BelAir releases multi-mode metrocell with integrated wireless backhaul

BelAir Networks announced availability of what it calls the industry's first compact LTE/3G/Wi-Fi metrocell that includes integrated wireless backhaul for small-cell outdoor deployments.

BelAir CTO Stephen Rayment told FierceBroadbandWireless that inclusion of carrier Wi-Fi in the BelAir 2011 means that operators can add additional bandwidth at a small incremental cost as they use small cells to boost capacity and increase data speeds. Plus operators are embracing Wi-Fi as an offloading technology.

The product also addresses a pain point that has in the past stymied the deployment of small-cell products-backhaul. Operators need to have solutions in place capable of aggregating, networking and switching backhaul from the thousands of nodes on the street level. To put a single connection to each node would be an expensive proposition. Moreover, operators are increasingly using fiber for backhaul, but fiber is not available to light poles and other high places beyond the traditional cell tower.

BelAir has included the ability to backhaul metrocell traffic via the unlicensed 5 GHz band--a band BelAir already uses to backhaul heavy traffic from metro-sized Wi-Fi hotspots used by providers such as AT&T and Cablevision. Backhaul is achieved via point-to-point links and mesh networking and aggregating.

Rayment said fiber backhaul would simply be too cost prohibitive for many operators. A recent ABI Research report backs that up. The firm estimates that 58 percent of outdoor small cells will be backhauled using wireless technologies by 2016.

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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