The decisions to lease, reengineer, or build a mobile backhaul network is the critical dilemma facing wireless carriers over the next four years. According to a study by iGR, a market research consultancy focused on the wireless and mobile industry, the wireless industry is at the point where 2G, 2.5G, 3G, HSPA+ and 4G LTE technologies, using macro, metro, and picocells, must be simultaneously supported in order to maintain financial performance and a high degree of subscriber satisfaction.
This, in turn, means mobile backhaul demand and costs will continue exploding due to mobile data bandwidth demands required to support data, content, and more sophisticated multimedia communications, the byproduct of new 4G networks and the plethora of new devices, says the research firm.
"Just as the radio networks are transitioning from 3G to 4G and adding more small cells, the mobile operators must also upgrade their mobile backhaul from legacy TDM to Ethernet . This study shows clearly the size of the challenge that faces the operators and, of course, the significant opportunity for mobile backhaul service, infrastructure and solution providers," said Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR  (Austin, Texas, USA). "The upgrade of the mobile backhaul networks presents a significant opportunity for cable MSOs, IP equipment and infrastructure vendors, tower companies, and the telecommunications services providers."
As a result, iGR forecasts the demand for U.S. mobile backhaul will grow at a CAGR of nearly 58% between 2011 and 2016, with the overall demand growing by 9.7 times. And the growth of fiber backhaul , the preferred method for providing mobile backhaul, is expected to reach a CAGR of nearly 85% over the same period.
Legacy mobile networks were tuned for voice communications, with some data, but now the trend is completely reversed and mobile backhaul networks are being stressed to their limits. The legacy 3G and new 4G networks must now be equipped to support a very high Quality of Service (QoS) for very dynamic transmission of customized data, say iGR.
Mobile backhaul is now the critical link between the Radio Access Network (RAN) and the carrier wireless backbone that supports smartphones and new sophisticated multimedia data rate plans. Mobile backhaul transports mobile data from the end-user device to mobile IP networks or traditional landline networks, says the research company. The consumer demand for smartphones, tablets and other devices has led to atmospheric growth in bandwidth demands.