Wireline to dominate metrocell backhaul spending, as wireless vendors fight it out

Metrocell backhaul will offset decline in macrocell revenues, says Maravedis-Rethink. But will new players benefit, or will we see a shift in revenue mix within the traditional providers (or both)?

Esteband Monturus, author of a new report from Maravedis-Rethink – Wireless Backhaul From an Intermodal Perspective – has said that investment in metrocell backhaul will be dominated by fixed line technologies.

As converged service providers look to monetise their deployed fibre and cable networks, it will be these technologies that will make up the bulk of metrocell backhaul investments, the analyst said.

That said, investment in wireless backhaul solutions will also increase, as the overall market rises. Indeed, the increase in metrocell backhaul investment will “more than compensate” for a predicted decline in macrocell backhaul investment from 2017, according to Maravedis-Rethink.

The two biggest beneficiaries of wireless backhaul for the metrocell space will be Point to Multipoint (PmP) and millimeter wave radio solutions, Monturus said.

“Millimeter wave and PmP microwave technologies, which served niche markets in the past, will reap 57% and 22% of the total wireless metrocell backhaul revenue in the 2013-2018 timeframe, while the NLOS backhaul market will be the smallest segment,” said Monturus.

That could mean an opportunity from start-up and emerging PmP players such as Cambridge Broadband Networks and BluWan, or from a clutch of small cell-focussed vendors of millimeter wave radios, such as Bridgewave, Siklu and Sub10 Systems. Ericsson has a range of technologies within its toolkit, too, and has publicly announced products at both 60Ghz (MiniLink PT3060) and E-Band (PT6020). Its recent work in establishing a use case for NLOS at higher frequencies further emphasise that it will not only be start-ups that seek to address the small cell/ metrocell backhaul space.

However, at least some of these challenger vendors are likely to find their route to market through arrangements with the traditional NEPs – either through sales partnerships, technical integration or full scale acquisition. Alcatel-Lucent, for example, has partnership arrangements with vendor suppliers such as Sub10 Systems as part of its integrated service approach to metrocell deployments. NSN sold off its microwave products business to Dragonwave, and now acts as a partner with DragonWave, with DragonWave seeking to exploit that relationship to gain traction for its Avenue products.

The predominance of wireline metrocell backhaul will be driven by the need for converged fixed-mobile carriers to leverage costly investments in FTTx before spending money on dedicated metrocell wireless backhaul networks

Despite this continued jockeying in the wireless market, it is worth noting that, overall, it will be fixed line solutions that dominate in the metrocell space, the report found, with 69% of the overall market spend going on fixed line access.

“The predominance of wireline metrocell backhaul will be driven by the need for converged fixed-mobile carriers to leverage costly investments in FTTx before spending money on dedicated metrocell wireless backhaul networks,” said Monturus.

Monturus figured that the macrocell wireless backhaul market will begin to decline in 2017, but metrocell backhaul, expected to grow to US$4.7 billion in 2018, will “more than compensate” for the decline. The end result of the diverging trends is a total wireless backhaul market of over US$10 billion projected for 2018.

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