Rural Markets Have Big-City Backhaul Needs

Rural markets have the same bandwidth needs as metro areas, but the cell site make-up presents backhaul opportunities, Tower Cloud CEO says

Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

June 21, 2011

2 Min Read
Rural Markets Have Big-City Backhaul Needs

NEW YORK -- Backhaul & Core Strategies -- Rural markets need just as much bandwidth as metro areas and represent the biggest window of opportunity in mobile backhaul for the next few years, Tower Cloud Inc. CEO and President Ron Mudry told Light Reading Live attendees Tuesday.

That's because most large wireless operators already have their backhaul plans fleshed out in major markets and are now turning their attention to smaller markets and rural areas. Verizon Wireless is a good example of this. (See LR Live: Verizon Going All Ethernet for LTE.)

Tower Cloud provides backhaul in both major cities and rural markets in the Southeastern U.S., but Mudry says the rural markets have lots of cell sites in need of a backhaul makeover. Operators often assume these sites have lower bandwidth requirements than metro areas because they have fewer users, but Mudry said this isn't the case.

The cell site density is also less in rural areas, so providers end up building one huge cell packed with large radio antennas that still match the bandwidth comparable to a downtown market with 12 or more sites.

"It was something of a challenge to some traditional, conventional thinking," added Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Patrick Donegan. "Particularly as you move to small cells in urban markets, you can see how the per-cell-site requirements can be managed in downtown areas whereas in rural areas it's less easy to, because that big cell will get more bandwidth thrown at it."

In these rural markets, Mudry said that the T1 bandwidth requirements of the path will be an indicator of Ethernet requirements of the future. (See Ethernet Quickly Eclipsing T1s for Backhaul.)

"Sites in the past were just for coverage of voice calls, but now it's people in the backseat watching streaming HD movies," Mudry said.

Tower Cloud uses fiber wherever it can economically justify it, which usually means including microwave on the fringe of its markets. Mudry said that in rural markets backhaul providers have to get creative. That includes partnering with companies they may consider competitors, like the local RLECS, and collocating wherever possible. Speed to market is also critical here as the smaller markets can't support five to six backhaul providers like cities can.

"Backhaul decisions are made on a market basis, not a site-by-site basis," Mudry said. "You have to establish yourself in a market."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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