Strategy Analytics forecasts LTE backhaul shortfall

Industry must invest in more backhaul equipment, finds backhaul company. A report commissioned by backhaul switch provider Tellabs has warned that operators may have a signifcant capacity shortfall by 2017. Operators in Asia Pacific risk being the most capacity-constrained, the report found.

Strategy Analytics, the analyst company that carried out the research for Tellabs, built its forecast on a traffic growth estimate of between five and six times by 2017. It then tallied up planned backhaul investment against what it thinks is the required investment to serve that growth in traffic volumes.

It found that there could be a $9.2 billion shortfall, relating to 9.4 Petabytes of data getting all dressed up with nowhere to go by 2017. 9.4 Petabytes of that squeezed data will be in Asia-Pacific, the report said.

A Tellabs release said: “Over the next 5 years, mobile backhaul will become increasingly complex. Operators will struggle to support multi-frequency heterogeneous networks and new bursty usage patterns. Current operator forecasts allocate an average of 17.5% of total cost of operations to backhaul investment, but investment at that level simply cannot meet user demand.”

Sue Rudd, Director, Service Provider Analysis, Strategy Analytics, said, “At today’s backhaul investment levels, operators could create a significant backhaul capacity shortage. This shortfall could diminish quality of service and, in turn, increase customer churn. Operators need to rethink their backhaul investments as they deploy small cells and LTE capacity.”
You can read the rest of the report’s findings, including some headline stats on the bottom line impact of backhaul investment here.

Video: Can You Avoid the Coming LTE “Mobile Backhaul Gap”?

Operators are beginning to wake up to a new backhaul reality – that their investment to date, which many had been told might fix the network outage issues of 4-5 years ago, when the iPhone boom gave them a rude awakening, are now beginning to need an urgent refresh.

Aside from pure capacity, there is a keener awareness that the backhaul domain now needs to be plugged into the overall network management and monitoring umbrella, genuinely part of an end to end system. This allows operators to control traffic and policies across the network. The issue for them is how to do that cost-effectively. Ethernet Network Interface Device (NID) providers such as Accedian and RAD Data Communications propose one path – using NIDs for performance assurance to take care of quality of service assurance as an overlay on top of legacy devices. These NIDs include nano or mini models – small form factor devices that are designed for use in small cell applications – as well as virtual instances, vNIDs.

Dan Kelly, Tellabs CEO and president, would appear to agree that management is becoming at least as important as capacity in backhaul planning. Tellabs’ release quoted him as saying, “In order to maximise overall returns, operators need to seriously consider issues beyond backhaul capacity and scalability. The watchwords for operators who take a smarter approach to future backhaul planning are flexibility, synchronisation and end-to-end management – and that’s why Tellabs is enabling Self Organisng Network capabilities and Software Defined Networks in our mobile solution.”

You can read more about Tellabs’ SON for backhaul approach here.