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Backhaul Tweaks Support HetNet Growth

As network operators build out their heterogeneous network (HetNet) strategies, a number of vendors are launching new products to help them tackle the challenge of meeting new backhaul, power, and cost requirements of small cells merged with the macro network.

First up Tuesday is wireless backhaul vendor Ceragon Networks Ltd. (Nasdaq: CRNT), which is unveiling its complete mobile backhaul platform designed for operators building out HetNets for LTE.

The announcement builds on its December 2012 unveiling of the FibeAir IP-20C, its first microwave radio product. But Ceragon's VP of Strategic and Product Marketing Ran Avital says a lot has changed in the market since then. For one thing, software-defined networking (SDN) has become much more of a buzzword in the mobile market, and Ceragon is now billing its platform as "SDN-ready." (See Ceragon Boosts Backhaul for HetNets.)

Specifically, the mobile backhaul specialist announced IP-20, including support for both backhaul and fronthaul, defined as the transport link between a basestation's radio unit and baseband unit in a distributed macro cell scenario. The company is also introducing a new operating system, CeraOS, that Avital says uses a software-defined engine to help operators manage it all in a more efficient way.

Avital says the platform supports any radio transmission technology mix, network topology, and configuration. The programmable architecture hauls to small cells and the largest of macro cells, but he says the focus -- albeit not the hype -- is still on the macro front today. (See Holy HetNets! It’s Super Macros & Massive MIMO.)

"Small cells is in discussion; macro cell upgrades is in action," Avital says. "A lot of what we are announcing here is the need for more capacity around the macro and preparation for small cells when they come."

Where the SDN comes in is that the platform is programmable and equipped for dynamic bandwidth allocation. So, if capacity needs change because of weather, live events where people are uploading a lot of videos or downloading, or for whatever reason, spectrum resources can be redirected and optimized on the fly.

Lattice lowers the power, cost bar for small cells
Lattice Semiconductor Corp. (Nasdaq: LSCC) is going even deeper into the HetNet with today's announcement of a new portfolio of programmable circuits designed to be as small, low-cost, and low-power as multimode small cells, remote radio heads, distributed antenna systems, and other lower-power nodes require. The company is introducing this new line of field-programmable gate array (FPGA) circuits in conjunction with Azcom Technology.

The Lattice HetNet Solutions Portfolio enables connectivity via any protocol including Ethernet, control path, programmability, and power management, which Deepak Boppana, senior strategic marketing manager for wireless infrastructure at Lattice, says is critical for small cells. He says most devices will support power consumption of less than 1 watt.

The majority of Lattice's business today is in the macro network, but Boppana says he sees the most growth opportunity in HetNets, driven by small cells and NLOS backhaul. The move to multimode small cells is also making the need more acute to be highly configurable to support multiple air interface standards and RF frequencies, and to have interference cancellation for the small cells to coexist with the macro network. (See Multimode Small Cells Get Stalled in Labs.)

This is something Lattice says it enables at the circuit, so equipment makers can differentiate their devices at the hardware level.

"Next-generation small cells will be focused on multimode," Boppana says. "They need programmability to address so many standards. We see it as a great opportunity in terms of the flexibility and programmability required."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Sarah Thomas 11/5/2013 | 1:06:59 PM
macro v micro Interesting how much work still needs to be done on macrocells as small cells get all the attention. Good news for Ethernet.
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