Report: IP/Ethernet accounts for majority of mobile backhaul spending; more small cell deployments imminent

April 12, 2011
89% of money spent on mobile backhaul equipment in 2010 was for IP/Ethernet gear, reports Infonetics Research.

Infonetics Research recently released its Mobile Backhaul Equipment and Services market share and forecast report, which ranks mobile backhaul equipment vendors, identifies market growth areas, and provides analysis of mobile backhaul equipment, connections, cell sites, and service charges.

"As operators refresh their 2G networks and transition to 3G, they almost universally adopt IP/Ethernet as the mobile backhaul solution to lower the costs of growing mobile data traffic, using IP as the base technology for 3G, LTE, and WiMAX networks," explains Michael Howard, principal analyst and co-founder of Infonetics Research. "And the momentum is growing: 89% of the money spent on mobile backhaul equipment in 2010 was for IP/Ethernet gear, with the fastest growth happening in Ethernet cell site routers and gateways and Ethernet packet microwave equipment."

Related News:LTE Backhaul event explores Carrier Ethernet solutions

Richard Webb, directing analyst for microwave at Infonetics and contributor to the forecast report, adds: "The radio access network is changing; there is a perceivable transition to IP-centric base stations, co-located 2G, 3G, and 4G base stations, and smaller, more densely deployed base stations. The microwave vendors are responding by broadening their portfolios with products tailored to this new environment, ensuring that microwave stays flexible, cost-effective, and credible as a backhaul solution."

Mobile backhaul equipment market highlights, according to the Infonetics report, include:

-- The mobile backhaul equipment market grew 10.3% in 2010 over the previous year, to $6.84 billion worldwide

-- Over the long term, demand for Ethernet microwave equipment will remain healthy, driven by demand for Ethernet-based radios for macro and smaller cell base transceiver stations; however, unit pricing will gradually erode, particularly for hybrid TDM/Ethernet gear, inhibiting revenue growth

-- The addition of almost 1.5 billion mobile subscribers and 1.6 billion mobile broadband subscribers between 2011 and 2015 will require more base stations, more cell site connections, higher backhaul capacities, and equipment for each cell site connection

-- Ericsson increased its lead in mobile backhaul microwave radio equipment revenue share, posting its best quarter in at least 2 years

-- As of the second half of 2010, Alcatel-Lucent, Tellabs, Cisco, and Huawei together own over 3/4 of the fast-growing Ethernet cell site routers and gateways segment

Small cell backhaul deployments driven by capacity, coverage, quality; all-IP/Ethernet backhaul imminent

In addition to the aforementioned report, also released its IP/Ethernet and Small Cell Backhaul Strategies: Global Service Provider Survey. "In our IP/Ethernet and small cell backhaul survey, 58% of the operators we interviewed said they will deploy small cells (microcells and picocells) by the end of 2011, and 68% plan to in the future, a clear indication that small cells are a growing part of a total coverage/capacity/quality strategy for 3G," comments Infonetics' Howard.

Related Coverage:Small cells to dominate 4G mobile network deployment

Highlights from the IP/Ethernet and Small Cell Backhaul provider survey include the following:

-- About 150 operators are actively deploying a single (no TDM) all-IP/Ethernet backhaul in some part of their network in 2011, up from 25 in 2009 and about 100 in 2010.

-- In addition to the usual drivers for moving to all-IP/Ethernet backhaul (mobile broadband traffic, HSPA+, LTE planning, etc.), a new driver popped up in this year's survey: fixed mobile convergence (FMC), as carriers plan to optimize operations by converging mobile and fixed traffic in the same network.

-- Compared to last year, more operators now are planning to use Pseudowires, dual TDM/Ethernet microwave, and EFM bonded copper for backhaul.

-- Packet timing and synchronization is no longer a top barrier to deploying IP/Ethernet backhaul

-- Only 5% of respondents will deploy LTE microcells/picocells in 2011, and 37% more plan to deploy in 2012 or later; "we are still very early in the game for LTE microcells/picocells," reports Infonetics.


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