Skip to main content
Sep 22 2014

Microwave Improves Small Cell Backhaul for LTE

Small cells have emerged as an accepted approach to quickly and efficiently get additional capacity and/or coverage deployed to support LTE networks. Yet providing connectivity from those small cells back into the network – i.e., backhauling – remains a challenge. This is where innovations in microwave networking offer some real opportunities. Mobile operators should consider small cell backhaul solutions that can address the capacity and networking requirements of LTE, while also simplifying backhaul installation, provisioning and operations.

Fiber Optic Constraints

High capacity fiber optic cables are ideal to connect small cell sites to mobile services and the Internet. Unfortunately, not all small cell sites will have access to fiber. That’s because small cells will be deployed in locations as varied as street lamps, bus stops, and the sides of buildings. Consequently, the majority of the world’s small cell sites will leverage some form of wireless backhaul connectivity, such as microwave.

Challenges of current topology

For simple point-to-point backhaul microwave links, many full outdoor microwave radio solutions can be used. However, existing full-outdoor microwave systems won’t work in all scenarios. For example, when you need to support more advanced network topologies such as rings, or combine microwave channels into a higher capacity virtual links. You could introduce an indoor device to provide an aggregation and/or switching function. But this leads to the need for a costly cabinet or shelter - driving up both OPEX and CAPEX.

Bringing indoor networking units outdoors

What if you took the indoor networking device and made it deployable in a full outdoor backhaul environment just like the radio it supports, and also gave it the capability to power the full outdoor radio? What if that device supported common networking and management with the indoor units deployed at the macro cell site? This approach would solve the challenge of providing more advanced networking, simplify the deployment and provisioning of the outdoor small cell, and drive significant cost reductions. The design challenges for a full outdoor backhaul product are obviously more stringent than designing a product for an environmentally protected cabinet with a heat exchanger or a cool air conditioning unit. So any new device should solve those challenges. Alcatel-Lucent has just introduced the 9500 MPR MSS-O (Microwave Service Switch – Outdoor). It is a rugged networking device suitable for outdoor deployments, and supports both AC and DC powering options. It provides the same networking features and functions as the indoor unit:

  • Fully hardened to comply with the IP67 standard. It is robust against severe climate change, and can even be submerged under water if a cell site becomes flooded.
  • Follows Telcordia’s GR-3180 Class 4 criteria for fully exposed equipment. This includes a 30 day salt fog test, which simulates 30 years of continued outdoor exposure to harsh environment!

Find out more about how the new full outdoor unit can facilitate the introduction of small cells to support higher capacity and coverage in LTE heterogeneous networks.

Related Material

Small Cells Outdoor Solution page 9500 MPR MSS-O (Microwave Service Switch – Outdoor) datasheet Watch TechZine over the next few weeks for other posts in this mobile backhaul series

To contact the author or request additional information, please send an email to networks.nokia_news@nokia.com.

About James Ries
James Ries is responsible for the Alcatel-Lucent 9500 Microwave Packet Radio (MPR) product strategy. In this role, Mr. Ries provides the product definition and requirements to address the North American small cell and macro cell mobile backhaul market. Mr. Ries also manages the global product release strategy for the 9500 MPR. In his 17 years of communications networks experience, Mr. Ries has held various roles inside Alcatel-Lucent with expertise gained in the areas of communications network software development , optical networks, and network management. Mr. Ries holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree from Texas Tech University in Lubbock Texas.