NEC Reveals Small-Cell Backhaul Playbook

NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) revealed on Wednesday that its small-cell wireless backhaul offering will be based on 60GHz radio technology.

The vendor says it believes 60GHz is the most promising wireless choice for small-cell backhaul because it is "zero-cost" spectrum (that is, usually not requiring a license fee) and there is good bandwidth availability at this frequency. Also, the spectrum boasts high channel re-use, which the vendor claims is well suited for delivering high-capacity, low-latency connections to hundreds of small cells.

A benchmark for the amount of backhaul capacity that a Long Term Evolution (LTE) small cell would need is 100 Mbit/s, while a 3G small cell would start with 20 Mbit/s, according to Dejan Bojic, NEC's senior product manager for backhaul. NEC's small-cell backhaul products will support any access technology.

But low cost is key. "The cost points of these solutions will be very low … significantly lower than existing backhaul solutions," says Bojic.

NEC's offering, expected to be ready for trials starting in the second quarter of this year, will include the wireless backhaul radios as well as a management system for provisioning backhaul resources and preventing performance degradation. Its first commercial offering is expected to be available in 2013.

Why this matters
NEC is among the first, if not the first, of the big equipment vendors to back a wireless technology for small-cell backhaul and begin to develop products based on that decision. There are many different wireless options for delivering small-cell backhaul, and NEC's move will give some clarity to this dynamic market, which has attracted various startups touting different technologies.

But the critical issue for NEC's 60GHz strategy, as with any small-cell backhaul technology, is cost. The capex and opex associated with wireless backhaul for small cells must be substantially less than traditional backhaul systems for macro networks. That's a challenge that could threaten the operator business case for small cells if it's not resolved.

For more
How to provide backhaul for small cells will be a key theme at Mobile World Congress this year.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

bogdanovici 12/5/2012 | 5:42:33 PM
re: NEC Reveals Small-Cell Backhaul Playbook

Would be interesting to get some idea on the (capex) cost per link.

How low is "very low": sub $10K per link?

Furthermore, I would be interested to learn on how NEC derived their 100Mbps/30Mbps benchmarks for LTE/HSPA small cells. I was under impression that 'last mile' links are usually dimensioned to support peak capacity. Would 100Mbps be enough to support 'quiet time' peak throughput for 20MHz channel?

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:42:33 PM
re: NEC Reveals Small-Cell Backhaul Playbook

Good questions. I did ask NEC what the cost per link would be but that's a number they wouldn't reveal.

ssanyal 12/5/2012 | 5:42:01 PM
re: NEC Reveals Small-Cell Backhaul Playbook

As mobile data consumption continues to rise, small cells are undoubtedly an important solution for capacity improvements. However, the cost implications of backhauling small cells to support this growth have not been fully considered. Bluwan has recently made some cost calculations comparing various backhaul options, including PTP wireless and fibre. We’ll be announcing results at Mobile World Congress, and our new video begins to explain the relative costs – please feel free to take a look here: http://bit.ly/xhi9rt.

Shayan Sanyal, CCO, Bluwan

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