Wi-Fi hotspots to make up 81 per cent of operator access points
Rising densification demands fresh approach to overcoming backhaul limitations and preserving network QoE
2nd March 2015 - A new study commissioned by Bluwan reveals the reliance that telecoms operators will be placing on carrier Wi-Fi technology to carry network traffic over the next five years. The independent study, undertaken by respected advisory firm Real Wireless, reveals that carrier Wi-Fi hotspots will make up more than 80 per cent of available access points - one public hotspot for every 20 people on the planet - but only if they can be backhauled effectively.
According to the study, the overall number of carrier-grade Wi-Fi hotspots will exceed 31 million by 2019, with more than two thirds having to support dense or hyper-dense traffic loads. Operators are aggressively driving hotspot deployments due to the significant cost advantages (from a capacity and coverage delivery perspective), the all-pervasiveness of Wi-Fi enabled devices, and the ability to add greater reliability and QoE to broader quad-play offerings.
"The capabilities of Wi-Fi have greatly extended in recent years to create a new generation of carrier-grade technology," says Simon Saunders, Director of Technology at Real Wireless. "This can match the credentials of wireline or mobile carrier-grade networks and deliver QoS that can support new revenue streams to fixed, mobile and cable operators."
While there is little doubt that carrier-grade Wi-Fi will form a critical part of next generation network architecture, the study also urges caution on the importance of effective backhaul provision. Affordability of carrier-grade Wi-Fi networks with a high backhaul density requirement is a significant barrier facing operators and Wi-Fi providers - and is set to get worse as densification continues.
While there is no technology silver bullet to solving this challenge, operators will be encouraged to adopt technologies which leverage new spectrum bands and are optimised for the density of carrier-grade Wi-Fi networks. Millimetre wave point to multipoint backhaul technology is one such new approach that has the potential to re-define carrier-grade Wi-Fi backhaul provision. It delivers a lower total cost of ownership than traditional point-to-point solutions thanks to a pay as you grow' pricing structure and offers significant amounts of capacity and flexibility.
"The optimal solution to solving the carrier Wi-Fi backhaul conundrum will often lie in a combination of different spectrum bands and architectures depending on network density and the operator's business priorities," says Shayan Sanyal, CMO at Bluwan. "Point to multipoint millimetre wave technology will not solve the carrier Wi-Fi backhaul technology challenge on its own, but it will have a transformational impact on network economics as densification continues."
In its study, "Carrying Carrier Wi-Fi: The Technology Challenges", Real Wireless identified that data demands through Wi-Fi hotspots will increase dramatically, driven by applications like streamed content which has high Quality of Service requirements. Taken globally, these hotspots will need to support a forecast 63 exabytes of Wi-Fi IP traffic per month by 2018.
In response, Real Wireless identified eight key technology criteria needed to support cost-effective and operationally efficient deployment of Carrier Wi-Fi backhaul. These are:
< $1,000 per lin
Flexible capacity allocation
Low TCO per Mbp
> 500Mbps throughput
Low latency < 10m
Against these criteria it rated the capability of a range of wireless backhaul technologies, which were a blend of PTP and PMP architectures in a range of spectrum bands. PMP architectures in the 6-38 GHz and 38-44 GHz bands generally rated more highly than other technologies.
Full findings from the study, including assessment of technology suitability, can be found in the report athttp://www.bluwan.com/carrier-grade-wi-fi-a-backhaul-bottleneck-by-2019/
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