Backhaul network transformation: The go-to strategy for CSPs
Imagine a society where public services are intrinsically linked. Citizens could be notified on their smartphone of a late running train service, with alternative routes shared.
Driving into the city centre, a message could flash up on their car dashboard, letting them know which public car parks have free spaces. Mood recognition sensors embedded into the individual’s office equipment could automatically adjust the lighting and temperature to help them achieve a sense of calm after a stressful commute.
These services are being made possible as our connected society moves towards fixed-mobile convergence, the Internet of Things (IoT), M2M services and 5G networks, says Faisal H. Usmani, Business Development and Strategy lead – Communications, Cyient Europe.
But in this smarter world, global data traffic and smartphone usage has exploded, putting pressure on Communication Service Providers’ (CSPs) mobile backhaul networks to manage this surge in capacity demand. So what can CSPs do to overcome these challenges and deliver operational efficiencies?
The software-defined approach
Deploying SDN and NFV in tandem is beneficial for those organisations that want to avoid intensive infrastructure investment across their network. The platform they provide is already playing a critical role in supporting seamless backhaul connectivity through automation and dynamic routing, helping to reduce deployment costs. They possess three core tenets that are critical to a successful mobile backhaul transformation:
NFV enables a set of functions in the physical network to be virtualised by deploying them in software packages that can be linked to create the service supported in the legacy network. This is called ‘service chaining’, and it helps reduce hardware deployment costs, while improving the automation and management of the service.
- A centralised control plane
SDN controllers are also critical, as they abstract the network control logic stored in legacy network elements into a unified software control plane.
This enables new classes of network services, traffic routing decisions and upgrades to be dynamically orchestrated from a centralised controller and ultimately supports enhanced routing optimisation across the mobile backhaul. This helps to improve on-demand service delivery and customer experience, due to an increase in the quality of service.
- Improved mobile backhaul performance
Mobile backhaul networks can only function effectively when high performance network infrastructures are in place, supported by a flexible management layer. The employment of selective network virtualisation together with dynamic control plane orchestration, can enhance backhaul optimisation, reduce network complexity and provide seamless connectivity to support operator strategies for migration towards 5G.
- Applying this to a business context
If CSPs are to manage the ever-increasing capacity demands of a more connected society, they must define backhaul strategies that are aligned to their core business models. Here are my key recommendations for CSPs to consider:
- Develop a comprehensive migration roadmap
CSPs must define the incremental strategies they plan to implement to deliver migration in the backhaul that supports the evolution of 3G/4G/LTE towards 5G. These strategies should be tailored to the specific operator’s business model across services, processes, networks and IT.
- Invest in infrastructure
Fibre is a critical enabler in meeting the capacity, speed and bandwidth demands of next generation services and data; and so CSPs should not refrain from investing in it if the specific case demands it.
- Explore a variety of architecture options
The deployment of crosshaul architectures is critical to successful mobile backhaul transformation, as they help to support cell densification, coverage and enhanced traffic capacity management by providing a unified IP network.
- Embrace the software-defined through SDN & NFV
By operating a Cloud Radio Access Network (C-RAN) with baseband and edge node virtualisation, along with service chaining and dynamic routing techniques, CSPs can increase automation in the backhaul and reduce deployment costs.
- Consult strategic partners
CSPs should be open to working with technology vendors or third-party suppliers who can act as deployment or outsourcing partners, and provide consultation on both existing backhaul networks and potential strategies for achieving backhaul transformation.
The connected society is making ever-increasing demands for capacity and as a result, enhancing network capacity in a cost-effective manner is one of the biggest challenges facing CSPs today. By adopting some of these strategies, CSPs can make this process much easier and provide services that meet and exceed customer expectations.
The author of this blog is Faisal H. Usmani, Business Development and Strategy lead – Communications, Cyient Europe
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