Mobile Backhaul Driving Carrier Ethernet Success
After years of planning convergence around fixed-mobile services, telecom network operators suddenly find themselves living in a converged world primarily to deliver one big service: mobile backhaul.
The reality of the bandwidth demands for mobile data today and for the projected mobile video services of the near future is driving deployment plans for the Carrier Ethernet backbone networks of companies such as AT&T and Verizon. Mobile backhaul is a major reason the Carrier Ethernet market grew 14 percent year-over-year to $492 million in the first quarter of 2010, according to the Carrier Ethernet Switch/Router Quarterly Market Tracker service published by Heavy Reading. (See Carrier Ethernet Market Off to Good Start in 2010.)
But mobile backhaul isn't just driving larger volumes of Carrier Ethernet deployment, it is also changing the way that gear is deployed. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is rethinking its entire network architecture, in order to find ways to add capacity to mobile backhaul networks more quickly. (See LTE Will Reshape Entire AT&T Network.)
At Verizon, the change is also dramatic. As Larry O'Neill, manager of Ethernet Services for Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) Global Wholesale, told Light Reading at a conference in June, the mobile backhaul market has forced major changes in corporate culture, in addition to the technology changes, O'Neill said.
"Wireless backhaul has taught us the ILEC has to be responsive -- we can't any longer just ask what color T-1 they want," O'Neill joked. "It has meant a culture change."
But O'Neill admitted that, in general, backhaul providers are "scrambling" to meet the needs of the wireless operators and not currently succeeding, much as wireless carriers are struggling to meet the growing demands of their end-users.
"Wireless backhaul has had the most impact on how Ethernet is deployed," O'Neill said. "We are investing a lot more to put ourselves in the position to do the right thing for the world."
Newer applications such as delivering live TV to mobile devices will require new network behaviors, not just more bandwidth. Already a wide swath of consumers -- not just the younger set -- have replaced voice calls with text messages and email from a mobile device, which has brought the network to the crossover point where data traffic begins to exceed voice, O'Neill said.
Bandwidth demands have outstripped network operators' ability to retrofit their infrastructure, and that is leading to major new Carrier Ethernet deployments.
"None of us is meeting the requirements today," O'Neill said. "We would like to think we are, but in terms of delivering bandwidth to cellsites, we are scrambling."
— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading