Speaking to the media on the heels of the deadline to submit comments for the FCC's special access proceeding, Charles McKee, VP of government affairs for federal and state regulatory at Sprint, said wireless backhaul costs the carrier pays to ILECs have continued to rise.
Sprint is reportedly about to embark on a radical overhaul of its cellular network that will include moving its antennas off of towers owned by companies like Crown Castle and American Tower and instead using government-owned land and towers with cheaper rent. In addition, the carrier is rumored to also be ending its reliance on fiber for backhaul and instead use microwave, which will mean it won't have to lease fiber from players like AT&T and Verizon. According to Re/code, which first reported Sprint's network plans, the revamp of its network towers and backhaul could save the company $1 billion and begin as soon as June.
Few details are known about Sprint's reported plans to save $1 billion by moving its towers from space leased by American Tower and Crown Castle to government land where rent is cheaper, as reported by Re/code last week. But analysts agree that it would be a high-risk, high-reward strategy.
Sprint is moving forward with plans of a "radical overhaul of its cellular network," according to Re/code, in a move that could save as much as $1 billion.
AT&T and T-Mobile US said they support a plan by Aviat Networks and Fastback Networks to use the 71-76 and 81-86 GHz bands for backhaul for small cells. The two companies are asking the FCC for authorization to deploy their backhaul technology and equipment in the bands.
Calling it "Backhaul to the Future," Mimosa Networks announced the B11 backhaul radio with massive multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) technology. It's designed to give wireless ISPs a high-precision licensed radio at a cost-effective price.
Ericsson predicts that microwave will become the dominant backhaul technology by 2020 with 65 percent of cell sites using microwave to backhaul traffic. The company, which just released it Microwave 2020 report, said that microwave will dominate not only because of the capacity it can offer but also because of the economics and the lack of fiber in certain areas.
Lumos Networks' current dark fiber revenues may still be relatively small at $1 million, but the telco cites growing interest from wireless operators and enterprise customers as factors that will drive up revenues in the coming year.
Zayo continues to see new opportunities in its fiber-to-the-tower business, announcing that as of the end of June it sold services to over 800 macro tower and small cell sites that leverage previous anchor FTTT network builds already in place.
Time Warner Cable is highlighting its growing portfolio of backhaul services, noting in a blog post that the company has nearly 20,000 cell towers wired for cellular backhaul service. That figure is important because it shows how important wholesale services have become to cable MSOs, particularly as residential video subscriber numbers are dropping.