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June 28, 2013

Mobile Video Drives Backhaul Bonanza, Part 2

This is part 2 in a series on mobile video and backhaul. Click here for part 1.

Backhaul Strategy Factors

With cuts, curtailments and pressure to limit capital spending in a tough economy, operators do have more and differing options for handling mobile backhaul.

They can lease facilities from backhaul specialists, buy capacity from wholesale carriers such as XO Communications, Level 3, Zayo and CenturyLink, or they can go cap-ex and lay their own fiber between towers and their backbone landline networks.

Money is only one factor in the equation with the geographic availability of terrestrial links a major factor – on that has far-flung operators in the U.S. and abroad looking to the sky (satellite providers) for backhaul answers.

Though anything but flashy, mobile backhaul continues to be a top priority for wireless operators in a broadband economy as was witnessed when AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and Sprint offered to help pay the salaries of workers cut as diversified backhaul provider FiberTower ran into financial and facility issues last year.

Media Matters?

Much of mobile backhaul has been handled via microwave systems because of their relative flexibility, especially when avoiding the expense of buying property and trenching for fiber facilities where they don’t already exist. However, fiber is viable in many other cases because of the ease of upgrading the attached electronics to support higher speed packet-based IP connections.

When it comes to the global market, research and analysis firm Infonetics Research sees microwave systems leading fiber. “Microwave, the largest spending segment in 2012, is on an upward trajectory even as fiber increases, growing to 56 percent of mobile backhaul revenue by 2017.” Other firms see fiber as the preferred mode for mobile backhaul in the U.S.


For those wireless operators choosing not to buy and build backhaul systems, there are many who already have the necessary facilities in place. One provider, PEG Bandwidth, is taking advantage of this continuing and expanding need and is expanding its network accordingly.

PEG Bandwidth announced this week that it will provide Ethernet backhaul to 473 additional sites throughout Texas, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. The expansion, driven by additional customer business, will add over 1,900 route miles to the PEG Bandwidth fiber network, which once completed, will total over 13,000 route miles across 18 states.

Interestingly, PEG Bandwidth uses a mix of media and approaches to delivers connections across broad geographies. The company says it uses “a combination of new fiber builds, available dark fiber, partner fiber networks and licensed, point-to-point microwave.” Behind the scenes, the company aggregates traffic across these disparate networks to provide what it calls “a seamless, end-to-end solution from a wireless operator's cell site to its switching facility.”

Bottom Line

While characterizing mobile backhaul as a bottomless trough from which most all parties can feed until full is sensationalistic, backhaul continues to be a major area of spending for service providers as the deployment of wireless devices races ahead, as operators evolve toward faster networks and as applications enable greater functionality and capabilities.

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