile data does indeed create major strains upon wireless networks. Thus, to keep up, ISPs will need to migrate away from TDM backhaul and upgrade to IP/Ethernet backhaul, Howard said.
Earlier this week, Juniper Networks unveiled a mobile backhaul solution designed to upgrade legacy TDM and ATM backhaul networks to packet-based backhaul networks using IP/MPLS/Ethernet equipment. During a mobile-backhaul panel this week, representatives from Axerra Networks, Ceterus Networks and DragonWave presented their companies' respective approaches to upgrading backhaul for next-generation technologies.
Alan Solheim, DragonWave's vice president of product management, described his company's approach of packetizing TDM traffic, mixing it with Ethernet traffic and transporting the combined stream over DragonWave's IP-based Ethernet wireless links.
Axerra marketing vice president Haim Volinsky talked about how his company used pseudo-wires to accommodate ATM and TDM traffic across a packet backhaul. Finally, Ceterus product management vice president Mark McDonald discussed how his company created a single Ethernet pipe by bonding individual DS-1s, E1s, DS-3s or SONET/Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) links using ITU-standard circuit bonding.
No matter which approach ISPs used to upgrade their backhaul, the benefits of shifting to packet-based IP/Ethernet backhaul were indisputable, Howard said. "It brings better efficiency, lower costs, higher capacities," he said. "Backhaul ought to help build the bank, not break it."