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The demand for U.S. mobile backhaul will grow at a CAGR of nearly 58 percent between 2011 and 2016, with the overall demand growing by 9.7 times, according to market researcher iGR. The growth of fiber backhaul, the preferred method for providing mobile backhaul, is expected to reach a CAGR of nearly 85 percent over the same period.

Legacy mobile networks were tuned for voice communications, with some data, but now the trend is completely reversed. Mobile towers need more backhaul to feed the demand. Legacy 3G and new 4G networks need far more backhaul capacity than voice networks.

Consumer demand for smartphones, tablets and other devices has led to atmospheric growth in bandwidth demands says iGR. Mobile backhaul is now THE critical link to the Radio Access Network (RAN). Ethernet is the way to go.

ABI Research’s “Mobile Network Backhaul” study indicates legacy TDM is no longer an efficient backhaul solution. This is driving the use of Ethernet and IP in newer backhaul technologies. However, there are inherent characteristics of TDM, such as synchronization at cell sites, that need to be included in any Ethernet/IP backhaul solution.

“Last year Ethernet-based mobile backhaul equipment sales jumped 36% year-over-year, to $4.8 billion, representing 80% of total backhaul spend. We expect Ethernet spending to spike again in 2010 and growth to continue for many years, fueled by the ongoing HSPA/HSPA+ onslaught across the 3GPP world and early LTE deployments,” explains Michael Howard, principal analyst and co-founder of Infonetics Research.

According to Infonetics:

  • Ericsson continues to lead in worldwide mobile backhaul microwave radio revenue market share, followin closely by Huawei, Nokia Siemens, and NEC
  • Alcatel-Lucent holds the #1 spot in the first half of 2010 for worldwide revenue in the fast-growing Ethernet cell site routers and gateways segment, ahead of Tellabs, Cisco, and Huawei
  • Between 2010 and 2014, service providers are expected to spend a cumulative $36 billion worldwide on mobile backhaul equipment
  • Infonetics expects almost 1.5 billion new mobile subscribers and about 1.2 billion new mobile broadband subscribers between 2010 and 2014, which will require more base stations, more cell site connections, higher backhaul capacities, and equipment for each cell site connection
  • Asia Pacific leads in mobile backhaul equipment revenue growth due to more users, led by China and India, and higher bandwidth per user in other countries

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