ABI Research: Wireless backhaul to dominate small-cell deployments

The notion of small cells to bolster network coverage and capacity is gaining popularity, but how the traffic will be backhauled has yet to be tackled. Still, a new study from ABI Research estimates that 58 percent of outdoor small cells will be backhauled using wireless technologies by 2016.

The firm says emphasis on small-cell backhaul has not reached the forefront yet simply because few small cells have been deployed and operators are still in the process of testing small-cell backhaul technologies.

ABI Research said operators have several factors to take into consideration when it comes to small-cell backhaul solutions, including product footprint, range, cost, Ethernet/IP support and capacity. While fiber, copper, and traditional microwave are currently being used to backhaul rooftop micro base stations, the emergence of wireless technologies like NLOS OFDM (sub 6 GHz), MMW (60-80 GHz) and also Wi-Fi backhaul solutions are likely to find preference due to their flexibility, low cost and ability to use point-to-multipoint (PMP) and point-to-point (PTP) techniques to backhaul clusters or rows of small cells.

"Small cell backhaul space is still in its early days, with a number of small vendors positioning their solutions, especially on the wireless backhaul side," said Aditya Kaul, practice director, mobile networks, in a release. "While the majority of small cell backhaul activity is concentrated in OFDM NLOS sub 6 GHz and to some extent in the MMW 60-80 GHz space, the cost of these solutions will need to come down to allow operators to make a favorable small cell business case."

For more:
- see this release

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