Friday, May 21, 2010

Mobile - backhaul must evolve to packet optical systems to support 3G and LTE

[cellular news] As mobile service providers roll out advanced 3G and 4G broadband technologies, mobile backhaul networks must evolve beyond today's multiservice Sonet/SDH-based technologies to accommodate packet capabilities, and packet-optical transport systems (P-OTS) will play a major role in these applications, according to a new report from Heavy Reading.

"Backhaul for mobile broadband is clearly the next big thing for optical suppliers in 2010, replacing the buzz provided by telco video over the past few years," says Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst with Heavy Reading and author of the report. "Operators understand that 2G-era backhaul networks that rely on PDH, ATM, and Sonet/SDH cannot handle the capacity and scale for the future. They also understand that next-generation backhaul networks must be built with packet-centric transport and switching technologies, including Ethernet and MPLS."

Heavy Reading views P-OTS equipment as a viable option for operators building these new packet-centric backhaul networks. "P-OTS equipment presents a strong value proposition for mobile backhaul providers that, for some time to come, must accommodate both legacy TDM backhaul traffic and new Ethernet backhaul traffic. P-OTS equipment holds a strong advantage over Layer 2/3 switches - including carrier Ethernet switch/routers (CESRs) and carrier Ethernet access platforms (CEAPs) - in being able to transport TDM traffic as TDM."

Key findings of The Future of Packet-Optical Transport for Mobile Backhaul include the following:

Worldwide revenue from P-OTS for mobile backhaul will increase from an estimated $263 million in 2009 to $1.5 billion in 2014, representing a 40.8 percent CAGR over that span. Asia/Pacific is (and will remain) the largest revenue opportunity for P-OTS backhaul, accounting for 48 percent of worldwide revenue in 2014. Europe is (and will remain) the second largest contributor, though its share will decline to 27 percent by 2014. The rest of the world will grow the fastest and is set to surpass North America by 2014.

Multiservice Sonet/SDH equipment has had a good run in mobile backhaul applications, but the report authors believe that run is coming to an end as early as this year. The MSPP has been the workhorse of 2G and early 3G backhaul networks, but network operators believe packet-based equipment will be needed to support the demands of mobile broadband moving forward. Although MSPPs will continue to support existing 2G/3G networks for years to come, new networks will require packet efficiency and scaleability that MSPPs cannot provide.

The packet side of P-OTS must evolve in line with CESRs and CEAPs to remain relevant for backhaul applications. Capacity is one aspect: The packet switching capacities of P-OTS must match those of CESRs and CEAPs, or they will not make the cut. Besides capacity, key Ethernet features must also be present, including ITU Synchronous Ethernet and IEEE 1588v2 support for timing and synchronization.

They also see a near- to mid-term opportunity for P-OTS equipment deployed at cell sites for mobile backhaul. Vendors including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Fujitsu, and Huawei are building customer-premises versions of their P-OTS products to sit at cell sites and collect traffic from 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. The report authors see a near-term boom in these types of products but expect demand to taper off as packet timing and synchronization standards mature. They expect competition between access P-OTS and CEAPs at the cell tower to increase from year to year.

Packet-Optical Backhaul Revenues to Hit $1.5 Billion by 2014

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