Packet Backhaul Busts the 'Pain Barrier'
That's the message from Heavy Reading senior analyst Patrick Donegan, who kicked off Light Reading's Backhaul Strategies & Core Convergence conference here in London today.
This marks a major turnaround in operators' attitudes to and acceptance of packet backhaul compared with two years ago when this event was held in the same mod London hotel. [Ed note: which also happens to be the last known address of Jimi Hendrix, but I digress.]
At that time, the prevailing operator attitude to Ethernet backhaul was suspicion, mistrust, and lack of confidence in key areas. (See Carriers Don't Trust Ethernet Backhaul? and Carriers Go Slow on Packet Backhaul.)
But that is so 2008!
"Packet backhaul is through the pain barrier and operators are rolling out in volume worldwide," said Donegan.
After a lot of trials of many different architectures, solutions, and configurations, a number of leading operators are now operating packet backhaul efficiently and starting to get the better cost performance in the network in the volume that is needed to render mobile broadband services profitable.
So the waves of mobile data traffic crashing through operators' 3G networks, particularly in Europe, have swept mobile operators along to adopt packet backhaul as a cost-effective way to boost capacity in their transport networks to keep up with demand. Indeed, it is estimated that there is now three times more data than voice traffic on cellular networks in Europe as of this quarter.
It's this phenomenal growth in data traffic that is driving operators to deploy packet backhaul.
According to Heavy Reading research, 8 percent of all cell sites in Europe will have packet backhaul in live service at the end of this year, which is up from less than 2 percent at the end of 2008. Heavy Reading forecasts that by the end of next year, 17 percent of all European cell sites will have packet backhaul in live service.
In Europe, most of the packet backhaul deployments to date have been fiber-based, according to Donegan. But 2011 is expected to be a big year for packet microwave, and it will be deployed in substantial volume in "live commercial service," according to Donegan.
Out of sync?
The analyst noted that synchronization is still a bugbear for mobile operators when it comes to packet backhaul. A look under the hood of most packet backhaul deployments will reveal that operators keep an E-1 line in place for synchronization. (See Backhaul Timing: Anything But Synchronized.)
"There is still a lot of work to be done on operationalizing 1588v2 and [synchronous Ethernet]," said Donegan.
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile