Backhaul Watch: AlcaLu Syncs Up
The wireless backhaul beat has been all abuzz about Ethernet, as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) beefed up its synchronization support, MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) filled in its Long Term Evolution (LTE) backhaul strategy, and industry players talked about the lingering challenges for Ethernet backhaul at an industry event.
The companies have already shown interoperability between Symmetricom's TimeProvider 5000 Grandmaster clock and AlcaLu's service routers and WCDMA and LTE base stations.
MetroPCS did not specify where it would use the new Ethernet backhaul services because it has not yet revealed exactly when and where it will roll out LTE this year. The operator has said the rollout will be in the second half of 2010. (See Ericsson Lands LTE Gig at MetroPCS , MetroPCS Polices LTE With Bridgewater, MetroPCS Chooses LTE for 4G Wireless Network, and CTIA 2010: The LTE Smartphone Scramble.)
One of the issues raised is that, putting it simply, it's complicated. The transition to Ethernet backhaul requires operators to maintain the legacy equipment while also installing and running the newer gear, and that's not a straightforward task.
"Operators need to use Ethernet as a cost effective way to bring the traffic back," said Richard Strike, application and solution manager at ADVA Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV) . "Getting there, it's quite a complicated, multi-technology area at the cell site. There's always some older equipment there… So there's quite a mix of technology out there, and dealing with that mix is the engineering challenge that people are trying to grapple with."
According to Greg Gum, chief marketing officer of ANDA Networks Inc. , part of the reason Ethernet backhaul has not progressed as fast is that fiber penetration out to cell sites is still low. He said that 20 percent of sites have fiber to the cell site.
Also at the Light Reading event, RAD Data Communications Ltd. advocated its Carrier Ethernet mobile demarcation devices (MDDs), which distribute network intelligence out to cell sites. The vendor believes that increases in backhaul capacity need to be accompanied by more intelligence at the cell site in order to handle service prioritization and control.(See RAD Touts Ethernet Demarcation and RAD Gets a Tier 1 Test.)
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile