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Asia sets pace for major shift to Carrier Ethernet backhaul

The shift to carrier Ethernet backhaul technologies will gather pace in the coming two years as carriers implement data-heavy 3G and 4G networks, and Asia-Pacific will set the pace. By 2012, according to IDC, there will be three million base stations and 1.8m cell sites in place in this region, up 24% and 10.7% respectively on 2008 figures, and half of these sites will be backhauled by Carrier Ethernet.

The shift to carrier Ethernet backhaul technologies will gather pace in the coming two years as carriers implement data-heavy 3G and 4G networks, and Asia-Pacific will set the pace. By 2012, according to IDC, there will be three million base stations and 1.8m cell sites in place in this region, up 24% and 10.7% respectively on 2008 figures, and half of these sites will be backhauled by Carrier Ethernet.

The research projects that nearly all urban 3G base stations will be linked to fiber by 2011, with urban WiMAX and LTE sites following suit by 2012. Where fiber is not available, the main backhaul systems will be wireless – non-line of sight microwave and fixed WiMAX.

“A number of leading mobile carriers in Asia-Pacific, in countries such as Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Singapore, are already starting to connect parts of their metropolitan 3G/HSPA backhauls with Carrier Ethernet over fiber,” said report author Bill Rojas. “The main driver of this transformation is the need for mobile operators to provide scalable, high bandwidth, web 2.0 video and audio content, and internet access services for both mobile and fixed users in incremental capex outlays.” And while advanced mobile internet markets like Japan may be a couple of years ahead of the world, these trends are also gathering pace in western Europe and north America.

Rojas added: “The emergence of bandwidth hungry devices such as Apple’s 3G iPhone and Google’s Android based devices means that mobile operators need to begin the transformation to NGN in the backhaul urgently in order to avoid being branded as obsolete.”

Green factors will also play a role in driving backhaul trends, putting pressure on carriers to balance processing power, and energy consumption, between the base station and local exchange or mobile switching center. Base stations that have router functionality will be able to provide peer-to-peer communications within the network. And providers must not wait for the move to IP to revamp their core networks, says IDC. An all-IP infrastructure currently only exists in some of the next generation fixed networks in Asia-Pacific, some early Mobile WiMAX deployments, and in recently constructed greenfield 3G networks.