Today we’d like to enlighten on the Backhaul Connectivity of Indian Wireless Networks [2G / 3G / 4G-LTE]. For now, read Backhaul as the connectivity between the tower (site) and the inner parts of the network through which the aggregate of all traffic from mobile terminals served by a tower is transported to the core network (to be passed on to other parts of the network /Internet / other networks, etc.).
In conversation with various industry experts, we gather information that a whopping 70% to 80% of towers in India are fed by microwave-based backhaul, with very few towers being fed by optic fibre connectivity. Microwave has limited capacity while fibre can offer theoretically unlimited capacity. Microwave backhaul is sufficient for towers that mainly handle voice, but for high-traffic loads expected in data networks like LTE, it is believed that microwave will fall short of capacity and operators will have to invest into fibre. In the United States, LTE operators use a mix of microwave and fibre for backhaul, while CSL in Hong Kong primarily relies on microwave for backhaul.
OFC Intra-City Network
Installing fibre is not easy, and can be really expensive in dense urban areas such as Mumbai / Bengaluru. So, this is perceived as a hurdle for rapid deployment of LTE services in India. Key issues faced by Operators are the Right of Way in City. It is reliably learnt that Airtel has paid bribes to the tune Rs 10 Mn a Year to various stakeholders from orporators to Engineers in BBMP to secure right of way.
Innovations in MicroWave Technology for Backhaul
Recent innovations in microwave technology in particular the use of multiple antennas and higher order modulations have resulted in significant increase in capacity of microwave links. While the peak capacity of LTE base stations on 20MHz bandwidth claimed by equipment vendors today is around 300-350Mbps. Microwave backhaul can already deliver 1Gbps links, which means that the new microwave can deliver much more capacity than what would be required by LTE sites.
Telllabs vendors indicated LTE backhaul deployments in India could be microwave-based, and microwave could start becoming a bottleneck only when we move to LTE advanced. Fibre would still be required, however, in the core network, but that is a far smaller problem to tackle and control.
The indicative cost of Networking Gears in 2G Site with Microwave Backhaul in India is $10,000 – 12,000, while that for 3G-HSPA is $15,000 and for LTE is $18,000-$20,000.
Entrepreneurs who can roll-out Intra-City Fiber, Indian Wireless Operators are Looking for You 🙂 In the next post, we’ll see how many Network Elements have been deployed in the Indian Wireless Network 2G GSM / CDMA, 3G, WimaX, 4G LTE] and the fees they have paid which will justify India lacks Backhaul fiber.