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The need for increased network capacity and backhaul technology has become paramount, with worldwide cellular traffic increasing from 570 PB per month in 2011 to a forecast 3243 PB per month by 2016. So, how are mobile operators going to manage with this? Research firm Analysys Mason says managing backhaul technologies with fewer tools will help operators reduce total cost of ownership. IP and Ethernet technology provides networks with flexibility to scale up in order to support traffic growth as mobile operators deploy lower-cost IP-based radio access technology. Furthermore, growth in mobile data services has also put pressure on mobile operators to reduce their backhaul cost.


Many mobile operators are dealing with the difficulty of assuring quality of service and keeping operational costs under control, according to an Analysys Mason report. The report says key considerations for mobile operators when evaluating suppliers for backhaul solutions include the deployment cost of the hardware, the potential integration of multi-vendor solutions and end-to-end management of the technology. Another principal factor is the service cycle required to manage and maintain the backhaul network until the next technology upgrade cycle.


The recommendation is that operators select an operation support system solution that adheres to Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) standards. “Some equipment vendors, in an effort to move products onto the market quickly, will implement proprietary management solutions for discovery and fault monitoring," explains Patrick Kelly, lead author of the report and research director for Analysys Mason's Telecoms Software research stream. "This type of implementation actually prevents effective scaling and increases the operational cost for mobile operators."


Operators can mitigate this risk by selecting vendors that support MEF-backed standards (specifically, IEEE 802.1ag, IEEE 802.3ah and ITU Y.1731). Network equipment vendors should also look to implement quality-of-service measurement capabilities at network interconnect points, thereby removing the need for network interface devices.The most important factor for mobile operators when they are making investment decisions in this area is the total cost of ownership of the IP/MPLS backhaul network and the opex for assuring service. Operators that have standardised their network equipment and management systems to be able to scale effectively with rapidly growing networks have benefited the most in this area.


"A key challenge for mobile operators is how to assure service over backhaul networks," explains Kelly. "For this reason, a lot of operators are resorting to policy management and control solutions for network protection." Deep packet inspection probes in the radio access network working together with the policy charging and rules function helps regulate traffic coming through the backhaul network, enabling mobile operators to avoid network congestion problems.

----Analysys Mason

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