Backhaul may not be what you think! Traditionally, it has been seen as simply interconnecting the different radio sites of a public safety network with the command and dispatch centers, but that has now changed. With the advent of mission-critical broadband networks and an explosion of new, sophisticated applications, backhaul networks increasingly need to assume a much larger role – one that is more diverse and increasingly important. Now and going forward, public safety backhaul must excel in enabling service evolution, as well in protecting communications and investment for the future.
Enable service evolution
New broadband and data applications such as live bodycams, push-to-video or drone video, mandate both an increase of network capacity as well as native support of services based on internet protocol (IP) and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). Complemented by packet microwave systems with high spectral efficiency, backhaul networks are now able to deliver new-generation fully segregated and secure broadband data services.
At the same time, these networks still must support today’s voice-centric services with the same level of reliability and quality. That’s no problem whatsoever: Full packet backhaul allows seamless support of today’s voice-centric services using TDM circuit emulation on the microwave and IP/MPLS routers, with assured deterministic quality of service and latency. This providesfor a smooth transition to all packet infrastructure, while benefiting from the enhanced capacity of a full packet system.
This can create spare capacity, which can then be shared with utilities such as water and sewer services, to improve network economics for the government owning it. This new level of network sharing, with no compromise on critical applications, is enabled by multi-tenant VPN services and deterministic Quality of Service (QoS) management that is native to IP/MPLS.
Protect communications in changing conditions
Microwave links must be resilient to changing weather conditions, since fading due to rain and snow can impact the quality of the connection. To optimize transmission under all circumstances, a microwave backhaul network must regularly assess the propagation conditions and adapt the modulation accordingly. Advanced QoS management mechanisms of the packet microwave must ensure that critical traffic is treated with the highest priority, assuring that all links are always robust, even under the most adverse conditions.
Protection against natural disaster and inadvertent or intentional link cuts are also essential considerations for mission-critical backhaul. The network must be as resilient as possible to natural disasters such as heavy storms, earthquakes or floods. If a link in a microwave ring is impaired or the network is disrupted by unexpected events such as a fiber cut by a construction crew, or even multiple fiber cuts as a result of sabotage, packet backhaul must instantly be able to reroute critical data on another leg where physical connectivity and bandwidth are available.
Even in the unlikely event of a hardware failure, backhaul networks must continue to deliver traffic, thanks to hot standby capabilities of microwave radios and IP/MPLS routers. This allows for non-stop routing with no service interruption.
And what about the increasing threat from cyber-attacks? Full packet backhaul is playing a key role in the overall network protection against these threats. Following the defense-in-depth principle, it must offer multi-layer encryption, from a common microwave and optical L1 encryption solution to L2/3 network group encryption, which prevents eavesdropping. Public safety operators also can use service-aware firewalls to prevent intrusion.
As the adoption of modern data services grows and the critical network expands, public safety increasingly will require new infrastructures. This means that any public safety backhaul network must be built to last, and must provide an evolution path to cope with traffic evolution and network optimization over time. Public safety operators must be able to add new gigabit Ethernet or 10GigE links atop DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) optical transport as needed to provide more backhaul bandwidth between the data centers and the control and dispatch centers. They also must be able to easily add new microwave directions to an existing site and be prepared to support carrier SDN, which will provide the programmability and automation to dynamically optimize resource utilization, further improve network performance and lower operational expenditures.
New key role for backhaul
With mobile broadband, the role of the backhaul network is evolving from connecting sites to providing multi-services, prioritizing and protecting traffic and optimizing public investment. These capabilities are essential for the critical networks of today and tomorrow, and are attributes that only a full-packet backhaul network can deliver.
Click here to learn more about key considerations to prepare your backhaul network for the broadband era.
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