O2 has announced that it's using wireless to backhaul some of its public wifi hotspots in London. I.D. Scales reports.
UK wireless specialist, Cambridge Broadband Networks and Ruckus Wireless have both provided the technology for O2 to backhaul access points in its first public small cell WiFi network in London. It's the sort of network architecture and technology mix that looks likely to gain ground as operators work to meet mobile data demand with network capacity... without breaking the bank.
Small cells using WiFi make all sorts of economic sense for mobile operators. Carrier WiFi access points are highly cost effective (cheap); WiFi is a good match for media-intensive nomadic (rather than 'mobile') applications such as video streaming and Web browsing on smartphones and tablets and is therefore a crucial 'offload' option for operators (like O2) who have a large and growing contingent of iPhone and up-market Android customers.
New standards will also make it easier for operators to 'offload' or at least urge customers to offload themselves, to WiFi when the macro network gets congested.
The only problem is that without a cunning backhaul strategy the costs would just be backhauled to another part of the network - lots of small cells don't do you much good if each has to be expensively wired up.
A WiFi access point with a point to multi-point microwave capability therefore makes lots of sense (especially if the WiFi radio is sitting up a lamp post or on the side of a building). One radio session at around 2.5GHz is conducted with the end device via WiFi over the short range while a higher frequency link effectively aggregates traffic at a multi-point hub (possibly on the operator's local macro tower) to complete the second stage.
Cambridge Broadband Networks claims its VectaStar multipoint microwave backhaul technology is a significant advance on traditional microwave technologies because it mirrors the network configuration found in the radio access network (the interface between cell tower and mobile handset). This allows an operator like O2 to backhaul mobile traffic from multiple small cell networks to a single aggregation point.
Ruckuss SmartCell 8800s units are also being deployed to provide free Wi-Fi to anyone (another advantage of WiFi is that it can support any smartphone user - even your competitor's subscriber). Ruckus claims the 8800 is the first carrier-grade, modular multi-radio system to integrate patented adaptive antenna array technology supporting multiple licensed and unlicensed radio technologies including: high-speed dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, small cell 3G/4G radios and 5GHz wireless backhaul.
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