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Mobile Data Growth Boosting Backhaul Demand

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ms09_mbk_2h08_chartThanks to the emergence of superphones like the iPhone (s aapl), the BlackBerry Bold (s rimm) and the T-Mobile G-1, we have seen a steady increase in the demand for mobile data services. The easy availability of popular web services such as Facebook and Google Mail (s goog) on higher-end feature phones has only helped boost the demand for mobile data. And such demand has helped carriers overcome stagnating voice- and text-related revenues, especially in the U.S., as the quarterly results of major phone companies show.

Cole Brodman, chief technology office of T-Mobile USA, in a recent GigaOM interview said that the company is currently providing 6 Mbps per site. “Tomorrow I think the first steps are going to be something more like 20-25Mbps, quickly followed by 50Mbps, and eventually getting to 100Mbps-plus,” he said. T-Mobile isn’t alone in its scramble to bulk up the backhaul as according to some forecasts, there will be more than a billion mobile broadband phone subscribers by end of 2010. While data has been a good way for the wireless operators to scoop up easy cash, they’re all facing a future in which they’ll be spending a lot of money on infrastructure. According to market research firm Infonetics Research:

  • By 2010, data traffic will surpass voice traffic on mobile networks.
  • Mobile backhaul equipment investments jumped a healthy 19 percent in 2008 to $4.6 billion worldwide, and revenue is set to explode over the next five years and beyond.
  • Demand for mobile backhaul equipment is seen topping $10 billion by 2011.

Why? Because as In-Stat, another market research firm, notes, carriers worldwide will need some 90,000 Gbps of capacity in the last mile of the backhaul network by the end of 2013 to support the world’s cellular and WiMAX networks. The big boost will come for the backhaul Ethernet-based equipment, whether in the form of microwave, fiber or copper. Microwave will be a big winner, Infonetics predicts. Roughly 60 percent of backhaul cell site connections in most regions of the world are microwave, the firms estimates, and demand is growing fast, including here in the U.S.

Related Posts:
* 4G Wireless & the Ensuing Bandwidth Boom
* Verizon Rents Out Its Fiber for LTE

19 Responses to “Mobile Data Growth Boosting Backhaul Demand”

  1. Serge

    It seems like using microwave backhaul for this sort of thing is quite a waste of spectrum, particularly in urban environments. It is certainly not the highest, best use of that precious resource.

    • DG Lewis

      Most (as in “almost all”) microwave for backhaul uses point-to-point licenses, which allow for a tremendous amount of spectrum reuse, and operate at frequencies which require line of sight and really aren’t suitable for other uses. So it’s not really a scarce resource.

    • Jesse Kopelman

      What would be a better use? As DG Lewis points out, this is PTP appropriate spectrum; backhual is its intended purpose. This stuff cannot be repurposed as air interface for your mobile device, unless you want a meter-long antenna on your iPhone. Meanwhile, since these are highly directional PTP links, they are not interferring with the same spectrum being reused many times over for other applications, including in-building cable replacement use (which doesn’t really even exist yet).

  2. For those who are unfamiliar:

    Many cell sites atop towers or buildings are owned by companies other than the cell carriers. Many of these sites operated by American Tower and others have had metro WAN switches with multiple competitive carriers offering all types of backhaul at many speeds and proces – often premium prices.

    Just because AT&T may be choked in this our era of 3G, does not mean that at every metropolitan cell site they did not have choices. In some cases, they chose not use 3rd party metro WANs, terrestrial microwave, or what have you, for their more ILEC friendly and cheaper T_carrier systems – synchronous and inflexible point to point links.

    Price drives the wagon in the remote data carriage business. This is why some of the off-brand carriers seem to have better lower latency 3g connections; they had no incumbent T Carrier and had to avail themselves of the more expensive and lower latency Metropolitan WAN providers.

  3. Not entirely sure that the G1 is a superphone ;-) but it certainly does have one of the nicer browsers in the industry. Might be closer to being a superphone with baked in exchange support and more cpu….

  4. I wish I had a dime for every metro WAN startup that came knocking on the cell companies doors for the last 10 years, and got turned away, “..what the hell we need 100MBPS for, go away!”. Many of the smaller regional and competitive alternative metro and tertiary RF data companies came and went and failed. They were too early.

    Now, new players and some of the established incumbents will be pulling SONET to the tower.