Small cells drive backhaul demand

Small cells are increasingly a key part of cellular networks
Surging data use is leading operators to deploy small cells.
Surging data use is leading operators to deploy small cells.


Small cells are being increasingly implemented into cellular networks as video and data-centric traffic surges on mobile networks, and this trend could have seious implications for backhaul, according to Multimedia Research Group.

In 2011, small cells only had about 3% of the capacity that macro base stations had. By 2017, with the prevalence of outdoor metropolitan picocells, small cells will have roughly 19% of the overall capacity of macro base stations.

This has important implications for backhaul. Indeed, outdoor metropolitan and indoor picocells, microcells, and a percentage of enterprise femtocells will require backhaul. In 2012, slightly less than 170,000 new deployed small cells required last mile backhaul globally. By 2017, 2.27 million small cells will require a backhaul medium.

There are no fewer than eleven backhaul medium types being used to backhaul small cells. Of these, five are wireline, and six are wireless. One thing is for certain about small cell backhaul, there will be small cell clusters.

In 2017, microwave radios will be the backhaul medium used most to connect small cells with more than two million radios being used. A little more than one million small cells will be connected by fibre, and another 933 thousand will be connected by MM microwave radios.

However, not all small cells will require backhaul. As an example, in residences, femtocells use either DSL or cable modems for backhaul.

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