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Backhaul Basics - An Overview

Lately we are hearing a lot about the mobile backhaul.  But what exactly is it, and what does it mean for the future of the data communication industry? The word backhaul first came into common use to describe the process of transmitting a telephone call or other data transfer past its geographical delivery point and then back again to its final destination.  At first that doesn’t seem to make any sense; however, it can be a very economical way to balance demand across a network by best utilizing available personnel and equipment – in other words, it spreads the system load out across resources.  Backhaul has since gained a much more broad meaning and nowadays is often used to refer to transmitting from any remote site to a central site. The mobile (cellular) backhaul segment of the data communications industry is poised for tremendous growth due to consumers’ dependence on mobile connectivity and the ever-increasing demand for services that support both 3G and the emerging 4G technologies.  Globally, networks are experiencing unprecedented growth in data traffic.  It is estimated that there are nearly 5 billion mobile subscribers around the world today, while the number of devices, including PDAs, laptop cards and smartphones, etc., is much greater.  SMS text messages sent in 2010 alone are estimated to have reached more than 6.1 trillion; that’s 200,000 messages sent every second of last year. Another impetus for growth is the expansion of wireless mesh networks (WMN), which are communication networks consisting of dozens to hundreds of wireless (radio) nodes that “talk” to each other in order to share a network connection in a large area.  WMNs are replacing traditional networks that rely on a limited number of wired access points or hotspots to connect users.  WMNs have the ability to connect entire cities wirelessly using inexpensive and existing technology. Eventually all that wireless node traffic needs to be returned to a wired access point to reach the wider Internet.  Routing that traffic to a wired location is known as the backhaul in a mobile network.  In cities, and even large companies, certain nodes need to be dedicated as backhaul nodes.  The other nodes in the system are configured to send all outgoing transmissions directly to a backhaul node, which will then send the transmission to a wired access point without additional, unnecessary hops.  The end result is the need to aggregate all the traffic on the WMN over high-speed lines for transmission to a private network or to the Internet. Michael Howard, principal analyst and co-founder of Infonetics Research, a premier international market research and consulting firm specializing in data networking and telecom, recently had this to say about the mobile backhaul market, “We have seen a wholesale shift in backhaul strategies as operators try to reduce the costs associated with skyrocketing mobile data traffic... [in an earlier survey of operators around the world], most were taking a dual/hybrid backhaul approach (TDM plus IP/Ethernet)… [recently when we repeated the survey] most operators told us they plan to use a single IP/Ethernet backhaul, whether over microwave, fiber, or copper… we see no slowdown in the mobile backhaul equipment market.” These are both exciting times and challenging times for the data communication industry.  At Falcon Tech, we can help you meet the backhaul service demands of your business by providing you the best products and the best services available in the industry.