By Beecher Tuttle
Compensating for the ever-increasing demand for high-bandwidth connectivity is every service provider's number one concern. This is for good reason. Next generation services can help mobile operators limit churn and enable them to tap into new revenue streams and improve their bottom lines.
Unfortunately, completely rebuilding a network is cost-prohibitive for most service providers. This creates a quandary over what to do. One viable option for forward-thinking service providers is IP/MPLS backhaul solutions. These enable carriers to leverage their existing broadband access infrastructure – whether it be microwave, copper (DSL) or fiber-based (GPON). In the process they serve as the foundation for a flexible high-performance network, all without major capital expenditures or increased operating expenses.
Several broadband access solutions currently exist, but most all of them fail to successfully address broadband infrastructure backhaul requirements while leveraging DSL or GPON.
According to Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) in a recent application note, Leveraging Broadband Access Infrastructure for IP/MPLS Backhaul, these requirements include:
- Comprehensive Services Offering: While providing modern Ethernet-based services is critical to every service provider, legacy technologies – such as TDM, ATM, Frame Relay and HDLC – must also be taken into account. Providing the ability to offer these services simultaneously with no QoS problems is essential for any IP/MPLS backhaul solution.
- High Reliability and Availability: To minimize churn and improve customer loyalty, access solutions must be capable of delivering redundancy and resiliency at all platform and network levels, including the IP/MPLS Layer, the DSL Physical Layer and the GPON Physical Layer.
- Efficient Bandwidth Scalability: No telecom solution is worth the initial investment if it is incapable of scaling alongside the growth of a subscriber base. A capable solution must be able to cost-effectively provide the required bandwidth needs in current and future markets. If a platform can't exceed current bandwidth needs, it shouldn't be considered.
- Quality of Service: The ability to provide business customers with strict service level agreements (SLAs) can be a key differentiator for an operator that is trying to drum up new business. This can be difficult with backhaul solutions because multiple services are being aggregated, each of which has different latency and jitter requirements. Platforms that can account for this and support flexible QoS assignment and protection for multiple differentiated traffic flows set themselves apart from the rest of the pack.
- Strong Network Management and OAM Capabilities: A capable access solution must offer operational management capabilities that are required to address the service and commercial expectations in an end-to-end IP network.
Reality is that until recently, no broadband access solution was capable of supporting these requirements, making the technology rather unappealing to operators. That all changed when Alcatel-Lucent-Lucent launched the 7705 Services Aggregation Router (SAR) family of products, which provides an integrated set of DSL and GPON backhaul capabilities that can help service providers quickly and efficiently accommodate for business traffic growth.
With the SAR line of products, operators can add more bandwidth to compete with 4G network providers without having to tear down their own network or make any major capital expenditures. 7705 SARs provide automated bring-up and template provisioning capabilities – making management a snap – as well as comprehensive hierarchical traffic conditioning and management functionality for controlling network QoS while maintaining strict SLA enforcement.
Alcatel-Lucent’s success in the space has been well documented. The company was recently recognized as the leading global vendor in the Ethernet cell site gateway and Ethernet mobile backhaul router market for the first six months of 2011. Since being recognized last year, Alcatel-Lucent added to the family by unveiling new power-efficient, small footprint, high-performance 7705 SAR-M models, which they say provide additional network flexibility by supporting a variety of cell site access options.
With backhaul constituting in many cases the largest expense of mobile services operations, finding a solution that can accommodate today’s requirement while providing a cost-effective glide path to the future is critical. That is why looking at all of the elements that go into the creation of an end-to-end next generation IP-based mobile network is key, and why the backhaul component is getting so much attention these days.