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MEF Standardizes Backhaul

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BARCELONA -- The future of mobile backhaul was redefined today when the MEF announced details of its recently approved "Carrier Ethernet for Mobile Backhaul Implementation Agreement (IA)", or MEF 22. The IA explains how to apply existing MEF specifications and industry standards to meet the increasing demands on RAN backhaul driven by the growth in mobile data and other high bandwidth applications. By offering a practical migration path to 3G and 4G services, while preserving legacy services revenue, the IA allows mobile service providers to take part in two rapidly expanding markets -- the delivery of high bandwidth mobile applications and Carrier Ethernet. It also allows fixed network operators to provide wholesale services, tuned for backhaul applications, to mobile operators and increase use of existing plant.

"Ethernet is the only viable, cost-effective option for next generation mobile backhaul networks," asserts industry analyst Michael Howard of Infonetics Research. "When you take into account the popularity of iPhone and its clones, plus a new wave of other mobile devices including computer dongles, it's not difficult to see why the operators are under pressure to deliver a lot more bandwidth in highly competitive markets. Legacy TDM and ATM backhaul transport services cannot match the scalability, much lower cost-per-bit, and other packet advantages of Carrier Ethernet. Our latest research indicates that worldwide Ethernet (copper, fiber, and microwave) backhaul will add over 1 million new or converted connections between 2009 and 2011, creating one of the strongest telecom market segments in the face of the world economic downturn."

Mobile backhaul networks until now relied on TDM and ATM technologies that cannot cost-effectively meet the bandwidth capacity and reliability demands of growing mobile voice, data and video broadband applications. Carrier Ethernet services are, however, optimized for packet data traffic and are increasingly available thanks to Ethernet's flexibility over a multitude of transport media -- including fiber, copper and microwave. Several factors differentiate Ethernet Backhaul from other Ethernet networks, in particular the rapid handoff between base stations in mobile networks. Ethernet backhaul circuits require very tight performance requirements that must be supported by a deterministic architecture that reduces the number of hops required in a call. They must also provide the same level of network protection as PDH or SONET/SDH based networks. The MEF has identified these specific requirements and MEF 22 advises service providers how to successfully and cost-effectively implement Carrier Ethernet for mobile backhaul.

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