Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mobile - Wireless operators accelerate upgrade plans

[cnet] Smartphone customers and the bandwidth-hungry applications they're using have forced wireless carriers to accelerate their plans for big upgrades as they move toward the next iteration of their networks.

The biggest challenge these wireless operators will face is making sure they have enough capacity in a part of their networks known as backhaul to feed the hungry appetites of wireless data customers.

In short, this ongoing effort is meant to ensure smartphone customers, today and in the future, aren't as routinely annoyed as some iPhone customers say they have been over the past year.

"Backhaul is at the top of the list of issues to resolve before building their 4G networks," said Scott Imhoff, a director of enterprise mobility products at Motorola. "You can upgrade the radios on all your cell phone towers, but if you don't have big enough pipes aggregating that traffic then it doesn't do you any good. "

Here's the problem: wireless operators have spent billions of dollars over the past several years upgrading cell phone towers with 3G wireless radios to bring data services to wireless phone customers. And soon they will be dropping billions more to upgrade these networks to 4G technology.

The radios have gotten faster and operators have put up more towers to increase their footprints, but the technology used in the backhaul network, which connects those towers to the carriers' nationwide networks, has not changed much in the past several years. In many instances, operators are still using old copper lines called T1 line. These lines designed specifically for voice networks offer a maximum transfer speed of 1.5 megabits per second.

Wireless operators accelerate upgrade plans

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