Startup Tackles 4G Backhaul Bottleneck
DesignArt’s new WiMax System-on-Chip (SoC) platform integrates base station and backhaul capabilities, which means operators will be able to deploy smaller sized base stations that can be used for backhauling traffic as well as serving customers. The technique is called in-band backhaul, because some of an operator’s spectrum is hived off and used for backhaul. It’s also referred to as in-band relaying or multi-hopping.
The backhaul cost and capacity crunch is especially problematic for so-called 4G WiMax and LTE deployments because these technologies require smaller, more densely deployed base stations. In-band relaying is designed to address these issues. (See Clearwire's Backhaul Bet.)
“As you go to next-generation radio access and true broadband speeds, the only way to get those speeds is to have smaller cell sites,” says Gabriel Brown, senior analyst at Heavy Reading. “The problem with smaller cells is that you have to backhaul them all. For all next-gen systems, people are investigating relaying... It has some potential.”
An in-band backhaul network would typically be deployed in a mesh architecture, but DesignArt says its solution could also be used in a point-to-point long-haul deployment.
The startup claims its new product offers big backhaul cost savings.
“We’ve got a complete base station on one piece of silicon, and we’ve added the backhaul,” says Joachim Hallwachs, DesignArt’s vice president of marketing. “It’s extremely low-cost because of a single piece of silicon and low power consumption.”
But it will be a few years before operators are able to deploy an in-band relaying network, according to Brown. DesignArt, for one, has just unveiled its silicon and it will take about a year before an equipment vendor uses it to build WiMax base stations.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) is also working on a standard for in-band backhaul, called Mobile Multihop Relay (MMR) or 802.16j, and it’s expected to be completed by the end of this year or early next year, according to Hallwachs.
DesignArt is also working on an in-band backhaul product for LTE base stations. “We expect in-band relaying to be much more pronounced with LTE than with WiMax.”
DesignArt was founded in 2006 and employs about 30 people. The company’s original venture capital investors are Motorola Ventures, Carmel Ventures , and Magma Venture Partners. In December 2007, Motorola Ventures joined the original investors in round B funding, which was earmarked for launching the company and the first WiMax product, as well as starting development work on an LTE product. But the company would not reveal how much money it has raised in total.
In-band relaying for LTE and other backhaul issues will be discussed at Light Reading's Backhaul Strategies for Mobile Operators: Europe conference in London later this month.
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung
Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Backhaul Strategies for Mobile Operators: Europe, which will provide a unique perspective on the progress that Europe's carrier and vendor community is making in relieving the so-called "backhaul bottleneck" in mobile networks. To be staged in London, June 26, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.