Backhaul Bits

5:00 PM -- Some Ethernet Expo notebook scraps about the state of wireless backhaul -- specifically, that "last mile" reach to the cell towers themselves...

From Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Hatteras Networks Inc. , comes a quip about copper access. One factor holding back the wireless backhaul market, he said during a panel on the topic, is the fact that the former Bells own that copper.

"We need some competition to get things moving," he said. "AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) wouldn't have rolled out midband Ethernet if the competitors, the CLECs, weren't beating them out in their own infrastructure."

On the plus side for vendors, wireless backhaul could end up being a more desperate market than most, forcing carriers to look for alternatives. "As successful as midband Ethernet has been to business customers, wireless backhaul is more urgent. It's not about more services -- there's a need," Sheehan said.

Copper and wireless have about equal shares of this market. Each medium connects about 25 percent of the world's base stations -- if you include the entire world. That's because China has a disproportionate number of fibered-up base stations, says Heavy Reading analyst Patrick Donegan.

China balances out North America, where "you've got a better chance of having fiber out to your house" than out to any given base station, Sheehan said. (Hint: That's not good.)

At least one carrier wants to do something about that. No surprise that it's Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), the operator that's spooling out fiber to the tune of $19 billion for FiOS.

The FiOS build includes a study of nearby cell towers, Lisa Houser, Verizon's director of optical services, said on a Tuesday panel. Base stations that are close enough to FiOS's path might get fiber connections; many others get the next best thing.

"In some cases it might be that we're still at the curb or half a mile down... we are making every effort to get as close to cell towers as possible," she said.

For those cases, the cell provider could pay Verizon to take fiber to the cell tower -- but that part wouldn't be included in the FiOS budget, she said.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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