This report talks about delivering high-capacity and cost-efficient backhaul for broadband networks today and in the future. Network demands and maturity vary around the world, and differences can even be seen within individual countries. Regardless of the situation, operators want to achieve the same goal – to provide the best possible performance and quality of experience in the most cost-efficient way.
Microwave networks are a vital ingredient for operators to meet this goal, and will continue to be the dominant backhaul technology in the future. Rising capacity needs have led to the belief that fiber is a requirement, but in reality microwave backhaul technology is already able to handle 100 percent of all radio access sites’ capacity needs. It will continue to do so in the future, and it will evolve to support multi-gigabit capacities in traditional frequency bands and beyond 10 gigabits in the millimeter wave.
In 2020, 65 percent of all cell sites will be connected with microwave solutions (excluding China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan). The choice between fiber and microwave in backhaul networks will not be about capacity, it will be about fiber presence and total cost of ownership (TCO). In supporting microwave to meet the capacity increase for backhaul as well as fronthaul, E-band (70/80 GHz) spectrum is the key. It will experience major growth and represent up to 20 percent of new deployments in 2020, with traditional bands still accounting for 70 percent.
A paradigm shift in microwave planning when introducing multiband use is anticipated. A sevenfold capacity increase can be achieved using a wide low-availability link in E-band to boost a high-availability link in traditional bands. Capacity needs will continue to increase on the road to 5G, and keeping up requires a continued technology evolution and re-imagining of network efficiency.