Backhaul is crucial to the small-cell business case. Without high-capacity, ultra-compact, low-cost backhaul, the small-cell market will struggle to grow.
Backhaul for small cells requires more than just re-purposing existing backhaul solutions. This is a new market for backhaul vendors – a big opportunity but also a big challenge as they strive to meet a very different set of requirements from what they are used to in the macro-cellular environment. New products are not only required to be smaller and cheaper, but they have to operate in more challenging RF environments.
No single solution will suffice. A combination of fiber, line-of-sight (LOS) and non LOS (NLOS) will be necessary to build the new layer of backhaul infrastructure. Multiple options are available or under development, and they will have to coexist within the same deployment.
Mobile operators and vendors are both confronting these questions. No final verdict is available, but after an extensive interviews and a financial modeling exercise, we have identified a few important emerging trends that are shaping mobile operators’ requirements and vendors’ roadmaps.
The report presents what we found out in this process. It presents an in-depth overview of the market based on interviews with operators and vendors, and a financial assessment of the business case. Topics covered include:
- What are the backhaul solutions that will become prominent? LOS/NLOS? PTP/PMP?
- Which spectrum bands will be used?
- What are the emerging backhaul strategies among mobile operators?
- How well are vendors addressing this market? Where is innovation coming from?
- What backhaul solutions are affordable? What is the per-link price point that makes small cells viable?
- How should operators evaluate tradeoffs in cost and performance?