Intelligent mobile backhaul - WiFi and DAS offload
Mobile communication and always on connectivity have become a way of life, smartphones that use constant data connections are becoming increasingly more affordable, and other devices such as laptops and tablet PCs with 3G and wireless connectivity are ever more common. However, as more and more subscribers make use of these networks, it places a strain on existing infrastructure.
All wireless traffic needs to be relayed to a central, wired point at some stage in order to be routed to its destination. This routing of traffic, or mobile backhaul, is what makes communication possible.
With a multitude of devices constantly communicating with mobile base stations, attempting to use multiple connection methods to connect to a single point simultaneously, the mobile base stations have become unable to cope. This results in mobile backhaul systems becoming overloaded, delaying the routing of voice and data traffic and in some instances even shutting services down for subscribers in certain areas.
The problem in many cases is that capacity requirements are ever shifting, making demand difficult to predict and plan for, since traffic volumes dynamically increase and decrease at different times. When traffic on the mobile backhaul becomes congested, subscribers experience delays or denials in their service, causing intense frustration for these customers. Further exacerbating this is backhauling that features older technologies. Upgrading to newer systems that address these 'overload' issues can be costly for operators when considering these problems are usually isolated to fluctuating high traffic areas such as shopping malls, office blocks, campuses and hospitals, to mention a few.
The solution is an intelligent mobile backhaul system that is able to cope automatically with a dynamic environment, connecting communications from point to point in the shortest possible time, with little management required. The real issue on mobile backhaul systems is that traffic overload happens so quickly in so many places that intelligence has become a vital component of this switching system, in order for this process to happen seamlessly.
Parameters can be set
With a next generation system, parameters can be set so that the mobile backhaul system can intelligently decide what actions need to be in overload scenarios. New mobile backhaul technology is also highly resilient, ensuring 99.999% uptime and achieving data throughput on a one to one threshold as far as possible - something which older generation switches cannot achieve and can be managed remotely for greater efficiency and cost effectiveness. This updated switching technology built specifically for mobile backhaul scenarios is also better equipped to handle multiple protocols, having been designed with this need in mind, which means that data can be disseminated quickly.
However, as said, investing in this technology can be a costly affair. Operators are beginning to take advantage of the trend whereby independent telecommunications partners are increasingly investing in WiFi infrastructure in these areas that can assist with the 3G/WiFi offload, as well as indoor Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) solutions, relieving capacity for the GSM operator. It uses the same 'core' network but makes use of WiFi technology to establish Internet connectivity in a faster, more efficient manner. These partners would be able to 'rent' services to GSM operators and because of their independence, do not limit this service to one operator. It also allows the GSM operator to save on capital expenditure, making this an attractive option for them.
Also notable are the benefits to consumers that make use of the connectivity in these high traffic areas. As WiFi is less costly than 3G, they incur lower connectivity costs and as the network is no longer under strain, the connectivity is faster and more stable.
As mobile connectivity continues to grow in popularity and the complexities of these networks grow, new solutions become increasingly necessary. Mobile backhaul has become overloaded and the current technology cannot cope with traffic volumes. It is time to usher in the next generation of backhaul switching along with the added option of WiFi and DAS offload to ensure that service providers can continue to provide the levels of service their customers have come to expect.
About Martin Ferreira
Martin Ferreira is executive head of Technical Operations at Jasco Networks
Global Entrepreneurship Network South Africa