Broadband Access Involves a Lot More Than Smartphones

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  • Author: Gary Breed
This is a timely topic because the rapid growth in bandwidth usage requires similar expansion of the network. The effect is multiplied by the number of circuits that must be maintained to individual users. To implement a 10× increase in data rate, every single cell site must have 10× the capacity in its connection to the network hub, and the hub must be able to handle 10× throughput ... and the backbone (the Internet and dedicated lines) must do the same. That’s a lot of bits and bytes! The word backhaul is wireless lingo for the connection from cell sites to hubs, and this part of the system uses point-to-point microwave or fiber optics (typically T1/E1 channels) as the transmission medium. Backhaul comes up in conversation a lot these days because in some parts of the U.S. and Europe, the available spectrum for more point-to-point links in the traditional bands is running out. Switching to 20, 30, 70 or 80 GHz links brings new issues with cost and range limitations. Changing from a T1/E1 based system to SDH/SONET based fiber backhaul requires a major investment in manpower and hardware.