In recent decades, mobile communications have evolved significantly from early wireless voice systems to modern intelligent communication systems.
With each new generation of technology, mobile communication systems become more sophisticated and beneficial.
For example, though it seems outdated now, 3G brought wireless data and the ability for anyone to access the internet from anywhere.
That opened a world of possibilities, including social media, on-the-go entertainment, remote work, and more, evolving into the “always-on” world we know today.
Unfortunately, with that comes greater demand and expectations for quality internet experience, no matter where or how they access it.
When 5G reaches widespread adoption, this is likely to increase, especially with the addition of consumer electronics, household appliances, medical equipment, and industrial equipment.
Trends in 5G Services
5G holds a lot of promise for enhancing services and entertainment. Here are the significant trends of 5G services:
Billions of smart devices can connect to mobile networks wirelessly, with security and privacy. Enhanced services, such as remote monitoring and control, can support IoT devices like robots, autonomous cars, and smart homes.
5G networks can deliver better entertainment and content in real-time, including high-resolution video streamlining, augmented reality, driving safety, and social networking with improved media.
5G Backhaul Network and Evolution
The mobile backhaul network connects radio access network interfaces at cell sites to an inner core network, which ensures network connectivity for the end-user.
The capacity requirements on the transmission network to support backhaul traffic from the core network will only increase with the evolution of mobile networks and technology.
With 5G, the challenge is to enhance the network reliability and reduce the cost-efficiency. With the evolution of mobile networks, the capacity requirement of the network from the core increases significantly.
Before 5G, the major backhaul challenges for network operators were capacity, availability, long-distance reach, and deployment cost.
The 5G network will connect billions of devices, IoT, and machine-to-machine devices using processors like the NXP i.MX 8.
These devices have plenty of promise but also add significant challenges to the backhaul network, including:
1. Ultralow latency of round-trip connectivity requirements
2. Denser small cell deployment
3. Capacity for a fully mobile and connected society
4. Availability of network pathways
5. Deployment cost requirements
6. Long-distance reach requirements
7. High network density
Reliability and costs are always a concern for cellular network operators, and there aren’t any simple solutions. Here are some of the solutions for efficient and advanced wireless solutions with higher capacity.
5G Backhaul Solutions
Small cell backhaul requirements, such as latency, load intensity, quality of service, and cost, can vary according to many factors.
The circumstances can also vary, especially with the availability of different backhaul solutions. Because of this, no single solution is ideal for all situations, and finding the best one is about balancing pros and cons.
Fiber Backhaul Solution
Fiber is a popular backhaul solution that provides high capacity with a low bit error rate for the highest reach before signals need to be rerouted. Where available, fiber is the top choice for backhaul solutions.
However, fiber isn’t available everywhere. Fiber also has other limitations, such as the inability to travel through obstructions, like rivers or buildings, if there’s no pathway available.
New fiber connections also take several months to deploy, whereas other deployments can take merely a week. The initial fiber deployment can be expensive, especially with splicing and cable costs.
Backhaul traffic from a radio switch to a cell site can be supported wirelessly, and this is becoming a popular option for its cost-effectiveness and reliability.
Wireless backhaul offers end-to-end control of networks, instead of using third-party, wired options. There are some downsides to wireless backhaul, however.
The optimal selection for wireless backhaul solutions depends on factors like traffic volume, environment, cell site location, interference, energy efficiency, and the availability of spectrum.
There are three wireless backhaul options:
Wireless backhaul technology supports about half of mobile traffic, while microwave radiofrequency technology has the majority.
The deployment of microwave radio requires an upfront cost and some additional costs, but it’s one of the more affordable options and offers faster deployment.
Microwave radiofrequency backhaul can vary in weather conditions and environments.
The system may need to lower the transmission rate to reach availability requirements, such as choosing a lower frequency band for greater reach, but that comes with network congestion.
The higher frequency band can have a better data rate, but lower reach.
Millimeter waves are extremely high frequency, typically in the range of 30 to 300 GHz. The millimeter-wave radiofrequency is beneficial for small cell backhaul solutions for its spectrum and support for high data rates.
The reach is shorter, however. Millimeter-wave beams are narrow compared to microwave beams, which affects the line-of-sight backhaul solution. Narrow beams also cause alignment problems.
Free Space Optics
Free space optics is a line-of-sight backhaul technology that works similarly to fiber optics. It differs in that it uses invisible light beams, like light-emitting diodes, for data transmission instead of fiber-optic cable.
One of the greatest benefits of free space optics is the spectrum, which falls in the range of 300 GHz to one THz, and a rate up to 10 Gbps. This method also uses low power consumption relative to other methods.
Despite the considerable advantages, free-space optics systems have limitations like line-of-sight communications fading in foggy conditions or interference from ambient light sources.
Free space optics are also prone to problems from physical obstructions and scattering. Still, the scalability and flexibility of free space optics make it the best solution available.
Mobile communications are advancing rapidly, and with the increasing adoption of 5G, the next generation of mobile technology will present even greater challenges and opportunities.
The backhaul network must address the unique network requirements and provide high-quality service, but there’s no single solution for all use cases.
Choosing the right backhaul solution for 5G depends on factors like the deployment area and traffic.
Author Bio: Jason Khoo
Jason is the Head of SEM at SolidRun which is a global leading developer of embedded systems and network solutions.
It focused on a wide range of energy-efficient, powerful and flexible products which help OEMs around the world simplify application development while overcoming deployment challenges