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CableLabs Targets Mobile Backhaul Bounty

Alan Breznick

Seeing gold in LTE and 5G networks, CableLabs is creating a mobile backhaul R&D lab to help cable operators get their share of the bounty.

The new R&D lab is designed to foster the development and deployment of mobile backhaul as a service over cable's DOCSIS-based HFC networks. Cable technologists see great potential for using those HFC networks to meet the growing backhaul needs of wireless carriers, especially as the carriers shift to much denser, small-cell architectures.

In a blog post added recently to the CableLabs website, Jennifer Andreoli-Fang, distinguished technologist for wireless technologies, wrote that DOCSIS networks "provide three main elements critical to backhaul solutions: location, power and capacity." She noted that mobile operators "are faced with the challenge of deciding whether DOCSIS networks can meet the backhaul requirements (such as capacity, latency and synchronization) of future mobile technologies."

In a corresponding white paper co-authored with Belal Hamzeh, VP of wireless at CableLabs, Andreoli-Fang makes the case that cable's DOCSIS networks are up to that challenge. The two CableLabs officials argue that "DOCSIS 3.0 networks today can already support mobile backhaul" and that DOCSIS 3.1 and Full Duplex DOCSIS technologies deliver, or will deliver, significantly more capacity for backhaul.

Andreoli-Fang and Hamzeh also contend that cable DOCSIS networks can meet the low-latency requirements of mobile backhaul. They note that DOCSIS can generally achieve 1 ms of latency in the downstream today and 11 ms to 15 ms in the upstream, with potential for further improvement.

The establishment of the backhaul R&D lab comes after CableLabs and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) presented a technical paper on this topic at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver last October. In that paper, the two argued that cable operators could slash the upstream latency levels to as low as just over 1 ms by "pipelining" a request from the LTE device to the CMTS using a new type of message called a "bandwidth report" (BWR). The BWR message would request the bandwidth before it was actually needed, thereby reducing the time necessary to grant bandwidth to the requesting device. (See Cisco: Cable Nets Can Backhaul Small Cells.)

CableLabs did not offer any details on the size, funding or staffing of the new R&D lab (but we'll keep you posted on that).

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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