Sprint: Please, Sir, Can We Have Some More Ethernet Backhaul?
That was one of the central points relayed today by Sprint director of data network development Mo Kashefipour, the morning keynoter here at Light Reading's Backhaul Strategies for Mobile Operators event.
Sprint isn't yet facing some of the 3G capacity crunch issues that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s customers have been so vocal about recently, but it does face additional operating costs when adding T1 lines to existing sites to boost throughput.
When it comes to deploying new 3G cellsites, Kashefipour would rather use Ethernet everywhere. "That's the preferred solution... but it's just not there," he said, adding that the providers often don't cover entire cellular markets yet with fiber or microwave.
Kashefipour said that Sprint usually wants to start deploying a new 3G cellsite with a backhaul "pipe" of around 15 Mbit/s. If he can't get Ethernet, he'll use a pseudowire system to increase T1 capacity. This bonds together four or five T1 lines to get the multi-megabit speeds needed.
Kashefipour says Sprint's "4G partner," Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), will offer some relief. Clearwire CTO John Saw told Unstrung recently that the mobile WiMax operator is using IP-compatible microwave radios for 90 percent of the backhaul network it has so far deployed. In contrast to Sprint, Clearwire likes to start a site with a backhaul pipe of 30 Mbit/s to 50 Mbit/s.
"We'll take advantage of their backhaul to transport our CDMA and iDEN traffic through pseudowire," he says, adding that the companies often collocate backhaul at cellsites.
Of course, Clearwire is nowhere close to be being deployed nationwide yet, so the WiMax provider is currently more of a backhaul bonus than a capacity panacea. Sprint would still like more Ethernet, please.
The mention of Clearwire provoked a couple of questions from the audience about the possibility of Sprint eventually moving to rival Long Term Evolution (LTE) radio access technology. Kashefipour, however, had that line down cold.
"I don't have an opinion on WiMax or LTE," he told the crowd. "We're committed to Clearwire."
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung