Report: microwave backhaul issues could significantly slow small cell deployment

A new iGR study shows that demand for microwave backhaul is forecast to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 68% from 2011 to 2016, but that the issues associated with the technology could significantly slow down deployment.



A new iGR study shows that demand for microwave backhaul is forecast to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 68% from 2011 to 2016, but that the issues associated with the technology could significantly slow down deployment.


 Microwave is seen as a solid alternative to fiber and T1 for mobile operators to deploy as they struggle to understand and implement new small cell architectures and deal with escalating mobile data requirements and costs on their network. Microwave is scalable, cost effective and may be a better alternative to both fiber and T1, depending on geography, says iGR (Austin, Texas, USA).

“One of the major challenges with deployment of small cell architectures is how to provide backhaul to the cell. While fiber is the ideal solution, that is not always physically possible with small cells and so microwave is being seen as an ideal alternative” said Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR, a market research consultancy focused on the wireless and mobile industry.  “But, according to our new research, the major operators have many concerns about the viability of microwave for small cells.  These concerns are significant enough that they could significantly slow – or even stop – the deployment of small cell architectures”.

New and emerging vendors in this space are hardware, software, and network agnostic, which provides for a much greater level of flexibility during this period of flux. But with a mind-boggling suite of diverse microwave and millimeter wave solutions available, many vendors will be involved in a torrid battle for survival and supremacy in the next 12 to 18 months, says iGR.


The number of new vendors also raises concerns of the mobile operators, many of whom are questioning the validity of some of the marketing claims. A general concerns is that some of the new vendors are over-hyping claims for their product’s performance.

Mobile operators expect that new and incumbent microwave backhaul vendors will eventually be able to address their concerns, but for the time being backhaul is likely to be a significant roadblock on the road to small cell deployment, says the research firm.