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Backhaul

Alcatel-Lucent Overhauls Backhaul for Small Cells

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) has given its backhaul product portfolio a makeover to take on the challenges of small-cell deployments.

The vendor has added several new products as well as extra professional services to its backhaul offering. The changes are intended to give operators flexibility to use whatever technology they have available -- whether that is fiber, copper or wireless options, such as microwave -- to link small base stations back to their core networks.

One of the biggest hurdles to small-cell backhaul is the location of the tiny base stations: That factor makes it difficult, or even impossible, for operators to use their existing backhaul infrastructure to support the distributed access points.

A good example is the often-referenced scenario of small cells on lampposts, a location where operators typically would not have backhaul in place.

According to Manish Gulyani, Alcatel-Lucent's VP of product marketing, Networks Business Unit, the backhaul technology decision for small cells will often be based on "what operators can get there, rather than what they'd like to get there."

For example, operators may try to tap in to their DSL infrastructure in locations where they don't have access to fiber or microwave, which is what they would typically use for macro cell site backhaul.

"We take that challenge away from them by giving them flexibility … that allows them to adapt to any situation," he added.

So what's new from AlcaLu? Here's a run-down of the changes:

  • AlcaLu has added new members to its family of 7705 service aggregation router (SAR) cell site routers: The 7705 SAR-W is designed for outdoor metro cell sites and supports 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi over any backhaul technology; the 7705 SAR-H targets indoor metro cells, has capacity of up to 5 Gbit/s and has additional security features such as firewalls; the 7705 SAR-A is also designed for indoor use but has capacity of up to 10 Gbit/s and supports IP/MPLS and TDM over Ethernet; in addition, the vendor has also boosted the capacity on the existing 7705 SAR-8 cell site router from 12 Gbit/s to up to 60 Gbit/s.
  • The vendor has added packet microwave capabilities: 60GHz millimeterwave point-to-point line-of-sight backhaul, using technology supplied by partner Sub10 Systems Ltd. ; and sub-6GHz for point-to-point as well as point-to-multipoint non-line-of-sight applications, using technology from partner Radwin . (See Startup Boosts Alcatel-Lucent's Backhaul .)
  • Another new device is the GPON SFP ONT -- all spelled out, that's a gigabit passive optical network (GPON) small form-factor pluggable (SFP) optical network terminal (ONT). This piece of kit acts as a GPON device at the cell site and plugs into one of the small cell router ports, explains Gulyani, eliminating the need for an extra device to terminate the fiber.


Why this matters
The extent to which Alcatel-Lucent has updated its backhaul portfolio for small cells shows just how broad and flexible the technology options need to be for operators. The nature of public-access small-cell deployments takes some operators into uncharted territory with the locations of the tiny base stations -- getting backhaul to those sites remains one of the biggest challenges for these networks.

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— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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